The Road King is a touring Harley that you can ride like a sports bike. Okay, it’s a 355kg sports bike, but you get the idea. Test by Mick Withers, Photography & Video by Heather Ware
Inappropriate comments about strippers removing articles of clothing was the initial angle when I started thinking about this happily-stripped Road King. In the world of Harley-Davidson touring models, this is as naked as it gets. Thus my thoughts about strippers.
If you have always wanted a solid, basic touring bike with sporting overtones, you’ve probably overlooked one of the real gems. The Road King Special don’t need no fairing, or 28-channel home entertainment unit fair-smack in the middle of the non-existent dash.
All that’s between you and the scenery is a pair of black handlebars. Even the speedo sits below your field of vision. There is no single thing to distract you from the purity of the ride. Man.
Sporting? Hell yeah. Rip weight off the bottom line of any motorcycle and your performance is gonna be better. Simple physics. But it doesn’t end there. Harley-Davidson spent a heap of time and money developing the current generation of forks and shocks.
The Showa dual-bending valve technology in the front-end and the easily adjusted emulsion shock absorbers fitted to the touring models is equal to any traditional suspension from any manufacturer.
With better suspension comes better control of wheel motion. Pretty obvious thing to say, eh? In the case of this modern HD suspension, it’s also extremely accurate. Brake all the way into the apex on the new HD tourers and you’ll be able to roll the throttle back in and roar out of the corner.
The suspension and brakes are definitely good enough to allow you to be able to feel what’s happening betwixt tar and rubber.
What’s not to love about rolling the throttle back in? The Milwaukee 8 engine laps that stuff up and delivers. It’s a beauty. Actually, it’s more than just a beauty; it’s every rider’s perfect match. If you’re happy to bop along with bugger-all rpm or speed showing on the dash, it’ll do that without a whimper.
Belt it with a big stick, use more throttle to create more rpm and make the speedo needle head further clockwise at a faster rate if you want; the Milwaukee 8 loves that stuff. There’s a rev limiter that’ll stop you from doing any real harm.
If highway miles are your thing, listen up. The Road King Special gobbles them up with ease. Overtaking at legal speeds is as simple as steer, roll the throttle on and then steer back in and roll that throttle back off before you get pinged for speeding!
When you get sick of stopping every 30 minutes to stretch your back or hand your licence over to the Highway Patrol, sell the licence-shredder and have a ride of a HD Road King Special. If you’ve never found one you like, this could just be the Harley that strikes the right chord for you.
A BLOKE CALLED BOZ
Depending on your viewpoint, a blank sheet of paper can either be the greatest piece of freedom that you’re ever handed, or it can be the scariest and most overwhelming task you’re ever challenged by.
For Harley-Davidson’s Alex “Boz” Bozmoski, it signalled the start of a project that began on the day that the Twin Cam was released. He was tasked with conceiving and bringing to life the next Harley-Davidson engine family; all the way from a blank sheet of paper to a complete bike rolling off the showroom floor.
Breakfast with Boz was illuminating. The man is passionate. In his 34 years with Harley-Davidson, he was a part of the team that brought us the Evolution, then he was right in the middle of the Twin Cam project before being declared boss of the then-nameless next engine.
Over coffee and between bites of the American versions of bacon, scrambled eggs and sausages, Alex ‘Boz’ Bozmoski explained that he really did start with a clean sheet of paper and not one guideline. He could have designed any engine combo that he wanted.
More than a few different engine combinations were discussed but at the centre of everything was the customer. Boz and the team leaders constantly asked themselves what does the existing Harley-Davidson owner want from their bike as well as asking what does an aspiring HD owner want.
One of the comments that Boz shared came from the endless surveys that they carried out worldwide. Someone, somewhere on the planet responded that they wanted a bike that people could tell was a Harley from a city block away.
It was all about the silhouette and sound. I think they got it right.
MILWAUKEE-EIGHT TECH TALK
Retaining the classic 45-degree V-Twin cylinder angle, the Milwaukee-Eight engine produces 10 percent more torque (varies per model) than previous year models and features four-valve cylinder heads that offer 50 percent more intake and exhaust flow capacity.
The engine is counter-balanced to cancel 75 percent of primary vibration at idle, retaining the classic feel of a Harley V-Twin while being very smooth at highway speeds. A new heat management strategy for all Milwaukee-Eight engines improves rider and passenger comfort.
In addition to increased displacement, the Milwaukee-Eight engine features a higher compression ratio and four-valve cylinder heads with 50 per cent more intake and exhaust flow capacity.
The valve train requires no adjustment as the design of the rocker arms enables valve lash to be set at the factory for life. Dual spark plugs for each cylinder contribute to more-efficient combustion. A single chain-driven camshaft is lighter, mechanically less complex and creates less friction and noise.
Each Milwaukee-Eight engine also features a precision cooling strategy based on the specific demands of the motorcycle model, using a targeted flow of either oil or liquid coolant around the hottest areas of the cylinder heads.
A new knock sensor for each cylinder enables more-precise timing control. The rear exhaust pipe is re-positioned and the exhaust catalyst is relocated to move heat away from the passenger. Idle speed is lowered from 1000rpm to 850rpm.
2017 Harley-Davidson Road King Special Specifications
Price: $34,995 Ride-Away
Colour: Vivid Black
Engine: Air/Liquid-cooled, Milwaukee-Eight 107, 45°V-Twin, eight-valve, 1746cc, 100 x 111.1mm bore x stroke, 10:1 compression, ESPFI, two-into-one-into-two exhaust
Claimed Torque: 150Nm[110.7ft-lbs]@32500rpm
Clutch: Hydraulically actuated assist-and-slip
Fuel Capacity: 22.7L
Oil Capacity: 4.9L
Chassis: Mild tubular steel w/ two-piece stamped and welded backbone
Rake & Trail: 26-degree, 170mm
Suspension: Showa 49mm Dual Bending Valve, 117mm travel, Emulsion shock, hand-adjustable spring-preload; 55mm travel
Brakes: ABS, 320mm floating rotors, Four-piston caliper front and rear
Wheels & Tyres: Black Turbine Cast Aluminium wheels, 130/60B19 61H, 180/55B18 80H
Overall Length: 2420mm
Seat height: 695mm
Ground Clearance: 125mm
Wet weight: 372kg