Run-in with the Police—a Harley-Davidson Road King Police, That Is

I don’t often have a run-in with the police. Well, I recently had one.

No, not some enforcement of the “Safer at Home” COVID-19 type stuff. What I’m talking about was a run-in with a 2012 Harley-Davidson Road King Police.

Turns out, my long-time riding buddy Dean Massoglia got the bug to finally get another Harley.

He wishes he still had the first one. Near as I can recall, it was probably a 1948 or ’49 Hummer, though it could have been a ’50 model, which was the last year of the rubber band girder fork that his bike used.

Harley-Davidson Road King Police Review

The Hummer was a 125cc two-stroke, air-cooled single based on the DKW product built in Germany. The design specifications and manufacturing rights were turned over to Harley-Davidson as part of Germany’s WWII reparations. They are rare and now very valuable to collectors of such things, potentially commanding up to $9000 at auction for a showroom condition example, according to the Comprehensive Vintage Motorcycle Price Guide 2015-2016.

His dad had gotten him the thing when we were both about 14. The three-speed tranny on it eventually packed up, and last he can recall, it went someplace to get that fixed. Where it ended up since, he just isn’t sure.

He’s had Yamaha, Honda, Suzuki, and Victory bikes since. Fast-forward more years than either of us care to count, and he got the Harley bug again. He was perusing the Wisconsin Surplus online auction website recently and boom—there it was! A 2012 Harley-Davidson Road King Police FLHP bike with only 7700 miles on it. The pictures looked pretty good. He bid on it until all other bidders dropped out and had his Road King.

Harley-Davidson has been at this business of building police bikes—or at least bikes that were used for police work for quite a while. For many years, they were completely stock, with no special adaptations. According to the Encyclopedia of the Harley-Davidson, Detroit had Harley-Davidson-mounted motorcycle cops as early as 1907; San Francisco and Los Angeles followed suit in 1911, and in 1913, Cincinnati joined in. In 1926, Harley-Davidson set up a special department devoted to police vehicle sales. By the end of the 1920s, the company boasted 3000 police departments as customers nationwide.

By the 1950s and ‘60s, Harley-Davidson was the gold standard for law enforcement road patrol motorcycles, which included the adaptation of sidecar-equipped models and the Servi-Car models, but in the late ’70s and early ’80s, import makes were eating H-D’s law enforcement lunch. These days, H-D is still in the business of building bespoke bikes for law enforcement, but they share the market with other brands.

Anyway, it turns out Dean’s purchase arrangements went smoothly after he placed the winning bid, but it was late in March, and the Wisconsin Surplus required that the bike be out of its warehouse by April 1. He lives up in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and the motorcycle was down in Mount Horeb, Wisc.

Harley-Davidson Road King Police Test

That’s about a six-hour drive for him one-way, but from my place, it’s about 45 miles. So he asked me if I could go down there and pick it up. The bike was in roadable running order, and he had all the official registration and insurance paperwork in order, so I figured I’d go down there and ride it back to my place and store it till he could come down to get it.

You might wonder how much you can learn about a bike in one 45-mile jaunt. Thanks to Dean’s auction bike, I had a chance to find out.

I had never ridden a Police bike before, and I wondered if there were any performance mods from a stock 2012 Road King. Dean had already checked that out and, according to the sources he could find, the air/oil-cooled 103ci (1690cc) Twin Cam engine, exhaust, Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection, electronic throttle control, cable-activated (non-hydraulic) clutch, six-speed Cruise Drive transmission, and final belt driveline are standard Road King equipment, as are the Brembo four-piston brakes, air-adjustable rear suspension, and chrome crash bars front and rear. However, the wiring harness is modified to allow the addition of lights, siren, communications, and other equipment the law enforcement customer may require.

The six-gallon tank, floorboards, heel-and-toe shifter, Hiawatha headlight nacelle, tank-mounted speedo, and indicator lights are standard Road King fare. The Police version has a tach mounted up over the triple clamp, and a distinctive nameplate that says “Road King Police” as well.

Other special Police model touches include rotary latches on the top of the lockable hard saddlebag lids to make opening the bag from the saddle easier, and assure positive lock-down, based on my use of them. There is a comfy solo saddle, a 68-tooth rubber-isolated rear drive sprocket, and Dean’s bike came equipped with a quick-detach Klock Werks Flare windshield rather than a Harley-Davidson unit.

Behind the solo saddle, the rack for mounting police communications and other equipment is still in place. The grips are heated, and the special controls on the switchgear remain, even though equipment such as the siren is no longer on the bike. Darn. Could’ve had some fun with that siren.

When I picked the Harley-Davidson Road King Police up, it had about a half tank of gas, was dusty, and had about 20 pounds of air in each tire. But the tires were excellent, and the bike was pretty much ready to roll once the paperwork from the auction house was done. I wasn’t sure how long the bike sat in storage, but judging by the dust layer, it was probably since last fall, at least.

I brought my electric compressor along, figuring the tires would be low after sitting for a while. Airing up the front tire was no problem, but the rear tire is kind of a test. The valve stem is hard to see with the big bags and pipes in the way. Getting a gauge and air hose on it is a get-down-on-the-ground chore.

Unlike my Sportsters, where the valve stem angles out from the rim, making it a lot easier to use, this valve stem is straight up. In the grand scheme of things, a minor point—unless you have to get air in the tires on wet or muddy ground. I was lucky to do it on clean, dry pavement.

After a once-over with the power on, I hit the starter. On the third tap, it fired up and quickly settled into a nice, rhythmic Harley rumble.

The clutch is light and progressive, and was a snap to get used to. However, the heel-and-toe shifter got in the way of smooth shifts at first. Once I got accustomed to the foot placement on the floorboard, it wasn’t a problem. Dean wears a much bigger boot than I do, so he may initially find it a little awkward. Both the toe and heel lever are removable/adjustable, so he may even opt to take the heel shifter off.

I’ve only had one bike with floorboards in the past—my 1998 Honda VT1100 Shadow ACE. While that particular bike had some drawbacks, the floorboards weren’t one of them. The Road King’s seating position proved just about right for me.

Laden seat height is 26.5 inches, which is just about the same as my ’99 Sportster, so even me with my low rear axle didn’t find moving the bike around from the saddle to park and such to be a problem. At about 810 pounds ready for the road, the Road King weighs about 200 pounds more than my Sportster, and the difference is apparent in manual maneuvers.

The place where that weight is not very noticeable is out on the highway. For a big, heavy bike, the Harley-Davidson Road King Police doesn’t feel pokey when the throttle is rolled on hard, particularly in the first four gears. As I told Dean after completing the ride to my place, “If you get frisky with that throttle in the first four gears, you better be hangin’ on with both hands!”

To be sure, it won’t be mistaken for a liter sportbike, for touring the open road, it reaches Interstate speeds and beyond quickly and can pass an 18-wheeler at highway speeds with ease without wobble or noticeable vibration. According to an Ultimate Motorcycling review of the 2013 Road King, the TC103 mill puts out 100 ft-lbs of torque at 3250 rpm, and you can feel it in the acceleration, especially on the low end.

Harley-Davidson Road King Police Twin Cam 103

The Brembo four-piston calipers clamp on twin 300mm drilled fixed discs up front and a 300mm disc on the back. I thought the brakes might be prone to being extra grabby after sitting in a warehouse for a while, but that didn’t prove to be a problem. Braking fairly hard a couple times the bike stays level and in-line.

With floorboards, the foot brake pedal requires a little more foot movement to apply it than with a footpeg and lever arrangement. Again, once you spend a little time in the saddle, the movement becomes automatic.

Handling is pretty much as expected—with a wheelbase of 63.5 inches, the bike’s weight, fork angle of 29.2 degrees, and 6.7 inches of trail, the Road King is relaxed on sweepers. It is predictable and competent in cornering and braking and not cumbersome. It’s not as flickable as a Triumph Bonneville, of course, but then, few standard road bikes are, so it follows that a big touring bike would be less so. There are reasons you don’t see many Road Kings at track days.

All-in-all, this Road King Police was a bit of a surprise. It could rock ’n’ roll when I wanted it to, stopped and turned with confidence-inspiring predictability, and fit me better than I thought it might, despite my relatively short stature. The stock pipes have a cool baritone rumble at low speed and under acceleration, while being unobtrusive at highway speeds. The Klock Werks windshield is effective down the road and didn’t seem to cause any buffeting in a crosswind.

I’ve bought only one motorcycle at auction, and that was live, on-site where I could see the bike in person. Dean took a leap and got his Harley-Davidson Road King Police via an online auction. We’ve all heard stories where that didn’t end well for some unlucky bidder, where the images and the description left out some crucial information. I’m glad Dean’s deal looks like a very good one—maybe even better than he might have anticipated.

Photography by Gary Ilminen

2012 Harley-Davidson Road King Specs

ENGINE

  • Type: Twin Cam 103
  • Displacement: 103ci (1690 cc)
  • Bore x Stroke 3.875” x 4.38” (98.4 x 111.3mm)
  • Maximum torque: 100 ft-lbs @ 3250 rpm
  • Compression ratio: 9.6:1
  • Valvetrain: Pushrod-operated overhead valves w/ hydraulic, self-adjusting lifters; 2 vpc
  • Fueling: EFI
  • Lubrication: Dry sump w/ oil cooler
  • Primary drive: Chain
  • Transmission: 6-Speed Cruise Drive
  • Final drive: Belt

CHASSIS

  • Frame: Mild steel tubular frame; two-piece stamped and welded backbone; cast and forged junctions; twin downtubes; bolt-on rear frame w/ forged fender supports; MIG welded
  • Swingarm Mild steel; two-piece drawn and welded section; forged junctions; MIG welded
  • Front suspension; travel: Non-adjustable 41.3mm fork; 4.5 inches of travel
  • Rear suspension; travel: Air-adjustable shocks; 3.0 inches of travel
  • Wheels: 28-spoke cast aluminum
  • Front wheel: 17 x 3.00
  • Rear wheel: 16 x 5.00
  • Front tire: 130/80 x 17; Dunlop Harley-Davidson Series D408F
  • Rear tire: 180/65 x 16; Dunlop Harley-Davidson Series D407
  • Front brakes: 300mm discs w/ 4-piston calipers
  • Rear brake: 300mm disc w/ 4-piston caliper
  • ABS: Optional

DIMENSIONS and CAPACITIES

  • Wheelbase: 65.3 inches
  • Rake: 26 degrees
  • Fork angle: 29.2 degrees
  • Trail: 6.7 inches
  • Lean angle: 33 degrees (right)/31 degrees left
  • Seat height: 26.3 inches (laden)
  • Fuel capacity: 6.0 gallons
  • Estimated fuel economy: 42 mpg
  • Curb weight: 812 pounds