I’ve had many an argument with internet Real Bikers who insist on saying “Loud Pipes Save Lives”. But let’s look at this realistically… Do they? Let’s get something out of the way right from the start. These Loud Pipe Live Savers are usually the guys that are riding certain American made V-Twin bikes with pipes that are seemingly designed to amplify the noise the engine makes so that everyone within a three mile radius hears them start up their bike and rev it for a quarter tank’s worth of fuel. Continue reading Loud Pipes Save Lives?
When I was given the invitation to check out Harley Davidson’s new Milwaukee 8 engine, I was very excited. I had heard some very good things about it. I had my choice of Touring and Bagger bikes, and I wanted to try the Street Glide, but the problem with that was that I had never ridden a Street Glide so I wouldn’t have a yardstick to measure this new bike with. The last Bagger I had ridden was the Road King… So sacrificing new experience for familiar, I had elected to take the most objective path as possible. And I’m glad I did. The differences became apparent as soon as I let out the Clutch.
It would be easy to just go over all the technical details, in detail. But engine specs don’t really tell you what the bike is like. However there is some important details I’m going to give you that backs up what I am about to throw down here. Right off the bat, my impression was that this Road King, while looking overall similar to the last one I rode, (which was either a 2012 or 2014 model year) this 2017 is a whole new machine. The Main Course for this dish is the Engine… But before we get to that, let’s go over the appetizers that help make this machine so delicious.
Let’s start with the brakes. In 2014 the Motor Company has really stepped up their Brake Game with an optional upgrade for ABS. The downside is that it remains an optional upgrade. It should be standard equipment. But make sure you check the ABS box when you spec out your new HD. They are using a linked ABS system similar to what you find on a BMW motorcycle. This is good stuff and I was very glad to hear this. What this system does for you, is not just giving you anti-lock brakes… But it makes the brakes work together. So when you crush down on the front brake lever, you are applying breaking forces to both wheels, and the ABS system will work at both wheels to keep a wheel from locking up. But if you only stomp the rear brake, you are only getting rear brake force. To the Rider, this system is completely transparent. You never know this is happening… but it’s there. I believe this is the most important option on the whole list. Take it. Now, the brake feel is still on the heavy side. This should remind you that this is a big and heavy motorcycle. It is in fact heavier than the outgoing model, by 11 pounds. Again, get the ABS option.
Now let’s talk about the suspension. Up front the forks might not look very different, but inside, they certainly are. They feel more stable during high speed sweepers, they feel more stable during braking, they feel more stable over rough road surfaces. At the rear the suspension is new as well. It’s using Dual Bending Valves and I wont even pretend to know what that means… All I know is that they got ride of the air over oil system that never really impressed me on these big bikes. Regardless of how this new system works, the results were immediately apparent to me. With new suspension in the front and the rear, the bike feels so much smoother on the road. It feels more confident. It flat out feels better. If you have an older Road King (Note, that the new suspension is in all the new Touring and Bagger bikes) and you have been thinking about upgrading to a new bike… this is reason enough to step up.
The biggest reason to buy a 2017 is really and truly the new Milwaukee 8 engine. The new engine is nothing short of Fantastic. It’s all new and comes from a blank sheet on up build. Everything is redesigned. Let’s start with the name. The 8 means the number of valves. Four valves per cylinder lets the engine breath with better efficiency. More air in, more air out. In between that cycle comes the ignition and HD is now giving you two spark plugs per cylinder to fire these coffee can sized pistons. Dual plugs give you a more efficient burn, and since it’s lighting up from opposite sides, the time it takes to burn all the fuel-air mixture is reduced. In short, it’s giving you more bang per stroke. Combined with the better breathing, you have a much more efficient engine that gives you more power and a better delivery of that power. On paper, this engine is about 10% stronger. But that’s where the numbers don’t do the results justice. There is a dramatic increase is power in the lower revs. This bike is lot quicker off the line to get you up to speed effortlessly. Roll on passing power is better too, pulling you from 60 to 80 mph with power and glory that I’ve not felt in before in a full sized, factory stock Harley.
The engine is not just more powerful… It’s also a lot smoother. Thanks to a combination of both rubber engine mounts, and an internal counter-ballancer, Harley has been able to reduce engine vibration by 75%. There’s still enough shake to let you know you are on a Harley, and you still feel that power that the engine has… But it’s much more refined. Harley could have removed all the vibration and shake… but if that’s what you want, go look at a Honda Shadow. This is a big bore Harley, you will not forget that.
Another thing worth talking about is how the Motor Company is keeping all this new power cool. It’s using the new liquid cooled strategy at the exhaust ports at the top of the engine – the hottest part of the engine. It also uses precision oil cooling in other areas of the engine, and of course good old Air Cooling helps in other areas. So really Harley has a triple cooling system that works impressively well. My weekend Ride was very comfortable because of this. I only got caught in traffic a couple of times, and it was only then that I felt some warmth off the engine. I never thought “this is getting hot” like I did before on the older Road King I had previously ridden.
Another thing I really liked, and I thought was noticeably lacking in the previous generation, is the new 6th Gear. This was a very welcomed addition on a long high speed burn across Carolina Interstates. In 6th, the engine just lopped along with little effort while I was passing traffic like that was my job. Even at lower speeds, upshifting early into six the new engine didn’t make the bike feel like it was lugging in that tall gear. (Man, this engine is good)
I’m not one for Floor Boards on a bike, and I’m not used to Heel Toe shifting… But I can see why people like them. My leg position was very comfortable, even with my shattered knees. The transmission was very good and never gave me a false neutral or felt “clunky”. So I am guessing that Harley worked some sorcery in there more than just giving at a +1 on the gears.
The seat though, is the real hero when it comes for comfort. It gives you a little room to move around on a long ride, but I really didn’t feel the need to. This is a good saddle.
One thing I didn’t mention before, the new Road King is feeling a lot more agile. When moving it feels light on its wheels. It’s almost “flickable”. Transitions between directions happen quicker than the last Road King I rode. Part of that has to do with the new suspension… but I mention that here because I found that the seat really does a good job of keeping you in it as you flick the bike from one curve to the next. On a bike that you sit in more than sit on, being able to feel secure and confident and totally comfortable is a good thing. I love that the seat gives you just enough support behind you to keep you anchored during hard acceleration. It’s also enough to give you some support for riding real laid back and letting your arms stretch a bit. Your passenger will have a nice back rest as well… and there’s a little rack behind her to strap down some luggage.
Speaking of luggage, HD’s saddle bags are awesome. They are cavernous. I’ve not looked up the capacity, but it’s huge. But they also look very nice, streamlined, and they really fit the bike perfectly well. Very easy to open and close. These are good bags. Harley could probably make some good money by selling hard bags for bikes other than HD.
Better Engine. Better Brakes. Better Suspension. Better Transmission. The whole bike is just completely better. The 2017 Road King is hands down the best Road King that Harley Davidson has ever built. Yes, it’s worth trading up an older Road King for a new one.
I really can’t wait to see Harley put their new engine tech into the rest of the Motor Company’s line up. Especially into their Sportster lines. A 48 with an engine that has 4 valves and 2 plugs per cylinder with some liquid cooling… That makes me excited.
Point Blank Range had their Grand Opening Week last week. From May 16th to the 24th. This went along with NASCAR’s RACE WEEK, which is a huge Broohaha in Charlotte, NC.
One of the things I did was to get Harley Davidson of Charlotte to come out – and they did! They know I’ve been wanting a new bike, and they brought them. Each of the ones I’ve been wanting.
One is a nice little Sportster Forty Eight. Mini Ape Hangers (Which I am not all that fond of – but the riding position actually feels good), great aftermarket seat, Vance & Hines pipes and a Screaming Eagle Intake. All tuned to run together nicely. I like the Sportsters, and especially the Forty Eight model. I will have one eventually. As much as I love the look of them, that 2.1 gallon tank is limiting. If I was to have just one bike – I don’t know if I could live day to day with only a 2.1. I need a tank that LOOKS like that one, but holds 3, or 3.5 gallons. That would be perfect.
Then there’s the Fat Bob. In “Sand Camo Denim” I don’t get Harley’s name for the paint, but it’s a flat desert tan. I really dig the twin headlights. If I got the Sportster – I’d want to put lights like these on it. In LED. If possible. But I love the look. Reminds me of a vintage WWII bike, with some modern touches. I’d name the bike “Rommel” and put Afrika Korps emblems on it. I think these bikes are badass… and they ride very well. Very balanced and planted. The most Stable bike I think I’ve ever ridden.
Yeah, I have to post a second photo of this one. Love it. Just love it.
But then there is this one… The Breakout…
This image doesn’t do it justice. The red paint is just gorgeous. As is that huge fat rear tire. “Dat Ass”! The Breakout is a dream bike.
I was going to probably trade in my car on that Fat Bob… the Wife said “Do what you want”. And then I go to do it – she’s all “No, don’t.”
I love my car, it’s very nice, but I need something that feels alive and a part of me. Something with muscle.
I recently had the immense pleasure to attend Harley Davidson of Charlotte’s Project Livewire event. Special thanks to Steve and Ken there, and Harley Davidson Motorcycles for inviting me to learn more and test ride this new motorcycle.
So while I was sitting in a Harley shop, waiting for my KTM to get finished… which wasn’t finished according to the 1.5 Hour Estimate for a blown gasket. I was looking at the shiny new HD bikes. I really don’t get the Harley thing…. As a motorcycle company, the brand is shallow as hell. The more interesting of the bikes are the ones that HD Enthusiasts scoff and refer to the as girl’s bikes. The Sportsters and the Iron 883. In black it is a bitchen looking machine. The other bikes look overweight and lethargic. They also look like the same bikes they have been making for 110 Years. Take a look at the the XR1200X, perhaps the most interesting HD of the bunch, but now Discontinued.
What’s left are the Cruisers, Touring Barges… The same old bikes Harley has been making forever. Big on sound, Low on performance unless you spend a lot more money on them. It’s a wonder people have not grown tired of these bikes. I got tired of them, just looking at them.
Then there is the V-Rod. A bike that finally breaks some new ground. But it remains a Harley side line… A step child. And a nitch machine at that. A Power Cruiser… Very low slung and fast looking. Impressive stats. But its a singular thing. The Corvette to Chevy. But Chevy takes the Vette engine and puts it in other cars… Uses the Vette to really spice up the the whole brand. HD doesn’t do that.
Look at the other MC Brands. They all have bikes in other classes, so Riders of all kinds can find something they want to throw their leg over. The problem I suspect is that Harley is not so worried about being a motorcycle company and are too concerned about being a Brand and an Image.
If I was Mr. Harley, I’d take that V Rod engine and shoehorn it into a few other bikes. I’d also try again on the sport market. Because there is room for it. Don’t know what that would look like? Imagine an HD 200 years from now. Okay, no… because HD would still look the same. Imagine what Larry Niven would imagine an HD 200 years from now would look like, and start there. I want to see a wicked superbike with fairings and the whole enchilada. Competitive in the Isle of Mann TT. Ducati makes awesome v twin sport bikes. Honda made a fantastic V-Twin Sport Bike – I had one. Both these companies also make bikes that can do both Dirt and Street. Where is an HD Adventure Bike? Single Piston Thumper? Where is an HD Factory Cafe Racer?
EXPAND THE BRAND, HARLEY! You check out the full HD Catalogue, and they actually have very few motorcycles. Just the same bikes that sport different Cosmetics and Front Tire Sizes.
Yet people will pay big dollars for those Hogs. BIG dollars. Don’t get me wrong – I admire that. I seriously do. Because Harley has a Brand built on a very cool Tradition. They have Legacy. But Motorcyclists fall into Two Categories Those that Like Harley, and those that Don’t. Namely because HD isn’t doing anything to reach across the lane divider to bring in new riders. I think that’s a serious flaw in HD’s future.
Here’s what’s pissing me off. I’ll probably end up buying a Harley some day. Because sitting on a couple of them… Damn. It fit. Didn’t hurt my knees. Felt good. Damnit if Harley isn’t the 1911 of the Bike World. Classic lines and great comfort with a Big Bore. Shit.