2017 H-D Road King Special: First Look

Harley-Davidson updates and upgrades the unfaired bagger

Road King Special
2017 Harley-Davidson Road King SpecialHarley-Davidson

2017 was unarguably the biggest year for Harley-Davidson since 1999's debut of the Twin-Cam. With the release of the new Milwaukee Eight, almost the entire touring line saw some serious changes, not only in terms of performance, but aesthetics as well. Emphasis on the "almost." While the Road King lovers looked on from the sidelines, the Glides got all sorts of love, but rest assured that the wait has not been in vain. In fact, quite the opposite-- the 2017 Road King holds the most aggressive stance of the 2017 bagger lineup, and we love it.

Road King Special
Small apes and lots of blacked-out detail give the Road King an edge, right from the startHarley-Davidson

The Road King Special is the newest, edgiest, yet sleekest bagger to come from Juneau Avenue since the Street Glide debuted in 2006. Sure, the FLHX has had its day in the sun with a very successful career, but this article isn’t about that.

Now, don’t get us wrong. We love the heritage vibes of the Road King in all its forms, but we’re definitely digging the Special’s hot-rod aesthetic because the platform so desperately needed change. And it got it. We see a hybrid Dyna Low Rider S and a Street Glide Special sans a fairing. We think it definitely has something to do with Harley-Davidson stylist Brad Richards, who joined the H-D ranks and released the Low Rider S two years ago. The Road King S has Richards’ fingerprints all over it.

Road King Special
One of the highlights of the Harley Road King Special is its all-black, Milwaukee-Eight 107ci engine, the first model to receive this finish.Harley-Davidson

First and foremost, the styling on the Road King S gives consumers an early jump on customizing. Basically, Harley has laid the groundwork for you: all-black powertrain (the first-ever released since Milwaukee-Eight debuted), stretched saddlebags (found on the CVO models, also a first for an OE Touring model), and the absence of excessive tank badging and chrome, which has become synonymous with Road King over the years.

“We wanted to offer our customers a really great head start if they wanted to take one of our baggers into the darker space because right now the option would be to take your chrome Road King and then go through the catalog and replace the many hundreds of pieces you’d have to replace to go dark,” Richards says. “We’re kind of giving you a head start with this motorcycle, and we see that as a really cool canvas for customization. We can’t wait to see what our customers do with it.”

2017 Harley-Davidson Road King Special
2017 Harley-Davidson Road King SpecialHarley-Davidson

Obviously swapping chrome for black comprises the major aesthetic changes for the Road King Special. In addition to the Milwaukee-Eight 107ci engine finish changes, the front end was also blacked out, including the iconic Road King nacelle. Plus, a new 9-inch-tall, 1.25-inch-diameter black mini-ape handlebar puts the rider in an aggressive posture on the bike that’s also comfortable for long runs on the open road.

The Road King Special’s engine guard, handlebar, 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 and a 17-inch rear wheel that also give the Special an aggressive stance.

Road King Special
The Road King Special's new 9-inch tall, 1-1/14-inch diameter black handlebars.Harley-Davidson

As with the rest of the 2017 Touring models, the Road King Special incorporates the all-new front and rear suspension components. 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.

We’re really looking forward to some seat time on Harley’s new hot-rod Road King. It’s received the best of all worlds: improved powertrain and drivetrain with some much-needed pizazz to give it an edge among its Touring brethren. What was once the pack leader for Harley-Davidson prior to the release of the Street Glide, we feel the Special will definitely give the FLHX platform a run for its money.

H-D Road King Special
The 19-inch Turbine Wheel wrapped in a minimal fender really cleans up the frontend on the Road King Special.Harley-Davidson
Year/Make/Model 2017/Harley-Davidson/Road King Special (FLHRXS)
MSRP Starting at $21,999
Length 95.4 in.
Seat Height 26.4 in.
Wheelbase 64 in.
Fuel Capacity 6 gal.
Dry Weight 781 lb.
Running Weight 818 lb.
Engine Milwaukee-Eight 107ci
MPG 45
Transmission 6-speed cruise drive
Colors Vivid Black, Charcoal Denim, Olive Gold, Hard Candy Custom Hot Rod Red Flake
Road King Special hardbags
The Road King Special comes equipped with CVO-style stretched saddlebags.Harley-Davidson