2011 Harley-Davidson Road Glide Ultra FLTRU

Bigger is better, and 103" is better than 96"!

Bigger is better. It’s the American way, and for 2011 Harley-Davidson, America’s leading motorcycle manufacturer, made Big Twin engines for select models a little bit bigger—and better.

For the 2011 standard models lineup (non-CVO models), H-D has unveiled the Twin Cam 103, an over-bored version of the tried-and-proven TC96. The new engine powers several of Harley¹s top-flight baggers, among them the all-new FLTRU Road Glide Ultra. Only The Motor Company¹s exclusive CVO line (stay tuned for reports on those high-end models) with their 110-inch engines offer more displacement among bikes wearing the Bar & Shield logo. The new TC103 is a result of increasing the TC96’s bore from 3.750” to 3.875”.

Before we snoop through the FLTRU’s spacious saddlebags and Tour Pak, and poke and prod at its other long-haul features, a little clarification about the engine displacement is in order. No doubt, there’s no replacement for displacement, but Harley-Davidson opted to keep engine size at 96 cubic inches for the remaining Big Twin line (Road King, Electra Glide Classic and Ultra Classic Electra Glide, plus the Softail and Dyna platforms).

The Road Glide Ultra is Harley-Davidson’s latest addition to its line of touring models.

But there’s a method to Harley’s marketing madness for model year 2011 that should find favor among Harleyphiles who feel that bigger is, indeed, better. You can special-order the 103-inch engine package on certain other Touring models (FLHX and FLTRX), too. Known as the Power Pak, customers can upgrade to include the larger engine, or stick with the TC96 for their bikes.

There’s plenty of storage space in the saddlebags and Tour Pak, standard items for the Road Glide Ultra.

The Power Pak option also includes ABS (anti-lock braking system), the Smart Security System with hands-free arming and disarming functions, and exclusive “103” emblems for the derby cover and air cover.

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.

Owners who opt for the Power Pak package will feel another bonus once they fire up their 103-inch engines. Harley rates the 103’s peak torque at 102 ft. lbs. at 3500 rpm—about a 9.6% gain over the 96-inch motor—so there’s more power on tap for leveling steep grades or overtaking those pesky motorhomes that swagger and sway like petrol-powered pachyderms along our scenic highways.

Interestingly, the price for the Power Pak equates to about 10% over the MSRP of both eligible models, so you pretty much get what you pay for in terms of added torque per dollar spent. And keep in mind that torque, not horsepower, translates to a rewarding ride for most long-distance riders packing extra gear.

And speaking of long-distance riding, Road Glide Ultra customers won’t be disappointed in what they’re treated to once they settle into the newly formed seat for an all-day excursion. In fact, all the Touring models have re-shaped seats for added comfort. In addition, the sculpted saddles for the Ultra models (Road Glide and Electra Glide) offer additional lower back support, and a narrower forward section makes it easier for riders to place their feet firmly on the pavement during stops.

All the 2011 baggers have new seats that have narrowed front sections, making it easier to plant both feet on the pavement at stops.

Other comfort features can be found in the Road Glide Ultra’s vented fairing lowers, passenger backrest and electronic cruise control. Audio acoustics are improved for the Harman-Kardon Advanced Audio System thanks to four speakers (two in the frame-mounted fairing, two on the Tour Pak assembly), plus there’s a CB/Intercom system so you can link to truckers or your passenger while logging the miles.

Vented fairing lowers keep you warm and relatively dry during winter riding.

Like the rest of the Touring line, the Road Glide Ultra rides on Dunlop’s D407 Multi-Tread rear tire that was developed exclusively for Harley’s big rigs. The tire’s construction offers longer-life center tread compound with softer shoulder compound for improved cornering grip. The rear wheel hub’s Isolated Drive System compensator helps control vibration and noise under all riding conditions, too.

But make no mistake, the centerpiece for the new Ultra (as well as the Road King Classic and the Electra Glide Ultra Limited, the latter of which we tested here), is the 103-inch engine.

"...the centerpiece for the new Ultra is the 103-inch engine."

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.

Over the years Harley’s marketing strategies have favored introducing a major upgrade such as this on one or two models, and then coming back in a following model year with the upgrade included across the board. So if Harley history is any indication, speculation leads to the obvious, and that’s that the 103-incher will be standard fare on all Big Twin models for 2012.

After all, bigger is better. It’s the American way. And Harley-Davidson always follows the American way.

The Road Glide is a big machine, but it hides its size well.

Related Reading
2011 Harley-Davidson Sportster SuperLow
2010 Harley-Davidson Road Glide Custom Review
2010 Harley-Davidson Road Glide vs. 2010 Victory Cross Country
2010 Harley-Davidson Electra Glide Ultra Limited Review
All Things Harley-Davidson on Motorcycle.com

View all Photos PHOTOS & VIDEOS

Get Motorcycle.com in your Inbox