Riding Shot: Sorena Lowe
Harley-Davidson's Road King (FLHR) is the company's most basic Touring motorcycle but that doesn't lessen its road eating abilities. The RK is arguably the most versatile of the Harley baggers-it's a bike for riders that like things simpler and cleaner, yet its still able to hit the open highway in lush comfort. This bike reminds us of a post-WWII Duoglide except there's a Twin Cam motor instead of a Panhead-genuine H-D DNA and heritage in a reliable 21st century package.
To clarify some of the above generalities, the first big difference between this FLH and its two brothers is the lack of a fairing. The Road King comes from the factory with a tall, quick-detachable windscreen that provides a lot of weather protection and an unobstructed view of the beautiful headlight and nacelle. The tall height of the Lexan windshield should make all but the tallest riders looking through, rather than over, the protective barrier. Adding to the King's versatility is the ability to remove the windshield in seconds: just move the keepers on either side of the fork-mounted quick-detach posts, and the shield comes right off. Removing the windshield changes the character of the bike while really showing off the impressive chrome headlight, passing lamps, and nacelle.
Adding to the pure riding experience of the King is the absence of the bevy of gauges and audio equipment found on the other Touring rigs. It's all wind and sweet, air-cooled, pushrod-pulsing motor noise to fill your aural senses. Believe it or not, there are many riders that cannot understand riding with a radio-we can relate as we used to be those cats. Adding to the purist package is the traditionally mounted single speedometer mounted up front and center atop the 6-gallon fuel tank. Within the speedometer is a switch-activated LCD screen that displays an odometer, two trip meters, miles to reserve, and time. Also displayed in the speedometer is a low fuel light and Sixth gear indicator. A rectangular portal beneath the speedo displays the 'idiot' lights: low oil pressure indicator light, engine diagnostics readout, as well as turn-signal indicators. Aft of that on the chromed dash is a lockable ignition switch. An analog fuel gauge is located on the left side of the tank that approximates how much fuel is in the tank.
Throwing a leg over the Road King and resting on the plush two-up seat puts your body in a comfortable, neutral riding position. The wide, ergonomically designed stainless steel handlebars put your hands in a relaxed state with easy access to the controls and switches. Without any true numbers, it feels like the RK has a roomier cockpit compared to the Electra Glides; the bars are wider and feel farther away. Rubber-isolated footboards help keep your feet planted with plenty of room under the brake pedal to extend your legs. The passenger pillion is equally luxurious with an added benefit of nicely sized floorboards to keep the missus happy. Like the other Touring bikes the passenger boards can be easily moved down to accommodate longer legs.
A black, powdercoated Twin Cam 96 is mated to H-D's Cruisedrive six-speed gearbox. It appears that the rubber-mounted engine is unchanged from the '09 model but the transmission received a helical cut Fifth gear to quell gear whine associated with the old straight-cut cog. As we've come to expect, the closed-loop fuel injection works flawlessly throughout the entire rpm range. New, smaller, heated oxygen sensors replace the older units and they've been moved out of the way, now residing under the tranny cover instead of being high up on the headpipe.
On the road the RK offers a comfortable, solid, plush ride. The suspension has a good feel without being too harsh or soft thanks in part to the air-adjustable rear shocks. Ground clearance is more than adequate and requires quite a bit of spirited riding before the footboards touch down. Our test unit came equipped with the optional cruise control that works well, although we don't use that feature much due to road congestion.
A triple-disc braking package with Brembo four-piston calipers comes standard on the Road King. Our vehicle had the optional anti-lock braking system (ABS) that adds security during a panic stop or in wet or sandy conditions. We like the ABS even though for the most part you don't even know it's on the bike. The passive system only engages when a computer sees a difference in speed between the wheel and bike then activates the ABS. It only comes into play if you are actually using the brakes.
We really enjoyed the versatility of the RK. It's easy to tailor the bike to your mood or weather conditions. We were able to blast through the rain and have protection thanks to the large windshield but then in seconds take off the shield for leisurely jaunts along the coast. The hard, lockable saddlebags are the same units found on the Glides and make commuting or traveling a pleasure. Check it out for yourself by visiting your local H-D dealer or log onto harley-davidson.com.