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Harley Introduces New Road King Special

With Harley-Davidson’s recent announcement that it will introduce 50 new models over the next 5 years, one could be skeptical about how “new” those models will be. Harley-Davidson is as guilty as any manufacturer of adding a few new chrome pieces, and a new paint job, to an existing model and calling it “new”. Today’s press release, however, indicates the Road King Special at least has some substance behind its newness.

Featuring the recently introduced Milwaukee-Eight 107 engine, this Road King picks up some significant power versus the outgoing Twin Cam High Output 103, a lower profile and black finish replacing chrome parts. Frankly, we think it looks pretty cool … despite the fact we recoiled a bit at the reference to a “mini-ape” handlebar. Here are all the details from Harley on this bike.

MILWAUKEE (Feb. 9, 2017) – Swapping chrome for black and powered by the muscular Milwaukee-Eight 107 engine, the new Road King Special motorcycle pushes Harley-Davidson’s touring line in a dramatic new styling direction, expressing a contemporary perspective on the classic Road King model.

“The Road King Special pounds down the boulevard like a gleaming locomotive rolling through a train yard at midnight,” said Brad Richards, Harley-Davidson Vice-President of Styling and Design. “The Road King has always reflected the purity of the Harley-Davidson FL riding experience. By exchanging chrome surfaces for black and lowering the bike’s profile, we’ve moved the traditional Road King into a new space that’s very current in the custom bagger scene.”

A dark front end topped by a massive gloss-black headlamp nacelle is the signature styling element of the Road King Special. A new 9-inch-tall, 1.25-inch-diameter mini-ape handlebar puts the rider in an aggressive posture on the bike that’s also comfortable for long runs on the open road.

“Chrome was retained only on some key engine components,” said Harley-Davidson Designer- Stylist Dais Nagao. “The lower rocker boxes, pushrod tubes and tappet blocks are finished with chrome to emphasize the V-Twin shape of the Milwaukee-Eight 107 engine. We added a new engine-turned air cleaner insert, a finish that’s also featured on the tank console.”

The Road King Special’s engine guard, handlebar and hand controls, mirrors, turn signals, engine covers, air cleaner cover, mufflers and exhaust shields also feature black surfaces. New gloss black turbine cast-aluminum wheels include a 19-inch front wheel topped by a low-profile fender. At the rear, stretched saddlebags flow over the mufflers to provide a slammed-to-the-ground appearance without reducing suspension travel. A rear fascia panel fills the space between the saddlebags and rear fender, and a low-mount license plate module completes the tight, low lines of the rear end.

Comfort, control and performance are enhanced by the all-new front and rear suspension components featured on all 2017 Harley-Davidson Touring model motorcycles. New hand-adjustable emulsion-technology rear shock absorbers offer 15 percent more pre-load adjustment than previous low-profile touring shocks. The front suspension features new double-bending valve suspension technology that delivers the damping performance of a racing-style cartridge fork with linear damping characteristics and reduced weight. Reflex linked brakes with ABS and the Harley-Davidson Smart Security System are standard equipment on the Road King Special.

Powered by the new Milwaukee-Eight engine

New for all 2017 touring models, the Milwaukee-Eight engine offers quicker throttle response, more passing power, purer sound, a smoother ride and more of the feeling riders want from a Harley-Davidson Touring motorcycle engine.

  • More Power Each Milwaukee-Eight engine produces 10 percent more torque than the engine it replaces in touring models. In addition to increased displacement, the Milwaukee-Eight engine features a higher compression ratio and four-valve cylinder heads with 50 percent more intake and exhaust flow capacity. The valve train requires no adjustment as the design of the rocker arms enables valve lash to be set at the factory for life. Dual spark plugs for each cylinder contribute to more-efficient combustion. A single chain-driven camshaft is lighter, mechanically less complex and creates less friction and noise.
  • Quicker Acceleration The Milwaukee-Eight engine weighs the same as the engines it replaces, so its extra power contributes directly to improved acceleration performance. The Milwaukee-Eight 107 accelerates 11 percent quicker from 0-60 mph, equal to a two-to-three bike length improvement, and 11 percent quicker from 60-80 mph in top gear, equal to a one-to-two bike length improvement, compared to the Twin Cam High Output 103.
  • Heat Management The Milwaukee-Eight engine offers improved rider and passenger thermal comfort due to reduced heat absorption, increased heat rejection and a redesigned exhaust system. The Milwaukee-Eight 107 engine features a precision cooling strategy that targets a flow of oil around the hottest areas of the cylinder heads. A new knock sensor for each cylinder enables more-precise timing control. The rear exhaust pipe is repositioned and the exhaust catalyst is relocated to move heat away from the passenger. Idle speed is lowered from 1,000 rpm to 850 rpm.
  • Improved Fit A new, slimmer primary drive cover and the low-profile shape of the air cleaner cover provide improved rider legroom around the engine and an easier reach to the ground for many riders. All Milwaukee-Eight powered models are fitted with an assist and slip clutch with improved hydraulic actuation and 7 percent less clutch lever effort.
  • Reduced Vibration The rubber-mounted Milwaukee-Eight engine features a single internal counter balancer that cancels 75 percent of primary vibration at idle for a more refined feel and more comfortable experience for rider and passengers while retaining the classic character of Harley® V-Twin engines.
  • Richer Exhaust Note Lighter valves, a single camshaft, optimized cover designs and improved driveline components greatly reduce mechanical powertrain noise. The engine intake and air cleaner are designed to reduce intake sound while ensuring maximum air flow. As a result, the new Milwaukee-Eight engine is mechanically quieter, enabling a richer exhaust tone that meets all global noise and emissions standards while allowing the unmistakable rumble of its exhaust note to resonate.
  • Improved Charging The Milwaukee-Eight engine charging system delivers 50 percent more output to the battery at idle to better support the power demands of touring riders, including accessory lighting, performance audio, and heated gear and other accessories.
  • New Engine Styling The Milwaukee-Eight engine features sleek, modern styling that respects the heritage of previous Harley-Davidson big twin engines. The Road King Special is the first model to feature the Milwaukee-Eight in an all-black engine finish.

The Road King Special model is offered in four color options: Vivid Black, Charcoal Denim, Hot Rod Red Flake Hard Candy Custom, and Olive Gold.

To experience the style and performance of the entire 2017 motorcycle line-up and feel the power of the Milwaukee-Eight engine, schedule a test ride at a local Harley-Davidson authorized dealer by visiting

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  1. SmokinRZ says:

    Looks like the Harley my High School teacher rode 40 years ago. Should appeal to the Frank Sinatra generation quite nicely.

  2. Bubba Blue says:

    I like it, but it’s $3000 more than the basic Road King. Mostly, you get Anti Lock brakes and the silly security feature that I don’t even like on my 2013.

    • mkv says:

      You know a lot of people spend an average of 3-5k on their Touring bikes. The blackout parts and wheels alone cost more than 3k just in parts. Imagine how much extra you pay when having the dealer install those 3-5k parts. That add another 2-3k in labor.

      In this case, this is actually a deal

  3. todd says:

    That gap between the tank, the forks and the top of the engine just looks so awkward to me. The tank doesn’t even look like it fits the bike, especially how it looks jammed against the front of the seat. I don’t quite get the styling of these things.

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      While it clearly puts us in the minority of US motorcyclists, I agree with you completely. Most cruisers look like they were put together from some cheap DIY kit.

  4. Dirty Bob says:

    Aluminum frame would be an improvement, like Polaris. Take a look at the Vanguard.

  5. superhawkman says:

    I like all of the posts to this article. There is no such thing as bad publicity!

  6. Kevin Buss says:

    Its amazing how many comments in this article. Even bad publicity is good publicity!

  7. Mick says:

    My only interest in Harley Davidson is to have a look to see what the current trend in industrial design seems to indicate. From an industrial design standpoint, what is the purpose of a too shiny and a little too dark olive drab when olvie drab is really easy to do?

    For my part. I think that maybe the buyers of an olive drab should get something more along the lines of a powder coat, meaning high durability industrial finish. I feel that something along those lines, not just color but type of finish, would create a stronger interest in not just the model, but the particular color. Collectors would be forced to buy both.