2011 Electra Glide Classic FLHTC
As many faithful readers know, I’m pretty fond of Harley-Davidson’s Street Glide. It’s been my main bike for the better part of two years, and I’m always happy when I get back on the bike. It’s not perfect by any means, but fits me like a nice pair of shoes. It’s slightly lower than the other full-faired bikes, and the lowered suspension makes the ride tight and nimble.
That’s a good thing and a bad thing as the suspension can be a bit harsh, especially on the poorly maintained roads of California. I liken it to a Corvette, that while low and fun to drive, is less forgiving when the pavement gets rough. I may have revealed last year that the ’10 Electra Glide Classic might be my new favorite ride.
Two years ago I rode a then-new Classic 5,000 miles to Sturgis and I loved it, but then wound up with an ’09 Street Glide. Last year I didn’t want to tempt myself much with the Classic, so I rode it for a few weeks before returning to my lonely ‘Glide. With the ’11 Classic, my previous feelings have been confirmed: I love this bike.
It’s like a Cadillac-smooth, comfortable, and refined thanks in part to the longer suspension and plush seat.
Having already revamped and significantly improved the Touring chassis for the ’09 model year, the ’11 Electra Glide Classic is largely unchanged form last year, with different paint and graphics options available. For this year, H-D tied the Security Package (with Smart Security System and hands-free fob) into the Anti-Lock Braking option; you need to buy both as an additional $1,195. Spoke wheels and cruise control are the only other factory options.
The new Power Pak 103ci Twin Cam option is not available on the Classic. My test-model came slathered in a beautifully executed two-tone Cool Blue Pearl and Vivid Black color scheme and the paint was flawless as usual. Two solid colors are also available for the ’11 model year.
Getting down to business is the 96ci Twin Cam motor that drives the tried and true six-speed Cruise Drive transmission. Most of the engine received a black powdercoat treatment, topped off with tastefully executed chrome covers. The fuel-injected motor delivers a nice torque thrust while its rubber-mounting isolates the rider from unwanted vibrations.
Additional drivetrain smoothness is helped by the rear wheel’s Isolated Drive System (within the pulley/wheel hub) that cushions the rear drivebelt. The closed-loop, fuel injection system works pretty well combined with the electronic throttle control (no throttle cables). Acceleration is smooth and linear throughout the rpm range; the only complaint is a lag that occasionally occurs off idle.
This tends to happen when the bike is really hot and surely related to the lean air:fuel dictated by the Feds. Thanks to an anti-knock sensor in the cylinder, head detonation (pinging) is practically non-existent; once the sensor senses detonation, it signals the ECM to retard ignition timing. The ignition retard works within a revolution or two of the motor and the pinging disappears.
Exhaust is routed from the motor via the cooler running, 2010-designed 2-1-2 dual exhaust with chrome tapered mufflers. There is a nice rumble that emanates from the exhaust and it’s sure to make your neighbors happy.
Like the other Electra Glides, the Classic sports the iconoclastic Batwing, fork-mounted fairing with a medium-height Lexan windscreen. The fairing does a great job of element protection and seconds as a great place for the gauges and audio equipment. Speaking of audio, the Harman/Kardon Advanced Audio System is one of the nicest in the OEM sector.
Forty watts are delivered through two 5 1/4-inch speakers in front of the stainless steel handlebars and on either side of the fairing. Sound through the system is surely loud enough to be heard with a helmet on, even on the freeway. Distortion creeps in at the highest volume levels but the radio is loud.
The cruise control option I had on my test bike worked flawlessly and provided a nice rest for the right wrist while out on the open road.
This is a touring bike after all, and Harley didn’t skimp on the storage compartments. On either side are the waterproof and locking injection-molded saddlebags that offer a lot of useful storage space. If that’s not enough, there’s the rear-mounted Tour-Pak that has the same amount of storage as both saddlebags combined.
An added benefit to the Tour-Pak is the integrated passenger backrest and wrap-around armrests. Adding to the appeal of this bike for me is the accessory Detachable Tour-Pak Mounting Rack (53246-09A) that allows owners of factory-installed Tour-Paks the ability to make the Pak quick-release. When I’m just commuting or cruising locally, I don’t always need the extra room afforded by the Tour-Pak; the bikes generally look better without the Pak too.
Six gallons of fuel can be pumped into the gas tank, and with real-world gas mileage well into the mid 40s, that’s a lot of miles between fill-ups. H-D claims 54 mpg on the highway, which we think is a bit optimistic and likely achieved in controlled settings only; obviously speed and acceleration tendencies affect gas mileage, so as they say, Your mileage may vary.
The gearing on the Classic is perfect for this machine and has quite a bit of oomph from low in the rpm’s and buttery smooth in the tall Sixth gear. The bike sports two Brembo four-piston calipers up front and one out back, all of which clamp down on fixed rotors. I had the ABS option on my ride and the braking system is very good. Even without the ABS, the brakes works very well with a decent, somewhat hard feel, but they stop really well.
While I don’t usually put myself into the territory of needing the ABS, it’s very nice to have in the event of an emergency. When the pucker factor goes up in an emergency, the last thing to have to think about is modulating the brakes and preventing a skid. That’s one variable you can throw out of the equation with ABS.
This leaves the rider with the main goal of avoidance and maneuvering versus proper emergency braking. I have to admit skepticism to ABS when it debuted. I didn’t think I needed it and probably still don’t, but it is nice especially in the rain to not worry about sliding rear ends, or worse, having the front washout.
All in all I really loved riding this bike and tried to keep it longer. The Classic delivers just as good a ride as the Ultra without many of the bells and whistles that you may not need or want. The best way to find out which Touring model is right for you is to try them all out.
Demo rides happen throughout the country at all of the major rallies, or log onto harley-davidson.com for more information.
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