Real-world usability and classic looks.
First up, Sean points out the bike’s buttons and updated panniers. Uh, not really convincing us here, Sean (although the saddlebag lids were indeed a big improvement over the previous design). Once he gets the bike out on the road, though, he’s got some better points.
The Road King stands out in Harley-Davidson's touring lineup because it’s really a very simple motorcycle. It’s got a big V-twin engine (the high-output Twin Cam 103, in this bike’s case), a quick-detach windshield, a set of crash bars, hard saddlebags, a set of running lights augmenting the headlight—and not much else. In factory configuration, there’s no massive stereo, no GPS system, and none of the other cruft Harley hangs off the heavy tourers like the Electra Glide and the Ultra. Compared to the rest of H-D's touring machinery, this is a stripped-down bike.
It’s got everything you really need for long miles on the open road, though, including a massive six-gallon fuel tank. Without all the extra add-ons, the Road King is far lighter than many other V-twin tourers, including those from other companies. It also has a reputation for decent handling—partly because of the weight, partly because it’s designed with good cornering clearance.
In the long term, the Road King is easy to work on (there’s no fairing hiding the engine), and its classic look means it won’t be loaded down with out-of-date gadgets in a few years’ time.
“There's nothing on this bike that really dates it,” Sean says. “I feel ... in 50 years, the Road King is going to be more of a timeless collector piece than an Ultra Classic, especially if you modify your bike, the whole thing is stereos and speakers.”
All good points! Ultimately, it comes down to this: What do you want to do with your bike? Like Sean points out, the Road King does some things well now, and decades from now, its classic styling should still be a plus with collectors.