What has dropped 10 pounds, gained larger wheels, honed down its seat height, and wields a kick ass new engine? If you said the Harley-Davidson Road King Special, you’d be right. So, what makes this Road King special?

2017 Harley-Davidson Milwaukee-Eight Engines Tech Brief

First there’s the new Milwaukee-Eight engine, an engine designed with two goals in mind: more power and better comfort. To that end, the Milwaukee-Eight grew to 107 cu. in., producing more power while, through clever engineering, maintaining similar fuel efficiency compared to the High Output Twin-Cam 103 engine. Additionally, comfort issues were addressed by reducing vibration at idle and employing clever heat management techniques. In addition to the increased engine output, the designers dropped 10 lbs. from the Road King’s previous weight, essentially delivering free horsepower, since the engine has to push around less mass.

The Milwaukee-Eight 107 engine in all its blacked-out glory.

The Milwaukee-Eight 107 engine in all its blacked-out glory.

The rest of the Road King Special is centered on making its style match the brutishness of its new engine. The King’s signature headlight nacelle has been blacked out and hung on a fork that has received a similar monochrome treatment. While the Road King has always had a locomotive feel, thanks to the nacelle, the blackness accentuates this feeling. Elsewhere, chrome has been reduced to just highlights on the engine: “Chrome was retained only on some key engine components,” said Harley-Davidson Designer-Stylist Dais Nagao. “The lower rocker boxes, pushrod tubes and tappet blocks are finished with chrome to emphasize the V-Twin shape of the Milwaukee-Eight 107 engine. We added a new engine-turned air cleaner insert, a finish that’s also featured on the tank console.” The pipes sport a semi-matte finish, completing the intimidating visage. Unlike the standard Road King, no windshield is included from the factory; however, all of the RK’s windshields in the Parts & Accessories catalog will fit the Special.

The Road King Special’s wheels Black Turbine Cast Aluminum are the same ones featured on the Breakout, but they sport a black finish instead of chrome. The 19-inch front wheel looks even larger than it is, thanks to a visual trick caused by the closely-spaced spokes. The rear wheel is 18 inches, up from the 16-inch one on the standard Road King. When combined with the same suspension as the Road Glide Special and the Street Glide Special, the seat height of this Special becomes a claimed 26.4 in. – a 1.6 in. reduction from the standard Road King.

Without the windshield to partially cover it or the chrome to lighten its features, the headlight nacelle is transformed by the semi-matte paint into an imposing feature, giving the Special an aggressive visage.

Without the windshield to partially cover it or the chrome to lighten its features, the headlight nacelle is transformed by the semi-matte paint into an imposing feature, giving the Special an aggressive visage.

Like all of the touring models for 2017, both the front and rear suspension have been updated. The new, lighter fork utilizes new double-bending valve suspension technology for damping characteristics similar to those of cartridge forks. In the rear, air-adjustable preload has been replaced with hand-adjustable hydraulic preload that offers 15% more adjustment range than before. The shocks themselves use emulsion-technology for damping over their limited range.

MY17.5 FLHRS Road King Special. Touring.

“The Road King Special offers the essence of Harley touring riding experience,” says Matt King, Product Communication Lead for Harley-Davidson. That may be true, but what appeals to us is the newfound attitude brought out by the changes to the wheels and the blacked-out color treatment which combines with four colors: Vivid Black, Charcoal Denim, Hot Rod Red Flake Hard Candy Custom, and Olive Gold. Pricing starts at $21,999, and the Road King Special is available in showrooms February 17th.

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  • Mark Vizcarra

    So they saved 10lbs by removing the windshield??

    • Gruf Rude

      . . .or maybe they put in a LiFePo battery.

  • JWH

    Lower and meaner with mini-apes. Or, what everyone was doing with their RK’s after the sale anyway. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an awesome looking bike, but copying what your customers were already doing does not a new model make.

    • Mark D

      I saw about five nearly identical looking bikes at Neptune’s Net the other weekend. But with way cooler custom pinstriping.

      Its a great looking bike, but factory-customs always seem a bit . . . lame to me. Its a contradiction in terms!

    • ADB

      And when it comes to copying what your customers are already riding. then there’s copying what your competitors are already selling… Nice giant bike, but it kinda looks like this: https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/54b9530af96377e6df52fef66bcabcf5e219d7c168a48c3c1278805c4b4cf322.jpg

  • Starmag

    Flat black paint = new model. I know, don’t be a Milwaukee h8er. They have an amazing amount of models that use those same Brook Stevens designed tank and fenders from 1948. Mr. Stevens really hit a nerve there.

    • Auphliam

      Don’t want to be “that guy”, but…um…it’s green

      • Starmag

        Well, most Harleys are chrome-y and this is sort of the opposite, so that’s what stood out for me. Speaking of the olive drab, this has an real Army vibe for civilians at a time when some aren’t so civil. I’m hoping this trend isn’t a cultural mirror, although I’m pretty sure I’d be uncomfortable with a flower power Harley as well. I guess there’s no pleasing me. : 7 )

  • Auphliam

    They should’ve included a pic of the red one in the press release. Looks 100 times better than this “Olive Gold”, IMHO

  • Old MOron

    This seems like a Harley marketing press release with a thin veneer of MO brushed on by Mr Brassbristles. Profoundly disappointing. Don’t treat us MOrons like morons.

    • Evans Brasfield

      Written from a press release and an interview with HD PR for a bit of exclusive info, but when that’s all I’ve got, this is what happens. Now, if we get to ride it…

  • thm4855

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/7a3840118e5467ac909e2f58fa96e51831851437a28cee763c16a636416f294b.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/8ef1e41f79477e678bb7826a3f3cad2abc8dd3eb2af785322004517a289c5010.jpg NO – this is not for me – mushroom colour – no passing lamp – black looks tough the first half year, then its not possible to clean anymore. I am bying a new HD – and trade in my Lowrider 2014 model, but this is not the one for me. 2 +ses here – 2 sparkplugs help an accurate ignition, and a lower seat, and maybe 10lbs less ! (ThM Norway)

  • w2e2b

    They should have lost that massive head light housing along with another ten pounds of ugly.

  • w2e2b

    What they should have done was used all black blots and nuts/washers. Why did they leave all of them chrome or stainless, were those things they wanted to high light and show off? Oh yeah, that’s the way they were in the parts bins.

  • Douglas

    Nope, don’t like it, and I’m too lazy to type in all the reasons why….

  • methamphetasaur

    I saw a brand new 103 and 107 run back to back on a dyno and they made pretty much exactly the same power.


    I’ll keep my much more refined Japanese motorcycle that I bought new for almost half the cost……….

  • Phillip

    Where’s the damn windshield oh I get it you’ll have to pay more for it

  • Eddie

    Getting too old for almost a half ton bike. Keep the horsepower the same but maybe 100-200 pounds lighter, please. At HD’s price point there is room for some carbon fiber and aluminum!