Harley Touring suitable for IBR?

What has been your experience in the IBR riding an HD?
I am between bikes and am lucky in that I can go German, Japanese or USA. I am older and thinking maybe, just maybe, about walking on the HD Touring side of the tracks.
I am especially interested in hearing from folks who rode in an IBR but DNF or did not do well. Please share. Did you feel the HD held you back or was it a disadvantage?

PS: There have been discussions that turned into arguments about why HD's don't finish well, most centered on the statistics. To keep the peace, I would like to hear from those who actually road an HD in the big dance and hear from them about their experiences. Equipment and spares you wished you had carried, etc.

Thank you for your help.
I have recently rode my 2020 Indian Springfield dark horse taking on 1000 mile challenge. HD baggers have the same weight as mine. I don’t it’s a big deal riding big bikes. It’s all discipline mentally and physically. By the way it was my first challenge.


Premier Member
IBR Finisher
I rode a 2018 FLHTK and 2020 FLHTK in IBR19 and IBR21, respectively; with Gold and Silver finishes, again, respectively.

In '19 I had a few random mechanical issues which I had never experienced. I attributed them to having ridden the bike on the Dalton in the rain the year before, and shortly after the rally, I traded it off.

In '21, I didn't finish as well, but that is more a reflection on my routing strategy mistakes. I did have some drama with the rear tire because of the tire shortage at the time. It cost me a few points, but not nearly as many as my rider misjudgment. Other than that, the '20 ran great.

I am going to try to rally on a GSA going forward, but that is more about being a more versatile bike with better suspension and different tire choice. If I had to go back and use the HD, I wouldn't hesitate.


Premier Member
IBR Finisher
I did not ride an HD in the rally, but did apply for it for several years campaigning an Ultra. I am GLAD that I did not get accepted during that time. That bike really wore me out between vibration and noise. I was eventually accepted and rode a Gold Wing, which for me, a much more comfortable platform in my case.
Reliability wise, I don't believe I would have had any mechanical issues since I did put close to 100K on it over 11 years.


Premier Member
I'm not an authority, but I will offer my opinion and apologize for the length of this post.

Sure, the Harley Touring Line is suitable to ride in the IBR. Many have participated, most have finished. Of those that didn't finish, some were for non-mechanical reasons. Some were for mechanical reasons. This is all anecdotal, by the way, based only on multiple readings of IBR reports, not an actual statistical analysis.

If you are the type that fits well with the HD ergos, the bike itself shouldn't cause you problems due to discomfort. My Road King had a Police seat that I had Russell rebuild that was extremely comfortable (the seat lives on with Doug Horner in Missouri). The Police seat changes the ergos a lot so that it is a little more conventional, bringing the feet underneath the rider and taking weight off the rider's tail bone. The legs forward, butt low position works for some people, and if it works for the individual, why not?

The belt drive is sometimes brought up as a weakness. Ridden on gravel it could pose a problem as a rock between the belt and pulley will ruin an IBR. If the rider is willing to limit him or herself to paved roads with only an occasional dirt or gravel road, it shouldn't be a problem. I actually like belt drive. It is easy to live with on a daily basis, it's clean, it's quiet, it's maintenance free. Belts last a long time. On some bikes, belts can be changed on the side of the road. On the Harley, swingarm removal is necessary, which is not a side of the road type of repair -- a Hotel parking lot, maybe, but not on the side of the road.

One of the things that really impressed me about my Road King was the electrical system. It is can-bus, but in my experience, it's well thought out and works very well. There are a ton of electrical accessories available and most are plug and play. I built a stand-alone harness for all of my non-HD accessories as I didn't want to cause can-bus problems. I never had an electrical issue with my bike, but have heard of others that have.

The chassis is very good and suspension can be improved. The bike is extremely stable on the highway and yet handles well for a 900 lb. machine. The weight, however, does get more and more noticeable as time goes on. Getting on and off the bike and moving it by hand and foot all get harder each subsequent day. I noticed the same thing with my previous Goldwing. It also got heavier and heavier with each day of a multi-day rally. If you can deal with the weight, and a lot of people, male and female, have, it's not a deal breaker.

Which leaves us with the engine. In my opinion, an Evo motor is probably not a problem, a properly built or maintained Twin-Cam motor is probably not a problem, liquid cooled heads on an M8 motor might not be a problem. I would not run an air-cooled M8 again. It's probably fine for the riding that 99.9% of owners will ride. What we do is a little different and, apparently, much more taxing on the motor.

To get into more detail than my report, I purchased my 2018 Road King in August 2018. It was bought by another person a few months before me who discovered that the Police setup was too tall for him. He traded it in on a lower bike at 600 miles and I came along a couple weeks later and purchased it. I performed a fly-n-ride to the Bay Area dealer that had it and rode it home down the coast that afternoon. Before putting the bike up for sale the dealership performed the 1,000 mile service.

I rode it home in temperatures ranging from the upper 90s to the lower 50s on the coast. I noticed that first day that when I would exit after an extended ride at freeway speeds the bike would idle roughly. It didn't radiate a lot of heat and didn't exhibit any other overheating-like symptoms. A little later I read about the sumping problems that the M8 motors experienced sometimes and wondered if that was what was happening. Because it idled roughly after every extended highway trip, I began checking the oil level -- sumping, or oil collecting in the crankcase instead of the oil tank will show as a low oil level on the dipstick. My engine never had a fluctuating oil level. I typically ran it at a level mid-stick and that was where it always indicated.

I tried running a few different types of oil to see if that made a difference, and it didn't change the rough idle while hot at all. By 8,000 miles it had neither improved or gotten worse. I talked to a couple knowledgeable builders who suggested the factory tune was probably the cause so I added the torque cam and tune and updated the oil pump to the latest design with the backing seal.

While the bike ran better overall, it still idled roughly when hot after an extended ride. I typically ride with the cruise control on at 80 mph -- far from over-stressing the engine.

In February 2021, at 16,000 miles, I had a day off and ran an IBR prep 1000 mile day in cold weather. The engine, now equipped with the new cam, oil pump and a good running tune, idled roughly after a freeway leg, even in 30-40 (F) degree temps. The following day I noticed piston slap from the rear cylinder during the first 30-60 seconds of running after fully cooling off. It got longer and louder in the week following that ride. Disassembly showed some scuffing of the rear piston, but no signs of partial seizure due to overheating or anything else abnormal.

Skipping ahead a bit, I began purchasing parts for a complete rebuild that would have to be completed in plenty of time for rally prep and break-in. Everything in the engine was replaced. It had new factory heads, a fresh bore in factory 114 cylinders, a new S&S crank & oil pump, new forged CP pistons, new cam, new lifters, new pushrods, new adjustable rockers. A different tuner was suggested, so I used a TTS tuner. Literally the only things reused were the case halves.

After the build the bike was dyno tested and tuned and then broken in. While the bike ran really well and had plenty of power, the same hot idle roughness was present. Subsequent dyno tunes and auto tune sessions resulted in a good running, powerful engine that idled roughly after extended highway sessions.

I started the IBR about a month and 6,000 miles later and it failed about 3,000 miles into the IBR on Day 3. While it was a hot day, it was nowhere near as hot as I had ridden prepping for, or riding to, the rally.

While its failure was due to machining of the rear cylinder .008" larger than requested, no combination of factory or aftermarket parts in either engine resulted in a smooth running engine at idle while hot.

Marcus Reynolds, who did finish the IBR this year, cut his rally off 11 hours early because his Road King and its air-cooled M8 was making so much noise he wasn't sure he'd finish. He dropped some late bonus locations and headed in to the finish hotel. Marcus had an engine failure about the same time I did in early 2021 and the dealership rebuilt it twice before he left for the IBR, the last engine was finished just days before he rode to Provo. His engine was completely stock.

Two bikes, one stock, one modified for strength, multiple engine failures.

Marcus, like me, traded his bike in right after the IBR on a non-HD bike that will be more reliable in rally and LD use.

The air-cooled M8 engine does not seem to manage engine heat well. While Suzuki had a lot of success with oil and air-cooled motors, I don't believe Harley has figured it out with the M8. The oil pump moves a lot of oil through a large oil cooler and into head galleys that use engine oil to cool the exhaust valve area of the head. In theory, it should work well. In reality, I don't think it's enough.

Any bike can mechanical out of the IBR -- JD Smith had a catastrophic engine failure in his BMW GS two years ago, so while the BMW might be the poster child for final drive failures, most engines haven't been a problem. Goldwings have dropped out due to electrical systems failures. Other bikes with assorted failures have caused DNFs. Except FJR1300s. The stats are something like 280 entries on an FJR1300 and over 900 have finished. Or something like that.

Like Donald Lowery said above, luck does have a place in an event like the IBR. The difference between a finisher and a non-finisher, or 18th place versus 48th place might come down to luck. Look at Lionel Ramos and his CVO Road Glide. He blew a compression release out of the head of his special, hand-built CVO. While it's not unheard of, it's very, very rare. The last I talked to him, he isn't riding rallies on a Harley.

I wont, either.
Thanks Todd,
Any thoughts on a thermostat fan oil cooler like the UltraCool on a wet head M8?
I am most certainly not any kind of knowledgeable about HD, but I understand that the M8 ECM shuts the rear cylinder down when the engine is hot and idling. Sort of sounds like the idle problem you described.
Another source suggests that the rear cylinder runs hotter that the front cylinder, even at highway speeds.


Premier Member
I looked up the UltraCool fan and cooler assembly. I'd imagine that it's comparable to the factory fan assisted oil cooler that HD offers and that comes with the Police package and is supposed to be very effective. I'm sure it couldn't hurt.

I should have clarified. My bike had a rough idle regardless of whether the EITMS was activated or not. The only difference was that with it activated the idle speed was higher and the engine had more front/back rocking motion. The idle was rough after longer freeway runs regardless of cylinder deactivation, stock or modified, or state of tune. If I just rode it around town, it idled normally.

It makes sense that the rear cylinder would run hotter just based on the amount of air it is exposed to. Both the factory and the aftermarket address this by having different cam specs and/or timing as well as different ignition timing for the front and rear cylinders.

Also, when monitoring telemetry, around town rides always resulted in cooler running unless stuck in traffic.

Have you bought your next bike yet?
[QUOTE="Have you bought your next bike yet?[/QUOTE]
No, not yet. Still trying to decide. In the running: FJR, BMW R1200/1250 RT, maybe K1600, and HD. I know all the cool kids are going to adventure bikes, but I have ruled out the GS/GSA and Tenere.


Premier Member
There are some pretty nice bikes on that list, and the Harley.

Have you ridden them all? Does one just feel like it's the one?

Shawn K

Professional Cat Confuser
Premier Member
Some fine bikes on the list. The FJR has a very strong reputation for reliability.

Out of curiosity, have you considered a Gold Wing? My '16 GL1800 is proving to be an exceptionally capable, comfortable, and completely reliable mount (close to 40K miles in the last 15 months).
There are some pretty nice bikes on that list, and the Harley.

Have you ridden them all? Does one just feel like it's the one?
Previously owned both a Road King and an FJR. Miss the FJR more than the HD. As noted, the FJR is bullet proof. However, configured for rallying the FJR with 35lbs of fuel high and behind the rear axle, well, I probably should leave my knee pucks at home. Appears that it will be discontinued this year and is already difficult to resell. BMW is/was my dream machine, but is running 3rd on my list because of the spotty dealer network, lack of in stock parts. Not worried about the drive train as I think that has been sorted out. The bad that I hear about is the electronic bits and switches that fail.
HD. I don't see myself as a biker, but in every town in the country there is a mechanic that has worked on Harleys. Large dealer network, reliable bike, all of which favors the HD.
Some fine bikes on the list. The FJR has a very strong reputation for reliability.

Out of curiosity, have you considered a Gold Wing? My '16 GL1800 is proving to be an exceptionally capable, comfortable, and completely reliable mount (close to 40K miles in the last 15 months).
THE GW has an impeccable reputation for comfort and reliability, lots of Honda dealers. There is something about the style that doesn't float my boat. Probably a red head or blonde thing. A great bike,


Premier Member
IBR Finisher
THE GW has an impeccable reputation for comfort and reliability, lots of Honda dealers. There is something about the style that doesn't float my boat. Probably a red head or blonde thing. A great bike,
I used to joke that I prefer my motorcycle not to look like a spaceship, but now that I've had a couple Wings it has grown on me. I have also joked that I prefer not to buy my motorcycles from a Tee Shirt Company.
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Premier Member
Miss the FJR more than the HD.
It sounds like you want the Harley but know that the FJR would be a better bike if you plan to run a bunch of rallies.

The question is, how many rallies do you plan to run? Are you definitely going to apply for the IBR next year? Are you going to run one a year, or six? If the answer is maybe one a year, it probably doesn't matter what you're on, especially if you're doing it for fun and aren't concerned with how high you finish. A bunch of rallies every year deserves a bike like the FJR or the RT.