Words: Francois Flamengo ǀ Photos: Project Rushmore
Project Rushmore is the name of Harley Davidson's latest initiative to improve their line-up of legendary motorcycles. The motto for this initiative is: Build with all of us, for all of us. Project Rushmore see science and feedback from customers and their passengers come together to create the best there is to offer when it comes to on-road touring and riding on these magnificent machines.
The project focused on the touring line-up and we can expect to see a lot of the technology developed through this initiative, filter down through to their other bikes in the near future. So what’s the fuss all about? Well, to try and summarise a 350 km ride that took us a few hours to complete during the press launch is going to be difficult because there is so much that I could share with you. So, I'll just highlight the main features. For a complete run down of the 'Full Monty', visit your closest Harley dealership.
The Project Rushmore range includes the following bikes: the undisputed leader of the pack and flagship bike, the Electra Glide Ultra Limited; Electra Glide Ultra Classic; the snazzy Street Glide with its sexy lines; and the Road King Classic. Moving away from just two wheels, the Tri Glide, a three-wheel Ultra Classic was also featured.
The improvements made to these impressive bikes were numerous, so let’s start with the features on the Ultra Limited. The most noticeable improvement at first glance is the new lights. The LED Day maker lights, situated in the front fender, truly lived up to its name. During our evening ride, the lights made a huge difference to our visibility, making the ride more enjoyable as you felt safer with extended vision. To ensure that drivers can see you better at night, the new LED lights are also integrated into the saddle bag, thus making your more visible on the road to other motorists coming in any direction.
The Batwing features a new design improvement and this comes in the form of the splitstream vent located below the windshield. This technology helps with air pressure experienced by the rider when going at different speeds. I was amazed by how well it worked, keeping you very comfortable when travelling at higher speeds. So even though it has been subtly reshaped and restyled, the new Batwing fairing maintains the look that launched a million road trips.
The dash and controls came under the spotlight too and were completely redesigned to ensure 'ultra' comfort. In the middle of the dash you will find a huge touch-screen display called the Infotainment system. It combines a number of features in one unit that is easy to navigate, thus enabling riders to get all their information and entertainment from a single location. To complement the Infotainment system, Harley had reduced the number of dials on the dash, and thanks to bigger numbers the dials are much easier to read. The controls on the handle bars have been upgraded with better 'feel' response when selecting an option, which makes operating the controls a breeze when wearing gloves.
When it comes to the rider's comfort, the seat has been made wider and more 'plush'. I especially enjoyed the air-control button to pump more support into the seat when required. On the Ultra, the rear seat is much wider than on the previous model and the cushion on the back is also bigger to provide more support, thus ensuring that the passenger's ride is a true delight.
The storage compartments boast new latches and the side compartments can now be opened in a single motion. The saddle bag is also bigger and can support more weight, which means you can now pack that extra piece of luggage ;-)
To make the bike 'speak' to you, Harley knows better than anyone that no long ride is complete without your best tunes playing in your ears, as the miles disappear one by one. The Ultra range features an upgraded sound system with 5.25' speakers that pumps out 25 watts per channel. But what is new is that the system’s equaliser ensures only 1% of its sound gets distorted, so your favourite song will have a crisper, clearer, and sharper sound. Bring on the AC/DC Thunderstruck or John Lennon tunes!
But comfort is nothing without performance and again Harley responded to the call from their riders. To ensure you have more power to assist in situations, like overtaking another vehicle, they have beefed up the engine by designing a new High Output Twin Cam 103 engine that delivers more low-end torque. There's also more space for the rider’s legs around the engine, which once again all combines to improve seating comfort. The result of this magnificent piece of art is the fastest 100 km/h to 140 km/h roll on ever achieved on a Harley-Davidson. You won't need to worry about the possibility of overheating in traffic anymore as the engineers have added a twin-cooling system to the Ultra models.
The breaking system has been upgraded with the Reflex Electronic Linked ABS Break System, to make sure you can safely bring all that power to stop when required. This added safety feature definitely gives a rider a lot more confidence when having to control the power and manoeuvrability of the bike at any speed. One of the best features on this system that I enjoyed was the dual breaking that automatically engages when you apply the brakes over 50 km/h.
The result of all of these enhancements was fantastic to experience during our test ride around the well-known 'bikers' route in Mpumalanga, from Nelspruit, via Hazeyview, up to Three Rondawels, and down to Lydenburg, then back to White River over the Long Tom Pass via Sabie. The bikes simply ate up the road for breakfast and when we eventually had to get off the bike, it felt like I was never even on one. And if we had to do the loop again, we'd do so in a heartbeat!
In summary, I place the various models that I rode as follow: the Ultra is the undisputable number one in my book. This bike has all the bells and whistles and delivers for all riding age groups, young and old. It’s the complete Grand Touring Bike! The new Street Glide is a bike I can see myself buying and is my choice in number two; it features the correct mix between young and old requirements. It handles fantastically and I believe it is a great start to enjoy touring with, but also using your investment in town from day to day. The Classic Road King is my number three choice, but not because of its looks. It simply talks to the rider who wants the ride without the fuss. The Tri is for a specific rider – you will know if it’s you when you look at it. Although it features magnificent technology, it doesn’t speak to me as did its two-wheeled counterparts.
Well done to Harley-Davidson and the successful delivery of Project Rushmore. We can only wait and see what they will bring out next to continue improving our ride even more and enjoy these steel horses for many more years to come. I salute you!