Bryn Davies is in Portugal for the launch of Harley-Davidson’s 2019 touring range
Back at the end of 2018, when KTM was busy unveiling the 790 Adventure and Yamaha was breaking news of the Ténéré 700’s imminent arrival, Harley-Davidson shocked the motorcycling world with a glimpse into the company’s plans for the future.
Plans which included the launch of an all-new Harley-Davidson Pan America, a 1250cc beast of an adventure bike. The Pan America, which is being tipped for a launch in 2020, will be Harley’s first foray into the adventure motorcycle market and it’ll certainly see the company entering unknown territory.
From a mile-munching touring bike perspective though, Harley’s been doing it for years, with its touring range offering road-going riders a combination of distinctive Harley styling and long-distance comfort.
In fact, a couple of years I rode from Denver to LA on a Harley-Davidson Ultra Limited, and I was in love with that big, comfortable seat, the stress-free seating position, the incredible weather protection, and the Marmite-like music system and speakers (I absolutely loved cruising along in the sun, the open road before me and my favourite playlist providing the soundtrack. Others, apparently, aren’t so keen).
So, it was on the back of this that I found myself in Portugal’s Algarve, admiring a line of nearly 20 Harley-Davidsons, all from the firm’s touring range, and all glistening seductively under the mid-March sunshine.
Harley-Davidson’s touring range consists of 11 bikes, from the back-to-basics Road King, which retails at £19,295, to the cruise liner-like Ultra Limited, which will set you back £24,265, and we had the day to ride them all with nothing but the winding roads of southern Portugal in front of us.
In truth, the 2019 range is very much the same as the 2018 one, save for a few key differences; an updated infotainment system that’s been developed to offer ‘a contemporary look, feel and function’, and the inclusion of the new Milwaukee-Eight 114 engine in a selection of the bikes (the Ultra Limited, Road King Special, Street Glide Special, Road Glide Special, Road Glide Ultra). Having spent a decent amount of time on a 17-plate Ultra Limited that sported the ‘old’ version of the infotainment system, I can say with confidence that it needed an update.
It felt clunky, it was slow to respond to keypresses, linking it to your mobile phone wasn’t particularly straightforward, and the whole thing just felt a bit out of date when compared to the TFT dashes that you can find on most new motorcycles.
The new BOOM! Box GTS system is lightyears ahead of the old system. I had my phone paired to it in less than a minute, with some Lynyrd Skynyrd blasting out of the impressive speakers a few seconds after that.
The navigation aspect of the system is more intuitive now, and the whole screen is touch responsive and clear to see, even in direct sunlight. It also offers Apple CarPlay and hands-free voice recognition if you’ve got a compatible helmet. Nice.
As mentioned, in five of the touring range’s models, capacity has been increased, swapping the Milwaukee-Eight 107 for the Milwaukee-Eight 114 engine. The result is an increase of around 10 horses and more torque, giving the machines more get-up-and-go.
Again, I found myself gravitating towards the Ultra Limited, as this really is the machine you’ll want if you’re covering long distances and, compared to the 2017 model, there was noticeably more pep when accelerating. The updates for 2019 might be minor, but they certainly reflect Harley’s new, forward-thinking approach to its range.
While we’re incredibly excited about the launch of the Pan America next year, until then I’m hoping to be able to get my hands on one of this year’s touring range over the summer – for road-based tours, especially when two-up, the Ultra Limited really does take some beating.
The Pillion Factor
If you regularly tour two-up and you want a bike that will keep your passenger as happy as possible, the Ultra Limited is as good a choice as any. The pillion’s perch is more like a comfy recliner, and out of all of the bikes that my partner has been my pillion on, the Ultra Limited has been her favourite by far from a comfort perspective. What’s that old saying? Happy pillion, happy life.
The 11 bikes of Harley’s touring range
Harley’s touring range is extensive, offering a combination of stripped-back looks all the way up to the armchair-like, sit back and relax luxury of the Ultra Limited.