A lot of people out there deem motorcycles as solo, self-indulgent pursuits. Whether it be a track day, riding trails, or even just tinkering in the back shed, many embrace the solitude of some alone time with their dearly beloved. But not all motorcycles subscribe to this ethos.
There are some bikes that encourage you to invite a loved one to jump on the back, pack a few bits and pieces just hit the road. Harley Davison is almost intrinsically social because of its fanbase, and most of its motorcycles reflected this perfectly. But after spending some time on their new Road King Special, we think we might have uncovered road trip royalty.
The Harley Davidson Road King has been around for a while, but it’s never looked this good. With all due respect, most Baggers are specced to look like something you’d retire on, but the new Special adds some progressive design details while maintaining the classic aesthetic.
Our bike featured the ‘ Deadwood Green ‘ colour scheme and it’s our pick amongst the options. It looked tastefully classic (a military nod, perhaps?) and it provides a neutral canvas for the black accessories throughout.
The front end looks commanding sans-fairing with the imposing, black LED headlamp, and the 9-inch mini-ape handlebars look assertive without being over the top. The blacked-out styling continues with the tapered 2-1-2 dual exhaust and the glossy 19-inch front and 18-inch rear aluminium ‘Prodigy’ wheels anchor the Road King’s side profile with a bit of attitude.
Of course, we couldn’t talk about a ‘Bagger’ without mentioning the saddlebags. The new sleek carriages are harmoniously matched to the lines of the bike and are able to be opened with a single touch of the hand.
In terms of powertrain, the Road King maintains some combustible nostalgia with some pushrods and overhead valves. The Milwaukee-Eight™ 114 manages to produce 158 Nm of torque via its 114 cubic inches (1,868 ccs) of muscle.
|Valves||Pushrod-operated, overhead valves with hydraulic, self-adjusting lifters; four valves per cylinder|
|Bore||4.016 in. (102 mm)|
|Stroke||4.5 in. (114 mm)Capacitive Sensor: Finger Touch DetectionIR LED: Position Tracking|
|Fuel System||Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI) 3|
|Air Cleaner||Paper, washable|
|Lubrication System||Pressurised, dry-sump with oil cooler|
|Clutch||Mechanically actuated, 10 plate wet, Assist and Slip|
|Transmission||6-Speed Cruise Drive|
While the Road King can feel like a big bike when pushing it around the garage, once it’s out and about, it takes on a wholly different guise. We filled its saddlebags, chucked a pillion on the back and the brute bagger just ate up everything we threw at it.
It’s some of the most comfortable pillion riding we’ve ever done, and even though the suspension is adjustable, the stock setting seemed well-damped for long trips with two people. The road king at its core is basically a touring chassis with minimal fairings, so it’s more comfort-slanted than it is canyon carver, but with around 31 degrees of lean angle, it’s still a fun sled to flick around.
In terms of stopping power, reflex linked Brembo brakes do a good job at pulling up that extra weight. 32 mm, 4-piston fixed callipers are standard front and rear which hover over 300 rotors, and although some might want a little more bite on spirited sessions, the set-up is ample for most occasions.
But it’s the Milwaukee-Eight 114 that brings the package together. The massive torque is available at such low revs that you find yourself getting lazy with gear changes and just grunting the throttle from corner to corner. Overtaking is a breeze, city riding is surprisingly easy and when you want to turn up the wick, there’s plenty of character to explore.
There is a romance about the Road King Special that’s impossible to ignore. We loved the contrast of the traditional bagger look updated with contemporary touches, and the Deadwood Green paint just looked sublime.
It’s cool to ride around town, fun to take out on the twistys and if you’re lucky enough to have a polite pillion, it’s the perfect bike for a road trip. We never thought we’d say this, but not only is the Special the best Road King we’ve ridden, but it might just be the most effortlessly cool bike that Harley has released in recent times.