Published on February 11th, 2021 | by Boris0
2020 HARLEY-DAVIDSON ROAD-KING REVIEW – HONEST IRON
IMAGES BY NICK ‘FREEDOM LORD’ EDARDS
I know some of the Harley faithful looked askance at my recent review of the CVO Street Glide (you may read it HERE). After all, I dared to critique its shortcomings.
Of course, the context of those shortcomings was intrinsically attached to its price-tag, as I explained in the review, and I’m re-visiting it now, so you’ll have a context for this review.
And context is important. Certainly to me in my endless aspiration to reach the Top of the Game. So let’s move on in that spirit, shall we?
My time upon the gorgeously-coloured Road King was one of ancient delight. Anyone who has ever ridden a Shovelhead will know that pretty much every Harley that came after was better in all the ways that counted. So my delight at the Road King must be viewed in that context.
From its little ape-hangers, to its responsive 114-cube engine (a much better proposition than the rather doughy 117 fitted to the CVO), and its kicked-back riding position, the Road King spoke to me of my outlaw youth.
Like where the bastard Hell was it when I was hauling giggling strippers back to the clubhouse, gleaming with speed-sweat and bestial lust? I sure could have used the new Road King back then. There would have been far fewer disoriented dancing bitches wobbling around the back-streets of Tempe on their scuffed heels while I searched the gutters for my errant battery cover.
Those days are, of course, long gone for Harley-Davidson. I’m not sure they even have battery covers anymore. And its latest Road King offering is certainly a far better option at its mid 30K price than the CVO, which is almost double that.
For a start, the Road King handles better because it hasn’t got a 50kg stereo/fairing hanging off the front-end. And for a bike already somewhat compromised in the handling stakes, that’s no small thing. The brakes are the same as the CVO’s, but they’re hauling up a lighter bike (366kg versus 428kg). And it obviously steers with more accuracy as well.
It’s also got a normal flat air-intake, so your shin isn’t being constantly smashed by the bull-horn of the Screamin’ Eagle jobbie on the CVO.
The smart buyer after a decent bagger would be scoring a Road King and then spending the difference blinging it up as his beer-intake demanded, rather than what Milwaukee imagines he’d like.
I liked the arms-out riding possie the smaller apes offered. Made me feel righteously bad, and while they will never approach the true majesty of 24-inch apes sitting atop six-inch risers, they are very comfy for banging out the miles. Righteously, of course.
I’m not going to moan about the brakes and the suspension. Harley will either come to its senses about this eventually, or it won’t. It won’t really have much of an impact on its core market either way, most of whom don’t ride in a way that requires good suspension or brakes. And what is acceptable on a 35K Milwaukee marvel is not acceptable on a 60K variant, in my humble submission.
I very much liked the honest simplicity of the Road King. Once again, it sparked my very fond memories of the time before stereos, sat-nav, and TFT screens. Sparse, uncluttered switch blocks, the simple ignition on/off/lock dial on the tank, lots of glossy black to awesome up the front of the bike…there was nothing not to like about it for me.
I ground bits off it, sending showers of sparks in my wake. I didn’t ask it to do dumb shit in tight corners, and I knew what to expect when it encountered a bad road surface – basically brace your hams and get your spine off the seat a bit. It was familiar and comforting in that regard.
And so, so, so much better than it had been in the past. The fueling was nice, the gearbox relatively less clunk-filled (but it has been that for a while), and I could dig it in either black or the beaut blue-and-black paint in was lathered in.
I spent a whole month feeling very antagonistic and affronted by the CVO. I was entirely well-disposed to the Road King. Go figure, huh? I blame my expectations here. I knew what to expect from the Road King, and so I could not have been disappointed. I expected so much more from the CVO, and got so much less. You can see how this works, huh?
I think this is because…well, may the Road Gods rot my bowels for making it about money, but it is in the end. The buyer of a Road King is not being asked to spend an extra 20K on factory bling and a bigger motor that only offers a slightly higher top-end, while being less lively around town. I’d pipe the Road King with something nasty and loud, chuck come progressive springs in the front end, moan endlessly about the for-me inadequate rear suspension, and the ride the bloody thing all over God’s creation.
I might even go to some nudie bars and see if the new girls can still be enticed to go for a ride. It’s kinda dark in those places, but I still know people, and it’d be kind cool to belt the Road King through the now-empty Cross and listen to its rumble bounce off the empty buildings and shuttered shops.
And dream of things that once were and will never be again. Meh, at least the Harleys are better.