’08 Ultra Classic Update

We’ve had the Ultra for three weeks now, and as is typical, with I get a new bike we start having either cold or rainy weather every weekend. This year is no exception. But, I have managed to get past the 500 mile break-in and can start to ride the bike a little harder. Below are a couple of update photos. I’ve been able to install most of my “do-dads” except the GPS and the air horn. Hopefully I will get those on this coming week. I feel really lost without my air horn.

There are some things I really like about the Ultra. First and foremost is the brakes. This is the third Electra Glide that I have had and it has by far the best brakes of all of them. My ’96 Electra Glide was my first big bike.  I added aftermarket front brake rotors and pads in an effort to improve the braking performance of that bike. The ’05 had better brakes being fitted with dual piston calipers compared to the single piston calipers of the ’96. The ’08 has Brembo four piston calipers and newly designed rotors. This combination really works well, very good stopping power with good control. The BMW K1200LT had some terrific brakes and they were servo assisted, making stops from high speeds effortless. However, the Beamers brakes were a bit touchy, over boosted, at low speeds making slow speed maneuvering more difficult. The ’08 Ultra has nearly as much stopping power with low lever effort as the BMW without the over boosted low speed problem. Also, this Harley has the optional anti-lock brake system. I haven’t had the opportunity to get into the anti-lock brakes yet (fortunately) but I am sure that sooner or later I will!

One of my other favorite things is the cruise control. I never thought that I would like cruise control on a bike, but after having used it on the BMW I was a total convert. This cruise is easy to use and does a great job of holding a steady speed on the highway. There is an indicator on the speedometer that shows if the cruise is on (yellow light) and if it is engaged (green light). Pulling the clutch, either brake, or closing the throttle will disengage the cruise.

The stereo on the ’08 is a significant improvement over the older Harmon-Kardon units.  This has a much more user friendly display that has automatic dimmer that adjusts the back lighting on the LCD display for day and night.  The disk player not only plays CD audio disks, but MP3 disks as well.  I can get approximately 150 songs on a MP3 disk as compared to about 20 tops on a regular audio CD.  Of course, being an Ultra Classic, it has the built-in CB radio and four speakers instead of the two that I am used to with the Classic.

With just over 600 miles on the bike the engine is starting to limber up and run better and cooler than it did a few weeks ago.  The additional torque of the 96 CI engine is hard to miss, the bike pulls very good from low RPM.  I have been surprised that the bike appears to respond better if you keep the revs up.  I would have thought that with that long stroke V-Twin that it would pull harder in the lower RPM range, but it seems no stronger down there than the 88 Twin Cam on my ’05.  It has been my experience that it usually takes several thousand miles to get the Harley engines really broken it.  I am hoping that this one is going to get better, because right now the fuel mileage is much poorer than the ’05, which was consistently over 45 MPG city or highway.  This bike is getting 35-38 right now, mostly city, but some highway riding in the mix.

I am still undecided on the six speed transmission.  You really need to be going at least 60 and 65 to 70 MPH is better before you shift up into 6th gear.  It is really a TALL gear.  At 70 MPH the RPM drops to about 2600 when you get into 6th gear.  The bike will pull small grades OK in 6th at that speed, but a steep overpass or hill has the engine sounding like it is struggling.  This is especially a problem if you have the cruise on.  The other issue with the transmission is that 5th gear, where you will wind up doing most of your riding, has straight cut gears and they are whiny.  There are speeds at which the gears are pretty quiet, but at about 40 miles per hour they are pretty loud.  The delivery guy at Killer Creek H-D told me that Harley designed the transmission that way so that you would know that you were in 5th gear and had one more gear to go.  That might be some bovine scatology or it could be that they tell people that to keep them from bringing the bikes back to service to have the whiny 5th gear checked out.  After 600 miles it seems that the 5th gear is getting quieter or it could be that I am just getting used to it.  Actually, the BMW had gear whine that was just as bad, in all gears, but it was especially noticable in 5th gear when you were cruising at a modest road speed.  In the BMW the whine came from the primary drive gears.

Overall I am very happy with the ’08 Ultra Classic.  I have just gotten my Fuel Injection Tuner this past weekend so when I get the bike over the 1000 mile mark and to the first service, I’ll start the process of tuning the bike for better performance and economy.  That will be fun!

2 Comments so far

  1. Dan on July 6th, 2014

    Do you still have the 08 Ultra? Any problems with the Electronic throttle control at all? I’m looking at a 08 Ultra with just less than 16,000 on it and hope to pick up this coming week. Any thing else i need to be aware of?

  2. admin on July 6th, 2014


    I did have a problem with the Throttle by Wire system on my ’08. About a year after I got the bike I started have some surging upon light throttle application at certain RPMs. I had it back to the dealer several times and they could not find (or didn’t really try) the problem. After the bike went out of warranty it go worse and then started throwing some errors. The dealer didn’t want to cover it under warranty, so I contacted the factory service reps. The told me they would take care of it, but then referred me back to the dealer. The dealer wouldn’t do the work with out me paying for it and then recovering it from the Motor Company. Fat chance on that.

    I got the information on the codes and diagnosed the problem my self. It turned out to be a bad “Induction Module,” or as I would call it the throttle body. It cost me $300 to replace the throttle body. That fixed the problem and I haven’t had a code since I changed it out. When I bought the throttle body I had to get permission from the Motor Company as they don’t sell them to owners. I had to dog-cuss the rep in Milwaukee to get the sign off on the purchase which made me furious!

    Now, that being said, I will say that having a problem like that is from what I can tell very rare. I haven’t run across anyone else with a similar problem. So, if the bike has some miles on it and is running good I would not worry to much about it. Just make sure it doesn’t have any history with error codes.