Harley-Davidson FLHRS/I Road King Custom Motorcycle Test

The street-savvy version of the ever-popular Road King is so custom that they should change the name to Street King. From the April 2005 issue of Motorcycle Cruiser magazine. **By

What do you do when your touring lineup is getting a bit gray? If you're Harley-Davidson, you freshen it up—again.

Harley's Road King Custom makes its second appearance for 2005, and the latest update has done nothing to mellow its get-up-and-go attitude. The minimalist swept-back chrome visor perched atop a dishy headlight and a pullback beach bar make for a sweet initial visual impression, and as your eye travels across the custom bagger's clean lines, it picks up sleek details such as slanted leather bags with hidden supports. The slash-cut mufflers, chromed metal fuel-tank emblems and big, clean front and rear fenders come into view next. Rounding off the impeccable fit and finish are streamlined footboards and passenger pegs, along with a tank-mounted stretch chrome console.

We rode both 2004 and 2005 test bikes. The only significant updates for '05 are the new clear-lens, reflector-optic headlight and a laced-wheel option. The large headlight adds increased (and welcome) lighting intensity, and its lens features a small bar-and-shield cloisonn on the face. The swish chrome aluminum Profile laced wheels—an original-equipment option now available on all 2005 Touring models—have a smooth, rounded chrome rim that Harley says is easier to clean, along with chrome spokes and a brilliant chrome front hub that offers enhanced corrosion resistance.

After the impressive visual tour, a hop aboard the low-profile sporty solo seat proved a little crowded at first (the dish has a short span front to back), but we liked the feel of the lowered, air-adjustable rear suspension and taut, refined chassis, especially on smaller bumps around town. Bringing the smooth Twin Cam 88 engine (available with a carburetor or with electronic fuel injection) to life was a snap, as the EFI on our test models eliminated the need for choke. The King gets its power down low, and while it's never in a hurry to get anywhere, the throttle response is easily accessed and linear.

The beach bars, on the other hand (or both!), may look cool, but took a bit of getting used to ergonomically, as you are forced to grip them tightly to avoid losing purchase, which gets old in a hurry on the highway as the air pressure tries to push you back. Because of this and its hefty weight, the Road King can be a handful during low-speed maneuvers or tight turns, but given the look of the bike, it was almost expected. The short-travel shocks in back magnified sharper bumps, but the ride was generally smooth and unsullied, with easy gear changes from the heel-toe shifter and smooth power transmission from the belt drive. The four-piston calipers squeezing the two front rotors slowed down the big King admirably, with easy actuation on the front control, but I still found myself using both brakes for quicker stops. And after 600 miles and three weeks of constant riding, the front brakes on our test unit still squealed.

With the Road King Custom, though, it all comes back to that look. While thick and chunky, it's spare, too—no cluttered fenders, saddlebags or pipes here. Low, lean and clean, the '05 Harley-Davidson FLHRS/I Road King Custom strikes an appealing profile for around-town jaunts as well as the open road. The price of admission may be steep, but with the King, at least there are few surprises.

2005 Harley-Davidson FLHRS/I Road King Custom

Suggested base price: $17,195-$17,495 ($17,195-$17,495, 2006 model)
Warranty: 24 months, unlimited miles

Engine type: Air-cooled 45-degree V-twin
Valve arrangement: OHV, 1 intake, 1 exhaust valve operated by pushrods
Displacement, bore and stroke: 1450cc, 95.18mm x 101.52mm
Carburetion: 1, 40mm CV, or Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI)
Compression ratio: 8.9:1
Transmission: 5-speed belt

Overall length: 93.7 in.
Wheelbase: 63.5 in.
Rake/trail: 26o/6.2 in.
Front wheel: 16-in. chrome-laced wheel
Rear wheel: 16 in. chrome-laced wheel
Front tire: MT90B16
Rear tire: MU85B16
Front brake: 2, four-piston calipers, 11.5-in. discs
Rear brake: Four-piston calipers, 11.5-in. discs
Front suspension: 41mm telescopic fork
Rear suspension: Dual air-adjustable shocks, 2.0 in. travel
Seat height: 27.1 in.
Fuel capacity: 5.0 gal.
Claimed wet weight: 752 lb.

_Additional motorcycle road tests and comparison tests are available at the Road Tests section of MotorcycleCruiser.com. For a complete listing of the motorcycle tests available, see the _Motorcycle Cruiser Road Test Finder.

We actually rode two Road King Classics while preparing this article. This was the first one.
The small chrome wind deflector offers a small amount of protection.
Its 1450cc displacement is modest but the Harley Big Twin still performs well.
The leather-covered hard saddlebags hold a respectable amount of gear.
The seat has a deep dish, which limits squirming space.