Traditional Travelers: Harley Davidson Dyna Convertible and Road King Classic vs. Yamaha Road Star Silverado and Royal Star Tour Classic

It was a black-bag job: Round up all the traditional American touring bikes, bikes with windshields and leather saddlebags and let them stretch their legs on the open road. Harley Road King Classic and Dyna Convertible, Yamaha Road Star Silverado and Royal

These motorcycles evoke a time when America was at the top of its form, before interstate highways and jets made it a smaller country. Riding a motorcycle across the continent half a century ago was still a grand adventure. You couldn't depend on the unfailing familiarity of chain restaurants or hotels back then, and you could only rely on your motorcycle if you knew how to remedy its foibles.

If you were going to trust your fate to a motorcycle in the desolate open spaces out west in midcentury America, you'd want a big, powerful, comfortable machine. You would need leather or canvas saddlebags to haul necessities and some belongings, though folks seemed to have fewer necessities in those days. A windshield would be ideal to help you cover the miles.

Although time has shortened distances and lessened the adventure of travel across America by motorcycle, it hasn't lessened the appeal of that postwar transcontinental cruiser. Almost every motorcycle manufacturer makes at least one traditionally styled cruiser model with leather saddlebags and a windshield, or offers those pieces as accessories.

We decided to round up some of these traditional traveling cruisers to see how they played out in some of the remaining wide-open spaces of turn-of-the-millennium America. Harley-Davidson, in this category as well as in most other cruiser categories, is the leader with three models. We were able to get the 2000-model-year Road King Classic and a '99 Dyna Convertible. (An Evolution-engined Heritage Softail Classic wasn't available, perhaps because of model-year changes.) Yamaha drew from both its lines, serving up a Royal Star in the form of the Tour Classic and also the new Road Star Silverado. We'd hoped to get one of the new Moto Guzzis, but the company wasn't able to supply one by our deadline.

Had we been willing to include accessorized bikes in this comparison we could have included several additional motorcycles. We have previously sampled a Honda Valkyrie (Summer '96) and a Suzuki Intruder 1500 LC (February '99) fitted with those manufacturers' accessory windshields and leather bags.

In the overall scheme of things, these four bikes fit somewhere between straight, unadorned cruisers and hard-bag bikes -- such as the Kawasaki Nomad, standard Harley-Davidson Road King or Yamaha Royal Star Tour Deluxe. Wind protection is about the same, compared with the latter, but you surrender a bit of the hard bags' security and weather protection in exchange for the black-baggers' style. These bikes suggest slightly less hard-core traveling and more urban patrol than the bikes with hard bags, but they should still deliver comfort for two and highway performance, in addition to agreeable in-town manners.

On The Loose

So we hit the road with the four bikes, following routes far from the interstates. Power is actually more important on the secondary roads than on the superhighways because there is more slow traffic, and passing opportunities are frequently limited. For sheer grab-a-handful-and-go power, the Harleys are the rulers of the road among this crowd. And the Road King is, well...king, even though it uses the same engine as the Convertible. We knew the Road King Classic (with its fuel injection and higher-volume mufflers) made more power, but we expected its 60-pound weight disadvantage (compared with the Convertible) to offset that issue. So we were surprised when the King eased away from the FXDS when we compared passing power, either through the gears or in top gear only. The Harleys quickly left the Yamahas behind, while the Silverado moved ahead of the Tour Classic. The Road King's advantage seemed to increase with altitude, due no doubt to the fuel injection's ability to adjust to the thinner air.

A few riders complained about the Yamahas' low-rpm ceilings, particularly on the Silverado, which hits its rev-limiter at just 4200 rpm. The usual complaint about the Royal Star engine -- that it feels overgeared in fifth -- was also aired. Otherwise, the power characteristics of all four bikes are very user-friendly. There is good power down low, and all are in the meat of their powerbands on the highway. EFI gives the Road King Classic the simplest starting procedure, since there is no choke required and it idles and responds to throttle immediately. However, none of the four is particularly cold-blooded.

On the highway, the Convertible, at 38.8 mpg, topped the others in average fuel mileage. We were surprised that the four-cylinder Tour Classic, at 37.5 mpg, beat the Silverado (36.0) and Road King (34.4). At this rate of consumption, the Convertible and Silverado would have the best range, at 190 miles. But even the worst of the bunch, the Road King, would still top 170 miles. In the city however, the Silverado and Road King were slightly better than the Tour Classic, but the Convertible was the only bike to average more than 30 mpg in traffic.

No one among our seven riders had any complaints or special compliments about the shifting of any of these bikes, except to debate the merits of heel-toe vs. toe-only shifting. All the clutches were smooth and predictable.

If It Feels Good...

All four of these bikes provide enough comfort for casual touring. (By that we mean a few hundred miles a day with frequent stops.) The comfort differences surface when you are trying to make some time. Saddles become an important issue, and the Yamahas score best here with some riders picking the Royal Star Tour Classic and others naming the Road Star Silverado saddle as the best place to plant themselves. The Road King saddle was significantly better than the Convertible's seat for everybody, but it wasn't ranked with the Yamahas'. If you plan to lay down some serious miles on the Convertible, a comfortable aftermarket saddle would be money well spent.

Reaction to riding positions varies with the rider but most were happy on the Stars, especially the Tour Classic. A minority of our riders picked the Silverado as tops, however. Some riders were uncomfortable with the leaned-forward riding position created by the low bar on the Road King; others liked it. Most riders felt cramped or awkward with the pulled-back handlebar of the Convertible. Most also disliked the steep angle the Convertible handlebar grips are set at. Its saddle, which seems to set you farther forward than most of the rest, also contributes to the crowded handlebar arrangement. The Convertible's pegs are the most rearset of the four. But it is also the only one that offers an alternate choice in the form of highway pegs, which let your legs stretch out. Still, it was the least comfortable of the four bikes overall.

Plastic Fantastic

The clear windshields used on all these bikes are minor marvels. They provide great wind protection, and the quiet and comfort that comes with it, with virtually no ill effect on handling. But some of them perform better than others. All four are American-made and share a similar style -- chrome accents are a prominent part of the look.

The Royal Star Tour Classic has the lowest windshield, which is not necessarily a bad thing. It deflects wind from your torso and leaves the top of your head in the windstream. But it does not create any significant buffeting. All but the shortest riders can see the road clearly by looking over it. Its optics are good too. The low height is a major advantage, especially at night in the rain with oncoming headlights on a dark road. This is the only windshield that most of our testers would accept as is, without cutting it down or exchanging it for a shorter shield.

We certainly preferred the Tour Classic shield to the taller version on the Silverado. Although it shares a similar style, the Silverado shield created the worst buffeting of the four tested. The wind protection is about average. Although its optics present just minor distortion, few riders could see over it comfortably. Fortunately, the Yamaha shield-mounting system permits you to lift the shield off its chrome bracketry after loosening just four bolts.

The shield on the Convertible was even taller -- too tall for all of us. No one could see over it. However, it offered the best wind protection and did not create any buffeting. It presents little optical distortion, but it still creates problems at night. One of the features touted for the Convertible is its detachable windshield. But since the bike doesn't come with a tool kit, you have to provide your own allen key. And even then the shield isn't any easier to detach than the Yamahas' and definitely not as easy as the Road King design.

The Road King windshield has the easiest removal system on the planet. Just push a couple of clips out of engagement and lift it off -- no tools required. Its height is lower than the Silverado's shield but taller than the Tour Classic's, and there's enough distortion to annoy most riders at least slightly. It provides good wind protection and does not create significant buffeting.

Leather Fetish?

Better love them for their looks. None of these four bikes' leather bags offers all the practical advantages of a hard saddlebag. They can't fend off heavy rain or dust, so you need to put the contents in plastic bags if rain is in the forecast. Only a few can be locked, so you don't want to leave anything valuable inside. They also require special care products to keep them in prime condition. But they redeem themselves with their classic American style.

Two different styles of saddlebags adorn these four motorcycles. The Yamaha Tour Classic and Harley Convertible use bags with flap-type closures. The Road King and Silverado have box-style tops.

On the Yamaha Royal Star Tour Classic, a simple leather flap folds over the top of the saddlebag and secures closed with a pair of leather straps and chrome buckles. The studded flap on each saddlebag lifts to reveal the opening of the bag, which is positioned by two vertical zippers. Even after you open both of the vertical zippers in the face of the saddlebag beneath the flap, the opening of the bag remains smaller than the space inside the saddlebag. This means that even though the interior of the tapered bag may be big enough to hold an object that you want to carry, you might not be able to squeeze it into the saddlebag through the opening. The leather, stitching and polisged hardware are all good-looking stuff.

The Convertible's bags add a couple of features to the same flap-covered style of bag. Lifting the flap reveals Cordura material used for the bulk of the bag's construction, and a zippered opening running lengthwise across the top of the bag. Loops on the bag's outer surface and the underside of the flap allow you to lock the flap down. This feature provides only minimal security because the bags may be detached without tools by simply releasing a large thumbscrew and carrying them away using the handles on top. The previous two Convertibles we have ridden have lost their left saddlebags while moving. But this one didn't self-convert, either because we paid more attention to the potential problem or because we didn't ride it through New York City, where the other two bailed out. This detachable feature permits you to take the bags off quickly when you desire sleeker lines or want to drag your gear into a motel without emptying your luggage. Due largely to their Cordura content, these bags were judged the least stylish of this foursome. They don't carry as much as their exterior size suggests, either.

The Silverado uses simple box-style bags. The top of each bag hinges at its inside edge, and three overlapping edges enclose the top of the slightly tapered bag on three sides. Each bag's studded top closes with two standard buckle straps. Although not as tall as the Convertible or Tour Classic bags, the Silverado bags are deeper and easier to pack. The quality is excellent.

The Road King Classic sets the standard for leather bags, however. Its box-style bags are bigger than the others. Each one mounts with two quick-release fasteners accessed from the inside. Although the fasteners may be obstructed when the bag is full, you can remove an empty bag in a few seconds. Although the tops appear to be secured by standard metal buckles, quick-release plastic buckles hidden behind the straps allow them to be opened or secured much quicker than with the conventional buckles. Just squeeze to release, or plug it in to fasten the strap again. The King Classic bags have no studs, just a cast badge for decoration. The quality and detail impressed us.

How much bag capacity you need depends on your plans for the bike. If it's just going to be used for commuting and occasional solo weekend outings, any of the four bags will probably suffice. If you plan two-up trips for more than a single night, the capacity of the Road King becomes pretty attractive.

Smooth Moves

Although none of these black-baggers has a counterbalancer, vibration was not an issue for any of our riders. It was only mentioned in conjunction with the Tour Classic, but even that seemed smoother than previous Royal Stars we have tested. The rubber-mounted engines on the Harleys make them the smoothest of our foursome.

Unpleasant forces, if any, generally came from the suspension. The Silverado had the most comfortable ride, whether the bumps were big or small, sharp or rounded. The two Classics -- Road King and Tour -- were about even, with the Royal Star's suspension slightly tauter but better damped than the H-D's. Because its rear suspension bottoms out more frequently than the others and because its ride was the harshest on sharp-edged bumps, the Convertible was our last choice on a rough road.

What Goes Around

Many of the back roads we traveled meandered through mountains. On the winding roads, the Yamahas were limited by cornering clearance while the Harleys came up slightly short in the suspension department.

Both of the Yamahas steer slowly and both drag their floorboards loudly at relatively modest lean angles. Both have some lean angle left when the dragging begins, but few riders are likely to press beyond that point. With its compliant, well-controlled suspenders, the Silverado was the best in bumpy corners.

Comparatively nimble handling and good cornering clearances make the Harleys more fun if you like to go around corners briskly. They turn with less pressure at the handlebar, and the Road King is particularly responsive. Although it has the most cornering clearance, the Convertible feels a bit vague in corners. It also gets knocked off-line by bumps more than the other bikes, though the Road King isn't stellar in this regard either. In fast, sweeping corners the Road King weaves slightly, making some riders uneasy.

All four bikes resist gusty crosswinds well and hold steady tracks through ruts and grooves. Despite their windshields, they show no sign of aerodynamic wiggle at high speeds, and they are stable during panic-force braking.

Slow Down

We were interested to see how the new four-piston-caliper brakes on the Road King would perform. They didn't make a good first impression when we picked up the almost-new machine. They squeaked loudly and weren't as powerful as we had anticipated. But after our first romp through the mountains, which included an extended downhill run with plenty of hard braking into corners, the noise ceased and performance improved significantly. In other words, they need some hard use to break-in properly. The new Harley brakes delivered power, fade-resistance and control comparable to the very good brakes on the Yamahas and even better feel. The only place where the Yamahas could consistently outbrake the Road King was on a bumpy surface where their suspension gave an advantage. The Convertible, though competent, requires a stronger pull to get equal braking power and therefore lacks the feel and control of the others.

None of the four bikes gave us a whit of mechanical trouble or required any adjustments. We didn't even need to add oil. As far as detail features go, we like the clock included in the Silverado's LCD odometer and the second tripmeter. The tach of the Convertible was appreciated, as was its location, with the speedometer in front of the handlebar where it was easy to observe without looking away from the road. We wish the Yamahas' speedometers were farther forward on their tanks for this reason. We also like the fuel gauges present on all but the Tour Classic. The spotlights of the two Classics increase conspicuity and help to light up corners at night. During long stints on open roads, the friction throttle locks of the Harleys were appreciated.

The tubeless tires that come with the cast wheels on the Convertible and Tour Classic make us feel more secure than the tube-type tires on the other two. None of the mirrors impressed us. The long sidestand of the Convertible -- which requires you to lean the bike awkwardly to the right to extend it -- begs for trouble. Some owners will certainly tip their bikes over while deploying this aggravation. We also find it aggravating that Harley-Davidson sells bikes for a premium price without a tool kit, especially when -- as with these two -- there is a place to put it.

Eye of the Beholder

The Yamahas won the beauty contest, though each of the four garnered at least one tester's heart. Although we don't usually get too excited about black bikes, the Silverado's black-with-white-pinstripes treatment had a nostalgic flavor that suits this style of motorcycle perfectly and also works well with the wide whitewalls. We wish the left side of the engine was a bit more finished though.

Finish and detailing is the Tour Classic's forte. It has more polish and billet than the others and looks the richest, due in part to its red-over-red paint scheme. It has the prettiest saddlebags and windshield of the four as well.

The subdued jade color of the Road King Classic gives it a more stately appearance that is diluted by some of the rougher pieces -- like fasteners. However, Harley stylists have a gift for badges and logos, such as those on the saddle, which serve to subtly distinguish the Road Kings.

Although it has fewer of those touches, the deep purple paint of the Convertible turned some heads its way. Its styling is the least remarkable of the four black-baggers, and it garnered the fewest compliments. Some even took an active dislike to its appearance.

Heading Home

After we'd put 1000 miles on each of the bikes and headed for home, we had formed some pretty clear conclusions about the bikes. First of all, the names "Classic," "Road" and "Star" are vastly overworked in this group. (Marketing types take note: "Road Classic" is still available.) Secondly, those using the Road name were the most pleasing to ride.

Weighing the preferences of seven riders and our passenger, the Harley Road King Classic emerged as the solid favorite. It was the pick of four riders, and most of the rest of the riders and the passenger ranked it second in this foursome. The new engine and brakes play a role in this, but so do the enduring style and pleasing function of the Road King. With the best power, ergonomics that suited most riders well, greatly improved braking performance, the biggest and most convenient leather bags, and useful features such as spotlights, fuel injection and that quick-detach windshield, it's an easy bike to like and helps justify its somewhat-stiff price, which will be at least $1500 more than any of the others. (Dealer extortion fees extra.)

On the other hand, the least expensive motorcycle in the group, Yamaha's Road Star Silverado, was a close second place. Two riders ranked it above all others. You get great comfort, sharp handling, strong braking, good power, nice luggage and a distinctive appearance with a first-class finish for $4000 or so less than the H-D Road King.

Yamaha's Royal Star Tour Classic is the prettiest bike here and, significantly, was actually ridden the most because staffers kept taking it for weekend trips with passengers, who were happier on it than any of the others. If you ride alone, its power and ground-clearance limitations might put you off, but if you usually ride with a passenger, its second-row seating comfort will be a strong attraction. One tester picked it as her favorite. It is pretty, if slightly expensive, has good brakes and an enviable five-year warranty.

Although one rider picked it as her second choice, most ranked the Harley Dyna Convertible as a solid last place. Relatively cramped, uncomfortable for passengers and not outstanding in any major area, it doesn't even live up to its name very well, because the windshield isn't particularly easy to remove. The Convertible only fetches its relatively high price because of perceived H-D cachet and a good engine. We expect better brakes on the 2000 model, however.

All of these modern black-baggers are a far cry from the bikes that they summon to the mind's eye. Any one of these machines is much more powerful, comfortable, reliable and convenient than a similar looking bike that someone might have set out to ride through the United States half a century ago. But if you point one in the right direction, you'll discover some grand adventures still remain along America's highways.


Harley Road King Classic
Highs: **Powerful, smooth, responsive engine; Best of leather luggage; new brakes are a significant improvement; quick-detach windshield.
**Lows: ** Finish and detailing don't justify price; no tool kit.
**First Change: ** Add tool kit.

**Harley Dyna Convertible
Highs: ** Great power, tachometer included, good cornering clearance, saddlebags easily removed.
**Lows: **Uncomfortable for passenger; tall windshield obscures view of road; uncomfortable handlebar bend; no tool kit; must lean bike to the right to deploy sidestand.
**First Changes: **Cut down windshield and sidestand; add tool kit.

**Yamaha Road Star Silverado
Highs: **Strong low-rpm torque; smooth without counterbalancer or rubber mounts; great ergonomics and comfort; classic style with excellent detailing; affordable.
**Lows: ** Low rev limit, limited cornering clearance.
**First Changes: ** Cut down windshield to safe height; clean up left side of engine.

**Yamaha Royal Star Tour Classic
Highs: ** Terrific passenger comfort; good rider comfort; shaft drive and tubeless tires; elegantly finished; 5-year warranty with roadside service.
**Lows: **Unimpressive power and response, limited cornering clearance.
**First Change: ** Dig up a little power.


Cherney: ** Leather has always been an irresistible element in the motorcycle dialect, with its undeniable visual appeal, texture and twisted associations. Throw a leather saddlebag on your steed and you've added the freedom to hit the open road along with a place to stash your monogrammed boxers -- and still ooze toughness.

Atop the bagger pantheon, there can only be one king. Long of wheelbase, broad of seat and capacious of bag, the Road King is clearly the best-equipped, best-looking and most comfortable bike in the pack. Its bags are the best of the lot, with miles of storage room and user-friendliness. From there, it's a slow drop to the bottom. The Silverado, a gussied up Road Star, is a pleasant distraction with its leisurely cadence and snappy retro styling. Harley-Davidson's Dyna Convertible isn't going to win many comfort or style points, but at least it has some power and cornering clearance. The Royal Star Tour Classic projects an overall feeling of malaise, of being less than the sum of its parts. I like these bikes as a class but it seems most are just flaccid touring versions of the originals...except for the King. Long live the King.

Dyna Convertible: 2.5 stars
Road King Classic: 4.0 stars
Road Star Silverado: 3.0 stars
Royal Star Tour Classic: 2.5 stars

**Elvidge: **I'm as big a fan of saddlebags as the next guy, but I have to admit that if I'm going to have my luggage actually bolted onto my motorcycle I want it to look like a choice and not a compromise. I understand the visual attitude derived from leather bags. But I don't believe it's a look that can't be mostly duplicated with more versatile (and less costly) strap-on bags, or improved upon with hard, painted bags. So -- I would either buy my favorite of these machines in a more raw form and add a windshield and bags of my choice, or I'd binge on the hard-bag version.

With that said, my favorite of these four bikes would be the Tour Classic for its beauty and comfort, with the Road King a very close second. But again, I'd spend the extra money on the hard-bag editions of these bikes. The Silverado does more for me in its original Road Star state, and the Convertible does nothing at all -- except make me appreciate the other three bikes more.

Dyna Convertible: 2.0 stars
Road King Classic: 3.5 stars
Road Star Silverado: 3.5 stars
Royal Star Tour Classic: 4.0 stars

**Hoffman: ** I approached this gathering of leather baggers as an interview for a relationship. The Road Star Silverado won my heart. It looks sexy. (I wouldn't even mind cleaning those whitewalls.) The seating position is just lovely, the engine purrs, and I am indebted to Yamaha's plastic surgeons for taking that forever-ugly gas-tank seam and rolling it under 90 degrees. I was uneasy dragging floorboards and running up against the annoying rev-limiter in the low gears, but those failings wouldn't prompt a divorce.

My least favorite of the bunch is the Royal Star, but I see that Yamaha has learned from its mistakes.

The Dyna Convertible is second on my list. It does everything well, but it's just too ugly. Seems like H-D took all its old outdated components and made the FXDS; except, of course, the engine -- it performed nicely. The Road King didn't make much of an impression either way, though I didn't like the way it turned. And Harley still rules on sound. I'd go out with the Convertible if no one was looking, but I would be proud to take that Road Star home to meet the parents.

Dyna Convertible: 2.5 stars
Road King Classic: 3.0 stars
Road Star Silverado: 4.0 stars
Royal Star Tour Classic: 2.0 stars

_Rhonda Hoffman
Hoffman is a motorcycle painter and customizer who says she is still going on blind dates. _

**Chalmers: ** It's the Road King by a nose, or should I say a massive chrome headlamp. The bike looks great and can maintain a respectable pace on a variety of roads, though I'm not fond of its hinging effect in sweeping high-speed corners. The bags' size, look and easy one-hand operation made them my favorite.

There is a lot to like about the Tour Classic. It handles better than the Road King and exudes quality workmanship. The windscreen and seating position are the best of the bunch. For my six-foot frame the handlebar is comfortably positioned -- unlike the Road King's handlebar placement which requires an uncomfortable reach. Low ground clearance on both Yamahas means you become familiar with the sound of scraping metal. I wanted more punch from four cylinders, but the rev-limiter on both Yamahas kept my wrist in check.

The Silverado engine looks powerful. It's big and beautiful, but what you see isn't always what you get. The Silverado's performance doesn't overshadow the other bikes, but this bagger's look is so impressive it would be my choice for a trip to the local hangout.

Dyna Convertible: 2.5 stars
Road King Classic: 4.0 stars
Road Star Silverado: 3.5 stars
Royal Star Tour Classic: 4.0 stars

Verlin Chalmers
Chalmers has been riding for decades. He has already accumulated 35,000 miles on his '97 Valkyrie.

**Friedman: ** If money were no object, my first choice would have to be the Road King Classic. It has the best bags, the most power, the response and convenience of fuel injection and that nice easy-on/easy-off windshield. I'd want to buy a tool kit, change the saddle and have Race-Tech run through the suspension, but the brakes do the job now.

Of course, money is an object, so I'd actually buy the Road Star Silverado. This would not only save me thousands of dollars on the initial purchase, but I wouldn't have to spend money on the seat or suspension. I'd have to learn to live with the limited cornering clearance but I could cut down the too-tall windshield myself. And -- believe it or not, Harley -- the tool kit is actually included for this easy-to-swallow price. Imagine that.

If an adult passenger figured prominently in my plans, I'd consider the Royal Star. But I'd probably still opt for the Road Star and modify it to suit my passenger.

Dyna Convertible: 2.5 stars
Road King Classic: 4.0 stars
Road Star Silverado: 4.0 stars
Royal Star Tour Classic: 3.0 stars

_Art Friedman
Email Friedman at _


On the boulevard of life, there are riders and there are passengers. Riders who want to bring a friend along will probably suffer less themselves if they have a little sympathy for the back-seater's plight. Those of us up front get to savor the wind in our face, the almost-flying feeling while leaning into a corner, and the sensation of our powerful, throbbing mount's response to our every nuance. However, for the person perched on the pillion with no control over what happens next, it's more like the rider's helmet in the face, the almost-dying fear of leaning into a corner and the relentless vibration that leaves them wishing for a new ass. A passenger's suffering increases when the rider chooses a saddle because of its sleek style, or offers up a seating position with the footpegs six inches below the saddle, or makes tire-smoking starts with nothing behind the seat to give the passenger a fighting chance of staying aboard.

Although a relative novice in the arcane rites of passengering, Motorcycle Cruiser's new (this is her second issue with us) Art Director, Brandi Centeno, bravely accepted our invitation to come along on our four-day ride aboard the Black Baggers. We were impressed that after her first five hours, most of which were spent dragging floorboards through the Tehachapi Mountains, she could still manage a smile, albeit slightly strained.

Her preferences were very clear after one ride on each of the bikes (and the BMW that came along). She was wary of the Convertible when she first saw it and, if anything, it proved worse than it looked. Not only was the seat narrow with no backrest to restrain her, the footpegs cramped her legs and she was crowded right up against the rider's back. The rear suspension also bottomed out on large bumps, adding an uncomfortable thump to the ride.

The lack of a backrest and somewhat narrow look of the Road King's saddle also worried her, but the comfortable and spacious (for her 5-foot-5 frame) riding position of the King more than made up for those shortcomings. The suspension accommodated her and the capacious bags absorbed her gear. The Road King was her second-favorite ride.

The wide, flat saddle and backrest of the Silverado looked inviting, but the saddle proved to be nothing special and the riding position was almost as uncomfortable as the Convertible's. Like the Convertible, it also bottomed out occasionally with her aboard. An added detraction was the relation of the right footpeg to the exhaust system. When her foot was in a comfortable, or perhaps the least uncomfortable position, her heel was resting on the top muffler, which made her foot hot and left an ugly melted-rubber mess on the pipe's chrome.

The Tour Classic also appeared to welcome her, and to Centeno's relief, it actually did. The saddle and riding position were the best of the bunch, and the backrest was appreciated as well. It was roomy and had enough suspension to keep most bumps comfortable. Although it vibrated more than the others, it still wasn't enough to annoy her.

But in the end, there were just two categories of bikes for Centeno: the Tour Classic and all the rest. Once she confirmed her initial impressions with a second brief sampling of the other four, Brandi never wanted to ride anything else. And after a two-hour stretch on the Royal Star, her smile wasn't a bit strained. If you are buying one of these bikes and plan to do most of your riding with a passenger, the Royal Star Tour Classic is a great way to avoid a pain in the rear.


While both of the Harleys we brought along for this ride share the same basic 1450cc Twin Cam 88 engine, they differ in most other respects. The Convertible uses the internal-style Dyna frame, while the Road King uses the wider touring-family frame. Both bikes' engines are rubber-mounted to quell vibration, and both use twin-shock rear suspension -- though the Road King's shocks are air-adjustable. The Road King has fatter-looking covered fork tubes, which blend into the streamlined headlight nacelle. The uncovered Convertible fork legs are topped with the speedometer and tach, the only instruments in this group that don't perch on the tank. The Road King holds five gallons of fuel, but the smaller looking Convertible tank holds just a tenth of a gallon less at 4.9.

Both rider and passenger get floorboards with the Road King, which means a heel-toe shifting arrangement. The Convertible provides footpegs, however, it has a third set of pegs up front to allow the rider to stretch his legs. The Road King Classic gets Harley's effective electronic fuel injection, instead of the single 40mm carb used on the Convertible and most other Harleys. (The EFI will be available on standard Road Kings for 2000.) This makes the engine more adaptable to changing conditions, simplifies starting and increases power even beyond the strong output of carbureted 1450cc because it flows more mixture. Both bikes send the power through five-speed transmissions and belt final drives.

Because it is a year-2000 model, the Road King has Harley's new four-piston disc brakes, three of them. The Convertible also has dual front and single rear disc brakes, but they are the old single-piston style. Cast-alloy wheels bring tubeless tires, a 19-incher up front and 16-incher in back, to the Convertible. The Classic version of the Road King has wire-spoke wheels mounting 16-inch-wide whitewall tires. The wheels, saddlebags and (in '99) fuel injection separate the Classic from the standard Road King.

Both Harleys include fuel gauges mounted in the tops of their tanks. The Classic's takes the form of a dummy left fuel cap. The Road King includes spotlights alongside the headlight and fender-tip marker lights front and rear.

2000 Harley-Davidson Road King Classic

Designation: FLHRCI
Suggested base price: $16,490 ($16,755 in CA)
Standard color: Black
Extra cost colors: Blue, green, red, add $250; blue/silver, green/silver, red/silver, add $615
Standard warranty: 12 mos., unlimited miles
Recommended service interval: 5000 miles

Type: Air-cooled, 45-degree tandem V-twin
Valve arrangement: OHV, 1 intake valve, 1 exhaust valve per cylinder
Displacement, bore x stroke: 1450cc, 95 x 102mm
Compression ratio: 8.8:1
Carburetion: Dual-throat EFI
Lubrication: Dry sump, 4.0 qt
Minimum fuel grade: 92 octane
Transmission: Wet, multiplate clutch, 5 speeds
Final drive: Belt, 70/32

Wheelbase: 63.5 in.
Overall length: 95.6 in.
Rake/trail: 26 degrees / 6.2 in.
Wheels: Wire-spoke, 16.0 x 3.0-in. front and rear
Front tire: MT90B16 Dunlop D402 tube-type
Rear tire: MT90B16 Dunlop D402 tube-type
Front brake: 2, double-action, four-piston calipers, 11.5-in. discs
Rear brake: Double-action, four-piston caliper, 11.5-in. disc
Front suspension: 39mm stanchions, 4.6 in. travel
Rear suspension: 2 dampers, 3.0 in. travel, adjustable for air pressure
Fuel capacity: 5.0 gal (0.5 gal reserve)
Wet weight: 751 lb
GVWR: 1179 lb
Handlebar width: 34.0 in., 1.0 in. diameter
Seat height: 27.3 in.
Inseam equivalent: 33.6 in.

Charging output: 507 watts
Battery: 12v, 30AH
Forward lighting: 7.0-in. 55/60-watt headlight, dual spotlights, position lights, fender marker light
Taillight: Single bulb, fender marker light
Instruments: Speedometer, LCD odometer/tripmeter; warning lights for high beam, turn signals, neutral, oil pressure, engine monitor

Fuel mileage: 30 to 41 mpg, 34.4 mpg avg.
Average range: 172 miles
RPM at 60 mph, top-gear: 2560
200-yard, top-gear acceleration from 50 mph, terminal speed: 74.6 mph
Quarter-mile acceleration: 13.74 sec., 93.8 mph

1999 Harley-Davidson Dyna Convertible

Designation: FXDS-CONV
Suggested base price: $14,580 ($14,865 in CA)
Standard color: Black
Extra cost colors: Blue, orange, purple, red, silver add $240; blue/silver, orange/silver, red/black add $585
Standard warranty: 12 mos., unlimited miles
Recommended service interval: 5000 miles

Type: Air-cooled, 45-degree tandem V-twin
Valve arrangement: OHV, 1 intake valve, 1 exhaust valve per cylinder, operated by pushrods, hydraulic adjusters
Displacement, bore x stroke: 1450cc, 95 x 102mm
Compression ratio: 8.9:1
Carburetion: 1, 40mm Keihin CV
Lubrication: Dry sump, 3.0 qt
Minimum fuel grade: 92 octane
Transmission: Wet, multiplate clutch, 5 speeds
Final drive: Belt, 70/32

Wheelbase: 63.9 in.
Overall length: 92.3 in.
Rake/trail: 28 degrees / 4.1 in.
Wheels: Cast-aluminum, 19.0 x 2.5-in. front, 16.0 x 3.0-in. rear
Front tire: 100/90-19 Dunlop D401 tubeless
Rear tire: 130/90HB-16 Dunlop D401 tubeless
Front brake: 2, single-action, single-piston calipers, 11.5-in. discs
Rear brake: Single-action, single-piston caliper, 11.5-in. disc
Front suspension: 39mm stanchions, 6.9 in. travel
Rear suspension: 2 dampers, 4.8 in. travel, adjustable for preload
Fuel capacity: 4.9 gal (0.5 gal reserve)
Wet weight: 691 lb
GVWR: 1085 lb
Handlebar width: 25.5 in., 1.0 in. diameter
Seat height: 28.5 in. I
nseam equivalent: 33.9 in.

Charging output: 360 watts
Battery: 12v, 18AH
Forward lighting: 4.0-in. 55/60-watt headlight, position lights
Taillight: Single bulb
Instruments: Speedometer, tachometer, LCD odometer/tripmeter, fuel gauge; warning lights for high beam, turn signals, neutral, oil pressure

Fuel mileage: 32 to 46 mpg, 38.8 mpg avg.
Average range: 190 miles
RPM at 60 mph, top-gear: 2530
200-yard, top-gear acceleration from 50 mph, terminal speed: 71.0 mph
Quarter-mile acceleration: 14.23 sec., 92.3 mph


Although there is a family resemblance in the styling, the two Yamahas that hit the road with us are entirely different. The Silverado is based on the new Road Star 1602cc air-cooled V-twin, which we ranked as the favorite in our Big Twins comparison in our June issue. It shares the same engine, chassis and running gear with the addition of a windshield, passenger backrest and leather saddlebags. The paint is different, the seat has studs to match the bags and it gets whitewall tires.

The rest is pure Road Star. The 98-cubic-inch, 48-degree engine with its semi-dry sump lubrication system, four pushrod-operated valves per cylinder, single 40mm carb and five speeds delivers power through a belt final drive. Surprisingly, it has no counterbalancer to quell the vibration you might expect from a single-crankpin engine design. Claimed to be the shortest big twin top-to-bottom, the biggest big twin nestles in a single-shock chassis rolling on wire-spoke wheels with tube-type tires. Stainless steel-covered 43mm fork tubes and a pair of two-piston disc brakes overcome bumps and momentum up front. The fuel tank holds a generous 5.3 gallons.

The Tour Classic version of the Royal Star also adds leather bags, a passenger backrest, whitewall tires and a windshield to the standard Royal Star package. It lacks the studded seat but adds spotlights and a leather tank divider. The standard 1294cc Royal Star liquid-cooled 70-degree V-4 engine with 16 valves operated by double overhead camshafts and four 28mm carbs provides the motivation. It also lacks a counterbalancer. Five speeds and shaft final drive deliver the power.

Like the Road Stars, the Royal Stars ride on 43mm fork legs fattened by stainless steel covers and a single hidden damper assembly at the rear. The Tour Classic fork has fittings to adjust the air pressure. The Royal Stars use cast-alloy wheels, 15 inches in diameter at the back and 16 inches in the front, with tubeless tires. They carry 4.8 gallons of fuel.

Both of Yamaha's big Stars have speedometers atop their fuel tanks with LCD odometer/tripmeters in the faces. The larger Road Star LCD display adds a clock, and it also includes a fuel gauge, which isn't found on the Royal Star. Both offer floorboards and heel-toe shifting for the rider. The Tour Classic's passenger gets floorboards, but the Silverado's back-seater gets pegs. The Tour Classic also comes with the exceptional Royal Star five-year warranty and road-service plan.

1999 Yamaha Road Star Silverado

Designation: XV16A-T
Suggested base price: $11,999
Standard colors: Black or green/gray
Extra cost colors: NA
Standard warranty: 12 mos., unlimited miles
Recommended service interval: 5000 miles

Type: Air-cooled, 48-degree tandem V-twin
Valve arrangement: OHV, 2 intake valves, 2 exhaust valves, operated by pushrods, threaded and hydraulic adjusters
Displacement, bore x stroke: 1602cc, 95 x 113mm
Compression ratio: 8.3:1
Carburetion: 1, 40mm Mikuni CV
Lubrication: Semi-dry sump, 5.3 qt
Minimum fuel grade: 87 octane
Transmission: Wet, multiplate clutch, 5 speeds
Final drive: Belt, 70/33

Wheelbase: 66.3 in.
Overall length: 98.4 in.
Rake/trail: 32 degrees / 5.6 in.
Wheels: Wire-spoke, 16.0 x 3.0-in. front, 16.0 x 3.5-in. rear
Front tire: 130/90-16 Dunlop D404F tube-type
Rear tire: 150/80B-16 Dunlop D404 tube-type
Front brake: 2, single-action, two-piston calipers, 11.7-in. discs
Rear brake: Double-action, two-piston caliper, 12.6-in. disc
Front suspension: 43mm stanchions, 5.5 in. travel
Rear suspension: 1 damper, 4.3 in. travel, adjustable for preload
Fuel capacity: 5.3 gal (1.0 gal reserve)
Wet weight: 785 lb
GVWR: 1164 lb
Handlebar width: 33.0 in., 1.0 in. diameter
Seat height: 28.1 in.
Inseam equivalent: 33.1 in.

Charging output: 294 watts
Battery: 12v, 18AH
Forward lighting: 7.5-inch 55/60-watt headlight, position lights
Taillight: Single bulb
Instruments: Speedometer, LCD odometer/tripmeter/clock, fuel gauge; warning lights for high beam, turn signals, neutral, oil pressure

Fuel mileage: 33 to 42 mpg, 36.0 mpg avg.
Average range: 191 miles
RPM at 60 mph, top-gear: 2270
200-yard, top-gear acceleration from 50 mph, terminal speed: 72.8 mph
Quarter-mile acceleration: 14.31 sec., 91.2 mph

1999 Royal Star Tour Classic

Designation: XVZ13B
Suggested base price: $14,799
Standard colors: Black, red/red
Extra cost colors: NA
Standard warranty: 60 mos., unlimited miles
Recommended service interval: 4000 miles

Type: Liquid-cooled 70-degree tandem V-4
Valve arrangement: DOHC, 2 intake valves, 2 exhaust valves per cylinder, adjusting shims
Displacement, bore x stroke: 1294cc, 79 x 66mm
Compression ratio: 10.0:1
Carburetion: 4, 28mm Mikuni downdraft CV
Lubrication: Wet sump, 4.5 qt
Minimum fuel grade: 87 octane
Transmission: Wet multiplate clutch, 5 speeds
Final drive: Shaft, 2.566:1

Wheelbase: 66.7 in.
Overall length: 97.8 in.
Rake/trail: 30 degrees / 5.0 in.
Wheels: Cast-alloy, 16.0 x 3.5-in. front, 15.0 x 4.0-in. rear
Front tire: 150/80-16 Dunlop D404F tubeless
Rear tire: 150/80-15 Dunlop D404 tubeless
Front brake: 2, double-action, four-piston calipers, 11.8-in. discs
Rear brake: Double-action, four-piston caliper, 12.6-in. disc
Front suspension: 43mm stanchions, 5.5 in. travel, adjustment for air pressure
Rear suspension: Single damper, 3.8 in. travel, adjustable for spring preload
Fuel capacity: 4.8 gal, (0.9 gal reserve)
Wet weight: 784 lb
GVWR: 1175 lb
Handlebar width: 33.3 in., 1.0 in. diameter
Seat height: 28.5 in.
Inseam equivalent: 33.3 in.

Charging output: 320 watts
Battery: 12v, 18AH
Forward lighting: 7.5-in. 55/60-watt headlight, dual spotlights, position lights
Taillight: Single bulb
Instruments: Speedometer, LCD odometer/ tripmeter; warning lights for high beam, turn signals, neutral, oil pressure

Fuel mileage: 30 to 39 mpg, 37.5 mpg avg.
Average range: 180 miles
RPM at 60 mph, top-gear: 2690
200-yard, top-gear acceleration from 50 mph, terminal speed: 70.6 mph
Quarter-mile acceleration: 14.41 sec., 92.3 mph

Additional motorcycle road tests and comparisons are available at the Road Tests section of

Photography by Dean Groover
Harley Convertible
Harley Road King Classic
Yamaha Tour Classic
Yamaha Silverado
Harley Convertible
Yamaha Silverado
Harley Road King Classic
Harley Road King Classic
Harley Dyna Convertible
Yamaha Road Star Silverado
Yamaha Road Star Silverado
Yamaha Royal Star Tour Classic