One can quickly see how the Road King Special has a very driven market.
The 2017 Harley-Davidson Road King Special is all new this year, and I must say it’s a very attractive bike. The blacked-out look paired with the Olive Gold paint scheme definitely catches the eye, so much that the amount of looks I got on this bike surprised me. Featuring an all new Milwaukee-Eight 107 (1753cc) cubic inch engine, contrast styling and new suspension, the Road King Special is a pretty mean bagger.
Perhaps the most obvious thing that I noticed on the Road King Special was how smooth it was. Power delivery is smooth and linear, and the feel of the road and shifts were both butter smooth. The new Milwaukee-Eight engine is better than the 2016 touring engine in almost every way. It packs 10% more torque which translates to quicker acceleration, better heat management thanks to its exhaust configuration as well as lower engine idle which produces less heat which in turn means you’re not feeling the heat radiate off the bike when stopped at a set of lights. Reduced vibration thanks to an internal single counter balancer is noticeable both when riding and while idling.
Harley’s Road King Special is essentially the Road Glide Special minus the infotainment system and the hideous front wind deflection fairing. While the lack of a wind fairing can be quite the nuisance on the longer rides, it pales in comparison to the ugly gargantuan front end of the Road Glide Special. Do yourself a favour and buy a windscreen for the Road King if wind deflection is a “must have” for you.
Mini-ape handlebars are 9” high, rendering the rider to sit taller in a more assertive position which is fairly comfortable. The one piece two-up seat, riding position and foot placement all come together to make for a comfortable ride. Standard with full length rider foot boards and heel toe shift levers, one touch large capacity stretched out hard case painted saddle bags, security option, ABS and cruise control, the Road King Special comes well equipped from the factory standard. I was disappointed to see that it didn’t come standard with the ability to cycle between different settings on the cluster, so there is no trip computer or fuel gauge.
Road King’s 2-1-2 blacked out exhaust is sleek and well integrated; it has dual tips that emerge between the rear tire and the saddlebags. The exhaust compliments the sound of the V-twin nicely, but is behind you enough so that it doesn’t sound overpowering when riding. The “loud” Harley sound is there, but it’s not going to make you deaf by any means. The blacked out turbine style wheels (19” in the front, 18” in the back) are the perfect match for the Road King Special, and really look slick. Other black features on the Road King Special include: the tank mounted gauge, the Milwaukee-Eight engine, the forks and the headlights. The black to chrome ratio is pretty spot on, and it’s good to see that Harley is rolling with the times, and not making every single part chrome as we all traditionally know Harleys to be.
Gear selection is quiet and smooth, and unlike other new Harleys I’ve ridden, I was able to put the transmission in neutral fairly easily. I was beginning to think that hard to find neutral was just a Harley trait that people would just have to get used to. Easy to find neutral could be made possible thanks to the improved blacked out 6-Speed Cruise Drive transmission. It is designed to shift smooth and quietly which is right on point, also designed to keep rpms down while highway cruising. Also featured on the cruise drive transmission is an isolated drive system, designed to accelerate smoothly.
It’s tough for manufacturers to introduce new products in the same field they’ve been catering to, but one can quickly see how the Road King Special has a market. It’s comfortable, smooth, versatile with its storage ability, and with the cruise drive transmission its fuel consumption is decent for those lengthy trips. I would suggest a windscreen for deflecting some of those highway speed winds, even though getting a windscreen kind of goes against the whole “minimalist” look that the Road King Special has going for it, your arms will thank you.
One thing I was a little disappointed to see is how Harley affixed the blacked out cover over the exhaust. While sitting on the bike, if you look down at the exhaust, you can see the hose clips used to attach the blacked out shield to the actual exhaust pipe. This is unappealing; the engineers at Harley Davidson could’ve spent a little more time designing this aspect of the Road King Special.
The 2017 Harley-Davidson Road King Special is a very smooth ride that’s guaranteed to turn heads. Coming in at $27,099 (as tested) it may just be the V-twin you’re looking for. If you’re in the market for a bagger, give this one a try.