Motorcycle XM Satellite radio antenna placement …. making it work

Posted: October 7, 2014 in Motorcycle, Motorcycle radio, motorcycle touring, Product Reviews
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

WP_20140712_16_45_45_ProAs mentioned in my posts regarding my early impression on our new motorcycle, the Ultra Limited, the XM Satellite radio reception was bad at best.  It was so bad that I was considering having it removed and asking for my money back (not really sure how that would have worked out).

After reading different takes about the radio on HD Forums and other sites, I decided to try it with the antenna moved out of the fairing and onto the “dash”.  In this case to the right of the Project Rushmore air vent.  The appearance of the antenna in this location is, and you can see for yourself, not bad.  When I have the vent closed the antenna even looks like it is meant to be there.

View from the front

But this was not about aesthetics or appearance it was about reception. Prior to moving the antenna I would get reception a grade of 40% out of 100.  The drops and lost reception was more than inconvenient, it was I want to return it bad.   After moving the antenna I will grade out reception as 80% out of 100.  Now the only time I lose reception is when there is a mountain or heavy foliage blocking the southern sky.  

I still think Harley Davidson should install a buffer in the radio to allow for those short drops when they occur.  I don’t think a 4-10 second buffer would increase the price of the radio beyond what people are willing to pay.

If you are considering purchasing an XM radio module for your motorcycle do not waste your time and add stress levels by allowing them (or yourself) to install the antenna in the default location.  Install the antenna on the dash from the start; it will work a whole lot better and you will be happier with the reception you receive!

  1. Bruce says:

    Hi. I am installing an XM module on my 2104 TK. When you routed the antenna to the right of the vent, did you make a channel for the wire to keep it from being pinched between the inner fairing and the windshield?


    • Hey Bruce, thanks for reading my blog. No, I did not create a channel. I thought about it and even got the Dremil out but thought I would try it like this for a while. So ad so good.

      • Bruce says:

        Thanks for the quick response. I really enjoy your blog. I’m usually a “lurker” but your install is the best I’ve seen. Thanks for the great stuff. Now, we just need for the temperatures to get above 8 degrees!


      • LOL, been in the teens here

      • Nick says:

        Hi, Since you didn’t create a channel, have you had any issues with wire pinching?

      • No I have not. It has been a couple years now and things are still fine. Still have dropping issues depending on the direction I am going. Riding Northeast seems to be the worst reception. If you have not bought it yet consider running the Sirris-XM via Bluetooth from your phone plugged up in the “glovebox” or in the tour pack.

  2. Blane says:

    What did you use to glue the antenna??

  3. danbrew says:

    Great post, thank you. Picked up my new Ultra Limited today and am spitting mad about the poor XM reception. While I’ll offer kudos to HD for finally getting with it and having a decent integrated solution, I’m shocked at how bad the reception is. I’m printing this post and taking it in to the dealer and asking him to make mine look like yours. We’ll see how well that works out. I am also at the point of “take it back” it sucks so bad.

    • In my best Bill Clinton…. I feel your pain.

      As you can tell in the post I considered taking it back also. Now I only loose signal when a mountain or heavy tree coverage blocks the southern sky. Here in northern VA with a lot of riding in WV that happens a lot but, it would be about he same with regular radio as I ride out of one stations area into another. Overall I am happy with it now.

  4. MrC says:

    Hi, just put mine in (2014 FLHTK) and this is very helpful as my reception sucks too. Why the right side and not the left side of the vent? Also, I have a windshield bag on also, will this interfere with the reception?

    • Hey… first, thanks for checking my blog out, hope you like it enough to subscribe! It is on the right only for aesthetics, it balanced the vent button. As for the windshield bag, I am not 100% sure but I am 99% comfortable is stating that the bag will block the signal. A leaf filled tree will often block the signal so I would bet a bag would too.

  5. Vince Cajano says:

    Hello there I was considering removing mine as well but after reading your blog it doesn’t look bad at all. Is the antenna a matt finish like the top part of the dash, I had Harley install mine so I’ve never seen the antenna.

    • Supposedly there is a new antenna available for the module now. You might have to get it from someone other then HD though. Check around and let me know if you use the new antenna.

      • Mike C. says:

        I have a 2014 Ultra and installed an XM receiver. After many reviews I purchased the new XM3 version of the antenna and corresponding connector needed for the module. I routed the antenna to the right side of the vent and did use a dremel tool to notch a very small channel in the fairing for the wire. The internal position for the Antenna that Harley recommends had no reception what so ever. I just completed a round the country trip and the reception was fantastic with it by the vent. Back in the city/rural area where I live, the reception is just like my truck, spotty in areas. I did however place the Antenna on top of the center winshield bag and this seems to help. Since the antenna has a magnet on the bottom, I simply used a small flat metal plate with double sided tape, both on the bag and to the right of the vent. This way I can change antenna positions as needed. The XM3 antenna is meant for an auto so the wire is 20ft. I simply coiled it up and tied it into the fairing wiring out of the way. Hope this helps.

      • Good to know Mike!!!

    • Vince Cajano says:

      I just wanted to add a comment to my last post……. I relocated the antenna that was supplied with
      the Harley Satellite radio Kit. taking advantage of the information you supplied.
      As you stated don’t waste your time mounting it anywhere else but on the vent as shown above. Great information and “Thanks” I used 2 small strips of automotive 3M Double Faced Tape and I couldn’t believe the difference! I had 2 Bars of reception “Inside my Garage”
      Thanks Again

      • Hey Vince… glad it worked!

      • Vince C says:


      • No man, sorry. I don’t have the B2 on my bike. Have you check HDForums? There is a lot on that site relating to the audio system and the FB group “Harley’s Infotainment system” might be of help as well.

      • Vince C says:

        Thanks. I’ve pretty much exhausted all
        Everyone including the Motor Company says
        that’s just the way it is.
        Appreciate your help

  6. Mike C. says:

    You can get the new antenna at the link below. It is actually a little smaller and the wire is thinner than the original. It is not unsightly at all. You also need an SMB to FAKRA connector, I have to look that up and will post later. They are available on line and through ebay.

  7. Mike C. says:

    Glad to share, this entire getting Harley XM to operate has been frustrating so thanks for even starting this thread! Much info gained that lead me down this path.

    • Ricardo says:

      Hi all, just reading this now as I was having the same annoying problem. I have a 2014 Road King and what I did now which improved my reception to let’s say 60% was putting the antenna in the on top of the back fender. Initially I put it on the top of the gas tank, and it was awful. I liked the idea to put on the windshield, just need to figure it out how to do it.

  8. Sean says:

    On my 2015 Street Glide the Xm antenna cable is not long enough to reach the top of the fairing. Was yours long enough? If not what did you do to make it longer?

    • Sean… yes mine was long enough. I even had a few extra inches so it would not be tight. This fall I intend to by a new antenna and see if that make a difference. One with a long cord so I can try it on different spots on the bike.

  9. […] can look forward to motorcycle manufacturers pushing the envelope in terms of electronic rider aids, onboard communication systems, and rider […]

  10. Walter Hager says:

    I just purchased 2014 ultra limited 1 year ago . Last month I subscribed for the XM radio . Always loosing reception , I was going to cancel it . After reading what you did , I am going to give that a shot . I believe I found the correct pieces on amazon. The new antenna. modular and the connectors to tie into the. Existing .. I guess I Will take it apart 1st to make sure the new connectors I order will be correct ..
    Thank you for sharing your experience.

  11. Walter Hager says:

    I have photos of type of connectors and XM module
    Is there anyway I could send photos showing model and type to you ?

  12. Bob Walters says:

    I moved the antenna outside as your picture shows. Immediately the reception was better. I took a ride on the Blue Ridge Parkway and didn’t loose the signal once. Thanks!!!

  13. John D. says:

    Great information however everything seems to change as soon as you install a WHIM. The reception goes down to nearly nothing. I’m going to try moving the antenna to the tour pak on my 14 ultra CVO via

    Has anyone tried this?

    • I need to revisit this article with more info. I did try putting on the tour pak and it did not turn out very well. When traveling south with a passenger you would lose signal, without a passenger it was spotty, and you have to mount it as far back as possible. With it on the dash I would have spotty reception going east.

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