Harley Magazine Review Road King Classic

Joe on '09 Harley Road King Classic

It’s not uncommon to hear Harley-Davidson touring bikes referred to as the kings of the American road, a statement that is no doubt echoed by the many owners of those bikes. Why wouldn’t you take pride in your machine being considered royalty? Heck, I’m down with that, and I only own a plebian FXR.

So it came as no surprise to me when I recently read that the Motor Company has been the market-share leader in the motorcycle touring segment for the past 14 years. That’s no small accomplishment in itself, but nailing the title with a platform that hasn’t had a complete makeover in almost 30 years is just awesome. Well, for 2009 the powers that be at Juneau Avenue got restless and updated H-D’s entire Touring family. The results should lock up 15 straight years as market share leader, and quite possibly put a stranglehold on the title altogether.

Harley Road King Bagger

To date there has been a lot written about this unprecedented makeover, including AIM’s exclusive sneak peek (Sept. ’08). That story was thrown together by my most distinguished and noble colleagues Chris Maida and Buzz Kanter. As such, I had to wait my turn to get some seat time on one of these new rides. As you can probably guess, my patience paid off when I was handed the keys to the two-tone Deep Turquoise/Antique White 2009 Road King Classic you see here (minus windshield of course). As if that wasn’t exciting enough, it all happened at Harley corporate headquarters in Milwaukee during the 105th anniversary celebration. My assignment was to ride the bike back to our editorial offices in Stamford, Connecticut, get it photographed, and then share my thoughts with you, the readers of American Iron Magazine. Translation: take the damn bike on a road trip and write this review.

From the moment I unlocked the Classic’s console ignition and fired up the 96″ Twin Cam power plant, I realized that it was worth the wait and things were only going to get better with this redesigned machine. Did I mention that it’s redesigned? Immediately upon the engine settling into a steady idle, I knew that this bike would be different from any of the other touring beasts I’d ridden to date. The subtle, but obvious, giveaway was not what I was feeling, but what I didn’t feel. Almost no vibration! While creating a new frame, H-D’s engineers also took the time to redesign the engine-isolation mounting system. Gone is the single front isolator, replaced with twin front isolators that meld into a single tie link. The rear engine mounts were also changed, allowing the whole ensemble to work together, providing optimal balance with perfect stiffness. As if that’s not enough, I was told the durability of all the mounts has been increased, which should allow them to last for the life of the motorcycle. That’s yet to be seen.

While loading the bike at my hotel, I finally got a chance to step back and admire my ride. It was then that I noticed this reborn King didn’t look much different than its Twin Cam predecessors. I think most people would be hard pressed to tell it apart from older Kings from a distance. For that I take my lid off to Willie G. and his styling department. What you get with this King and all the new Touring models are much improved bikes that have retained the character and iconic styling of the overall brand. The visual similarities are partially made possible because of the carryover of the bike’s front end, traditional saddlebags and a new in 2008 6-gallon fuel tank, all of which were left unchanged for ’09.

Harley Road King Classic

With the King packed, I finally hit the road heading east. My travel partner was a familiar one, Chris Maida, however, he had the responsibility of piloting the company truck. This left me in the elements on my own, but able to cruise at whatever speed I wished while having the comfort of knowing he was not far behind. Being out front clearing the way made it seem like we were engaged in our own twisted version of that ’77 classic Smokey and the Bandit. It wasn’t until days later, when I was back home, that my mom pointed out that I had no CB and, more importantly, no Sally Field riding with me.

For that 1,000-mile trip home, I just sat back and reveled in what Harley had accomplished with its makeover. Mile after mile, this King purred along, soaking up any and all the bumps the road had to dish out. Blasting the interstates shines a spotlight on improved top-end performance, which is a direct result of the new 68-tooth rear sprocket (two more than previous models) creating a lower final drive ratio. When not cranking on the highway, I marveled at the newfound stability of this bike. The combination of the wider, laced, chrome steel rear wheel, which has been increased from 3″ to 5″, and its Dunlop D407 multitread 180/65-16″ rear tire, is a welcome addition. And when paired with the new 130/90-16″ front tire and matching wheel, the results give this bike solid footing in all road conditions, especially when activating the optional ABS that came on our tester. The air-adjustable rear suspension and standard telescopic front end has been recalibrated, and does a magnificent job of allowing the new single-spar, rigid backbone frame, two-piece swingarm, wheels, and tires to work together to provide an almost ideal ride. So much so, that a 1/2″ increase in trail and a 0.556″ increase in wheelbase are barely noticeable.

While the Road King Classic was in my garage, I realized that I liked riding it so much, despite its color combination, that I took it wherever I had to go. Better still, the one passenger I had on the back never complained of heat exposure around her calves, compliments of a revised routing of the new 2-into-1-into-2 exhaust system (too bad she wasn’t Sally Field). Thanks to John over at Dyno Solutions in Brookfield, Connecticut, I know that this bike puts out just over 75 ft-lbs. of torque and has 62.8 hp at the rear wheel, which feels about right.

I have no qualms declaring that Road Kings have always been my favorite Touring models. Truth told, I’ve always favored the Classic with its whitewall tires, since it seems to exude a bit more character. And the 2009 redesign has provided a significantly improved riding experience in many ways. Overall, the 2009 Road King Classic is more comfortable, has more carrying capacity, and is more maneuverable than its predecessor. With this bike, and the rest of the Touring family, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Harley-Davidson lead the touring segment in market share for the next 15 years. AIM

–Joe Knezevic as published in American Iron Magazine, the world’s best selling Harley magazine.

Harley Magazine Test CVO Motorcycle

Limited Edition Harley CVO Motorcycle

Every Harley-Davidson new model launch I’ve attended over the years has been a rewarding experience in some way or another, but none more so than the ones hosted by the Motor Company’s Custom Vehicle Operations (CVO) division. It seems that when the CVO team launches their new models, they do it in a special and exclusive way, giving you the sense of what it might be like to actually own a CVO. This year’s press launch (CVO’s 11th year in existence) kept with tradition and made us all feel grand for many reasons, not the least of which was because we were bunking at the Ritz- Carlton in Half Moon Bay, California.

For 2010 there will be four models offered: two reprised, one all new, and one all new and exclusive to CVO (see page 110 for specs on each model). It’s no surprise that for a fifth time, the CVO Ultra Classic Electra Glide has made the lineup. And it’s nice to see one of my favorite Harleys, the CVO Fat Bob, make the grade for the second straight year. The other two models are the first-year CVO Street Glide, and the exclusive-to-CVO Softail Convertible. As a side note, these four bikes (as well as all Big Twins) will now feature a new helical-cut fifth gear in their six-speed Cruise Drive transmissions, eliminating that fifth gear whine which created a lot of business for Bert Baker. Although I did get to rack up some miles on all four models, I was most intrigued by the exclusive-to-CVO Softail Convertible, so I procured as much seat time as I could on it, figuring I should discuss it here.

Harley CVO Softail

The convertible is not necessarily a bold new concept for the Motor Company. In the ’80s, there were the FXR Convertibles, followed by the Dyna Convertibles of the ’90s. Neither of those models sold well, and the idea lay dormant at Juneau Avenue until this CVO interpretation came to fruition. Right from the start, you can see that special care was taken to make sure the 2010 CVO Softail Convertible was designed to be a two-in-one, touring-and-cruising factory custom, and it was going to look good doing it in either configuration.
Attention to detail is obvious in the quality of its detachable parts, and how they work together on the bike as a whole. The combination of the color-matched compact fairing with the smoked windshield nicely integrates with the bike’s style, and is as simple to install or remove as any of the other detachable windshields Harley offers. The leather, semi-ridged saddlebags feature genuine buffalo-hide inserts. They can be removed in seconds by simply pulling and then turning a lock tab on the backside of the bags, and sliding the whole setup backward. The best part is that all that’s left behind are two mounting pegs on each fender strut. Installation of the bags takes a tad longer because everything needs to line up, including the lower mounting tabs. Once I got used to the installation process, I was able to attach each bag in under a minute, which leads me to believe even a monkey (or a buffalo) could learn how to do it.

An obvious and noticeable difference between this and all previous H-D convertibles is the fact that the custom leather seat has a detachable passenger pillion and detachable backrest pad, meaning, when not in touring mode, you have a solo seat cruiser. Note for styling continuity: all three of these parts feature genuine buffalo-hide inserts that match those on the saddlebags.

When I initially sat on this bike, I couldn’t help but notice the low seat height (24.4″ laden) and high mounted position of the floorboards, which combined to give me a cramped feel while in the cockpit. Anyone with a large body take note because you might not like this bike on long hauls. The rear suspension has been lowered a full 1″, which forced me to smooth out my riding lines and not make any abrupt directional changes to prevent the floorboards from scraping. The good thing here is that by simply installing stock Softail shocks, you get that whole inch of ground clearance back. Better yet, in my opinion, a sweet air-ride setup would work righteously on this bike because you pump it up in touring mode and slam it down in cruiser mode. However, those of you who just plan on burning highway miles probably won’t have as many touchdowns, so this stock setup should be fine.

In terms of performance, what is there not to like about the TC 110B granite-powdercoated engine driving a 200mm, 18″, chrome aluminum Stinger rear wheel? The all-new combination digital speedometer and analog tachometer is a thing of beauty, and works wonderfully. The bike’s speed is displayed digitally in the center of the gauge, while the rpm is indicated by an arm that sweeps around the outer edge of the gauge. Easy to read, and looks hot, too!
The fit and finish of this CVO, like all of them, is exquisite. The full coverage wide rear fender and close-cropped, trimmed front fender do wonders to visually ground the bike. Add to that the fact that this chrome-laden bike also has many color-matched parts, including the frame, swingarm, frame inserts, saddlebag brackets, and horseshoe oil tank. You have a visually striking motorcycle, no matter how it’s configured.

Over the years, I’ve seen many deals advertised as BOGO (buy one, get one). To me, the 2010 Softail Convertible has a Fat Boy-esque look in cruiser trim, while in touring trim it reminds me of a Heritage Classic. That said, the way I see it is that you’re really getting two bikes for the price of one: $27,999. Add to that the value inherently built into buying a limited-production, factory-custom CVO Harley, and you can see why this bike is a steal.

–Joe Knezevic as published in American Iron Magazine, the world’s best selling Harley magazine.

Harley Magazine Tested Dyna Street Bob

2010 Harley Dyna Glide

In a moment of clarity that can only come from consuming adult beverages while breathing the thin air of Denver, I realized that over the years I’ve had the good fortune of riding every member of the Dyna family except the Street Bob. With that revelation fresh in my mind, I decided to remedy the situation by racking up as many miles as I could on this model while attending Harley’s 2010 model launch in the Mile High City.

Street Bobs burst onto the scene in 2005 as a 2006 model, and American Iron celebrated that event with world-exclusive coverage in our September 2005 issue. The bike went on to become surprisingly popular and sold relatively well for a Dyna. Then for the 2009 model year Willie G. and his posse refreshed the bike by giving it a styling update. Fast-forward to the 2010 version you see here, which I finally got to spend some time flogging around Denver and the surrounding mountain roads.

Riding The Harley Dyna Street Bob

It’s no secret that the Dyna line is my favorite family of bikes currently in production by the Motor Company. I would describe this Dyna as Harley’s attempt to mass-produce a pure minimalist, post-war-style bobber. In other words, a modern interpretation of the classic, stripped-down bike that American GIs created after coming home from World War II.

Distinct features that make the Street Bob stand out from its Dyna siblings include mini-apehanger handlebars, a chopped rear fender, and a retro taillight. The mini-apes seem like they may have been sourced straight from the last generation of Wide Glides, but they’re internally wired for a nice clean look. If the LED taillight wasn’t so bright I would swear it had been lifted directly off an old Crocker. Compared to the first incarnation, the rear fender of this year’s Street Bob is heavily chopped and void of support covers. The combination gives the rear end of this bike a distinctly classic bobber look and feel.

Like all Dynas, the TC 96 in the Street Bob is rubber-mounted giving the bike a smooth, comfortable ride. The six-speed Cruise Drive transmission has gotten an upgrade for 2010 and now boasts a helical-cut fifth gear which is much quieter. This change is across the board for all Big Twins and a welcome upgrade for this journalist, since I only shift into sixth gear when I am doing well above the speed limit.

This bike and the newly redesigned 2010 Wide Glide share a laden seat height of 25.5″ which is the lowest in the Dyna family. A solo seat and mid-controls make the Street Bob easy to ride even for the shortest folks, like our fearless editor Chris Maida. The 19″ front and 17″ rear, steel-laced wheels have gloss black rims and roll on 160mm rear/100mm front Michelin Scorcher 31 tires. To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time since the early ’80s that Harleys are rolling out of the factory with tires other than Dunlops. A 29-degree fork angle makes this bike’s handling quick and nimble even on mountain roads.

Like its Super Glide siblings, the Street Bob features a combination neck/ignition lock conveniently located just forward and to the right of the 4.7 gallon Fat Bob fuel tank, which is now adorned with two new-for-2010 medallions. Also new this year is the all-black finished powertrain, which, by the way, is my favorite look for Harleys. The battery cover and belt guard are also finished in wrinkle black and complete the dark, minimalist profile a bobber should have. The tank console is full-length and features a silver-faced speedometer with a functional fuel range readout.

While spending two days riding the Street Bob, I came to some simple conclusions. First, the mini-apes put my hands in almost the perfect position for comfort, but not necessarily for steering on tight, technical roads. Next, the low solo seat and mid-controls were plenty comfortable for me on short stints, but after extended time in the saddle I found my 6′ 2″ frame got cramped, especially in the hip area. If I were to own this bike, both these issues could easily be remedied with new bars, a different seat, and maybe even forward controls. I also found that the front single-disc brake setup works well on this bike since it doesn’t overpower the front wheel under hard braking. Straight-cut, chrome, staggered, shorty dual exhaust pipes look like they belong on the Street Bob, while the low-profile front fender has a cool, custom look.

Like all Dynas this model delivers great handling and bold styling for a reasonable price. You could park a Vivid Black Street Bob in your garage for the MSRP of $12,999 or choose from four different colors like the Black Ice Denim you see here for $13,374.

Now that I’ve finally ridden the Dyna Street Bob, I’m happy to say that my fondness for the Dyna family has only been strengthened. And that is not the adult beverages or the thin air talking. AIM

–Joe Knezevic as published in American Iron Magazine, the world’s best selling Harley magazine.

Dirico Motorcycle ProStreet Magazine Review

Dirico Motorcycle ProStreet

The Massachusetts day was so immaculate it made our otherwise stoic AIM sales rep, John Smolinski, weep. Actually, that’s not quite true. What caused old John to blubber was far more profound than any beautiful weather. But perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself.

Prior to John’s charming waterworks, I was given a gleaming new Dirico Motorcycles USA (formerly known as Red Wing) ProStreet to log some serious miles on. However, before the real adventure began, I spent my first few hours aboard the scoot chugging along in a 1,500-strong charity procession called Rock Ride: Boston For Africa, a two-wheeled fundraiser largely organized by none other than Aerosmith’s legendary front man Steven Tyler. If anyone is a little confused, allow me to make the connection.

In case you didn’t know it, Steven Tyler has always been about motorcycles. Sure, he’s got a voice, and, yes, he’s a rock star, but at his core, Steven is a bike builder. At least that’s the idea. “Custom Motorcycles By Steven Tyler,” declares Dirico Motorcycles’ slogan. “Four wheels move the body, two wheels move the soul.” What all of that means is that Steven has partnered with veteran cycle engineer Mark Dirico and Manchester, New Hampshire’s AC Custom Motorcycles to design and create a line of relatively high-end factory customs. If the ProStreet is anything to go by, the crew have done a first- rate job, while also playing it safe.

Take a close look at this styling sled, and you’ll notice a large number of good old H-D Bar & Shields. In other words, almost every component on this bike is manufactured by our friends at the Motor Company. The mill is a stock Screamin’ Eagle 103″ with 9:1 compression that makes an adequate, but not thrilling, 74.53 hp and 83.36 ft-lbs. of torque. The bike is fed by H-D electronic sequential port fuel injection sucking through a cone-shaped Screamin’ Eagle air intake, and exhaling via Samson Big Radius pipes. Power is delivered through a glorious, buttery smooth (no surprise there) BAKER six-speed tranny.

This all amounts to a solid, reliable drivetrain that’s meant to go the distance and can be conveniently serviced not only by private shops, but also any H-D dealership. While it would be nice to see more power from the 103″ engine, you certainly won’t find yourself lagging behind. If only H-D would lighten up with choking down its motor so much, we’d all be happier. I mean, 103″ producing only 75.4 ponies? Come on. But that’s not Dirico Motorcycles’ problem. Besides, for those more throttle-thirsty, Dirico will build the motor any way you want. If 124″ is your poison, no problem.

Dirico Motorcycle ProStreet 2 Softail style

Also familiar to Harley loyalists are the bike’s instrumentation, mirrors, headlight, inverted CVO forks, and hand and foot controls. Yup, they’re all H-D. Likewise, the 5-gallon gas tank and the dash, which are cribbed directly from the Deuce and, more recently, Rocker models. Thankfully, everything is integrated with great style and finesse. Nothing about this bike feels or looks shoehorned in. Like I said, Dirico Motorcycles did bang-up work while also playing it safe. H-D riders are bound to feel right at home when they drop down into that not-exactly-cush Corbin saddle and take in the surroundings. Bringing the whole affair to a most capable halt are — surprise! — Harley four-piston calipers front and rear.

For the record, a few things actually weren’t borrowed from the minds in Milwaukee. First of all there’s the proprietary frame, a hand-built (by AC) DOM mild-steel, single-downtube skeleton that incorporates a cool 36-degree rake in the steering head. Similarly cooked up by AC are the fenders, both sleekly hugging the rims of the Performance Machine wheels. It’s a low, lean, mighty attractive package that turns its fair share of heads. This machine is also remarkably easy to ride, especially given the bike’s 8′ 7″ length and the fact it sports a 240 Metzeler in the stern. Granted, as fat-skinned sleds go, that’s not a huge tire, but it certainly ain’t small.

Now back to John’s tears. Our misty-eyed man accompanied me on Steven’s Rock Ride charity parade — on a different bike, thank you very much. The worthy event culminated in a Boston waterfront party replete with some of the music industry’s top names. It was at this bash that John, a huge Aerosmith fan and a professional musician himself, showed me some video he’d shot of Steven while riding next to him on a Tyler-designed steed in the morning’s motorcade. John then admitted that he’d shed a few wet ones as a result of being so close to rock and roll greatness. I couldn’t believe my ears. In an effort to justify his emotions John quickly added, “They were tears of ecstasy.” Of course they were. But does that make it right?

After John’s confession, the time came for me to fire up the Dirico ProStreet and hit the road, sans 1,500 slow-moving bikes. Over the next two days, I thoroughly enjoyed ripping a ton of New England asphalt from Maine to the Canadian border and finally back to New York. I even blasted the bike up New Hampshire’s Mt. Washington (elevation 6,288′), a wild moonscape featuring sheer cliffs, no guardrails, and a winding, treacherous little dirt track that is supposed to be a road. The blinding fog didn’t help. The point is, I logged well over 1,000 miles, cranking the hell out of the Dirico ProStreet in all sorts of conditions and on a great variety of roads, some of which most people would be wise to avoid. There was almost nothing I could throw at this ProStreet that it didn’t handle with power and grace. Simply put, it ran like a champ.

My only qualm with the machine had to do with its rear suspension, which occasionally bottomed out, making this one of the hardest riding softail-style bikes I’ve ever ridden. However, when informed of this little glitch, Dirico Motorcycles’ crack team made adjustments, and they assure me the problem is now solved. Good job.

Clocking in at $38,995 (depending on paint) the Dirico Motorcycles USA ProStreet isn’t the cheapest bike on the block. But it’s a sturdy, potent package featuring assurance of roadworthiness in so many Harley components. Backed by a two-year, unlimited-miles warranty, it’s a cool ride that’s slightly radical, but still reliable and safe. Word is they’re selling like mad. If you want, Steven Tyler will even autograph the thing for you.

It’s almost enough to make you cry. Tears of ecstasy, of course. AIM

–Sam Whitehead, as published in American Iron Magazine, the world’s best selling Harley magazine.

Dirico Motorcycles USA