2009 Harley-Davidson Electra Glide Standard Review

The steed that took Longride to Sturgis

story by George “Longride” Obradovich, Photograph by George “Longride” Obradovich, Created Aug. 29, 2008
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With the Sturgis Rally now over and done with, I can settle in and report on the Flame Blue Pearl 2009 Harley-Davidson Electra-Glide Standard that carried me there and back again.  Many bikes that are tested by magazines are ridden a few times over a few miles, but this bike was ridden over 2500 miles and 9 days, so I didn’t just test this one, I lived with it. When you spend that much time on a bike the good, bad, and ugly really stand out.

The Electra-Glide Standard is a base model for the touring lineup. As such, with a beginning MSRP of $16,999 it and the Road King are the lowest priced FL models.

Let’s get the technical items listed first. As we now know from the press launch reports on the 2009 OE and CVO models, the entire touring line received an all-new chassis for better stability and handling.

Also standard on all ’09 touring models is EITMS, or Engine Idle Temperature Management System. The previous years for the 96-inch motor had a rash of complaints about rear cylinder heat roasting legs in hot climates, so Harley addressed the problem with the EITMS system.This bit of Harley tech stops fueling to the rear cylinder when engine temperatures get too high during idle; it’s also now rider activated or deactivated by rotating the throttle grip forward for a count of five seconds.

Lots of changes, same Harley style.
In further efforts to alleviate heat issues, the crossover pipe of the exhaust system was rerouted, now running beneath the engine instead of under the rider‘s legs for better heat reduction. The front suspension received new spring rates to complement the new chassis and the new multi-compound Multi-Tread tire from Dunlop. Additionally, the “Isolated Drive System,” or more commonly, cush drive, now has its housing molded into the rear wheel hub.

Standard features include the 96 Cubic Inch Twin-Cam motor, throttle-by-wire, 6-gallon gas tank, six-speed overdrive transmission, Brembo brakes, and beautiful 28-spoke cast wheels.  Options include ABS brakes, a security system, and electronic cruise control. So that’s quite a list of features, old and new. Is all this technology really that great?  How do all the new changes work, you ask? Read on.

Since I have a 2001 Electra-Glide, I can fully appreciate the changes made to the new ‘09 touring models. At first glance, the new bike doesn’t look all that different from my ‘01, but a trained eye sees the larger fuel tank shape and different exhaust routing. A couple of Florida-based bikers noticed I was riding a 2009 model at Sturgis; they looked it over with a tiny gleam of envy in their eyes.

This bike looks great from any angle. The paint is gorgeous.The first chance I got to ride the bike was from Milwaukee to Chicago in the typical Midwest August heat – 92 degrees.  Getting caught in a traffic jam on the way home, I can tell you that the EITMS system combined with the new exhaust routing works well. I felt almost no heat on my thighs where even my ‘01 would have been roasting them a bit on this day. And the system is so seamless; you wouldn’t even know it was there. No muss, no fuss.

The Twin-cam lump pulls smoothly from idle to redline. No injection glitches or surging could be felt anywhere in the powerband. The electronic cruise control makes this bike an absolute pleasure while hauling down the highway. I can’t say enough good things about having cruise-control on this bike. It was easily my all-time favorite feature. It is so nice to be able to set your speed on the highway and sit back and enjoy the view without hand cramps or worrying about speeding tickets.

This new bike doesn’t suffer the same buffeting that previous models endured from crosswinds or the turbulence generated by tractor/trailers or larger vehicles. The instability or “wobble,” that can be encountered in such windy conditions (especially on prior year models with their bat-wing fairing) seemed non-existent with this model.

Getting the 1000 miles to Sturgis and the 1000 back was really nice on this Electra-Glide, but I had a couple of nits to pick. I found the six-speed transmission to be loud and obnoxious at times. It went into gear with a loud clack and each gear whines a different tune. I could tell which gear I was in by the sound it made. Fifth gear is especially offensive with a whine loud enough to make me think something was wrong. Maybe because the rest of the package is so quiet the gear noise seems so noticeable. (I had a similar experience to Longride’s during my time on the new touring rigs at the ’09 model launch. It’s worth noting, however, that noises not normally noticed on other or similar bikes tend to be amplified as they bounce around the cockpit of bikes with such large fairings and/or bodywork. Locating the source of a noise can be like chasing a phantom. –P.B.)

Also of note, I had a small issue with the “new and improved” suspension. The highway ride was compromised by the stiffness of the suspension. Now, I am no lightweight at 250 lbs, but for even me to think the suspension was too stiff is a first for me. Usually I mash motorcycle suspension into mush on most bikes; I think Harley went a little too heavy on this one. Not that the bike is uncomfortable, but sharp highway jolts will jar you pretty good. Since H-D is emphasizing the handling on their new tourers, I think they designed this one more for corners than the highway. Corners on a Harley? Are you kidding?

Classic and functional cockpit. Sixth-gear indicator light is nice.
Beautiful wheels. The Brembo brakes are fantastic.
The 96-inch motor and six-speed are the heart and soul of this bike.
Yes, folks, this one handles. It is yards better than my ’01 and certainly the best handling Harley tourer ever. After taking this on a couple of spirited rides in the Black Hills, I can say that new chassis works. Iron Mountain Road in the Black Hills has everything from fast sweepers to 15-mph switchbacks, and is a real nice road to test the handling of any motorcycle. That stiff suspension makes sense when attacking the corners, and although the turn in seems a bit slower and heavier than the older bikes, once you get it heeled over, you are rewarded with dead solid handling and better ground clearance to boot. Corner speeds that would have my ’01 Glide doing the wobbly can be taken with ease on ’09 touring chassis. It is so well composed compared to the older generation frame that the difference is very noticeable. Add in the excellent Brembo brakes, which can haul the bike down from speed with two fingers, and you have a package that will eat those highway miles in comfort and can give you some excitement when the road gets twisty.

This bike came equipped with ABS for that extra margin of safety. For me, the jury is still out on ABS on motorcycles. I tested the ABS on this bike by purposely locking the front and rear wheels and you can feel the heavy pulsing as the ABS activates. I really didn’t like the feedback, and I guess I don’t want to rely on technology to save me from taking the time to learn proper braking technique in the first place. I guess for most, this is a good option to get on a bike, but being the old, stubborn guy I am, I just can’t see myself with an ABS bike. At least it is optional on the touring line. (ABS is standard on all CVO FL models. –P.B.)

As far as the ergonomics on this bike, it is still just like the Electra-Glides of old. The tank is noticeably bigger, but the bars, floorboards, and seat seem about the same. The stock seat is comfortable. I did two days of 600-plus miles, and I wasn’t too sore at the end. The new six-gallon tank gives Iron Butt types some extended range. Gas mileage varied from the high 30s on a fast highway blast into a headwind, to the high 40s on a normal highway cruise. The six-speed transmission really helps on those high-speed highway runs. At 80 mph, the motor is only turning about 3000 rpm. Nice and relaxed. Set the cruise and kick back. This one can eat the miles quickly, if desired.

The only drawback here is acceleration in overdrive is pokey at best. Expect to click down one gear for decent passing speed. One other feature that I didn’t talk about was the increased load capacity of the hard bags. Each bag is now rated to carry 5 pounds more than before, so you can get to your destination with more stuff. This is a really nice feature for us pack rats.

So are the new changes worth it? Does the new technology on the 2009 Harley-Davidson Electra-Glide Standard make a better motorcycle? Absolutely; but as you can tell from the article, some of the changes have some drawbacks. For example, the suspension that was great on the twisty roads was not as good on the highway. ABS is still a nice option for those that want it. It could save your bacon, but I just can’t bring myself to love it. My favorite extra is the optional cruise control.

The six-speed transmission is fantastic on the highway, but whines around town, and acceleration while in overdrive is less than stellar. The new chassis is 100% better that the old one. It gives a more stable highway ride and is rock solid in the corners. The EITMS system and changed exhaust routing took care of any annoying heat issues without any drawbacks. The engine ran perfectly, didn’t leak a drop of oil, and didn’t use any oil over the 2500 miles either. Nothing came loose, fell off, or didn’t function as intended. Fit and finish is top notch, and the Flame Blue Pearl paint is perfect. This is typical Harley-Davidson quality.

Puttin’ a smile on my face!

I guess the conclusion is that the bike just plain works! And although the tank and exhaust look a bit different, the bike still has “the look and sound” that has drawn people to Harley-Davidson motorcycles for oh-so-many years. Before riding this bike I was thinking of getting a new 2009 Electra-Glide. After riding this bike, I’m going to have to do more than think about it.

Related Reading:
2009 Harley-Davidson Model Line-up
2009 Harley-Davidson VRSCF V-Rod Muscle Review
2009 Harley-Davidson CVO Models Review
2009 Harley-Davidson Touring Models Review
All Harley-Davidson Reviews on Motorcycle.com

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