Long-term tester: Harley-Davidson Road King


Long-term tester: Harley-Davidson Road King

Long-term tester: Harley-Davidson Road King

Endurance test interim balance

The Harley Road King ran over 30,000 kilometers reliably and trouble-free, the workshop only saw the mandatory inspections ?? until suddenly the endurance test almost ended prematurely.

It’s Wednesday the 27th. Feb-ruar 2008. The Road King rushes towards an appointment in Dortmund at about 130 km / h when the driver, a native of the Ruhrpottler, on the A5 between Kreuz Walldorf and Heidelberg, suddenly ripped out of his thoughts about currywurst and chips in his old home becomes. A full-grown wild boar rushes onto the road from the nearby forest and sets course for the endurance test Harley. The crash seems inevitable unless another miracle happens now. The driver tenses up all his strength, awaits the impending impact with every fiber of his muscles? until the cattle strikes a hook at the very last second and, instead of running in front of the front wheel, only lightly touches the right pant leg and the side case. The heavy Harley only reacts to the push with a slight dangling, and then rolls on undeterred to the north. The driver, on the other hand, is still feeling sick for a few kilometers.

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Long-term tester: Harley-Davidson Road King

Long-term tester: Harley-Davidson Road King
Endurance test interim balance

Road King would not have survived a collision unscathed. And that at a time when it had already unwound 33,000 kilometers precisely and reliably like a Swiss watch. Refuel, check the oil, nothing else. Just drive ?? day in, day out. She has seen the workshop four times, but only because there is an inspection every 8,000 kilometers. Actually, a manageable job with such a simple, air-cooled unit with hydraulic valve lifters. Nevertheless, a Road King inspection costs on average between 280 and 300 euros. You could save 20 euros with some checks, since according to the invoice the brake fluid was changed every time. A certainly well-intentioned, but exaggeratedly caring measure, which is only justified if a motorcycle is only moved a few thousand kilometers a year and the brake fluid should therefore be changed for reasons of aging.



Away with the disc! Most prefer to forego the Roadking’s standard windscreen.

Nobody in the editorial team had believed that the Road King would run smoothly since the endurance test began in November 2006. The way the rubber-mounted Twin Cam 96 motor shakes back and forth in the tubular steel frame, causes the fork and handlebars to vibrate tremendously when the vehicle is stationary so that nothing can be seen in the rear-view mirrors, it would have long since had screws and small parts like an angry child have to throw away. But not even a filament in the headlights, a turn signal or a taillight lamp fell victim to the vibrations. Nevertheless, it is advisable to bunker at least one rear / brake light lamp in hand luggage as a precaution. Because the part, designed as a two-filament lamp, cannot be bought at any petrol station on this continent because of its independent base. Only from an authorized Harley dealer. And as a rule, he doesn‘t keep his shop open continuously on weekends.

It is long history that Harleys are often left on the roadside, dripping with oil and with electrical problems. Ever since the Evo and Twin-Cam engine generation, Milwaukee has been continuously working on quality, using only high-quality, waterproof plug connections, and the seals also keep the lubricant where it belongs ?? in engine and transmission. Alone the youngest Harley-Twin, with 1584 cubic centimeters and the largest capacity, which fuels the endurance test Road-King, has more than 700 new or modified components compared to its predecessor, the Twin Cam 88. The entire crank drive including connecting rods, crankcase and primary drive housing has been redesigned, the bearings are of higher quality and larger. Lighter pistons and shorter piston pins help to reduce the oscillating masses, and the now multi-part camshafts run in more durable plain bearings instead of roller bearings. In addition, a new, more powerful oil pump supplies all lubrication points faster and more reliably thanks to a delivery rate that has been increased by up to 23 percent.

Great, but one thing is annoying: the starter. Instead of using an intermediate shaft as before, it is now inside directly with the primary housing, which looks as big as a concert guitar in terms of volume, screwed and, actuated by a magnetic switch, engages extremely loudly into the teeth. Every time you press the electric starter, an ugly metallic blow penetrates the air before the big twin begins to bubble through the active exhaust system from its two rear silencers. Driving to work and cruising on Sundays alone cannot add up to almost 33,000 kilometers in 16 months. The Road King has traveled far and often. Editor Rolf Henniges didn’t want to give them up after a vacation trip through the Alps. He feared that others might find that the Road King is ideal for relaxed travel. And then the 50,000 kilometers would have been rewound much too quickly and the Harley would have been removed from the long-term test fleet. “Silky smooth throttle response, (almost) no load change reactions, smooth engine running,” he notes in the logbook. »This is how you forget space and time. And ages with dignity, ”he continues.

Hot oven


Autumn trip: With many other motorcycles and a scooter, the Road King beat through wind and weather.

However, Rolf has one point of criticism. He is not one of the greatest contemporaries, and turning with short arms and wide handlebars is a catastrophe. Daniel Lengwenus, tour guide for the MOTORRAD action team, who drives the Road King through the Vosges, has a similar experience. Handlebars, brakes, gears? after all aggregates it has to stretch with its 1.70 meters. He also notices that on hot summer days the heat rising from the engine can become unbearable when stationary. Like many of its kind, the long-term test Road King is allowed to attend the big Harley party on Lake Faak. MOTORRAD employee Jorg Hofle juggles it to Austria, but first removed the high pane in a few simple steps. The part may offer decent weather protection, but the turbulence it creates in the helmet area can be quite annoying. And up to a speed of 130 you can do without it. Incidentally, not only Jorg thinks that. Since most would rather do without the wind protection than accept the turbulence, the part often remains in Stuttgart when the Harley goes on tour.

And because it is on the move so much, it will soon be equipped to make it even more suitable for touring? read in the box on pages 52 and 53. Because little fits into the narrow, standard suitcase with its fiddly locks and lids. Although they can be removed, this is associated with enormous effort if the suitcases are used without inner pockets. Then some of the contents have to be removed in order to access the screw caps. It goes without saying that the Road King often also takes the motorway when traveling. No terrain on which she feels particularly comfortable. The same applies to the drivers there. “I feel like I’m on an ocean liner in stormy seas,” writes Jorg. When changing lanes over the center line and with ruts, the Harley gets into motion. MOTORRAD employee Uli Baumann also commented on the unstable straight-line stability: “Longer stages at 160 km / h are easy, but they commute happily, if harmlessly.”


The Road King knows no boundaries, even in wintry conditions.

At this pace, the Road King is definitely not a food lover. The injection system approves up to eight liters of super per hundred kilometers. Even at a leisurely country road pace it is still five to six liters. Oil consumption between the inspection intervals, on the other hand, cannot be measured, and tire wear is also very low. On average, a Dunlop D 402 lasts around 10,000 kilometers on the rear wheel, while the front counterpart achieves twice the mileage. Other tires such as the Michelin Commander and the Avon Venom-X have not yet been tried out due to the lack of delivery capacity. It is Friday, February 29, 2008. The Road King is on its way back from Dortmund to Stuttgart. On the A5, near Heidelberg, a slight chirping mixes with the cozy bubbling of the Big Twin. Sounds like a defective manifold gasket. This stretch of track doesn’t seem to mean well with the Harley. She has to go to the due inspection on Monday anyway. There they will diagnose a cracked manifold. The first damage so far. It can’t just be a matter of luck.

Accessories put to the test

Harley’s accessories catalog is as thick as a telephone book: a total of 868 pages. Benches, handlebars, suitcases, chrome-plated screws, lids and tons of ornaments can be found in it. MOTORRAD has picked out what is important for touring for the Road King ?? and tried it out.


Flat, wide and protruding, the Road King’s top case has a capacity of 46 liters.

Heated grips
Year-round and touring riders should treat themselves to heated grips. The Harley heater can be adjusted to six finely graduated settings on the left end of the handlebar and reliably keeps your hands warm even in extremely low temperatures. The attachment is not that easy and should therefore be carried out in a specialist workshop. In addition to the price of the heated grips of around 360 euros, the costs for two working hours are added.

Road King model:
The relocated, higher Road King handlebar conveys a completely different, almost upright posture. Due to the smaller width, the Road King reacts less susceptible to external influences at higher speeds, but requires significantly more force when turning. With the necessary switch cable extension kit, the handlebar costs a good 360 euros.

Model Fat:
If you have to stretch too much for the controls on the original handlebar, the fat handlebar is a good alternative. With the same width and height as the original, it extends further towards the driver. Throttle and clutch cables made of steel mesh (Diamondback) improve the overall appearance, but make the handlebar conversion more expensive (280 euros) by a further 330 euros.

Beach Bar model:
The expansive beach bar handlebars convey a particularly casual Harley feeling. Disadvantage: The straight-line stability suffers noticeably from the wide handlebars, the driver has to stretch his arms quite a bit when turning and maneuvering. The switch cable extension kit and a brake line must also be ordered for the beach bar handlebar. Price: around 570 euros.

Luggage rail:
The chrome-plated nostalgia bars on the case lids not only look beautiful, they are also functional. They are great for lashing bulky things like sleeping mats or tents that simply don’t fit into the standard, all-too-narrow suitcases, thanks to the double rails and bars. In addition, the brackets protect the paint surface if you want to stretch something across the bench. However, it is not cheap to buy. The pair costs around 210 euros.

Sissy bar with removable luggage rack:
Harley’s luggage rack system is really clever. With a special fastening kit that always remains on the motorcycle, the luggage rack can be removed in a few simple steps by releasing a lock when it is not in use or needs to be replaced with a topcase. Kit and carrier cost around 365 euros. Those who like to be out and about in pairs should treat their front passenger to a sissy bar so that they can better support themselves on the slightly sloping bench. Removable brackets including upholstery (must be ordered separately) cost around 364 euros.

The flat, but broad, side-opening topcase could easily accommodate a briefcase and at least has a capacity of 46 liters. The disadvantage: Due to the low height, no full-face helmet fits into it. Harley also offers a correspondingly higher model. With the associated carrier, the topcase can also be dismantled in seconds and can be locked for a surcharge. When loaded, it definitely affects the straight-line stability. Total costs with backrest and carrier: a hefty 1250 euros.

Defects in the test


The Harley-Davidson catalog has 868 pages of accessories.

The Road King first had to rewind a good 32,000 kilometers before a defect appeared for the first time. At first everything sounded like a damaged manifold gasket, but during dismantling in the workshop a cracked exhaust manifold pipe came to light. Welding was no longer an option given the extent of the damage. A replacement is needed. He is currently still on the way by ship to Harley’s European warehouse, which is why the Road King has to stay in the workshop for a few days. The fuel gauge, behind the glass of which condensation water occasionally forms and blocks the view of the fill level, is actually just annoying. In any case, Harley does not see this as a guarantee. The only thing left to criticize is the very special taillight lamp, which has never broken, although the Road King shakes quite a bit. Because of its special base, it is not available at any petrol station, but only from Harley dealers.

Driver opinions

Thomas Schmieder, Test editor
“When you’re in the saddle, you don’t care about anything”
Road King, King of the Road? Oh well. Tab brakes, moderate draft, swing-friendly chassis. Perfect is different. From the pure facts, the fat Ami-V2 is not the best. But what Harley-Davidson understands so inimitably: When you’re in the saddle, you don’t care. You enjoy the feeling of sovereignty, you don’t let anything or anyone disturb you. Nice to live, nice to drive and nice to look at.

Rainer Froberg, Fleet manager
“The Road King, my little daughter and I”
In the first corner you already notice that this motorcycle doesn’t want anything from you, doesn’t demand too much, doesn’t stress, doesn’t bitch and certainly doesn’t deceive you at all. Snap after work? I often see my little daughter, and we just drive off together. Quite cozy and relaxed, without any hassle. Just cruise. The Road King masters this perfectly, and it is a pleasure to end the day with her.

Rolf Henniges, Test editor
“I could travel the world with the Harley”
Before, I couldn’t imagine anything other than an enduro for the world tour. Today the Road King would even be an option. And not just because I’ve gotten older and maybe more comfortable. But also because the Harley engine is reliable and the chassis is sufficiently stable. Traveling with the Road King is vacation from the first meter. It also gives you that wonderful feeling that being on the move is more important than arriving.

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