Breaking Away With The 1999 Harley-Davidson Road King

One bike from the Breaking Away comparison

1999 Harley-Davidson Road King
For '99, Harley upgraded this member of the touring family with the 1450cc engine, called the Twin Cam 88.Dean Groover

This article was originally published in the April 1999 issue of Motorcycle Cruiser.

Although many will identify the Road King as the prototype for the other bikes we compare it with, the King could also be considered the prototype Harley. Before Harley-Davidson tested the waters for more elemental cruisers with its Super Glide almost 30 years ago, its only big twin was the Electra Glide. Back then the Electra Glide was configured much like the Road King is now, with a big windshield and hard saddlebags. The seat was bigger, but the profile was otherwise very similar to this Road King. The fact that many of today's riders first became motorcycle-aware during that era probably helps explain the popularity of the Road King today.

Like the other members of what Harley calls its "touring family," the Road King gets the new 1450cc engine. Called the Twin Cam 88 by Harley (a.k.a. Fathead), the new engine brings an additional helping of horse­power, which is most welcome in Harley's touring-oriented bikes. The twin-cam configuration is less important than the revised design and manufacturing processes the engine introduced. Those aspects of the engine design promise greater reliability, speedier assembly (which should help Harley increase total production), easier maintenance and quieter running.

Despite its all-new design, the 1450’s design parameters follow the traditions of previous Harley Big Twins: air-cooling, overhead valves operated by pushrods and hydraulic lifters, a 45-degree cylinder angle with a single carburetor supplying mixture from the middle of the V, dry sump and chain primary drive on the left side running to a separate (and also new) transmission case. The tranny uses the same shafts inside the new case though. Since adopting them over two decades ago, Harley raised our expectations for toothed belts as final-drive mediums, and all the Fatheads use them.

The engine is rubber-mounted into the touring-family chassis. Both ends ride on air-pressure adjust­able suspension and fat 16-inch whitewall tires. The Harley-trademark headlight nacelle, which blends into the upper fork cover, readily identifies the Road King. Spotlights bracket the headlight. The windshield attaches via unique mounts that allow you to unclip it in seconds. The five-gallon fuel tank appears to have dual filler caps, but in an un-Harley-like bit of fakery, the left one turns out to be a dum­my that simply houses a small fuel gauge.

The one-piece saddle features embossed logos. This model of the ’King has hard-sided fiberglass saddlebags and a 40mm carburetor, while the Classic version gets leather bags and fuel injection. Cast wheels are standard, but out test machine was fitted with wire-spoke wheels, a $320 option. Both ends are completed with fender-tip lights.

1999 Harley-Davidson Road King
The Road King gets the best mileage and range and has the best sound.Dean Groover
Road King Overview
High Points
Best mileage and range
Best sound
Includes spotlights and front crash bars
Great accessory availability
Low Points
Ran rough in cold weather
Troublesome windshield distortion
Least popular with passengers
First Changes
Change or cut down windshield
Get a tool kit
Change seat if carrying a passenger
1999 Harley-Davidson Road King
Designation: FLHR
Suggested base price: $15,065, $15,330 in CA
Standard colors: Black
Extra cost colors: Red pearl, blue pearl, orange pearl add $265; two-tone blue/silver, orange/silver, red/black, green/black add $660
Standard warranty: 12 mos., unlimited miles
Recommended service interval: 5000 miles
Engine & Drivetrain
Type: Air-cooled, 45-degree tandem V-twin
Valve arrangement: OHV, 1 intake valve, 1 exhaust valve; pushrods, hydraulic adjusters
Displacement, bore x stroke: 1450cc, 92 x 102mm
Compression ratio: 8.8:1
Carburetion: 1, 40mm Keihin CV
Lubrication: Dry sump, 4.0 qt
Minimum fuel grade: 87 octane
Transmission: Wet, multiplate clutch; 5 speeds
Final drive: Toothed belt, 70/32
Wheelbase: 63.5 in.
Overall length: 95.6 in.
Rake: 26 deg
Trail: 6.2 in.
Wheels: Cast alloy, 3.0 x 16 in. front and rear (laced wheels add $320)
Front tire: MT90B16 Dunlop D402 tubeless
Rear tire: MT90B16 Dunlop D402 tubeless
Front brake: 2 single-action calipers, 11.8-in. discs
Rear brake: Single-action calipers, 11.8-in. disc
Front suspension: 4.6 in. travel, adjustable for air pressure
Rear suspension: 2 dampers, 3.0 in. travel, adjustable for air pressure
Fuel capacity: 5.0 gal
Wet weight: 761 lb
GVWR: 1179 lb
Weight bias: 53.1 percent rear wheel
Handlebar width: 34.1 in.
Seat height: 27.3 in.
Inseam equivalent: 33.7 in.
Electrical & Instrumentation
Charging output: 507 watts
Battery: 12v, 30AH
Forward lighting: 55/60-watt headlight, dual 30-watt passing lamps, position lights, front fender marker light
Taillight: Single bulb, rear fender marker light
Instruments: Speedometer, LCD odometer/tripmeter; warning lights for high beam, turn signals, oil pressure, low fuel, engine malfunction
Fuel mileage: 35 to 45 mpg, 40.5 mpg average
Average range: 202 miles
RPM at 60 mph, top-gear: 2560
200 yard, top-gear acceleration from 50 mph, terminal speed: 72.0 mph
Quarter-mile acceleration: 14.09 sec., 90.7 mph