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2021 Harley-Davidson Road King: Road Test Review

26 November 2021, 01:10 PM Anuj Mishra

Introduction

Harley-Davidson Road King action

Pros: Massive visual appeal, comfortable ergonomics, oodles of torque from the engine 

Cons: Harsh ride, lack of modern features, heavy weight 

Say hello to the 2021 Harley-Davidson Road King. It slots in the Harley-Davidson’s touring line-up of motorcycles and thanks to those big swooping panniers on either side, it’s also called a bagger. The main duty of this American behemoth is to munch countless miles while keeping the rider comfortable. Or, as Harley’s website states, it’s meant for the ‘riders looking to burn through miles with authority.’ While that definitely sounds rosy, let’s see how much of it we agree with.

Harley-Davidson Road King action

However, we’d like to get some things clear first. After a month of Harley-Davidson announcing its withdrawal from the Indian market in September last year, the news of it tying up with Hero MotoCorp came across. As per the agreement between the two brands, Harley’s sales and service network is now handled by Hero in India. So, to clear the air, if you have a Harley dealership and a service centre in your city, buying and owning one of their bikes shouldn’t be a matter of concern.

Now, on to the motorcycle…

Quality

Harley-Davidson Road King Right Side View

On the quality front, there’s nothing much to talk or complain about. As gigantic and brazen as it looks, the build quality is equally solid and the fit and finish are top-notch. What’s truly worth emphasising is its visual appeal. Typical of a Harley tourer, the Road King commands attention, respect, and its deserving space on the road. And when you pull over at a signal, you’re bound to be surrounded by curious onlookers and enquirers.

Harley-Davidson Road King Handle Bar

While it misses out on the ostentatious fairing of its ‘Glide’ siblings, it makes up for that with oodles of dazzling chrome around its front end and on several other areas which looks stunning, particularly on this red paint scheme. This generous amount of chrome also meant I could see my clear reflection behind the auxiliary lamps while riding. It felt surreal to watch the scenery passing by with my pants fluttering and helmet shining under the bright sun! 

Comfort

Harley-Davidson Road King Left Side View
Harley-Davidson Road King

Harley-Davidson Road King

  • Displacement1,746 cc
  • Kerb Weight375 kg
  • ;

Avg. Ex-showroom price

₹ 27,09,000

With a saddle height of 705mm, the Road King is a fairly low-slung motorcycle and swinging a leg over is literally a piece of cake, even for the shorter riders. However, it’s only when you lift the bike off the stand and strain your leg muscles while getting it upright that you realise it needs to be handled attentively. After all, 375kg of kerb weight isn’t a joke, right? Nevertheless, as you get going, all the heft fades away, but more on that later. 

Harley-Davidson Road King action

Get into the riding position and the Road King greets you with an utterly laid-back, pampering, and wholesome riding position. It’s quite welcoming with a pulled-back tubular handlebar and forward-set footboards. As for the seat, it’s like the comfiest sofa you can think of, both in terms of design and cushioning. Mile munching on the highway all day long doesn’t feel like a stretch whatsoever. 

Harley-Davidson Road King Engine From Left

The story is not rosy in traffic though. Firstly, there’s the weight you need to take care of. Coming to a halt needs some planning, psychologically at least. And thanks to the forward positioning of the footboards, if you happen to get your feet up and down the footboards intermittently in traffic, it feels like a task. Even moving it around in the parking and heaving it backwards feels strenuous. 

Harley-Davidson Road King Front Wheel

But this isn’t as big a problem as is its ride quality. It’s quite enjoyable if you’re cruising on a flat and slick tarmac. However, come across a rough patch and the ride feels nearly back-breaking. The lack of suspension travel and fast damping means you feel a nasty jolt in your back while passing over stones, potholes, or high-amplitude road joints. And this applies to almost all speeds, fast or slow. Although it feels quite composed on flat highways, larger dips and crests make it feel wavy. 

Performance

Harley-Davidson Road King Engine From Right

Jab the start button and the Milwaukee-Eight 107 powerplant between your legs comes to life with some dramatic quiver and settles into a deep rumbling idle. Then it slots in the first gear with a pronounced clunk, ready to roll ahead. As you get going, you realise there’s a relentless surge of torque starting from as low as 2,000rpm to its redline of about 5,500rpm. Despite the ridiculous weight, the motorcycle chugs along seamlessly at slow speeds and as you give it the beans, it bolts ahead with surprising eagerness and vigour.

Harley-Davidson Road King action

The beauty of this 1,746cc, V-twin engine is that it can cruise at speeds of around 60kmph in sixth gear with the revs hovering between 1,500-2,000rpm. At this pace, it feels relaxed with a muted thump accompanying you. And when you roll on the throttle, it propels ahead with enough urgency that you seldom need to downshift to execute quick overtakes. Triple-digit speeds, especially until 150kmph, feel like a cakewalk for the engine. However, the optional windscreen is recommended if you plan to go high-speed touring since the wind blast is fatigue-inducing right from 110kmph. 

Harley-Davidson Road King action

Coming to the shortcomings, the Road King isn’t comfortable with sudden throttle inputs. Abrupt throttle results in a slight response lag and choppy acceleration. This is accompanied by some internal mechanical disturbance, pretty audible as a metallic cacophony. Even the clutch is heavy to operate and its frequent usage could get uncomfortable. Heating isn’t a major issue, but it does emanate hot air onto the rider’s and the pillion’s leg when in traffic.

Harley-Davidson Road King action

Do not let its intimidating heft deceive you of it being a sluggish handler. Although the Road King does require you to muscle it to switch directions, once you get used to its dynamics, you can treat it with a fair bit of aggression. It feels surprisingly agile and forgiving. Obviously, not as much as other modern and lighter motorcycles, but you can have fun in spaced-out moving traffic and around corners. After clocking a few hundred kilometres, I took the Road King to some twisties where it inspired enough confidence to hoon it. You just need to be careful of its large turning radius and very limited cornering clearance. 

Harley-Davidson Road King Front Wheel

Even the brakes do a commendable job of bringing this mammoth of a motorcycle to a halt. Of course, you need to squeeze in the front brake pretty hard to stop the bike quickly, but it doesn’t feel lethargic to slow down. The rear brake, too, delivers decent feedback and progression. 

Technology

Harley-Davidson Road King Instrument Cluster

There’s isn’t much to write home about for the Road King on the modernity front. It does away with the bare minimum, like ABS and a slipper clutch. Instrumentation setup comprises an analogue speedometer along with a tiny LCD that shows just one parameter at a time amongst gear/rpm, odometer, clock, fuel range, and two trip meters. Moreover, there are a couple of essential tell-tale lights. A strange thing came across in the form of the front wheel locking up while braking hard and the ABS not engaging at times. But that could be an issue with this particular unit of the bike. On the positive side, given the bike’s weight and long wheelbase, it doesn’t get easily unsettled under quick acceleration around corners. So, I didn’t really miss having the traction control system. 

Fuel Efficiency

Harley-Davidson Road King Fuel Tank

One of the intrigued onlookers of the Road King, waiting for the signal to turn green, asked me this common question – what’s the mileage? And when I said around 17kmpl, he wasn’t really surprised given the bike’s magnificent aesthetics and monstrous size of the engine. So, with a fuel tank capacity of 22.7-litres, it delivers a range of around 386kms in mixed riding conditions. 

Verdict

Harley-Davidson Road King Rear View

The Harley-Davidson Road King is a motorcycle you would love to see parked in your garage. I bet there won’t be a single time you’ll walk past it without turning your head for a second look. This charm of the motorcycle continues to the road as well. It exudes a sense of supremacy and dominance, making you feel like you’re riding something more than a motorcycle. Something like a chrome-laden chariot which thunders forward ferociously with just a mild prod. All this while keeping you supremely comfortable and carrying a bunch of your belongings in the panniers. 

Harley-Davidson Road King thumbnail

What bothers me though is its limited area of application. Unless it’s being ridden on a silky-smooth tarmac, it fails to deliver a pleasant experience. Courtesy of the profoundly stiff suspension with limited travel, taking on bad roads feels like going on a war. And it’s a similar story in crowded places where its weight acts as the major setback. Unfortunately, India is filled with these two hurdles, limiting the possibility of truly enjoying this motorcycle. But having said all that, if you’re a Harley-Davidson purist at the core and want to spend your Rs 27 lakh on a retro-styled, stripped-down, torque-loaded America bagger, the Road King is the one for you. 

Photography by Kapil Angane 

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