They say a change is as good as a rest. You couldn’t get further away from the current crop of middleweight bikes than one of the biggest Harleys on the road. Yes sirree – this is the Road King which is a version of the iconic Electra Glide. I had a picture of the 197Os ‘Glide on my bedroom wall! What does the current model look, sound and, more importantly ride like? I had to mosey on down (sorry) to Iron City on my own steed, to rustle up a demo (how long can I keep this going?). It was a sunny September morning and I had the pick of all the Harley demos – all seven of them. I pointed to one and found it was the Road King Special. What’s special about it, is that it is more expensive than the standard, particularly with a bigger engine.
The Americans talk about cubic inches, not metric cubic capacity for engines, and the standard engine on the Road King is usually 107 in, but on the special (as per the sign on this one) is 114 in.³, or 1,868cc Big!
I calculated, as I was riding along later, that one of the cylinders on this V twin bike was bigger than all of the four cylinders on my 800cc Honda!
I hitched the Honda up and walked away into Iron City, and Adam couldn’t have been more helpful. Having picked the bike, I had a nervous moment as pulled it forward for some pictures, as of course, a bike this size only has a side stand. I pulled the side stand
out it shifted on the side stand, and could see disaster about to happen. He calmed my nerves by telling me that as long as the side stand was engaged in the slot and showed me, it might move about on the side stand but not tall over. Phew.
This model was resplendent in vivid black, and he said there was a lane splitter windscreen (great name) on it, and Vance and Hines slip-on end cans on this model. This is a factory custom and this size engine is the largest production engine that Harley makes. Apparently, it’s 100 bhp but Adam said it’s all about the torque and this one is 119lb-foot.
This bike is all in black with black wheels, black engine black everything. All blacked out he said.
Very easy controls, although the self-cancelling indicators mean left and right thumbs which took me a bit of time to get used to. Pressing the button on the handlebars causes the massive engine to churn over and then catch. It was like a shotgun starting and the feeling that only a huge V twin like this can give you. This engine is a mixture of air and oil cooled with a pushrod design (showing its heritage) and has four valves per cylinder. It’s a lowish seat height at 27.4 inches and of course, has the obligatory forward footboards and rear-facing parallelogram panniers or side bags (I nearly went there again!).
Off up the road from beside the Metrocentre in Gateshead and I was wary on the first mini roundabouts after taking a Harley out some years ago which was a Fatboy. I didn’t want to ground on the first bend. The overall impression apart from size and power, is the pull away, from such a big motor. I read up on the bike afterwards and I found it had linked brakes which made sense for something this big and also vehicle hold control which is like hill assist. Probably needed. Off I barrelled up to the junction with the A69, off the A1 and headed west. Part the way along to Hexham, barrelling along, I had an urge to go to Carlisle and beyond! The screen did a pretty good job of keeping the wind away and you did feel like a king of the road. I was looking for “trailers for sale or rent!”.
Trying to think of a themed pit stop, I couldn’t think of an American diner near so I thought why not hightail it down to Mexico? See later. I decided to go through Hexham town centre which was probably a mistake on a bike as big as this as I was worried about the size of it and decided not to filter through the heavy traffic. I sought the open road and took the B6305 south and south-west of Hexham past the racecourse and over the high moors towards Alston. What a delight this bike was on those roads.
It showed its size however, on the turn right back to Haydon Bridge beside Langley Castle as those short bends require a fair amount of attention on any bike, especially at the start of autumn with the leaves. The long A and B roads were great, as was the motorway, but you would need to be confident around town and on the smaller bends. This isn’t
the bike for scratching but is a BIGGG tourer or cruiser whichever camp you fall into. If you are touring you could take the kitchen sink with you. Back on the A69, this bike was supremely comfortable. The step in the ample and very comfy saddle (not seat) was good on the small of your back and I had no problem with the wider high bars which suited the bike and the ride. A swing of the hips and you are overtaking cars. Nimble—despite the size. At one stage on one of the smaller roads, I had accelerated from 4th to 5th to 6th gear uphill rather than holding the bike in 4th. The bike really moved.
Reassuringly expensive as one of the beer ads says, this bike is a statement but a very useful statement and an aural and visual sensation. Not for the fainthearted but I thoroughly enjoyed mv ride. I was going to start quoting “Ride like the wind, to be free again. . . to make it to the border of Mexico. . .” from the song but jumped off at Barrio Bella in Sandyford in Newcastle. Parked up at the curbside I had a fantastic Mexican breaklast (all day) with hash browns, guacamole, Mexican cheese and a fried egg plus a grapefruit Jarrito bottle. I was nearly at the Mexican border town!
Daydreams aside, it is easy to make so many comparisons with a bike such as this which is a real tour de force. I don’t think you would ever get bored riding a Road King. It is awesome, as our American cousins say. Agreed. With many thanks to Adam & Iron City – what are you waiting for – this is a must-ride bike!
Mark Hipkin is a Partner/ Head of the Personal Injury and Civil Litigation department. He welcomes your e-mails or calls on the law (or your biking experiences) at email@example.com or call 0191 2533509.