BY Koz Mraz
For me, the Harley-Davidson FLHR aka, Road King, is an iconic motorcycle with an illustrious history. Its roots go all the way back to the first FL model. The FL was introduced to the Harley-Davidson model line in 1941. It used a 74 cu in (1,210 cc) version of the “Knucklehead” OHV engine. The modern Road King is a highly refined touring machine which evolved from the big frame bikes that hogged the American roads in the 1940s. The moniker “Road King” replaced the Electra Glide Sport in 1994 and featured a new 5-gallon tank, an electronic speedo and odometer mounted on top and a detachable passenger seat for solo riding. With a genealogy dating back to the Hydra-Glide, Duo-Glide and Electra-Glide, the Road King has been a staple the of Harley-Davidson’s storied thoroughbred line for decades. When all is said and done the Road King epitomizes all things American motorcycling. It, above all, has endured the test of time. A living legend that withstands all fads and formulations. Iconic styling that ALL motorcycles manufacturers, here and abroad, constantly emulate. I have always had an affinity for the Road King and it graces the cover of my newest motorcycle Travel Book “Motorcycle Mysteries” Available on Amazon. Simply stated, the Harley-Davidson Road King is King of the Road.
This 2016 Road King Standard is a beautiful Deep Jade Pearl/ Vivid Black. A unique and stunning color, unless you’re superstitious. The myth of the green motorcycle stems from the drab green WWII military motorcycles that were used across the globe for military couriers. The color green was “unlucky” because couriers were regularly killed on these drab U.S. Army motorcycles. Another WWII myth is that the invention of the Ape Hanger was perhaps a form of self-protection. Army motorcyclists would use “hi-rise” handlebars to protect themselves from the wires which were strung across the road by the enemy. I’m not superstitious so I’ll leave my riding bell and rabbit’s foot at home.
Technically, The Road King standard is the “Baby” of the Touring line-up with just a detachable windscreen and practical lockable hard bags, with a very convenient inside latch that allows you to quickly access them while seated. The Harley Touring range received a major update a few years back when it was given a tauter frame that improved handling immensely. in 2013, Project RUSHMORE added the control you feel in the saddle: Reflex™ Linked Brakes with ABS, Day maker™ LED headlamps and fog lamps, brighter turn signals, brighter brake lights, and a steering head with stiffer front forks.
Project Rushmore gave the bike a revolutionary make-over driven mainly by rider input. The result is a bike that handles even better, with stronger linked brakes, improved ergonomics and more power. That extra power comes from a new air-cooled High Output Twin Cam the Twin Cam 103 High Output 1690cc engine and purrs along with a beautiful melody. I’ve always admired the style and handling of this large 814 pounder, but when road testing a new motorcycle I first learn the braking characteristics (the Road king comes standard with ABS).
The Road King’s linked ABS braking system affords tremendous stopping power. When applying the rear brake pedal, the linked system utilizes 100% of the rear disc brake and two of the 6 pistons on the front caliper. Essentially the 2 middle pistons of the front 6-piston design are linked to the rear brake system (30-40% of the overall front capacity). The remaining four other front pistons are solely for the front the brake system.
Lean angles ultimately determine cornering capability of the motorcycle. Most modern cruisers with floorboards that have scrapers which touch down and then the floorboard swings back giving the rider even more lean angle safely. I wasn’t able to immediately scrape either side of the floorboards, so off to the mountain twisties I went.
This ride took me to San Diego, to Mt. Palomar, a short jaunt down Hwy 15 to the 76. This route takes you past Pala Casino and the Pala Raceway. You can get your dirt bike fix here with multiple racetracks catering to all levels of riders vehicles including mini bikes and motocross.
Just a few miles past the Raceway connects to S6 (S Grade Road). This is where I fully expect the grinding to begin. This wonderful winding mountain road is full of 15 mph twists and turns. The weather perfect, the motorcycle sublime as the chase ensued. I still wasn’t grinding down the floorboards! I was a bit befuddled.
If you’ve not visited Mother’s Kitchen It’s a must do and a very popular place for motorcyclists on weekends. Mid-week is always my preference to avoid cagers and canyon carvers on sport bikes. Mother’s Kitchen is a vegetarian restaurant offering a wide selection of goodies that will please any pallet. I highly suggest their homemade vegetable lasagna and their baked goods are awesome. The water right out of the tap is fresh Palomar Mountain granite spring water, better known as Arrowhead Spring Water. I’ll bet you lunch ay Mother’s that the second smallest Post Office in America is right next door. I know, because I’ve visited America’s smallest post office in Wheeler Springs, California. A narrow shed with the illustrious title – “USA’s Smallest Post Office” – bestowed by Ripley’s Believe It Or Not.
It was here also here I stopped by the home of Glen Heggstad. You may be familiar with his books “Two wheels to Terror” and “One More Day Everywhere”. He lives completely off the grid with a spectacular view. Check out his amazing video http://www.strikingviking.net/video/ The ride down E7 (E Grade Road) offers great views of the Palomar Mountain range and Henshaw Lake.
The RK stock seat is very comfortable and the handlebars were perfectly positioned for my riding style. With air-adjustable suspension that comes standard, you can dial in your ride to accommodate heavier or lighter payloads. The lighter the load, the softer you can go by decreasing the air pressure a bit, or increase the air pressure for a more firm ride. A convenient air valve is located between the saddlebag and rear fender for quick adjusting. I was riding solo and my Road King had a taught feel. The 180mm Dunlop Multi-Tread back tire uses harder compounds at the center and softer on the sides for a tire that still knows how to knuckle down on corners. Perfect for making this bike agile on every curvy stretch of road.
So what about this lean angle business? It turns out the 2016 Road King has the largest lean angle of ANY Harley-Davidson in the current line-up. Ok, it may only be 32.1 degrees but somehow it made a world of difference in my riding style. I rode more energetically in and out of the curves. The designers have accounted for every millimeter.
Ultimately the 2016 Harley-Davidson Road King Standard has inspired a whole new level of reverence. Perhaps it’s a magical combination of new frame design, adjustable air suspension and multi-tread back tire, but I can’t wait to get this King back into the mountains and ride with confidence.