The entire motorcycle business is struggling. The numbers tell us older riders are falling away while Millennial buyers aren’t riding in strong numbers because (presumably) you can’t take a selfie while riding.
Harley-Davidson is battling the industry-wide slowdown by keeping its model line varied and frequently updated. The latest bike to join the line is the 2017 Road King Special – a smaller touring ride that updates the company’s styling.
The Road King Special employs the new, V-Twin Milwaukee-Eight 107 engine Harley-Davidson announced in 2016. Producing 10% more torque than previous engine, the Milwaukee-Eight 107 receives a new engine-turned air cleaner insert for improved performance. Harley-Davidson also reports the new engine goes from 0-60 mph 11% faster.
As a Harley-Davidson touring bike, the Road King Special stands out for what it doesn’t have. There’s no heavy, wind-breaking fairing wrapped around the motorcycle’s face. That reduces weight and lends the machine a more sleek look.
The dark front end instead applies a large gloss-black headlamp in the middle of 9-inch-tall, 1.25-inch-diameter mini-ape handlebars. To keep up with the brooding styling theme, the motorcycle adds an engine guard, handlebar, hand controls, mirrors, turn signals, engine covers, air cleaner cover, mufflers and exhaust shields in the same black.
Most importantly, the Road King Special shows off the direction Harley-Davidsons are taking in the current market. As the lovers of the big, car-on-two-wheels touring bikes fade from the market, younger riders beyond the timid Millennial crowd want smaller, quicker and more stylish motorcycles. They want to lean into a turn even on a larger bike, and those kind of rides are en route from H-D in growing numbers.