Harley-Davidson Road King Special

A New Look for an Old Standard -- By Charles Fleming
April 15, 2017 at 10:07 pm  •  Posted in The Bikes by

Seeking to broaden its appeal while maintaining its heritage, Harley-Davidson will offer its traditional Road King motorcycle in new, nontraditional livery. The Road King Special, which will start appearing soon in H-D dealerships, features new styling and design elements wrapped around the motorcycle giant’s relatively new Milwaukee-Eight engine.

Based on the standard Road King chassis but featuring the suspension and seat used on the Street Glide Special and Road Glide Special, the Road King Special includes blacked-out bits where chrome shines on most Harley baggers, cruisers and touring bikes. It also features a 9-inch-tall ape-hanger handlebar, which the company says will allow the rider an “aggressive posture” while also offering comfort for long runs.

The new bike, which Harley fits into the “custom bagger” niche, has trim-fitting saddlebags, a lowered fender and a low-mount license plate, which contribute to a shorter, tighter profile. It sits a little lower than the traditional Road King’s 28.2-inch seat height, at 26.4 inches. Like its sibling, the Road King Special is big, but weighs in a little lighter, at 781 pounds dry and 818 pounds fully oiled and gassed up. (The regular Road King’s numbers are 791 and 828, dry and wet.) The Milwaukee-Eight V-Twin engine that powers all that weight is a 107-cubic-inch power plant, shared by most of the company’s higher-end machines. That motor, H-D’s newest, is also found in the Electra Glide Ultra Classic, Ultra Limited, Ultra Limited Low, Street Glide, Street Glide Special, Road Glide, Road Glide Special, Road Glide Ultra, Tri Glide Ultra, Freewheeler, CVO Street Glide Special and CVO Limited.

The remainder of the company’s 39-model lineup are powered by smaller engines. The Road King Special also costs a bit more at $21,999, for the base model, up from $18,999 for the entry-level Road King. The Milwaukee motorcycle giant would welcome some more big bike sales. While 2016 saw some incremental gains in Canada, the Middle East and Asia; sales figures were down 13% in Latin America and 4% in the U.S., where H-D sold 161,658 machines, down from 168,240 in 2015. Worldwide, despite gains in some international markets, motorcycle retail sales fell 1.6%, Harley said.

The company also saw falling numbers in parts, accessories and merchandise, which have traditionally been solid sales segments. In a recent fourth-quarter earnings report, Harley-Davidson Inc. President and CEO Matt Levatich said his company’s goal for the next decade is to build “the new generation of Harley-Davidson riders worldwide. ”That means Harley fans can expect to see more Road King-style makeovers.

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