Since its inception in 1998, the Road King Classic has been a major sales and marketing hit for Harley-Davidson. The FLHRC is the quintessential vintage-looking bike of the Touring lineup and in my opinion the classiest looking bagger you are ever going to find. The available color combinations, leather-wrapped saddlebags, retro tank badge, 16-inch 40-spoke chrome plated wheels and wide whitewall tires make it look like the bike stepped out of the late '50s. I was lucky enough to snatch this particular throwback bagger in Deep Turquoise/Antique White and put some serious miles on it. Here is what I found.
In the 10 days I had the bike at my disposal, my riding impression of the chassis was good to say the least. The FLHRC's substantial 773pound weight kept the bike planted and the redesigned frame was stiff enough for some floorboard-scraping canyon carving, yet the suspension was supple enough for all-day riding. Out back the new frame also allows a beefy 180 rear tire, which also aided in the stable ride. Putting a larger tire in a frame and still maintaining a fair amount of suspension travel meant that the seat height was bumped up to 27 inches, which is slightly taller than previous models and a bit on the high side for me. Have no fear, with the stock ground clearance being a tad over 5 inches the bike could get a 1-inch altitude adjustment without scraping on speed bumps. Let's just say for me a lowering kit would be in order as the first aftermarket modification.
Another bright spot of the bike was its four-piston Brembo calipers. Our test bike had the ABS upgrade that adds $795 to the price tag. That is a substantial wad of cash on top of the price of the bike, but I highly encourage anyone buying a new bagger to go with the ABS option. The Brembos look great and work better than any other H-D original equipment brakes I have ever stopped on. Now if Harley-Davidson could just design some decent looking OEM rotors, the bike would look much better. It really is a sore point with me and it's such an easy fix. Come on Harley!
When it comes to riding a factory fresh Road King, usually the stock handlebars are usually another thorn in my side, but the bend on this particular FLHRC was actually better than the past versions. The black powdercoated hand controls are the same well thought out units, which have been in one similar variation or another since Gerald Ford was in office. Personally, for comforts sake I would have to get some 16-inch ape hangers and for looks add some dress up chrome for the levers and switches pretty quickly after bringing the bike home.
The Road King Classic's drivetrain consists of a torquey 96ci Twin Cam engine that had plenty of power, but I would have liked to see a few more cubic inches between the new frame rails. I feel that the 103ci motor, which is already in use in some of Harley's other bikes, would fit the bill just fine as the base model for all of Harley's baggers. When Victory and the other Touring bikes come stock with 100 and 106ci engines a 96ci motor isn't a great selling point. Just think, a person who just bought a new H-D has to shell out even more cash for a big bore kit to get in the cubic inch triple digits? It's no wonder why we are seeing more alternative baggers on the road. The shining spot of the 96ci engine was the miles per gallon. For the limited time I had the bike, it averaged 43mpg in mixed driving conditions, mostly due to staying in the tall sixth gear on the highway. It was good to see that both in town and on the open road, The Road King Classic possessed Smartcar-like gas sipping qualities without having to look like a euro-goon driving a shoebox. And I am pretty sure the FLHRC even has more cargo space.