So after years of making fun of harleys for being stupid low tech tractors for fat men, I decided to see if I was right to be making fun of them for all these years and rented this bucket of chrome for a day.
It is a 2012 Road King, with a 103 cubic inch fuel injected v-twin, six speed transmission, ABS, cruise control. The classic Harley bagger, but with computers, and it is utterly hopeless.
You turn the keyless ignition system on, hear the fuel pump whirr into life, thumb the start button and the twin instantly thunders to live and settles into such a lumpy idle the whole bike pulses as if it was hooked up to Tesla's earthquake machine. You think I'm exaggerating, but I'm not. The bars move up and down about an inch as the twin shakes the whole thing like a paint mixer. It does settle down to a more acceptable degree with revs, but the vibes never fully go away.
I had planned out a 300 mile loop to put the road king through its paces starting and ending in Grand Junction, Colorado where I had picked it up at the local H-D shop. This
was my route.
I took off towards the Grand Mesa, climbing up to over 10,000 feet, riding up the twisting, winding roads, and found myself not falling in love with the road king. Every time I saw a rider on a sport touring bike or adventure bike I was hit with pangs of jealously for they had performance, and all I had was noise. Even this scenery didn't make the experience overwhelmingly pleasurable.
I pressed on until I saw another motorcyclist on a metric crusier of some kind stopped at a pull off and asked him to kindly take my photo as I wasn't exactly dressed like a normal Harley rider.
Anyways, as I continued, I found myself noticing a few shortcomings. Firstly, the power. You would think that 103 inches of v-twin muscle would be quite the thing, but really, it isn't. It doesn't help that the RK weights in at a portly 810 pounds but still, it should be quicker than it is. Harley claims it makes 100 torques, which it probably does, but the engine doesn't rev enough to make any meaningful horsepower. You really feel that throttle roll on push, but then as the revs climb the power falls off and you really aren't going very fast despite the tremendous noise emanating from the dual exhausts.
As I pressed on after lunch, the climate changed from alpine forests to dry desert canyons, and I still wasn't feeling any love for the road king. At one point I was ready to cut the loop off and just take that bucket back to the dealer but I figured it was about the same distance so I might as well take the scenic route, and treat it like a scouting trip for when I return with a real motorcycle.
By the end of the ride, I had about 5 miles of city traffic to get through to get back to the dealer and it was pretty miserable. Every time you came to a stop, the paint mixer started again and shook the whole thing like a massage bed at a cheap motel. I was dreading stopping at red lights and the thing was especially useless in the city. It was a decent backroad machine if you didn't want to go fast, at all, but in town it was too wide, too heavy and too slow.
Really, the only useful thing I learned was that my new Rev'it Sand Jacket works great, even with no liners from 85 degrees down to about 50 degrees.
Harleys may have appeal to a certain demographic, but me, I still don't get it, and I won't ever be buying one unless they build something that feels like it belongs in this millennium. The 2012 Road King is the best 1940s motorcycle, but compared to contemporary 2012 machinery, it is utterly hopeless.
And here are a few more pics I shot.