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2011 Harley-Davidson Road Glide Ultra

The Road Glide has always been my favorite Harley-Davidson.  I really don’t like the bat-wing fairing on the other big tourers, mainly because I hate the idea of an extra 50 pounds riding on the forks. But the Roag Glide, with its fixed fairing is the best-handling of the big Harleys I’ve ridden–with the exception of the Road King–and I absolutely hated the Electra Glide Ultra.

2011 Harley Davidson Road Glide Ultra

2011 Harley Davidson Road Glide Ultra

For 2011, Harley has introduced a new Ultra version of the Road Glide, with all the touring amenities of the Electra- Glide Ultra.  Dain Gingerelli at Motorcycle.Com got his hands on one and was able to take it for a spin.  You can read his review at your leisure, but the thing I found interesting was that he highlighted the fact that for 2011, the MoCo is now offering a Power Pak package, the centerpiece of which is not the venerable TC96 powerplant H-D has produced for years, but a new 103ci motor, with increased torque and–to the extent that it matters on a big touring cruiser–horsepower.  And the Power Pak does seem like a pretty good value for the money, considering that you get more than just the engine:

Now for the even better news: the optional Power Pak costs $1,995, a bargain when you consider that the cost for upgrading a standard 96-cubic-inch engine is about that for parts and labor alone. Think of the ABS and security system as a bonus. Ditto for the engine ID emblem.

And the 103ci mill is a big improvement, with 102 ft-lbs of torque at 3,500 RPM. That’s just shy of a 10% increase over the TC96’s output.

However, you should probably be aware of this, before you buy:

Which begs the question: why doesn’t Harley-Davidson equip all of the Big Twin line with this bigger and better engine? Good question, and when asked, one Harley spokesman merely smiled.

The TC96 is not a bad engine, at all.  But a 1574cc engine for a big cruiser when the Big Four are running 1800cc – 2000cc mills–with signifigantly more power–in their competing bikes makes the TC96 a comparatively underpowered engine for such large bikes.  Even Victory has switched their entire model line over to a 106ci mill for their 2011 models. And by comparison, the 2011 Victorys’ engine will put out–depending on the factory options you want–up to 113 ft-lbs of torque, or nearly 10% more than the Harley’s 103ci mill does.

The TC96–despite being unveiled in 2007–is just a bit long in the tooth, in the sense that it produces torque and horsepower that reflect the standards of an engine generation ago. It’s better than the 93ci mill it replaced, but it still isn’t on a par with the big Japanese cruiser motors, or the motor that will grace this year’s Victory motorcycles.

I think that smile on the H-D representative’s face indicates that H-D is gearing up for another change to the engine line-up in the next model year or two.  With Victory doing so this year, I suspect that makes a change at Harley inevitable in the near future.

So, your question has to be, “Do I want the bigger engine now?, Or can I wait a season or two until it’s standard equipment, and most likely cheaper?”

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