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?
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 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.
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.
“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.