2017 Harley-Davidson Road King Special First Ride Review
When the Harley-Davidson Road King was introduced in 1994, it became The Motor Company’s best-selling model in the United States.
The un-faired bagger took its styling cues from the 1949 Hydra Glide, which used hydraulic damped telescopic forks over spring suspension setups that were dominant at the time. The Road King remained king of Harley FL tourers until the release of the 2006 Street Glide, which was built by Willie G. Davidson.
However, Harley-Davidson is looking to change this with the bolder Road King Special. Meet the 2017 Harley-Davidson Road King Special, which I tested during Daytona Bike Week.
Ahead of our full review, here are the essential Fast Facts from our first ride test.
- The Road King Special arrives with the new Milwaukee-Eight 107 engine that produces a claimed 93 horsepower and 114 ft/lbs of torque at 3250 rpm. This engine—the first blacked-out Milwaukee-Eight 107 to appear on a bike—makes the previous Twin Cam 103 feel sluggish. The eight-valve 107ci engine also runs much smoother than the Twin Cam, and fills out the engine area more, providing a more muscular look.
- Due to the 107 engine being both balanced (single internal engine counter-balancer) and rubber-mounted, vibrations are dramatically reduced, especially at idle. Harley claims a 75-percent reduction in vibrations at idle, and I agree with that claim of smoother idling.
- Even in stop-and-go traffic downtown during the madness of Daytona Bike Week, the engine remained much cooler than the Twin Cam 103. Liquid cooled heads and a redesigned exhaust pipe directs heat away from the rider.
- The stock exhaust provides an aggressive tone when cranking the throttle, and just the right amount of noise at idle to understand you’re on a serious machine. The sound is best from 3000 rpm to the 5500 rpm redline.
- The Road King Special weighs a claimed 818 pounds wet, but feels much lighter—especially at low speeds. Although four pounds heavier than the 2016 Road King, the Road King Special’s lighter feel can be attributed to the beefy new Showa Dual Bending Valve forks, plus emulsion shocks with no-tools spring-preload adjustment. Chassis setup is also slightly tweaked; the wheelbase remains the same at 64 inches, as does the 26 degrees of rake, but trail was increased 0.2 inches to 6.9 inches.
- The Road King Special has a seat height of 26.4 inches, 0.8 inches lower than the standard Road King. The lower seat arrives with a similar rear wheel suspension travel reduction.
- Agility is increased, but the left side lean angle is slightly reduced from the standard King. Though I didn’t do any aggressive riding on Florida’s mostly-straight roads, I quickly scrapped floorboards when completing U-turns. The bike has a slightly harsher ride than the 2016 model when the preload is cranked.
- The Road King Special arrives with larger 19-inch front/18-inch rear wheels over the standard Road King’s 17-inch front/16-inch rear setup. This changes the chassis feel, also, and the bike feels more planted due to the larger wheel setup. The black turbine wheels, derived from the Breakout cruiser, are shod with Dunlop American Elite Harley-Davidson tires, which provided excellent grip under acceleration and braking.
- The Road King Special lacks the base Road King’s (detachable) windshield. Even without the shield, windblast was never an issue—even at 65-70 mph highway speeds.
- The 2017 Harley-Davidson Road King Special, starts off at $21,999 in Vivid Black, and arrives standard with Reflex Linked Brembo brakes with ABS, as well as cruise control. Both systems worked flawlessly throughout my first ride. Harley’s ABS provided barely noticeable intervention when hard on the brakes (320mm dual discs up front, a single 320mm single disc out back), and the cruise control adjusted speeds correctly.
Photography by Brian J. Nelson
- Helmet: Shoei GT-Air
- Jacket: Harley-Davidson Scully 3-in-1 Convertible Mesh Jacket
- Gloves: Oscar by Alpinestars Rayburn
- Pants: Alpinestars Crank Denim Pants
- Boots: Harley-Davidson FXRG-3
2017 Harley-Davidson Road King Special Specs:
- Motor: Single cam, pushrod V-twin; 4vpc
- Bore x stroke: 3.937” x 4.375”
- Displacement: 107 cubic inches (1746cc)
- Maximum torque: 111 ft/lbs @ 3250 rpm
- Compression ratio: 10.0:1
- Cooling: Air and oil
- Fuel system: Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection
- Lubrication: Dry sump
- Transmission: 6-speed Cruise Drive
- Clutch: Hydraulically actuated assist-and-slip
- Primary drive: Chain
- Final drive: Belt
- Frame: Mild tubular steel w/ two-piece stamped and welded backbone
- Front suspension: Showa 49mm Dual Bending Valve; 4.6 inches of travel
- Rear suspension: Emulsion shock w/ hand-adjustable spring-preload; 2.2 inches of travel
- Front tire: 130/60-19; Dunlop Harley-Davidson D408F
- Rear tire: 180/55-18; Dunlop Harley-Davidson D407
- Wheels: Black Turbine Cast Aluminum
- Front brakes: 320mm floating rotors w/ four-piston calipers
- Rear brake: 320mm fixed rotor w/ four-piston caliper
- ABS: Standard
DIMENSIONS and CAPACITIES
- Wheelbase: 64 inches
- Seat height (laden): 26.4 inches
- Seat height (unladen): 27.4 inches
- Rake: 26 degrees
- Fork angle: 29.25 degrees
- Trail: 6.9 inches
- Right lean angle: 32 degrees
- Left lean angle: 31 degrees
- Fuel capacity: 6 gallons
- EPA estimated fuel consumption: 45 mpg
- Curb weight: 818 pounds
2017 Harley-Davidson Road King Colors:
- Vivid Black
- Charcoal Denim
- Olive Gold
- Hard Candy Hot Rod Red Flake
2017 Harley-Davidson Road King Prices (MSRP):
- $21,999 (Vivid Black)
- $22,449 (Charcoal Denim; Olive Gold)
- $24,399 (Hard Candy Hot Rod Red Flake)