I ain’t a big fan of cruisers- I love swift spinning inline fours that send my eyes squinting into tunnel vision and everything around me in motion blur. But then being a tourer at heart and knowing of the Harley Davidson Roadking being next on the review charts – it was but hard to hide my excitement. On one hand where shrieking around bends or straights on a supersports would be akin to an instant shot of adrenaline, rumbling along a perennial blacktop on a burly torque monster is pure nirvana.
Having ridden more than a couple of Harley’s including the iconic Fatboy, yet ample inquisitiveness was bubbling within as to how the Roadking would roll. Post scrolling tonnes of images of the Roadking online- I landed up at Seven Island HD Dealership in Navi Mumbai and was in for an eye candy treat. The motorcycle in flesh just blew my cap off- it looked gorgeous, absolutely gorgeous. The Superior Blue / Billet Silver colour scheme with the sunlight gleaming over oodles of chrome- was a work of art. It was about time to get across the saddle and take the Harley Davidson Roadking on a ride to where it belonged- the highways.
But before we’d get to the review, we feel its imperative that we highlight the styling elements and list of features on this gorgeous cruiser from Milwaukee. So here we go:
STYLING & FEATURES:
Sanctified with copious chrome and the trademark classic styling, the Harley Davidson Roadking turns time backwards. Picture the motorcycle parked outside a country house and it would resemble a sixties illustration. The classic nacelle Hiawatha headlamp marks the commencement of a shimmering saga inscribed right from the chrome accentuated front fender till the twin exhaust tips.
The quote “Man didn’t create metal to make paper clips” befits the Roadking to the fullest. It reeks of antiquity and created to teleport you back into the vintage times when chrome ruled the roost and bling was cool. It’s a chariot the Greek Gods wouldn’t mind choosing as their ride- for its sheer pomp and imposing road presence.
The huge windshield mounted might mimic a riot shield, but provides great insulation from cold winds during late night out of town rides. The handlebars are wide and well complimented by overall seating geometry to offer commanding riding ergonomics.
The dual halogen lamps alongwith the support lights offer adequate illumination in dark conditions. But in this part of the world more is never enough when it comes to lights and they are left wanting against the oncoming beams.
At the heart is the new Milwaukee-Eight 107 1745cc v-twin dishing out 88 bhp of peak power and 150 nm of torque mated to a six speed transmission.
Anchoring duties are taken care by ABS equipped 320mm twin discs at the front and 220mm single rotor at the rear with 4 piston Brembo callipers at both ends.
The 2-1-2 exhausts sound softer when compared to a Fatboy or a Heritage Classic, but the drumming resonance on closing the throttle while cruising is an acoustic delight.
The low height rider’s seat offers great comfort for long distances and comfortable flat footing for average heighted riders. The back rest offered on the review ride was a great add on both towards comfort and assurance for the co-rider.
Footboards for both rider and pillion add to the overall comfort quotient, but tend to fiddle with the riders feet when crawling through traffic.
The front suspension uses non adjustable Showa shocks (4.6 inches travel) with “dual bending valve technology” for better damping and the difference is evident while rolling over undulations.
The rear suspension comprises of a pre-load adjustable twin shocks which provide a rather meagre 3 inches of travel. Though the rider stays pampered going over broken patches coz of the wide supportive seat, the pillion does feel the jerks.
Cast-aluminum “Impeller” wheels come shod with Dunlop 408F (130/80-17) front and 407T (180/65-16) rear tyre providing adequate bite into the tarmac.
A final belt drive enables smooth transfer of power to the rear wheel.
A 22.7 litre fuel tank is good enough to offer approx 350 kms of range (16 kpl during our tests) before the tank runs dry.
Fuel tank mounted electronic speedometer with digital tachometer, clock, gear indicator, twin tripmeters and distance to empty indicator.
Switchgear boasts of high grade plastic construction and ergonomic to operate once you get the hang of the switch placements. The switchgear on the left comes mounted with a toggle switch for odometer and a cruise control switch located below the left blinker switch.
The mirrors might not look large, but provide decent view of the trailing traffic.
The hard bags provide 64 litres of combined luggage space with 9.1 kgs max loading weight per bag. Good enough for a short weekend trip but it won’t accommodate a helmet.
Engine & Gearbox
To propel a motorcycle of colossal proportions needs an equally brawny motor. With the new Milwaukee-Eight 107 series V-Twin motor at the helm and 88 bhp at crank, the Roadking might not be a tarmac shredding motorcycle. But 150 nm of twisting force offers effortless glide to the Roadking while making the 379 kgs motorcycle feel lighter than it actually is.
The Roadking feels way smoother than the earlier Harleys I have ridden- which includes trundling along at low speeds, during acceleration and cruise mode- thanks to Project Rushmore. Not that it’s a completely vibe free bike- but it’s more of a package that’s associated with V-Twin engines. The acceleration might not feel as thrilling as the previous generation Harleys- not that it lacks the punch, but because it does the job in a more clinical scheme of things.
Even the double barrel exhausts won’t sound as raucous as old Harley’s do- but there is a sense of acoustic pleasantness with the best part being the drumming resonance when you chop the throttle in cruise mode. The Roadking does make you feel King of the road thanks to its lazy breezy cruising manners as reflected in the numbers below (all in top gear):
80 kmph : 1850 rpm
100 kmph : 2400 rpm
120 kmph : 2850 rpm
130 kmph : 3200 rpm
With the revlimiter kicking in at 5500 rpm, we did push the motorcycle over 160 kph and the Roadking holds its composure till the revs start inching closer to the 5000 rpm mark. Cruising 120-130 kph feels best with the rpm hanging around the max torque rev-range. Overtaking feels effortless north of 120 kph without the need of dropping cogs and the Roadking would surge ahead with authority like a locomotive. But pray you never hit traffic as the engine despite facilitated with an oil cooler heats up like a furnace and at times the sauna treatment meted out to your right leg gets awfully unbearable. But we’d give this a pass considering it as a prevalent and accepted norm even with high displaced liquid cooled engines.
The gearbox isn’t the smoothest out there, with the first slot making an audible clunk that could be heard from a good distance. The rest of the shifts announce their change of position with enough audibility and every shift could be felt on the clutch lever. But thanks to the slipper clutch which not only minimises clutching efforts but the whole exercise ensures that there is enough confirmation of the gears slotting into their required position without verification. Also the effort on the left foot stands reduced if I have to recollect my earlier Harley experiences. Overall, the 107 series engine definitely feels superior over its predecessors with improved performance on every count.
Riding Comfort, Handling and Braking
The Harley Davidson Roadking feels absolutely plush- no two ways about it. The seat is luxurious and the overall geometry of the wide handlebar and the footboards- offers a fabulous riding position. The seat offers enough real estate for your posterior to move around in case you wish to during prolonged distances with the footboard presenting more than adequate ground to change your feet position. The rear seat offers decent comfort though not as good as the rider, but thankfully with the backrest provided on the motorcycle, the co-rider on the ride was well settled busy reading from her kindle while the Roadking kept moving at triple digit speeds.
The front suspension feels sorted and soaks up little to medium undulations and with the plush seat on duty, the rider stays well insulated from the jitters. The rear suspension though with a petite 3 inches of travel does get the co-rider upset when tackling any more than the usual wrinkles on the road. Maybe a more comfortable seat for the pillion should redress and compensate for the discomfort.
Coming to the handling part, the Roadking does tend to overawe the rider for the first time- i wasn’t spared either despite my earlier Harley experiences. But in the end it just needs getting used to before the rider realises how easy this bedazzling behemoth is to handle. The Roadking was put to a test of over 500 kms that included straight highways, ghat sections, usual city traffic and even off road while on the way for static shoots. The motorcycle feels impeccably planted on straights and surprisingly easier than expected on the ghat sections. With every corner, the motorcycle would give you that added confidence to go faster to a level where it just doesn’t feel like a burly cruiser.
With 31 and 33 degrees of respective lean angles on the left and right- you wouldn’t really want to push your luck and the Roadking too hard into the corners. But getting it to its maximum lean angle was actually an easy affair and without realisation till one hears the unpleasant grinding noises below the footpegs. The Roadking maintains enough tranquillity during mid corner braking thanks to a not too soft front suspension and a wider footprint for adequate road hold. It was a delight riding the motorcycle in the corners just for the way it held despite its massive proportions.
My earlier experiences with a few Harleys wasn’t great when it came to braking and majorly overshooting the decided stopping point, but this time it was different. The Roadking comes with larger 320mm rotors and best part a twin disc setup at the front with 220mm single disc squeezed between ABS equipped “Reflex Linked” 4 pot Brembo callipers. The “Reflex Link” Harley Davidson claims are electronically linked to provide exactly the right amount of brake to each tyre.
During our test the front was found to miss the required bite and at times needed a harder squeeze on the lever to shed speeds, but thankfully the rear brake worked fabulously well even while bringing the motorcycle to a complete halt giving confidence to use it most of the time. The front was surprisingly used for complementing the rear brakes. We’re not sure if the “Reflex Link” was at work here during use of the rear brake. But once we got the hang of the braking, it was a no brainer and became second nature.
The Harley Davidson Roadking is a visual treat- it has the ability to rouse your senses by a mere glance and that’s just the start of the story. The new engine offers improved levels of refinement and performance on offer. Build quality is top notch and rider comfort is as good as it gets. Possessed with terrific cruising abilities, the Harley Davidson Roadking fits the choice of the discerning buyer who is on a lookout for a steady and calm ride, and at the same time bequeathing that Kingly feel while it munches miles into the distant horizon.
HARLEY DAVIDSON ROADKING TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS