Our First Ride Impressions of Harley’s New Milwaukee-Eight

Cornering on the 2017 Milwaukee-Eight-equipped Road King felt more agile than ever.

Cornering on the 2017 Milwaukee-Eight-equipped Road King felt more agile than ever.

American Iron Magazine editor Steve Lita was fortunate enough to get in a day of riding on the new 2017 Harley-Davidson Touring models featuring both versions of the new Milwaukee-Eight engine; standard 107″ and CVO models equipped with the 114″ version.

The first thing you notice when you start up the new Milwaukee-Eight is, well, the precise and consistent starting. Thanks to a new automatic compression release and a more powerful starter motor, the engine comes to life every time without a hitch or a hiccup, which can’t be said for Twin Cam models. Once the engine settles to life at a calm 850 idle rpm, you’ll recognize the traditional Harley rumble, albeit a little smoother. Don’t get me wrong, this engine is not sewing machine-boring, it still has that chugging cadence to it.

The 107" Milwaukee-Eight, staying true to Harley's Big Twin tradition while leaping forward.

The 107″ Milwaukee-Eight, staying true to Harley’s Big Twin tradition while leaping forward.

Click the bike into first gear and release the clutch, and you’ll be pleased with the easier feeling on your left hand. Roll on the throttle easy, the Milwaukee-Eight smoothly pulls this heavyweight up to speed. But gun the throttle, and get ready for an aggressive bark from the stock exhaust. Thanks to less drivetrain noise and the added cubic-inches, the exhaust emanates an aggressive tone. After my first ride I commented to Harley engineers how much I liked the sound of the bike.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have access to a timed acceleration course, but suffice it to say the seat-of-the-pants-feeling under hard acceleration was that the new bikes pull away from a stop or roll on at speed harder than before. This Milwaukee-Eight pulls hard all the way to the 5500 redline, and I found the rev limiter many times when not judiciously watching the tach. I felt consistent thrust all the way up the tach range without the power petering off. It just pulls, pulls, pulls, and then smack! You’re on the limiter. Step up to the larger 114″ Milwaukee-Eight, which is available only in the CVO models, and get ready for a kick in the butt over the 107″ version; you will definitely feel the difference in power output.

And the 114" Milwaukee-Eight, a CVO-only option that will blow your socks off.

And the 114″ Milwaukee-Eight, a CVO-only option that will blow your socks off.

All of that is great for straight-line riding, but what happens when you throw the new Touring models into a curve? Much improvement has been made to this line of bikes, and the new 2017 models can handle some twisties better than ever before. New front fork updates feature SHOWA Dual Bending valve (SDBV) technology, which is similar to current cartridge fork inserts, but more adept for mass production use. Out back is a hand-adjustable SHOWA emulsion shock. Turn the adjustment knob 23 times to allow for 25mm of total adjustment. No more worrying about blowing out air shocks. Confidence in riding through corners at high speed is greatly increased.

The 114" CVO Touring Model handles better than you could imagine for a Big Twin.

The 114″ CVO Touring Model handles better than you could imagine for a Big Twin.

My overall riding impression of these new Milwaukee-Eight-powered models is that Harley has taken all the right feelings and emotions of the previous engine and refined them, doing so with new high-tech components. The looks of the engine are right. It’s not some foreign, radical departure. Yet under the skin, the internal components work in better harmony than before. I think of this engine as a well-sorted Big Twin. It’s better than you ever thought the Big Twin family could perform.

For the full first ride review of the all-new Milwaukee-Eight Touring models, pick up a copy of Issue #342. In Issue #341, on sale 9/13, we give you everything you need to know about the new engine platforms.