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2012 Harley-Davidson Road King First Ride

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

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2012 Harley-Davidson Road King First Ride Video
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We test ride Harley-Davidson's updated Road King in the 2012 Harley-Davidson Road King First Ride Video.
Harley-Davidson’s Road King has been a staple model in the American Motor Company’s line-up for quite some time. And for ’12 it receives a few upgrades that make it more pleasing to ride than ever before.

Over the years the Road King has seen its engine size grow every few years and now it comes standard with its biggest offering yet: the Twin Cam 103 V-Twin engine. The air/oil-cooled mill pumps out 1690cc’s of power and is mated to a six-speed transmission and a belt final drive. In stock configuration the engine belts out just over 86 lb-ft of peak torque at 3400 revs. This makes it easier to motor up steep grades without having to downshift and generally allows the rider more immediate passing power on the highway. The engine emits its hypnotic rumble from dual chromed pipes. In fact, it sounds so perfect stock I wonder why anyone would bother to fit an aftermarket set-up. Similar to other late model Harley’s we’ve ridden lately, the engine’s fuel-injection settings and throttle response are superb.

With a fully fueled curb weight of 810 pounds there’s no denying that it’s a heavy motorcycle. But since Harley re-engineered its touring chassis in ’09 the Road King is surprisingly maneuverable. The handlebar is placed at a reasonable level with a relaxed sweep and doesn’t demand any unusual contortions. It also offers a fair amount of leverage which helps during low-speed parking lot maneuvers. Suspension components deliver a plush ride even over rough pavement yet in the corners the Road King offers acceptable level of damping for those who enjoy spirited cornering maneuvers. Ground clearance is also higher than we expected too.

(Above) The Harley-Davidson Road King gets the Twin Cam 103 cubic-inch V-Twin engine for ’12. (Below) The Road King handles well for a 800-plus pound motorcycle.

One of the alluring features of the Road King is its classic styling and functionality that works well whether you’re soaking up the scene in the city or cruising down the open road. We’re especially fond of the overall aesthetics of the bike highlighted by the large center headlight flanked by two auxiliary lights that can be activated via a flip switch just behind the main headlight. Another switch on the left side is available for use with aftermarket accessories. A large analog gauge in the center of the fuel tank displays speed and odometer information and a fuel gauge is positioned toward the front left-hand side of the tank. The windshield can also be removed if so desired. Its six-gallon fuel tank gave us a range of upwards of 175 miles at cruising speed of between 75-80 mph.

In standard trim the Road King rolls on black 28-spoke aluminum rims (17-inch front, 16-inch rear) shod with Dunlop’s Harley-Davidson tires. The rear tire features dual compound zones which allow added grip at lean without compromising durability during extended straight line riding. Laced tubeless chrome wire wheels are available as an option. The Brembo-made braking components are reasonably strong and capable of getting it slowed down from speed. ABS is also available as an option but it isn't calibrated as well as it could be with it activating well before the point of lock up.

The standard Road King comes outfitted with fixed and lockable hard saddlebags (soft luggage is standard on the Road King Classic). A claimed 1.85 cubic feet of capacity is available which equates to an extra pair of shoes, a change of clothes with enough space remaining for a few bottles of water. Sadly, the Road King doesn’t offer any kind of sound system, however, cruise control is available as an option and it performs flawlessly.

The Road King continues to be a classic motorcycle in the Harley-Davidson arsenal. It is just as adept at logging on miles across the interstate as it is running between stoplights in the city and could be one of the more well-rounded machines in H-D’s line up. It is available in three solid colors and two two-tone color ways with a price starting at $17,499.
2012 Harley-Davidson Road King Photos
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Kropotkin   July 21, 2012 03:51 PM
Harleys, especially the new ones, are greater motorcycles than some of the nay-sayers realize. They haven't ridden Harleys. I'd been buying and riding metrics for decades. I got a Harley just recently. I couldn't believe it. My eyes were opened. They are great motorcycles, for all the reasons that you cannot possibly understand when your yardstick is racing the quater mile at 150 mph.

You try a new Road King or Road GLide or Street Glide or Ultra. Don't change the pipes. You'll enjoy motorcycling 100% more than you did before.
steph   October 30, 2011 12:59 PM
Wow I just rode a friends Road King and loved it! I am not a fan of fairings(but recognize the need) that is why i love the looks of this bike. What i don't understand is all the comparisons between sport bikes and cruisers metrics to harleys. I would not compare a caddy to a vette or a mustang to a porche. I have a honda, yamaha and a harley does not matter what type of bike they each have their place. i am going to buy a Road King cause that is the bike that will take me to places in the comfort and style I want.
Piglet2010   August 31, 2011 06:52 PM
Glen - In high school and college I used to ride a 1979 Honda CB 400T (parallel twin, 3-valve per cylinder - not to be confused with the earlier inline 4-cylinder CB 400) that was about 390 pounds wet, and I weighed less than 150 pounds in full riding gear at the time. Never had any problems with being blown around or comfort during 3-hour freeway stints (better than 60 mpg) between fuel stops. Never had any problems keeping up with traffic (maximum of 27 HP and 21 lb-ft at the crank).
Piglet2010   August 31, 2011 06:39 PM
Glen - I presume 1%ers paid cash (i.e Federal Reserve Notes) and *not* cashier checks or credit?
Glen   August 31, 2011 10:21 AM
Something I forgot to add to "highway comfort" is weight. 700-800lbs is a must. Under this and you will be blown around like a feather. Over this and I'd stay on the highway because the parking lot at your favorite restaurant would be a b**ch. As for the guy who thinks a 250 can handle the highway well,... For thirty years I made bikes for the one percenters. Never ask them where the money came from. Today I do the same for the 99 percenters. Money spends the same but the B.S. worse.
Piglet2010   August 28, 2011 05:57 PM
mostertorque - Horsepower is as real as any other derived unit (but is being superseded by the kW in common use in countries that have adopted SI, i.e. all but the US). The air-cooled H-D Twin-Cam™ engine does not have a higher redline, as that would require not only better "breathing" but other changes to achieve reasonable durability, which would cut into the profits made by selling Screaming Eagle™ upgrades. The Screaming Eagle™ program lets H-D sell drive-train parts twice instead of once, with a higher markup on the second go-around. The riding lawnmower comparison is objectionable. After all, Honda had garden tractors and riding lawnmowers with overhead cam, liquid cooled engines on the market more than 20 years ago - a level of technology that has only appeared under a H-D badge in the Porsche designed Revolution™ engine.
mostertorque   August 27, 2011 11:01 AM
At 86 lb ft peak torque at 3400 rpm. (torque x rpm ) / 5252 = horsepower At peak torque = 55.7 HP (rounding up) Assume it made the same torque at 5500 rpm (redline?) it would make 90 HP. But it doesn't matter, since horsepower is an imaginary measurement anyway. It just doesn't sound very impressive when an engine of half the size has double the "performance". If the HD redline was higher, it would make more horsepower, like the V-Rod's 9k rpm limit. Everyone knows (but might all not want to admit) HD makes street-able riding lawnmowers. If slow and low is your tempo, then this is the ride for you.
Piglet2010   August 26, 2011 07:28 PM
Glen - Your rule of thumb fails at low displacements - a (nominal) 250 cc Honda Rebel, Kawasaki Eliminator, Suzuki Marauder or Yamaha Virago all put out about 20-HP maximum at the rear wheel and top out at 70-75 mph, yet will do fine at 50-55 mph on faster urban streets or rural 2-lane roads.
Piglet2010   August 26, 2011 07:21 PM
Why do so many confuse outdated engineering (e.g. H-D) with "character" and disparage proper engineering (e.g. Honda)? Something built in 2011 should not vibrate excessively, have handling quirks, less than excellent brakes, cook the rider with engine heat, etc. I suppose if you are immature you can ride a H-D in your pirate costume and trash talk everything else (with nothing to back it up), while the adults ride well designed bikes that put function over form.
tohara-12   August 25, 2011 04:47 AM
Good thing this is America (for now) and we can still choose. I can tell everyone of of you sportbike owners by your comments. I can set the record a little straighter since I have an '09 FLHR (Road King). The facts: 1. No one buys a HD for gas mileage. If you want gas mileage live life on the edge and get that Kymco scooter - you wild and crazy guy. 2. Nearly every HD buyer likes that classic look. 3. The FLHR will get about 43-47 MPG beating around town after the break-in. The range is about 240-250 miles before you hit the 1 gal. reserve. 4. The frame redesign in 2009 makes the 810 lbs. handle well. 5. The FLHR will cruise comfortably from NJ to FL at 75 miles per hour, get 45-47 MPG depending on fuel quality, weather and other factors, and with those handy saddle bags you don't need a chase van to haul your crap! 6. If you need to cruise at 80+ MPH go to the track. You are a danger to every other user of the public roads and have no business riding on a public road. 7. If you need entertainment try your couch. Its a big world out there and you can go longer than 30 minutes without Katy Perry (though she would probably be riding on an FL series bike). 8. Stunner! No oil leaks! Two HDs in a row without losing a drop of oil to the garage floor! "'Spalin' it Ricky?" roy005: Ever ridden a Sportster or V-Rod? The Sporty, while a lot of fun, will rattle your fillings. Its not a touring bike and not in the class of the FLHR. The Sporty has an entirely different purpose. The V-Rod seats its rider in a scissor position. Its make turns a challenge for the inexperienced rider. The V-Rod wants to run in a straight line. Its not a touring bike, its a dragster. Again, its built for an entirely different purpose. DutyOne: Huh? Did you inspect an FL series model on the showroom floor before you plunked down your $17k? Did you test ride one? Was this an impulse purchase? Its there for all to see! The Legit Gripe (In My not so Humble Opinion): The rider gets a knot at the base of the neck after about 200-250 miles of continuous riding. HD could cure this with a set of mini-apes on the bike from the factory. I'll choose another one of these HD Touring bikes. BTW, BMW K series tourers and the Honda Gold Wing owners (in this order) are the only other people I have ever heard comment that they are very happy with their choice in a bike. Something tells me I'll be riding this '09 FLHR for many years and drinking a beer from the remnants of the most of the other bikes mentioned.
Glen   August 24, 2011 05:13 PM
66hp/78lb-ft of Torque with a top speed of 105mph+? Highway comfort? Here is the "rule of thumb" for any cruiser made by anybody. Top speed divided by 2 equals best cruising speed. Horse power greater than traffic flows speed...80mph equals 80hp+. I'm sure with the power-up 103ci standard now the hp/torque is a little higher but not enough to say it rules the highway.
roy005   August 24, 2011 07:20 AM
Let me start by saying I have been riding newer generation Triumph's for many years. I really want to like H-D bikes and the Road King in particular seems appealing. However, despite the improved quality and many improvements over the years they just seem like antiquated vehicles. Their technology & design seems to have reached its limits. They look great but as a rider I can't see paying that much for this motorcycle and it's performance. The VROD and the Sportster XR1200 offer a newer approach and are probably their best performing bikes. Both seem to be treated as stepchildren by the Motor Company and their faithful.
DustyOne   August 20, 2011 01:25 PM
For 30 years I have ridden Japanese, British and German Motorcycles. I pruchased a new 2010 Road King last year. The Road King draws a lot of attention. It is a good looking bike. Most parts are made of metal. Riding on the highway is very comfortable. It has plenty of torque. Brakes are good for normal and mildly sprited riding. Women say the back seat is comfortable. The paint, fit and finish is as good or better than other brands. NOW, LET ME TELL YOU WHY I SOLD THE ROAD KING AFTER 10 MONTHS AND 5500 MILES. The HD comes with a cable operated clutch, Hydraulic clutch should be standard. Shifting the transmission is terrible. HD'S service manager told me to shift like I was driving a tractor. I could relate to that analogy. I finaly mastered shifting the HD. Nose dive on the HD is as bad as it gets. You learn to adjust. I normally set the suspension so the front and rear will compress equally. Not on a HD, the front suspension and the rear suspension will not work together, regardless of the settings. The dealer service was worse than any dealer I have bought from in the past. If you want a antique motorcycle that is manufactured new, HD has plenty of them.
dawgie   August 19, 2011 11:41 AM
Avid, I have an RK and have ridden many HD big twins around the country. "The story with that" is that at 75-80 mph, around 27-30 mpg is about what an RK gets on a flat road with no wind. This isn't why they're called "hogs," of course, but it could be. IMHO, most HD buyers and riders don't give a damn about gas mileage, except to justify their purchases to their wives by talking about how much better the Harley's gas mileage will be versus their SUV or pickup. If lots of HD buyers ever do really start caring about gas mileage, HD may come up with a water-cooled touring bike. You can bet they'll make it look as much as possible like the old air-cooled bikes, too! For my part, what I'd like to know is if HD has done anything new about the roasted rider issue, now that all the touring bikes have even greater displacement.
Lisahuang   August 17, 2011 11:13 PM
Fwiw, HD sells the Boom! windshield-mounted and a handlebar-mounted MP3 audio systems. Either can be fitted to the RK.
avidrider   August 17, 2011 12:32 PM
Do I understand you correctly that you only got 175 miles out of a 6 gallon tank? That's horrible fuel mileage. What's the story with that?