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Don't Buy a Harley Davidson Road King Until You Read This!

Updated on January 31, 2020
Miks7 profile image

My Harley Davidson Road King is my 40th motorcycle I have owned. Touring or just driving around town, this bike ROCKS!

A beautiful motorcycle, the 2018 Harley Road King 107 CU.IN. Milwaukee 8!

Oshkosh Airventure with the Road King
Oshkosh Airventure with the Road King
No windshield...it's like owning two bikes for the price of one.
No windshield...it's like owning two bikes for the price of one.
Shorty windshield with luggage after arriving at the Circle R campground, Oshkosh Wisconsin.
Shorty windshield with luggage after arriving at the Circle R campground, Oshkosh Wisconsin.
Circle R Campground with the Harley Davidson Road King shorty windshield.
Circle R Campground with the Harley Davidson Road King shorty windshield.
Arriving home with the Harley Davidson Road King after another successful weekend road trip.
Arriving home with the Harley Davidson Road King after another successful weekend road trip.
Harley Davidson Road King set up at camp with the Wingman For the Road canvas tent - designed by motorcyclist and made for a motorcyclist!
Harley Davidson Road King set up at camp with the Wingman For the Road canvas tent - designed by motorcyclist and made for a motorcyclist!
Going down the road on the Harley Davidson Road King.
Going down the road on the Harley Davidson Road King.

Why the Harley Davidson Road King is such a fantastic motorcycle for all around riding and touring.

To really enjoy a motorcycle, you have to get out and ride it. There are some people who purchase a motorcycle, and will take it out on nice days or evenings, for a short ride. But, they never discover what motorcycles are about, until putting on the miles...it's then you know how good your motorcycle is, along with the likes and dislikes.

My 2018 Harley Davidson Road King has been a very enjoyable motorcycle to own. I had always wanted a Road King, because to me, it is your classic motorcycle and is a minimalist touring bike. The bike is made for touring, but without all the gadgets to distract from the motorcycle. The Road King fits this bill, as it is a timeless motorcycle, and is part of the touring family of Harley Davidson motorcycles. Harley calls this the FL series of bikes, and dates all the way back to 1941, and it appears that this was the first rendition of the Road King!

I know..it wasn't called the Road King until 1994, but if you look at the basic element of the FL series, known as the "large frame" for touring, the Road King was the original. The Road King, know as Harley Davidson FLHR still looks like the original Harley touring bike, without the famous "batwing" fairing, or frame mounted fairing. Instead, the Road King has the simple but easily removable windshield, which mounts to the front forks and gives you amazing visibility out the front, unlike the other fairings that block the view of much of the road.

With the FL series of Harley Davidson motorcycles, the Road King rides much nicer than the Street Glide and Road Glide due to the longer shock travel. Although shock travel for the rear of the bike is only 3.4 inches, it is a significantly better ride than the 2 inches of total travel that both the Street Glide and Road Glide share! Having owned both a Street Glide and Road King, any road imperfections will cause a bottoming out of the shock on the Street Glide on roads that are anything less than totally smooth, while the Road King provides a much more cushy ride.

Harley Davidson is a unique brand, and they have a feel that no other manufacturer provides. So much of the bike is over-built and the generous use of heavy steel, it has as certain macho piece to it that can't be duplicated. It feels very solid, and significant as you ride it, perhaps a little rough around the edges at times, but that harshness is part of the feel of a very significant motorcycle. Compared to other Harley touring bikes, the Road King doesn't feel as hefty as the rest of the touring family, mainly because it doesn't have the weight of a fairing that is located high on the frame.

Regarding the engine upgrades to the bike in 2017, Harley Davidson put the new Milwaukee Eight engine on the frame, and made the bike a much better touring bike. The Milwaukee 8 was named for it's corporate headquarters in Milwaukee, and the 8 is for how many valves the motor has. Up until this point, Harley Davidson featured V-twin engines with only two valves per cylinder, which provided great torque specifications, but was strained to produce top end horsepower in the rev range where you expected it.

The Milwaukee 8 also came along due to emission requirements in Europe, that with the Evolution engine, Harley couldn't satisfy the new dictates without choking the old motor. Timing was great for the new engine, as the additional horsepower and torque were closer to the new standards being set by their competitor, the Polaris Indian series of 111 cu.in. Freedom engines.

Harley Davidson maintained some of the character known as a Harley Davidson motor, in that the bike still has some shake when coming to a stop. It uses rubber mounts to isolate some of the vibration, and works quite well as the engine is VERY smooth above idle. The Softail version of the engine gets a huge counter-balancer, and is solid mounted to the frame. But...us old school Harley riders still wanted some of that character, and Harley kept some of it, but did add to the counterbalancer. The shake is still there, because of this, along with a lower idle speed (850 rpm), which also helps keep the engine cooler while sitting in traffic.

Included in the engine re-design, and they had to do this to keep the engine cooled, was to produce an engine that provided cooling to the exhaust valve area...the hottest part of the engine. They did this with "twin cooled" engines for the Ultra-Classic via radiators, but you need the lowers for these to be mounted. So what to do with a bike that didn't include the lowers? Harley incorporated another half quart of oil and a larger oil cooler. This oil is routed around the exhaust valve area, and maintains a much cooler head temperature by using the oil circulating around the exhaust valve to reduce the heat at the hottest point of the cylinder head.

Why choose the Road King over the Ultra Classic or the popular Street Glide? If you look at the Road King, with it's two driving lights mounted on each side of the large chrome headlight nacelle, it just has this classic look to it that hearkens back to a simpler time in the world. The windshield is a tall one from the factory, and provides good wind protection, and keeps the bugs out of your teeth! That being said, in thirty seconds, you can detach the windshield, providing clear air to the rider on warm evenings, keeping you cool along with the naked bike look.

The Road King definitely feels lighter than the Ultra Classic and Street/Road Glide bikes, it may not be that much lighter per specifications, but it just feels so much lighter that it makes the commute in traffic that much better. But here is one thing that the Road King offers that the others can't ever duplicate, and that is - the timeless design of the bike. Twenty years from now when you sit on an Ultra or other fairing equipped bike, you won't be laughing about the installed equipment that was considered state of the art when the bike was being produced. Look at bikes built twenty years ago, may have a cassette player installed, or a CD player in the dash...sort of dates it along with the controls for controlling this equipment.

With a six speed transmission, the Milwaukee 8 engine, and electronic cruise control, you can do some serious travel on the Road King. The bike has a six gallon fuel tank that will take you two hundred miles most of the time, before you need to stop and get fuel, my average has been 46 miles per gallon for most of my touring experience on the bike. High has been 52 miles to the gallon, taking it easy at around 65 miles per hour. The lowest registered has been 39 miles to the gallon, running into a strong headwind and cruising at 75 miles per hour.

With now over ten thousand miles on the clock, I have enjoyed this motorcycle for it's comfort, and the flat out enjoyment of taking it out on a quiet two lane ride during those hot summer days. There is just nothing else that comes close to being on this bike, the sun going down in the evening when the temperature is still around 90 degrees, and watching the country road take me to the place from a long time ago. It truly is a magnificent experience. The sound of the motor is all Harley, a nice deep tone and the odd firing order of a single pin crankshaft and a V-twin.

The Road King has taken me to Oshkosh Wisconsin, for the annual Airventure Fly Inn gathering that takes place in late July of every year. This is the worlds largest fly in event and airshow, and makes for a superb motorcycle ride of about five hundred miles each way. I do it in one day, starting in the morning, while arriving shortly before dinner, being on the bike for about eight or nine hours depending on the two lane traffic. https://www.eaa.org/en/airventure . Otherwise, the motorcycle is used for weekend road trips, often putting two to three hundred miles on a day very comfortably.

So there you have it, a great bike with the classic air cooled motor. I plan on keeping the bike, since it has the simplicity of working on the bike, and being air cooled you don't have anti-freeze and a water pump that needs servicing over time. The bike is a timeless classic, and is the lowest price Harley touring bike you can own, so go check it out!

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