At one of the biggest launches ever in its 110-year history, Harley-Davidson pulled the wraps off eight new models this week in Denver, Colorado, with more than 100 new features that encompass water-cooled engines, touch-screen and voice-activated electronics, styling updates and new linked ABS systems. RideApart was among the first of the world’s media to go to Colorado to see and test the new bikes.
Photos: Brian J Nelson
It’s hard to know where to start, as there are so many changes that Harley-Davidson have introduced for the 2014 model year. Some are truly significant developments, such as the new high output 103ci and 110ci water-cooled engines, hydraulic clutches and sophisticated electronics on the big touring models, while there’s a series of smaller updates that run right across the range.
These include ABS now as an option on its Sportster models. That move alone brings Harley-Davidson firmly in line with BMW, as the only other manufacturer in the U.S. to offer ABS across its entire motorcycle line-up.
Big news too is the 96ci v-twin engine is no more. From 2014 model year onwards (with the exception of Sportsters) all Harley-Davidsons come equipped with a twin cam 103ci motor. There’s the standard 103, which was launched in the previous model year, but for 2014 there’s now a high output 103, a water-cooled high output 103 and for the CVO models (Customer Vehicle Order) a High Output water-cooled 110ci v-twin.
Harley-Davidson is well known for being extremely secretive about any new model updates and all of these developments it would be fair to say caught everyone by surprise, including its own global dealer network, which was in Denver also for the annual H-D retailer meeting.
All of the changes, from revised manufacturing processes to the actual bikes themselves have been part of a four year inside development program, that Harley-Davidson covertly called “Project Rushmore.”
“Harley-Davidson wanted an iconic American name for its plan that would encompass everything we were doing from design, to manufacturing, to the bikes themselves,” explained one H-D employee. “For all of us at H-D it also turned out to become a case of rushing to do even more.”
Since 2009, Project Rushmore has seen Harley-Davidson spend almost four years evaluating its bikes, its manufacturing processes and its place in the market. It also spent more than 1,300 hours listening to customers and dealers to establish what they really wanted from future Harley-Davidson motorcycles.
Project Rushmore’s primary focus was on the company’s product development and manufacturing processes. And the work and the investment that Harley-Davidson has undertaken now means it is confident it will cut its new model cycle plan from a previously five year time span to no more than three. Coupled to that change, Harley-Davidson has also dedicated more than 30% of its engineering staff to work specifically on technical innovations for all of its forthcoming motorcycles.
Those are two really significant points to come from Harley Davidson’s announcements in Denver. If it can adhere to that plan it will mean it will be bringing new and more modern motorcycles faster to market than ever before in its 110-year history. And with the 2014 Project Rushmore bikes it’s given us a taste of the type of mechanical and digital technology that we can expect to see on its bike in the near future.
Harley-Davidson’s President and CEO Matt Levatich said: “We admit back in 2009 there was some real uncertainty for our dealers and customers about the future of Harley-Davidson. We knew that we needed a new strategy that would give us great product development, great manufacturing processes and ultimately a great customer experience.
“In the early days of Project Rushmore, the Harley-Davidson management team took several days off to go to our Arizona proving grounds and ride all of our bikes and test them against our competitors. We (the management team) learned a huge amount from that.”
Levatich was also keen to stress that in the past four years everything at Harley-Davidson has been looked at and evaluated and improved. He added: “We spent a lot of time speaking and really listening to our customers and dealers and what they wanted from us. These Project Rushmore bikes we believe are a reflection of all that work. This is the most significant launch that Harley-Davidson has ever done in its entire history and I really think we have nailed it.”
What’s New – The Bikes
The product element of Project Rushmore has focused on Harley-Davidson’s market-leading touring bikes – the Road King, Street Glide, Electra Glide Ultra Classic and Ultra Limited (as well as the Tri Glide Ultra Trike) and they have all received numerous upgrades and changes.
But, perhaps the most significant news from Harley-Davidson for 2014 is the adoption of water-cooled 103ci and 110ci engines.
For several years it has been rumored that its air-cooled v-twins would have to become water-cooled so Harley-Davidson could meet the ever-increasing complexities of emission testing here in the U.S. and around the world. Water-cooling is not something new to H-D as its V-Rod has been equipped with liquid-cooled engines for some time.
However, for the 2014 introductions, only two touring bikes get the water-cooled engine – the 103ci Ultra Limited (FLHTK) and the special order 110ci CVO Limited (FLHTKSE). Although, if you want, you can order a water-cooled, 103ci Ultra Trike too.
At the launch Harley-Davidson executives were adamant that this technical development was not because the company needed to do it to meet future emission testing, but simply because its customer had asked for it to be done
“In our Project Rushmore program we talked to a lot of customers and one of the key things they asked us to do was look at how we could reduce heat from the v-twin engine. We went away and came back with what we think is an excellent solution,” said Levatich. But he conceded that maybe in the future other models could be offered with what the company has tagged “Twin-Cooled Twin Cam v-twin motors.”
Twin-Cooled High Output Twin Cam 103ci & 110ci
Both versions of the water-cooled engine are based on Harley-Davidson’s current v-twin. The motor’s fins are still the primary cooling area but, with some clever design work, there is now a pair of radiators neatly installed in the lower fairing on the pair of “Ultra Limited” models.
Water is routed only through the two cylinder heads, which have been specifically cast with horse-shoe shaped channels around the exhaust valves and via a series of rubber pipes, water is taken back to the pair of ducted radiators (or heat exchangers as Harley-Davidson likes to call them). The system is controlled by a thermostat and uses an electric pump to circulate the coolant. These are mounted at the bottom of the frame where you would normally find the oil cooler on a conventional air-cooled Harley-Davidson v-twin.
But, unlike the air-cooled engine, ignition is not retarded in really hot weather which results in a drop off of power, and the Twin-Cooled is able to run better at much higher temperatures in demanding riding conditions. And because this motor runs cooler, Harley-Davidson has been able to increase its compression ratio from 9.6:1 to 10.1:1.
Along with this increase and a change in the air box design, the High Output 103 offers, according to Harley-Davidson, around 10.7 percnt more peak torque than the standard 103 engine. That percentage torque increase is about the same for the CVO 110 Twin-Cooled engine. Like most other manufacturers, Harley-Davidson would not reveal horsepower or torque figures for either of its new Twin-Cooled engines.
Anyone thinking of retro fitting the Twin-Cooled system to a prior 2014 Limited will find it impossible. As, cost aside, it’s not just a case of changing the cylinder heads and adding the radiators, you’ll have to install the latest version ECU as well.
High Output Twin Cam 103
Taking the existing 103ci engine, Harley Davidson engineers have tweaked the non-water-cooled version to deliver 10 percent more torque over the regular 103ci version. For 2014 the High Output 103 is standard on the Road King, Street Glide, Street Glide Special and Electra Glide Ultra Classic.
It features a new camshaft with a different profile to improve bottom-end torque and, together with a re-designed high-flow air box, the HO Twin Cam 103, according to Harley-Davidson, now has a significant acceleration improvement between 60-80mph, in fifth gear, for overtaking on the freeway or riding up steep gradients.
Reflex Linked Brakes with ABS
All 2014 Touring models are available with the new Harley Davidson Reflex Linked Brakes with ABS either standard (Street Glide Special, Electra Glide Ultra Classic and Ultra Limited) or as a factory-installed option (Road King and Street Glide).
The system combines ABS with both front and rear electronically linked to achieve the best brake balance. Linked braking is activated at speeds over 20-25mph and works by using either just the brake lever or foot brake. At speeds under 20mph the brakes will revert to working independently. On the move though, the linked braking applies the correct braking force to both the front and rear in proportion to how much the rider needs to slow the bike down. It also remains active under the 20mph threshold in extreme braking situations so the rider can maintain control at all times.
Hydraulic Clutch Control
All 2014 Touring and Trike models, with the exception of the Road King, are equipped with hydraulic clutch control. This set-up considerably reduces the effort a rider needs to operate it and Harley-Davidson claims it will never require any adjustment or servicing during the life of the bike.
Boom! Box Infotainment Systems
One of the highlights of the 2014 Harley-Davidson Touring models, and aside from all the mechanical changes, is the huge step forward in digital technology fitted as standard on all the bikes with the exception of the Road King.
The curiously named Infotainment package is actually really, really good. You can link it up to the radio, satellite or via your ‘phone or ipod. There’s also Bluetooth connectivity, voice recognition (via a microphone/headphone fitted to the rider’s helmet), text to speech technology and a sophisticated GPS navigation system. Plus there is still the regular rider to passenger intercom and CB systems.
The entire system (there are two versions 4.3 and 6.5GT) is operated by a pair of five-way joysticks mounted on the left and right of the bars that allow a rider to operate it on the move.
The Street Glide and the Electra Glide Ultra Classic get the 4.3 systems as standard. This includes a 4.3-inch color screen mounted in the middle of the fairing that displays GPS and media information and a display page for ambient temperature, oil pressure and engine idle temperature.
There’s 25 watts per channel through either a two-channel or four-channel system depending on the model and 5.25-inch speakers.
The 4.3 is also Bluetooth compatible for cell phones and using a headset a rider can make and receive calls without taking their hands off the handlebars. And it can receive text messages, which can be viewed or listened to.
On the Street Glide Special, Ultra Limited and Tri-Glide (it’s a factory-installed option upgrade on the Electra Glide Ultra Classic) there is the more sophisticated Boom! Box 6.5GT, which has larger 6.5-inch speakers.
You get all the same features as the 4.3 but a bigger 6.5-inch color screen, a more comprehensive GPS system, set-up for Sirius/XM satellite radio, plus an extensive voice-recognition menu that allows the rider, again via a head set, to control and operate their phone, but also media, radio and navigation.
Styling, fairing, lights, bags & wheels
None of the 2014 Touring models have had any changes to their frames, but there are some important improvements to the front suspension set-up on all. This includes larger fork sliders and stiffer triple clamps to improve steering response.
More importantly, fork diameter across the touring range has been increased by 14 percent up from 43.1mm to 49mm, plus larger steering bearings and the overall suspension has been slightly re-tuned to offer a smoother ride.
Want to know how to spot a 2014 Ultra or Street Glide from a previous year’s model?
Take a look at the revised batwing fairing. On the outside, just below the screen, there is now a black intake vent. This can be opened or closed and has been designed to reduce head buffeting to the rider by up to 20 percent. This was something prevalent on previous models where particularly taller riders found they were right in the airflow as it came over the screen. (H-D’s designers even told us they went down the route of looking at beard lift for the more hirsute of its customers and this new vent should now help alleviate that problem).
Harley-Davidson says it they spent hundreds of hours in the wind tunnel updating the batwing fairing, which has been on its bikes since 1969. It still looks very much the same but there is now a more pronounced ‘eye-brow’ over the headlamp and larger coverage in front of the hand controls. On the Ultra models there are also re-designed wind deflectors on the lower edges that you can set up to your liking.
The hard saddlebags on all of the bikes have not been overlooked either. There’s a new sleeker shape with a little more carrying capacity and some terrific latch handles now on the inside of bag, facing the fender, which means you can open them when you’re on the move and grab say a bottle of water. They looked well made and pretty substantial, as too does the revised Tour-Pak on the Ultra models. It has a little more capacity (around 4%) than the previous version has been slightly restyled and has LED rear sop and lights mounted on it and inside has a retractable tether so you’ll never catch the cord again when closing the lid.
But neither the new hard bags nor the Tour-Pak can be retro fitted to earlier Touring models, as there are now new supports and docking points.
The two 2014 Ultra models (and the 110ci CVO version) have LED headlights and fog lamps. The headlamp has two D-shaped lenses, one that focuses light directly in front of the bike and another for high-beam projection on full beam. While, dual halogen headlamp is offered on the Road King, Street Glide and Street Glide Special.
Wheels are all new too across the range. They are all cast aluminum and designed to be lighter and stiffer. There’s a five spoke 19-inchfront for the two Street Glide models called the Enforcer and a 10-spoke, 18-inch front wheel named the Impeller for the rest of the range. All models have a 16-inch rear.
And the list goes on and on…. There are also new gauges with larger script, revised hand controls, tweaked front fenders, and new jukebox compartments. When Harley-Davidson told us it had made a 100 changes across the 2014 Touring range it was not kidding.
Colorado has possibly some of the best riding roads in the U.S. during spring and summertime, although at times you can be at more than a mile above sea level. Once you get outside of Denver, traffic in the mountains is predominantly light and, for a state that has a lot of snow in the winter, the road surfaces were surprisingly good and smooth. For the first stage of this ride we headed due west out of Denver on the I70 and for the next 24 hours we were riding some truly memorable stretches of fast sweeping mountain roads.
For the first stint we opted for the High Output 103 Street Glide for a couple of good reasons. Firstly, this is Harley-Davidson’s best-selling motorcycle worldwide. Not only that it is also the best selling bike over 601cc in the U.S.
When Harley-Davidson first launched the 103 engine a couple of years ago the general consensus seemed to be that whilst it was a little perkier than the 96 ci it replaced, there was not really a huge amount of difference. It was going to be interesting to see if a cam change and different air box would make any significant changes.
First visual impressions of the bike were pretty favorable. The Street Glide has to our eyes always been a good-looking motorcycle and the subtle revisions to the front fairing are in keeping with the cruiser/tourer style. The newly designed hard bags look good too and Harley-Davidson’s designers have done a great job in keeping the sweeping lines of the bike working in unison from front to rear. The lowered front fender hugs a 19-inch, five spoke cast aluminum wheel giving the Street Glide an aggressive stance.
The work done on revising the steering geometry and adding large diameter 49mm forks was immediately apparent when we set off down the I70. It’s no lightweight, this bike, at 810lbs and when you include a rider and luggage it all starts to mount up. At low speed maneuvering you still have got to think a little bit to move it around and whilst its turning circle is ok, you need to give it your full attention.
On the move though, the Street Glide felt immediately composed, stable and stiffer at the front end thanks in part, no doubt, to the bigger forks. There was great feedback through the bars and the subtle changes to the suspension settings mean there is a now a slightly suppler ride. It’s not sloppy or soft at all, there is just a more precise, stable feeling to the overall bike at higher speeds compared to some of the earlier versions of the Street Glide we have ridden.
For this rider, it was a really comfortable bike to ride over long distances. It’ll switch lanes easily and quickly on the freeway and despite the forward controls the wide seating position allows you to move about on the move, too, so you don’t get tired sitting in the same spot. The backrest on the rider seat could be a little higher for taller people, but overall it’s a good, comfortable riding position.
When Harley-Davidson first showed us the new electronics and infotainment for the 2014 Touring range it was as part of a static display at the media presentation. We were somewhat skeptical as to how intuitive it would be to actually operate and get to understand as there seemed to be numerous permutations of what you could do to set things up.
It is though a doddle once you get the hang of it. There are two toggles mounted left and right on the bars and using your thumbs you can scroll around, choose your radio station, music, or follow your route on the GPS, or make a call via your cell phone if you have the headset in your helmet. The screen, at 4.3-inches, is not huge and, when the sun is low in the sky, it can be a little hard at times to read. But overall, this 4.3 version of the Infotainment system gets a big thumbs up from us for its clarity, ease of use and clever thinking.
While the Harley-Davidson designers may have fiddled with the iconic batwing fairing, what they have done to it actually makes a lot of sense. There is far better rider protection, more protection in front of your hands and ,when you open that distinctive vent on the front fairing, you allow the air flow to rise up over your head so there’s little or no buffeting. Previous versions of the Street Glide meant that at times your head could bounce around like a ping pong ball if you got in the slipstream of an 18-wheeler or were riding into strong a wind. What the designers have done by introducing this vent is very simple, yet it works well and has solved a problem.
The Street Glide’s instrumentation is better laid out now too, the dials are larger with improved graphics and all in all it’s a lot easier on the eye.
We liked the look of the hard bags when we first saw them too. We liked them even more now they have a one touch latch system so that the rider can actually reach behind on the move and grab a bottle of water with no problem in locating the simple lever latch and opening and closing the lid.
There’s no change to the six-speed transmission. Some people dislike the way it operates and feel it could be a lot smoother but this rider likes the reassuringly clunkiness of the gearbox as you know precisely which gear you’re in without really ever needing to check the gear indicator on the instrument panel.
And then there’s the engine. By adding a different cam profile to the 103 and revising the shape and design of the air box, Harley-Davidson claims to have increased torque in this new version by 10.7 percent. As it won’t tell us the precise torque or horsepower figures for either the standard or High Output engine we will have to take its word for it.
What we can tell you is that this engine still gets pretty hot. With your right leg clamped close to the front cylinder and air box there is a constant wave of heat swirling around your right knee and calf. After time you get used to it, but it’s not always that comfortable.
That said, it is apparent the High Output 103 is a lot smoother. Particularly between 50-75mph it piles on the power in a super silky wave. You can roll off the throttle with the same degree of fluidity and yet it never feels flustered or jerky. It’s still no sports bike though, but for long distance riding or just plain cruising, Harley-Davidson appears to have got the balance with this engine on the Street Glide just about right.
The brakes are good, too. You don’t get the option of the Reflex Linked system on the regular Street Glide just the conventional ABS, but ours had the Linked system which does a good job in bringing the bike to a halt without too much complaint or kickback through the brake lever or pedal.
After a few hours of Street Glide riding it was time to turn our attention to one of the really big cruisers that’s probably seen the most number of changes in the entire 2014 Harley-Davidson line-up.
There’s no question the Ultra Limited is a big bike. It also looks faintly ridiculous when one person is on it as there is so much space for a passenger (for 2014 there is an extra inch all round on the passenger seat) and a ton of luggage. What we wanted to find out though was how well the water-cooled or Twin-Cooled High Output 103 engine would perform in a bike of this size.
Harley-Davidson really played down the introduction of this engine for reasons we could not fathom. Of course it’s had a liquid-cooled engine for some time in the V-Rod range, but we felt this was the big news of the launch that it was finally taking the plunge again with water-cooled engines, albeit for the moment on only two motorcycles in its 2014 Touring line-up – the Ultra Limited and the CVO Limited
What we can tell you is Harley-Davidson has done a decent job in installing twin radiators on the front of the Ultra, which fit neatly into the bottom of the fairing on each side. There’s no huge slab radiator sitting at the front of the engine. It’s all very discrete and subtle. You’d be hard pressed to know the Ultra is water-cooled unless you look very closely and the plumbing layout has been well thought through, too.
On starting up, you don’t get that distinctive Harley-Davidson exhaust note, although we were on an international version of the Ultra that has different pipes, but the U.S. versions still sounded very similar. They were all very quiet, or muted, at low speed. It only starts to sound like a proper v-twin under hard acceleration but then there was a lot of induction noise from the air box when accelerating hard.
Harley-Davidson said that it’s a customer requirement to have a water-cooled engine on a bike of this type as it helps to reduce heat generated from the v-twin motor. You also get better performance in hot conditions as, unlike the air-cooled version, the ignition won’t retard and start to lose power when both the bike and the weather start to heat up.
It’s fairly apparent you do lose some engine heat from the Twin-Cooled system. Although the engine fins still dissipate a larger proportion of it, the water-cooling acts as a secondary back up reducing engine heat even more. You can also mess around with the vents in the bottom of the fairing and open and close them depending on your preference to move the airflow around yourself and a passenger.
If we were to be asked if there was any performance difference between the Twin-Cooled or the air-cooled engines, we’d be hard pressed to give you an answer. Both versions are super smooth, particularly in the high rev range, both roll on and off the throttle easily. But to our mind there was no perceptible difference between them.
On a touring bike like the Ultra, an owner may plan on doing many thousands of miles cross country in the middle of summer and a water-cooled engine makes a lot of sense. As, not only will it run better in extreme temperatures, it will also reduce rider fatigue and improve comfort.
Interestingly, Harley-Davidson also told us that the Twin-Cooled would run reasonably happily without the cooling system if a radiator was to get damaged and the coolant start to leak. However, it wouldn’t recommend a rider travel long distances without getting it fixed.
In terms of hauling the Ultra around, the Twin-Cooled 103 does a reasonable job. Even for such a heavy bike at 896lbs, without rider or luggage, it is really quite flexible and, like the other bikes in the Touring range, it feels smooth and stable. For all of its bulk it goes around corners well, leaning well over and is always extremely comfortable. We rode it for more than 180 miles through the Colorado mountains and could have quite easily done another 180 miles with no problem at all.
The highlight, though, has to be the addition of the Reflex Linked Brakes with ABS. At speeds over 25mph the system electronically works out the amount of brake balance a rider requires and will apply it to both front and rear. You can operate it by simple squeezing the brake lever. The Reflex system takes care of everything else. Under 20mph, the system reverts to the front and rear working independently. However, if you need to do an emergency stop the system will remain in operation as you decelerate below 20mph to help the rider maintain control.
And it works very, very well. It takes a bit of time to realize you don’t need to use both brake pedal and lever together when you’re on the move as it works so seamlessly. We wondered if this could be a system that might replace the conventional lever and pedal braking system we have on all bikes today. Time will tell.
At low speeds and at intersections, the Ultra takes time to get used to. It’s heavy, very heavy, and you need to pay close attention to keep the bike upright while bringing it to a halt or setting off from rest. Over time, we’re sure you get used to this but it’s not something you can quickly adapt to.
As a flagship touring motorcycle, the Harley-Davidson Ultra Limited does a good job. In its new 2014 guise it has a host of small but important changes that have really tidied it up. The more expansive 6.5 Infotainment system is a whole lot of technology that some people will absolutely love. There are features on this system that you won’t find even on cars today. It is well thought out, it can be easily updated and will be seen as a huge benefit by Ultra owners. The purists though will hate it, as they’ll feel all you need on a motorcycle at most is a speedo and tach.
What is apparent is that Harley-Davidson has listened to its Ultra customers. Small things like the re-designed Tour-Pak that has a little more space and a retractable tether that stops the cable getting caught in the lid shows that Harley-Davidson has really been listening and is trying to give the customer what they want.
Great build quality, demonstrating Harley-Davidson is back on its game. It’s also started to look deeper into technical innovation by introducing the expansive and advanced Infotainment system and the Twin-Cooled engines are further proof that Harley-Davidson really is looking to the future rather than its past.
We like the detailed touches on all of the bikes and the depth of thought that has gone into them all.
It would be churlish to criticize the 2014 Touring range because they are Harley-Davidsons and they are, in part, what we would have expected to come out of Milwaukee. But that’s too easy a target. We’d have liked to have seen wider use of the Twin-Cooled engine rather than just on two of the more expensive bikes particularly as the HO 103ci can get pretty hot. But, then you’re into a whole different world as to put it in the Street Glide would require some serious styling modifications.
All of these changes make it pretty confusing for the consumer to understand what is standard and what is an option. You need to spend some time working it all out to see which bike is right for you. None of the bikes are particularly cheap and in some cases could be considered quite expensive. That aside there’s not much else really to grumble about.
It’s no surprise that with the new model year Harley Davidson Touring bikes come at a new price. There’s a whole heap of changes and some additional good technology and equipment added. At $18,249 you get entry-level into the Harley Davidson Touring class with the Road King, $20,399 will get you on a Street Glide; while for a further $2,100 you can take the Street Glide Special with Reflex Linked Brakes (also adding adjustable rear suspension, the 6.5 GT Boom Box, gloss black inner fairing and the color-match lower fairing skirt). The numbers start to go up even more with the bigger tourers and an Electra Glide Ultra Classic will set you back $23,249 and the Ultra Limited begins at $25,899. If you want to go really crazy you could splash out $28,499 for the CVO Road King or a whopping $38,999 for the CVO Limited.
Alternatively you could look at the better-equipped and cheaper Japanese touring bikes, but there’s also a new kid on the block with Indian and its Chief Classic ($18,999), the Chief Vintage ($20,999) or the current flagship the Chieftain ($22,999).
Four years ago, someone or something lit a fire under the Harley-Davidson management team. They recognized that something needed to be done to move the company forward and, possibly for the first time ever, listened to its customers and actually acted upon some of the suggestions they made.
Are the 2014 Harley Davidson Touring bikes the best you can buy? No. But then again there’s no such thing. What these bikes demonstrate is that there is a sizeable shift happening within Harley-Davidson that bodes really well for the company’s future. The new line-up has some impressive detail touches, great use of technology and the Reflex Linked Brakes is an innovative and a smart move.
Does it even matter what the media like us think about Harley-Davidson Touring range? Probably not, as currently it has 25,000 of its 2014 motorcycles corralled ready to ship to dealers around the world this week and undoubtedly they will have a forward order situation on many if not all of those.
What is clear though is a lot of thought and time has gone into bringing these Touring bikes up to a whole new level. If Harley-Davidson is truly serious about making innovative and more interesting bikes and getting them to market faster than it has ever done before, we’re genuinely excited to see what lies ahead.
RideApart Rating: 8/10 (Harley Davidson Street Glide), 7/10 (Harley Davidson Ultra Limited)