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."