2021 Harley-Davidson Road King road test review: Larger than life cruiser
I don't recall the last time I rode a Harley, maybe it was sometime back in 2018 when the company launched the new-gen Fat Bob. But I do sure remember the thrill of riding a hot seated Harley and the charm that surrounds these bikes. Enter 2022, the brand had a roller coaster ride in India, perhaps worldwide too. I thought 2018 would be the last time I would get to ride a Harley for obvious reasons but thankfully the company managed to ink an agreement with India's largest two-wheeler maker (Hero MotoCorp) which now handles the sales and service network for Harley in India.
Evolving biking trends, newer segments, and the shrinking old-school cruiser segment posed a challenge for the legendary American muscle bikemaker, but Harley isn't just waiting to let the chips fall wherever they may (not a Fight Club reference). Instead, the company has managed to twist the fortune around with the new strategy that majorly goes back to the roots with a focus on premium motorcycling and partially on electric vehicles too with the announcement of LiveWire as a separate entity. Speaking of premium motorcycling, only recently I got a chance to swing my leg around the 2021 Harley-Davidson Road King which is one of the top-placed bikes in the company's lineup. Having stayed away from a Harley for quite some time, recollections hit me up, and there I was, grinning for the rest of the ride.
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Lockable panniers, 362+kg weight, cruise control, huge windscreen, sofa seats, and a presence so majestic that words can't do justice. And that is topped with its simply unmatched quality and fit/finish that sets it apart from everything else it shares the space with. It is simply a larger-than-life phenomenon on the roads.
The auxiliary type lamps that flank the main headlight give it a very retro and tad artistic appeal. And the way the directional indicators swing below these lamps makes things more interesting. If that's not it, the fat fully chrome-dipped fork up front along with the tastefully put-together Milwaukee-Eight 107 powerplant adorning more chrome is a beauty to behold.
“All the right chrome at all the right places!"
The meter console comes placed on the fuel tank which again gets a fat chrome strip running through the middle of the tank and gelling in with the rider seat. The console is basic though with only adequate information. But worry not, it does get a fuel level indicator embedded inside the lid on the left side. Like most premium cruisers, the fuel lid can't be locked so make sure not to park the bike around carelessly. Although, what is really interesting is that it is a keyless bike (not completely though), as it comes with car-like keyfob that automatically unlocks the bike as soon as the key is brought near. However, the handlebar needs to be manually locked so you'll need to carry the keyfob as well as a separate handlebar lock key, and that's quite a task.
Switch gear quality is praiseworthy and you really need to see it to believe that no stones are left unturned to give the bike what designers and engineers can do best. The tactile feel from the buttons and the handlebar grip make it feel truly premium, and there is a fuel tank-mounted switch to turn the bike on/off, and all of this indicates where the money has gone in. However, what needs to be focused on with future updates is the meter console that can use better and more technical revisions for added information.
But how does it ride?
I highly recommend you go to the gym and train legs before giving the Road King a chance, because no matter what some might say, 362+ kg weight on a motorcycle is no joke. And it requires a special kind of attention to keep it from kissing the ground, especially on the kind of roads and slow-speed traffic that Indian metro cities have.
“Signature Harley soundtrack, music to ears!"
Tap the starter on and the Road King comes to life with the signature Harley soundtrack. And this reminds me of all the Hollywood movies that have featured Harleys, especially Wild Hogs and The Terminator. Though I might sound like a fanboy at the moment, bring me one person who doesn't appreciate the symphony of this godly twin, and ill finally put my Glock to good use (smirk smiley).
Engineered to munch miles, the Milwaukee Eight 107 (1745cc) twin engine manages to kick out over 150 Nm of torque which peaks at 3,250. This is indeed a perfect pair for a heavy bike like Road King. The delivery, despite the ground shaking 150 Nm, is smooth and linear and isn't intimidating. The 6-speed transmission is proper old-school and clunky, shifting smoothly without a miss. This engine has been powering Harley's key flagship models for a long time now and Harley knows that it is not just about how much you make, but how it is delivered on the road. The torque is beautifully spread throughout the rev range and the transmission is also flexible enough to allow the bike to cruise at low city speeds on high gears.
Twist the throttle and you'll experience the velvety, smooth delivery from this behemoth powertrain is truly unbelievable. The powertrain feels relaxed, even when pushed hard, and cruising at triple-digit speeds all day long feels like a cakewalk. There are no vibrations from panels, foot pegs, or seats, whatsoever, and the ride remains stable and reassuring majorly because of the overall weight.
The rider sits fairly up straight with a good reach to the handlebar. Also, the sofa-like seat supports the back and I am sure the comfort would remain unchanged even on long highway trips. Also, the large footboards deserve a special mention for keeping the foot at rest throughout the journey, however, for the rider, they may pose a challenge in tip-toe traffic conditions. Also, the pillion will have to stick closer to the rider throughout the trip as the rear seat feels slippery and often pushes the pillion back and forth with its acceleration.
The Final Word:
The Harley Road King is a pinnacle of luxury motorcycling, meant for long, straight and uninterrupted highway tours. It is not a Harley that you can directly jump on to as your first bike, as its weight, power, and dominance isn't something that can easily be handled by lightfooted riders. But all of this comes at a steep price, as at ₹27 lakh (ex-showroom), Road King is one of the most premium models in the lineup that is primarily aimed at seasoned, top crop Harley customers.
- Supreme Comfort
- Plush Ride Quality
- Top Shelf Built Quality
- Old Meter Cluster
- Slippery Pillion Seat
- Foot Boards Make Low Speed Riding Tricky