"It is good to have an end to journey toward, but it is the journey that matters in the en
There was an interesting beginning to testing this two-tone White Gold Pearl/Pewter Pearl '08 Road King. You see, I arrived at the Harley-Davidson fleet center to pick up this bike riding the Screamin' Eagle/CVO Road King rendition. Aside from the obvious cosmetic differences between the bikes, the motors in each are hard to compare. I was trading in a hopped-up 110ci Twin Cam for one displacing 96. That doesn't seem like much with those numbers, but it's almost a 15 percent disparity in cubes.
Another comparison to keep in mind is the $34,995 110 version costs 83 percent more than the paint option bike we have here. Like the CVO we reviewed in the August '08 Baggers, our current steed was equipped with the optional antilock braking system (ABS) that prevents the four-pot Brembos from locking up either wheel. It's a passive system that essentially translates to a computer-controlled braking action that isn't engaged until it's needed. Under typical braking, the calipers feel the same as a non-ABS-outfitted bike. However, when either of the wheels experiences a change in speed in relation to the bike, such as braking on gravel or oil where the wheel wants to lock up, the ABS kicks in. A microprocessor constantly evaluates and compares bike speed versus wheel speed, and then, only when you're still applying pressure to the brake lever or pedal, the computer quickly "pulses" the activated caliper(s). For those of you wondering if the bike (through a computer) somehow "brakes" itself during sensed wheel skid--it's not possible. This system feels similar to the one present in most modern autos. A slight pulsing sensation is felt through the pedal (lever) when the ABS activates.
With that description out of the way, you might be asking, "Well how good do the brakes work?" The H-D-badged Brembos work extremely well to haul down the 750-plus pounds of rolling metal. Feel and lever action is very good, especially compared to the rather hard feel of the old H-D brakes. All of the touring bikes get these brakes for '08. If anything, the initial bite is on the strong side, which has a tendency to pitch the bike forward if too much front brake is applied. During the course of actual riding, I never had the opportunity to have the ABS kick in. I've put well over 10,000 miles on a variety of '08s and have never needed the ABS. Sure I made many emergency stops, but with proper preparation and braking technique, you shouldn't need to lock up the brakes. I've rarely--make that never--seen the front wheel lock on any Harley on dry, clean pavement. The rear is another matter, but it's usually due to inexperience and/or poor technique.
Although I live in what's basically a desert, I rode an ABS-equipped Ultra to Sturgis last year with many days of rain. We do have a lot of sand here, though, but I've still never found non-ABS to be a problem. I did have the chance to intentionally stomp the brakes to see how the ABS responded. It works and doesn't allow the bike, as long as it's upright, to slide. The pulsing is a bit on the strong side, especially compared to BMW's bike ABS. For longtime riders, the switch to ABS takes some relearning on proper braking. Just like in your ABS car, you're not supposed to modulate the pedal when braking hard. If you modulate like you were taught, you actually defeat the purpose of the ABS. I also occasionally found the ABS to be fooled into action while on the road. One example that occurred many times was hitting the dividing line dots/reflectors on the freeway. If I was braking even moderately while hitting the bumps, the ABS would kick in with pulsing through the pedal/lever. This happened when I was braking over different kinds of bumps, even speed bumps in parking lots. It's more annoying than anything else, as I just modulated the brake to get the ABS to shut up.
Don't think that the RK is all about ABS or not. It isn't. This year it received the larger 6-gallon fuel tank that lets you extend the stops between gas stations. It's nice to be able to go 200-plus miles and not have to worry about it. Also new is the electronic throttle control that ditches the cables to the throttle body. Instead, a wire transmits throttle position to the master brain and signals the injectors and butterfly what to do. On the plus side, the new throttle cleans up the handlebar. It also makes the cruise control work seamlessly by not having any cables to keep the throttle where you put it. On the downside, the opening of the butterfly (that's responsible for letting air into the manifold and then the cylinder heads) in the throttle body doesn't move when and how you want it to. There is a noticeable lag when you twist the wick. I took off the air cleaner to watch the butterfly action when I twisted the throttle. Sure enough, the butterfly only opened about 20 percent even though my throttle action should have opened it 100 percent. This is the computer taking control over what you want the bike to do. I mentioned this briefly when testing the CVO RK. This phenomenon wasn't as pronounced on the 110 motor due to copious amounts of power. However, on the 96-incher, the lag was very pronounced, especially off idle.