2017 Road King Test

Heavy Duty Magazine Article:

Brum said, “See if you can get an orange one”.

I had rung to tell him that the mail was in, the local Milwaukee 8 Press Fleet was available for Heavy Duty Magazine testing and that I had requested a loan of a new Road King.

“‘Laguna Orange’ it’s called, and it will look great on the magazine pages."

“It looks great in my garage.” I replied.

“Oh, you’ll really like it Dave” was the other gem Brum offered. Which, after spending two weeks in the saddle, leads me to think ‘he’s good at subtle understatement’, is our Editor.

“Really like it!” My first impression was everything you’ve read about the 8-valve and may have dismissed as ‘marketing hype’ is dead-set true. It’s a beauty. Every time I threw a leg over during the next two weeks it further confirmed it.

So, let’s ride.

My first rides were around Brisbane City and the Eastern suburbs. Peak Hour traffic, an evening cruise and photo session around the Bay were followed by a blat down the Freeway - taking the longest way home of course – which I did nearly every time I started the engine.

After day one I was already regretting how many times I’ve said, “Best big block I’ve tested so far” so often lately. But each of the subsequent 110S engines, the Low Rider S and now the Milwaukee 8 have impressed me more than the one I had ridden before it.

As I racked up the K’s and the motor ran in I began to enjoy it even more.

Here's some numbers to conjure with.

According to the spec sheet the Milwaukee 8 produces 150Nm of torque at 3,250rpm. Screamin' Eagle lists the output from a 103 cube fitted with a Stage Four kit at 142.4Nm

The Stage four has more ponies, but the big torque translates to fantastic ride-ability – right out of the box. It's refined, has serious poke and rolling it on is a smooth, responsive delight. The way it taps out and keeps on revving is hugely tempting. Fortunately the rest of the running gear has been upgraded to match.

Big claim - big country.

The first touring-like ride I had was to the west. Me, The King, Jason on his Glide and a few more pals met up at Yatala, between Brisbane and the Gold Coast. We then headed west to Boonah and out through Cunningham’s Gap to the Maryvale Pub for refreshments.

The ride included a Freeway section from Home to Yatala, long straights and main country roads heading west through the Scenic Rim and some back-country roads when I peeled off the group after lunch.

My main take-away from the day was to have this hunk of near-perfect lounge chair comfort perform and handle exactly as directed, effortlessly, and with such responsiveness and smoothness was remarkable.

The new Showa forks and Emulsion Shock rear suspension deliver a firmer ride than previous models, yet somehow seem plusher when crossing speed bumps or other large obstacles. On the road it translates to very direct handling and the Road King’s ergos worked as a perfect compliment to it.

I really enjoyed the way 150Nm of torque translates to top gear overtaking power and roll-on. The roads were busy heading home, but the Road King simply reeled off long lines of slower moving tin-tops with such ease it was virtual distain. Man, it was good. It chugged up the inclines and sweepers of the Cunningham’s Gap with equal ease and the sweet handling made it an uphill pleasure rip.

Working it.

A working week of errand running, night-time city cruising and stealing a quick ride in with every chance I could followed. Around town the bike’s wide crash bars and panniers mean that lane splitting is doable, but within limits.

I crisscrossed the city at peak several times in moderate Brisbane spring temperatures and the engine didn’t complain once. Didn’t miss a beat, hesitate or fart at all. The fuelling was faultless, as was the new Hydraulic clutch and gearbox, even in the endless stop start of the city. The real stand-out was still the engine. Even at idle it remains relatively smooth (compared to a 103 anyways) and that smoothness runs right through the rideable rev range.

The Big Plan.

Towards the end of week two the motor had freed up nicely, so it was time to point it south. The plan was a route to take in all of the versatility that the Road King offers: a blast down the M1 from East Brisbane to Burleigh Heads, a boulevard cruise up the glitter strip to Broadbeach, a sports riding attack up the hill to Springbrook, the ‘fast-ish’ sweepers around the Hinze Dam back to Nerang and another the Freeway blast back to base.
It turned out to be about 250km of one of the best days I’ve had on a motorcycle. The weather helped with near perfect conditions, but again this was all about the King and its M8.

On the freeway the engine is as close to vibration free as any large capacity twin. The cruise control is flawless and the comfort levels are superb. The footboards are sprung, the saddle is deep and plush, the windscreen works well – even for a tall rider. If there is a bike that makes the M1 Freeway enjoyable – this be it.

Then, cruising the Gold Coast strip, the tractability of the engine and overall easy going nature of the bike added even more to the ‘Look at me! – I’m bright orange with lustrous chrome and awesome ‘stylez’’ appeal.

Heading up the hill from the coast saw the first real sports-riding I’d encountered. In anticipation I stopped and added a few turns to the rear pre-load at the base of Springbrook hill. Remove left pannier, jack up pre-load via knob under pannier, re-fit pannier – it only takes a couple of minutes.

What a joy. The new suspension is well matched to the engine, as are the linked Brembo brakes. The only limit to the hooking-in-ability remains the lean angles of a bike with footboards – because the handling ability goes well beyond them. It’s a very well sorted package.

Then on the fast sweepers back to Nerang past the Dam, the rock-solid stability of the machine was also noteworthy. 30, 40, 50 and 60kph multi-apex bends were summarily dealt with – at significantly higher than the advisory signs recommend.

All that was left was to try and supress the cheese-eating grin that had made its way across my dial all the ways back up the Freeway to base.

Essence of King

I’ve been a fan of Road Kings since I first rode one more than 15 years ago. By today’s standards the handling back then was ponderous, the brakes wooden and the engine a little agricultural, but I always related to its styling essence. From Jerry Lee Lewis’ FLH to Elvis’ Duo Glide and all those famous machines since.

With the 2017 Model Harley has taken the machine another giant stride forward, modern, efficient, polished - without compromising the style of the essence at all.

I guess you could say I REALLY liked it.

Walk around and extended on-board footage: