Road Tested | 2011 Harley Davidson Road King Classic - Baggers Magazine
It's time to bring out the classic, the '11 Harley-Davidson FLHRC Road King Classic. Here is a bike that just seems to fit a wide range of different riders' needs; from the guy looking for a little jaunt across town, to the guy looking to fill the saddlebags and head cross country. At a glance the first thing you will notice is the nostalgic feel and look of the Road King; however, the Classic takes it a bit further with differences over the standard King like leather-wrapped saddlebags, nostalgic chrome fuel tank console, metal detailing on the fenders, gas tank, bags, and then add the chrome-laced wheels and whitewall tires for a classic look.
I would have to say that the Road King has worked its way to the top of my list for favorite bikes in the H-D line, so when we were able to get our callused little hands on the Road King Classic for a few weeks, I was glad and looked forward to checking out the '11 and trying out the bigger 103ci Twin Cam motor. This was the big change this year over the '10 with its 96ci motor, and since I had just borrowed a friend's '10 for a trip, I was still familiar with the smaller motor and wanted to feel the difference. As soon as I left the H-D fleet center and headed south on the 405 freeway, it was apparent that the bike was more throttle-responsive. It felt like there was always a little more to give as I was taking on the midday traffic. It was also the six-speed Cruise Drive transmission with integrated Isolated Drive System that just made the ride feel very smooth. In less than 50 miles of riding heading back to the office, it was like I had owned the bike for years. I felt very comfortable and confident on this bike.
Over the next few weeks I was able to rack up more than 3,000 miles, some of them through some real nice Colorado mountains (we may get to that story in an upcoming issue). The best part of that trip was all the mountain riding; a nice changeup from all the SoCal riding I do. It was hard to notice the Classic's approximately 800 pounds as I was ripping through the turns at higher-than-recommended speeds due to the bike's ground clearance of about 5 inches. I was sure there was more clearance because I very rarely scraped the floorboards and that was with the bags filled with gear and tools.
Since I'm on a saddlebag rant, I want to add that I like the look of the classic leather bags with the big belt-buckle latches and hidden quick-release snaps. I have to point out that they do not have the same cargo space as the H-D hard bags, and if you want to lock them, you need to buy and install a set of bag locks, priced at around $50. That said, you could get a quick-detach sissy bar and, without a passenger on the bike, strap a bag to the bike and carry extra crap, such as camera gear.
When it came to the seat and riding position, at 6-foot 1-inch tall, and weighing...let's just call it "big boned," the seat had a good tapered shape at the nose and a wide rear pad allowing my feet to sit flat on the ground and still have a good bend in the knee, so it was easy to move the bike around. When I was hauling a passenger, there were no complaints about comfort, only that a backrest would have made it better so that they didn't have to hold on so tight at higher speeds. The handlebars had comfortable bends and a good height for stock-size riders, but if I could have ordered the bike with taller bars, I would have liked them to come up about 4 to 6 more inches. As with all H-D models, the hand controls are filled with the same styled switches and buttons as they have had for years, they work and fit the classic very well, but it may be time for something new. As they say, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."
The chassis features a single-spar, rigid backbone frame with a stout swingarm designed for long-haul touring comfort. It includes a set of air shocks cleanly hidden behind the saddlebags, which can be adjusted with an air pump via a Schrader valve mounted on the frame rail behind the saddlebag. The front suspension has 41mm telescopic forks with a dual-disc brake setup. As far as braking goes, you will find a set of four-piston calipers biting down on a set of 11.8-inch rotors, as the rear has a single four-piston caliper and same-styled rotor, which in my option could use some style updating to flow better with the spoked wheels. All of this is controlled and regulated through an ABS system. The Road King Classic rides on 16-inch steel spoke wheels with Dunlop tires: a 130/90/16 for the front and 180/65/16 for the rear tire. I like the feel of the 180 rear tire as I have been on bigger (wider), and it always seems to be more effort to work the bike though turns. I've spent time on bikes with thinner tires, and although they are easier to handle, you never feel like there is enough rubber on the road at high speeds. So I like the 180mm tire and hope that H-D keeps it that way.
The biggest and most noticeable change was the 103ci (1,690cc) motor. As I pointed out earlier, this was the thing we were really looking forward to. At times it seems that Harley knows it needs to work hard at keeping up with all the touring manufacturers out there. They take the time to get it right and work out all the bugs before they just push something out. Well it was worth the wait, but well overdue. On a down note for me was the sound. I know there are limits to the level of rumble, but with the 2-1-2 exhaust system there was plenty of power, just not a heavy thunderstorm to be heard.
With all the newfound power the FLHRC has, I didn't notice a big, or should I say "bad," change in fuel usage over last year's model. I was getting just about 36 mpg tooling around town and commuting to and from work. The best mileage I got out of that six-gallon fuel tank was when I was out on the open highway riding in the taller Sixth gear, just over 50 mpg. Even as I was heading up into the higher altitudes and pulling on the throttle climbing the mountain roads, the FLHRC never skipped a beat.
When it comes to the overall appearance of the bike, the first thing you can't help to notice is the nostalgic looks and its heritage going back to the original '65 Electra Glide model. At first I was not a fan of the color we got for this testride (I would have liked the Apple Green with Vivid Black). This Cool Blue seems a bit light and kind of neutral. I would've liked it to be a more "look at me" kind of paint, but I was wrong. The more I was out on this bike, the more compliments I was getting from both riders and non-riders. At one point I was asked what year the bike was because the person said he had one just like it back in the '80s. Once I told him the bike was a 2011, he didn't believe me until I pointed out the Twin Cam motor.
With all the H-D medallions on the bike from the fuel tank to the fender, this bike has a great look. As you look over this bike you can see how easily it can go from a stripped-down cruiser with its removable windshield all the way up to a full touring bike with just a few accessories, such as a removable sissy bar or Tour-Pak, even an aftermarket fairing. Overall it is a great bike that fits and fulfills all kinds of riders' needs. I wish we had more time with the FLHRC to try some of the factory accessories and just get more seat time. If you are looking for an all-around touring bike, then get yourself to a dealer and take the FLHRC out for a testride and see for yourself. When you're done, drop me an email and let me know what you think. I think you will agree with me.
|TYPE||Air-cooled, Twin Cam,|
|BORE X STROKE||3.875 inches x 4.38 inches|
|FUEL SYSTEM||Electronic Sequential|
|Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI)|
|FUEL CAPACITY||Six gallons|
|TRANSMISSION||Six-Speed Cruise Drive|
|FINAL DRIVE||Belt, 32/68 ratio|
|SEAT HEIGHT||26.7 inches (with 180-pound|
|rider); 28.1 inches|
|WEIGHT (WET)||810 pounds|
|RAKE (STEERING HEAD)||26 degrees|
|FORK ANGLE||29.2 degrees|
|FRONT FORKS||41.3 mm telescopic,|
|triple circuit damping|
|FRONT||16x3-inch chrome spoke|
|REAR||16x5-inch chrome spoke|
|BRAKES||Anti-lock braking system|
|CALIPERS||Brembo four-piston fixed front|
|(dual) and rear|
|ROTORS||Fixed, 11.81 inches|
|COLORS, SOLIDS||Vivid Black; Brilliant Pearl;|
|Cool Blue Pearl (shown)|
|TWO-TONE||Dark and Light Candy Root Beer CUSTOM|
|Psychedelic Purple/Vivid Black;|
|Apple Green/Vivid Black|
|MSRP||$19,499 Vivid Black|
|WARRANTY||24 Months (unlimited mileage)|
Harley-Davidson Motor Company
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