Since its introduction in 1994, the Road King has been a favorite in Harley-Davidson’s touring line. Signature traits include beefy fork tubes tucked in tight, a broad tank, plenty of power for two-up, an upright, all-day riding position, and healthy-sized saddlebags. The fact that it’s a solid platform for customization has also endeared it to Harley faithful, be it a slammed and spoked Vicla-style bagger or a high-barred, polished and painted show bike. The Road King’s formula changed little over the years until 2017 when Harley updated suspension on all its touring models, adding Showa Dual Bending Valve technology to its forks and emulsion-tech to its shocks. That same year also saw the introduction of the Milwaukee-Eight engine, Harley’s eight-valve, internally counterbalanced Big Twin designed to be smoother and more powerful than its forebears.  

The 2019 Road King had eight miles on its odometer when I picked it up from Maverick Harley-Davidson. We were making a run from Dallas through the Texas Hill Country on our way to Austin for the 2019 Handbuilt Motorcycle Show and I was the lucky one who would be giving this shiny new King a shakedown. And I do mean shiny, from its sparkling “Barracuda Silver” paint job to its chrome covers and crash guards to its fork and dual exhaust. Maverick H-D had added a pillion backrest and small luggage rack to this particular Road King, but it was otherwise stock. While outfitting it with a luggage rack was a gracious move on their behalf, the saddlebags provided more than enough room to stash four days worth of clothes and essentials, including a camera and laptop, all locked up securely the good old-fashioned way, with the turn of a key.

Lucky us. When we picked up this 2019 Harley-Davidson Road King it only had eight miles on it, so we got the privilege of breaking it in properly. 

The brisk morning air made me grateful for the tall windscreen. Between the pullback bars, forward-mounted floorboards, and well-padded leather seat, the rider’s triangle felt tailor-made for a six-foot-tall rider. The reach to the bars was natural, arms parallel to my legs which were perpendicular to the road and stretched out comfortably. The shocks were set a little soft for my liking so first chance I got I popped off the left saddlebag and gave the hand-adjustable knob a few twists. With resistance to bottoming improved, the rear was firm on both compression and rebound and provided a pleasurable ride.

Hopping onto the freeway, the Road King’s throttle quickly responded to the slightest input and rewards riders with an urgent surge of torque off idle. The Milwaukee 8 engine puts out a claimed 111 ft-lb of torque at 3250 rpm but much of that power can be tapped into as early as 2000 rpm. Winding out first gear, the King hustles to just under 45 mph before signing off abruptly as it hits the rev limiter. Second gear engages solidly and propels the big bike to just under 65 mph with a bit more overrev up top. The powerband of the Milwaukee 8 is more linear than the Twin Cam 96, and while the power gains are noticeable, the spread is about the same in the lower gears. With a bike that tips the scales with a curb weight of 836 pounds, the bike would benefit from being able to wind out the first two gears just a little bit more. Getting up to highway speed and motoring along in fifth gear, it’s easy to navigate through traffic thanks to an abundance of roll-on power. Settling into the flow of traffic and dropping into sixth gear, the 2019 Road King is in its happy place as it hums along smoothly at 2800 rpm with the speedometer ticking 75 mph. With a judicious throttle hand, you can squeeze about 240 miles out of its six-gallon tank as the 2019 RK averaged 42.72 mpg over the course of our 650-mile journey. Cruise control is a standard feature on the left switchgear housing and is easily operable with a thumb, another handy feature which facilitates the motorcycle’s efficiency.

Twisty Texas roads with plenty of gravel and rocks from recent construction were the perfect testing grounds for the 2019 Harley Road King. 

And while the Road King’s merits on long, straight stretches is undeniable, I couldn’t wait to get to the hill country to explore its lean angles. Outside of Burnet, we ventured off the beaten path on ranch and market roads as we swung by Buchanan Lake and continued south. The leader of our Handbuilt-bound pack set a spirited pace aboard his Suzuki V-Strom 1000XT, so I pushed the big King hard to keep him in sight. With a laden seat height of 26.3 inches, the Road King’s center of gravity is fairly low which helps the bike transition fluidly considering its size. At 32 degrees, the floorboards are high enough so I scraped only on the tightest turns. Thanks to the placement of the bars, corner entry is point-and-shoot, and its stout suspension keeps the bike composed and predictable at lean. There were a few instances where the front end would have benefitted from a bit more stiffness, primarily when I squared broken surfaces and the fork bottomed. The 2019 Road King has two large rotors and dual 4-piston fixed calipers on the front and it only takes a little tug to scrub off speed when entering corners. Squeeze the lever tight and the bite of the Brembos is strong and even. The motorcycle features Harley’s Reflex Linked Brembo braking system which activates the rear as well with more aggressive application. The bike does not come with ABS standard but can be added for an additional $795. Without it, it doesn’t take much pressure to get the back brake to lock up.

At the end of a 300-mile day on the 2019 Road King, I could easily have gone 300 more. The windshield prevented me from getting buffeted around, the contour of the seat combined with the upright ergonomics kept pressure points to a minimum, and the suspension provided an enjoyable ride. In the “Barracuda Silver” colorway, the 2019 Harley-Davidson Road King lists for $19,739. The package includes 10-spoke Impeller Wheels, a Hiawatha headlamp and nacelle, raised badges on the tank and tidy trim on the front fender. Its primary American competitor, the 2019 Indian Springfield, has an MSRP of $20,999, but ABS, ride modes, and remote-locking saddlebags are included in the sticker price. Added electronics boils down to personal preference. After my time aboard the 2019 Road King, I see why it’s been a long-standing staple in the Harley-Davidson touring lineup. It’s a powerful, efficient tourer that’s solid and stable in turns, is all-day comfortable, and sharply dressed in shiny chrome and Harley’s trademark top-shelf paint.

2019 Harley-Davidson Road King Specs

ENGINE

Milwaukee-Eight 107

Displacement: 1746 cc (107 cu. in.)

Engine Torque (claimed): 111 ft-lb @3250

Bore X Stroke: 3.937 in. X  4.374 in.

Compression Ratio: 10.0:1

Fueling: Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI)

Exhaust: Chrome, 2-1-2 dual exhaust with tapered mufflers

DIMENSIONS

Length: 96.5 in.

Seat Height (laden): 26.3 in.; (unladen) 27.8 in.

Ground Clearance: 5.3 in.

Rake Steering Head: 26-degrees

Trail: 6.7 in.

Wheelbase: 64 in.

Tires, Front: BW 130/80B17 65H

Tires, Rear: BW 180/65B16 81H

Lean Angle (right): 32-degrees

Lean Angle (left):  32-degrees

Fuel Capacity: 6 gal.

Oil Capacity: 5.2 qt.

Weight (as shipped): 798 lb.

Weight (claimed curb): 836 lb.

Luggage Capacity: 2.3 cu. ft.

CHASSIS

Wheels, Front: Impeller Cast Aluminum

Wheels, Rear: Impeller Cast Aluminum

Brakes: 32 mm, 4-piston fixed front and rear

PRICING

Vivid Black: $19,289

Color: $19,739

Two-Tone: $20,089

Custom Color: $20,289