By Bryan Harley, Cruiser Editor

Long live the Road King

Harley-Davidson’s Road King has played an important developmental role in the Custom Vehicle Operations (CVO) program, the Screamin’ Eagle Road King making its debut in 2002. The following year Harley introduced the 103 cubic-inch Twin Cam engine on the 2003 Screamin’ Eagle Road King. The platform was shelved from the CVO program for a few years, then came back in 2007 outfitted with the first 110 cubic-inch Twin Cam V-Twin. Its last CVO appearance was in 2008, but it’s back again this year with a few new wrinkles.

The 2013 CVO Road King is still powered by Harley’s Twin Cam 110 engine, as the added power suits this touring platform. The big mill resides in a chassis set up for long hauls like the vaunted Ultra Classic Electra Glide in a motorcycle that weighs 78 pounds less. Geared to provide Harley’s dependable low-end punch, its gearing is wide so getting up to highway speeds only takes a few shifts. Most of our freeway miles were spent in the generous range of fifth gear, saving “Cruise Drive” sixth gear for long stints on open road to drop rpm and prolong engine life.

Jumping from the CVO Breakout to the CVO Road King during the 2013 Harley CVO press launch, we immediately noticed the lighter clutch pull. Seeing as how our run down California’s Highway 1 had been met by rockslides closing the freeway to one lane and construction bringing traffic to a halt altogether, having a lighter pull and requiring less effort to balance it at the point of engagement was beneficial. Even at low speeds, the bike’s fairly low center of gravity, with its seat a laden 26.5 inches off the ground, keeps it manageable.

Once in motion, the Road King lives up to its name on the uneven coastal roads as its suspension provides a plush ride. The healthy 41.3mm tubes of the telescopic fork and the preload adjustable rear smooths out the road so that the rider is cushioned from most of the road’s uneven ebb and flow. The rear is hand-adjustable for preload but requires the quick removal of the hard saddlebag. We were riding solo so we ran with the stock settings, which still left a solid feel to the rear.

As signs warn of 25 mph switchbacks and long sweepers bridge canyons on Highway 1, the 2013 CVO Road King is holding its line tightly. It’s steady and true when banked over, and its floorboards are up high enough to give riders plenty of lean. Its 180mm rear and tighter rake help it transition more smoothly than the 240mm CVO Breakout, which pivots more slowly around its big back end.

Long floorboards and easy-to-reach bars leave riders perched comfortably upright in the CVO Road King’s well-padded leather seat. Large, hard locking saddlebags easily have enough room to hold a few day’s provisions for a person traveling solo. The extended bags have a custom fascia filling in the space between them and the rear fender and rear LED lighting has been integrated into the bodywork. The combination of leg fairings and a mid-height windshield provide a generous buffer between rider and the wind.

The windshield on the 2013 CVO Road King has a small, hand-adjustable vent situated in the center of it that allows riders to tailor the wind coming from underneath the wind screen. With the Wind Splitter vent fully opened, it diverted air almost completely over me at six-feet-tall. With it fully closed, air would come over and under the mid-height windscreen and buffet my head. Fortunately, it’s easy to set the vent where you want it while rolling with gloved hands.

Besides the Vented Wind Splitter windscreen, the 2013 CVO Road King is the first of its kind to receive factory-installed audio developed to run iPod devices. An iPod plug-in sits in the left saddlebag, while the audio controls are controlled via a mount on the handlebar. The system has a 200-watt amp powering two 5×7 speakers in the saddlebag lids and two 5.25-inch speakers in fairing lowers. Because the speakers are located in the upper half of the fairing lowers, with a three-quarter helmet on, it sounds like the music is in my helmet because it’s rising up from underneath – a really cool effect.

Similar to the 2013 CVO Breakout, the CVO Road King has a new low-profile console but with programmable back lighting. The flush mount gas caps are a classy upgrade to the six gallon tank. An analog speedo/tach is still mounted at the top of the tank-mounted console, just below the line of sight. There is a digital gear indicator located in the speedo, but it’s a small number that’s difficult to see.

The 2013 CVO Road King now goes Boom!, can carve a fluid line through a turn, has Dunlops that provide ample grip, and its ergos and seat are all-day comfortable. Its suspension does a splendid job of sheltering riders, and the Twin Cam 110 gives it that extra pep to its step when it comes time to get up to the speed of traffic. For a bike that’s been a workhorse for The Motor Company, it only seems fitting that the 2013 CVO Road King is available as one of the three 110th anniversary special editions. Mirror Chrome Agitator Wheels, the rubber and chrome Slipstream Collection of grips and foot controls, and an extended reach heel/toe shifter single out the CVO Road King from its stock counterpart. It’s mid-priced among 2013 CVO models at $29,999 with 3,620 units being produced by The Motor Company. Of that 3,620 total, 900 of those will be the special 110th Anniversary edition with special badging and the Diamond Dust and Obsidian paint.