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New Harley-Davidson Police Motors

Introduced in 2006, Harley-Davidson has introduced two upgraded, police-spec motors. Both the Los Angeles County Sheriff and the Michigan State Police tested them using a formal and structured protocol.

The two policd-spec motors from Harley were the Road King®

(FLHP) and the Electra Glide®

(FLHTP). Mechanically, the two motors are identical, but the Electra Glide is equipped with a fairing and can be fitted for a sidecar. Due to the fairing, the instrument placement differs from the Road King. The Electra Glide is about 35 pounds heavier, and the price difference between the two motors is about $200.

Harley-Davidson introduced in 2006 its Twin Cam 103

engine. At 1,690cc, this was developed in part to meet the California Highway Patrol's performance requirements. This engine, which develops 102 ft-lb of torque, was developed for police work from Harley's Screaming Eagle®

or Fat Boy®


Bob Laidlaw is a longtime Harley-Davidson dealer in Baldwin Park, CA. Over the years, he has sold numerous police motors to law enforcement agencies. He gave some additional insight on the development of Harley's power team.

Harley-Davidson's Research and Development determined that few riders exceeded 3,500 rpm. Thus, the gear ratios were selected based on that information and engineered for maximum efficiency at that speed.

The transmission is a true 6-speed transmission and is not a 5-speed with the overdrive added as an afterthought. This transmission uses "dog-ring" shifting for reduced effort and faster and smoother shifting. The police motors have a redesigned wet clutch, which has stronger clutch springs, yet requires 7% less effort than previous models.

Other equipment includes both rear air-adjustable shock absorbers and an inflatable driver's seat for rider comfort, which has an air reservoir equipped with a pressure gauge. Other standard equipment includes police-oriented saddlebags, long-stem mirrors - which give the officer a true image of the area behind - adjustable foot-boards, and bead-retention tires designed to remain on the wheel rim during the sudden loss of air pressure. Antilock braking (ABS) and LED emergency lighting are optional, as well as numerous other law enforcement accessories and modifications.

Twin Cam 103

The Twin Cam 103 engine is an air-cooled, 2-cylinder engine with overhead-valves (OHV) and 2 valves per cylinder. The police version is equipped with engine oil cooler. Self-adjusting hydraulic lifters reduce maintenance. Next generation, electronic sequential port fuel injection (ESPFI) replaces the carburator, and with 9.6:1 compression, 91 octane fuel is required. The EPA rates both motors at 45 mpg on the highway and 32.5 mpg under urban condtions. The Harleys with this engine actually get about 38 mpg.

Optionally available is the engine idle temperature management system (EITMS), which during hot idle, will shut off fuel to the rear cylinder, so it will pump only air and will lower the engine temperature about 50 deg F, allowing more comfort to the officer. While optional, it is not necessary to add the EITMS during assembly, rather it is programmed by the dealer by reflashing the computer.

Electrical systems are always a huge concern on law enforcement vehicles, thus the Road King and Electra Glide are equipped with maintenance-free, 28-amp-hour (270-CCA) battery. A three-phase 50-amp alternator, developing its maximum amperage at 2,000 rpm, charges this.

Laidlaw indicated that with everything on, the alternator will still maintain 14 volts at idle. Additionallly, if the optional LED emergency lighting system is used, the battery will be able to handle that draw for about 2 hours with the engine off. Industrial-grade electrical connectors maintain reliability.

A self-adjusting chain and sealed, automotive-type wheel bearing, which are slated for service intervals of 100,000-miles also reduce maintenance costs. Service intervals are scheduled for 5,000 miles, and the warranty period is 24 months with unlimited mileage.

Testing by LASD

Both the Los Angeles Police and County Sheriff's departments have formally tested police cars for 50 years. The Michigan State Police has been doing it for almost 30 years. Yet there has been little structured testing of police motorcycles aside from informal evaluations by smaller agencies. That changed in 2006.

This past summer, the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department and the Los Angeles Police Department jointly set up a test protocol to evaluate police motorcycles. The test protocol used four test riders, with two from the LAPD and two from the LASD. All four riders are motorcycle training instructors from their respective departments. This fall, the Michigan State Police followed suit with their own testing program.

While some of the LASD testing protocol is similar to its testing of police cars, i.e., acceleration runs, brake tests and road course evaluations, the motor operators also rode the test motors on a 158-mile course under actual traffic conditions with several simulated traffic stops made periodically throughout the course. This simulated a motor officer working an 8-hour shift.

Handling and Pursuit

The first segment of the test was composed of the 1.57-mile preliminary handling test, which is laid out on the massive parking lot of the Los Angeles County Fairgrounds in Pomona. This course is designed to identify handling and braking concerns, with each evaluator running eight laps for a total of 32 laps.

The course has several flat (unbanked) curves, and long straightaways. The laps are run for both speed and time. The motor officer's low and high speeds are eliminated, and the remaining six are averaged. This is a pass-fail evaluation. Motors that are graded as "unacceptable" are disqualified from further testing.

The pursuit course is a 2.45-mile street course set up to simulate an urban pursuit situation, consisting of both sharp left- and right-hand turns, along with obstacles placed in the roadway. Similar to the police car testing, the manufacturers are given the option to rebuild the brake systems after completing the preliminary handling test before continuing on to the pursuit course. Two riders evaluate each motorcycle and each rider must complete two laps of the pursuit course.

If there are any brake malfunctions, such as severe fade, the cause of the malfunction is investigated. If the malfunction is determined to be a design or engineering error, the motor is disqualified from further evaluation. If the malfunction is determined to be correctable, the motor can be retested after corrections are made.

As it happened, the rear brakes of the Road King did overheat during one of the pursuit laps, boiling the fluid, but the actual cause of overheating was not determined. The brakes on the otherwise identical Electra Glide were just fine. The Road King brake system was overhauled, and the motor was retested later that day without further incident.

During the pursuit course, the riders commented that the low-end torque allows the rider to remain in a higher gear when going around corners and assists in accelerating from curves. Steering on both motors was given high marks. The riders commented that the steering on the Electra Glide felt slightly heavier than that of the Road King because of the additional weight of the fairing and different handlebar position.

In the final analysis, both Harley motors easily passed both the preliminary handling test and the pursuit course track testing phases, being judged "acceptable." While both motors are virtually identical, the Electra Glide was slightly quicker.

Brake Tests

Brake performance is measured using several different evaluations applicable to police motorcycles. Two evaluations occur under "cold" conditions, i.e., where the motor has not been ridden. The motor is accelerated to 40 mph and brought to a stop at a predetermined location. The first 25 feet of braking are on dry pavement, then the surface transitions to wet pavement. All four riders evaluated the motors for controlability and ABS performance.

The second cold brake test is similar to the first test, however, the motor is moving on pavement strewn with sand and gravel. These tests simulate some of the actual field conditions encountered by a motor officer.

ABS technology on motorcycles is probably the best thing to happen to the motor officer since the electric starter was introduced. Under both transitioning situations, all four riders agreed that the Harley's ABS brought them to a safe halt without lock-up, deviation or loss of control.

The hot brake evaluation takes place right after the 32-lap preliminary handling evaluation to simulate how the brakes will perform after being subject to severe braking, similar to actual law enforcement conditions. The hot brake evaluation begins by accelerating to a speed of 80 mph and decelerating to a stop at near maximum braking. This procedure is repeated three additional times, and then the motorcycle is accelerated to a speed of 60 mph, simulating a panic stop. The Road King stopped in 145 feet. The Electra Glide stopped in 156 feet.


Acceleration to different speeds is measured, as is the 1/4-mile drag performance. Due to track limitations, the top speed is not measured. The general consensus was the minimum top speed for a police motor is 100 mph. Both these Harleys easily reached 100 mph; in fact, both were close to that in just the 1/4-mile run.

The Electra Glide hit 60 mph in an average of 5.5 seconds, compared to 6.0 seconds for the Road King. The blast to 100 mph took just 16.9 seconds for the Road King and 18.6 seconds for the Electra Glide. The Electra Glide ran the 1/4-mile in 14.3 seconds at 98 mph. The Road King ran the 1/4-mile in 14.7 seconds at 95 mph.


During the Rideability Evaluation, each motor was driven through a 158-mile loop four times by each motor operator to simulate an 8-hour shift. This loop consisted of about 33 miles on city streets; about 75 miles of freeway; and about 50 miles of rural highway, mountain and canyon roadways. This tested both fuel mileage and the ergonomics of the motors.

During this test, the motors were driven normally. Rapid acceleration was avoided. A minimum of 15 simulated traffic stops were conducted while on the city street segment, where the motor was positioned, the rider dismounted, and after a period of 2 minutes, he remounted the motor and accelerated into traffic.

Officers seemed to favor the Electra Glide because of the better wind protection of the fairing and because the speedometer and other instruments are better placed than on the Road King where one's eyes must leave the view of the roadway, which is blocked by the helmet visor, to glance at the speedometer. "The height of the windshield was adequate for a 6 foot tall rider," said LASD Deputy Mitch Brown, commenting on the Road King.

Seating is comfortable, and offers praised the rear air-shocks and air-ride seat, which smooth out minor bumps. Controls are well-placed and can be operated easily by both thumbs. "The air-ride seat ("Air Adjustable Solo Saddle") is a great feature, it smoothes out most minor bumps in the roadway," said LASD Deputy Shawn Bryant.

Even with the idle management system, some officers commented on the heat from the engine, which may prove uncomfortable during hot weather, especially when feet, ankles and legs get too close to transmission cases or exhaust pipes. One rider felt the heat was equivalent to the heat generated by the older 88 ci engine.

Another comment was the engine tended to bog initially after extended idle with the air management system activated, i.e., the engine operating on the front cylinder. Blipping the throttle before accelerating instantly reverted back to 2-cylinder operation and normal acceleration.

Riders commented that the floor-boards were placed too low, allowing them to scrape at extreme lean angles. When they scraped, the rear would slip sideways a bit. This limited lean-angle did, indeed, lower the cornering speed. Finally, the ABS system occupies about one-third of the right saddlebag. This still allows storage of a clipboard, but it would not allow storage of the larger "Posse Box." They suggested that the ABS unit be relocated to the left side of the motor.

"The overall ride was comfortable through the entire day of riding. The riding position was natural and provided good platform for doing traffic enforcement," indicated LAPD Officer Mitch Nowlin.

The EPA fule mileage estimates for these two Harleys are the same at 32 mpg City and 45 mpg Highway. During the 158-mile test ride, the Road King averaged 38.6 mpg and the Electra Glide averaged 37.8 mpg. In the end, both motors passed the reliability evaluation and were graded "acceptable."

Tire Evaluation

Factory-fitted tires on the motorcycle must successfully complete the 32-lap, high-speed course and the pursuit course. Considerations include construction, design, handling ability, wear patterns and durability.

The Dunlap tires fitted to both the Electra Glide and the Road King are of the tubeless, bead-retention design with non-skid tread. These tires successfully passed the preliminary handling evaluation.

Basic Motorcycle Patterns

All four riders maneuvered the motors through a series of circles at speeds about 3 mph to determine slow-speed handling and maneuverability, using first gear and without using the brakes. Five different U-turn patterns were also completed, again at slow speeds in first gear, without using the brakes.

Seven sets of three cones, alternately offset at 36-foot intervals, make up the 30 mph cone weave test. This simulates steering around debris or other hazards in the roadway. The rider must maintain a speed of 30 mph through this course. Additionally, the evaluators must maneuver the motors through eight cones placed in a straight line at 10-foot intervals. The rider must weave through these cones in first gear at speeds of about 2 mph, using the rear brake as necessary. This situation evaluated low-speed maneuverability under enforcement conditions.

After these tests, the riders commented that clutch and throttle control was good and they worked smoothly together. Both models maneuvered well during wide turns, however, the issue of the floorboards scraping during extreme lean angles does limit maneuverability. Both models turned tighter to the left, however, the wiring harness hitting the front fork during right turns prevented the Harleys to turn as tightly to the right.

Overall, the officers praised the power curve of the Harley engine and felt that its torque curve eliminated a lot of unnecessary downshifting.

"The 103-cubic-inch engine produces an outstanding power curve," said LAPD Officer Phil Walters. "Lots of torque in the mid-range makes for good third-gear riding during surface street sections and in the canyons."

John L. Bellah currently holds the rank of corporal with the California State University, Long Beach Police Department. Bellah routinely covers the Los Angeles County Sherrif's Department annual vehicle evaluation. He can be contacted at:

Published in Police Fleet Manager, Nov/Dec 2006

Rating : 9.0

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