Harley-Davidson Road King: a leap into its history

Harley-Davidson Road King

Harley-Davidson Road King: a leap into its history

The Harley-Davidson Road King, code FLHR, is a popular model with a proud history. Introduced in 1994, it has roots going all the way back to the first FL model in 1941.

It owes its popularity to its simplicity, its enormous engine, and its power. It offers all the comforts a rider could want for both short and long rides. It also is fully customizable to appeal either who likes a more stripped-down version who loves a fully loaded bike.
Let’s dive into its history and some fun facts.


Introduced to the world in 1994, the Harley-Davidson Road King replaced the Electra-Glide Sport. Its history shows exactly how easy it is to trace models’ history using Harley-Davidson alphabet codes.  In 1941 Harley-Davidson unveiled its first Big Twin, the FL with the 74 cubic inch Knucklehead engine. When the company added its first hydraulic front forks in 1949, an “H” was added to the model designation and the motorcycle was named Hydra-Glide.

The 1958 model year of the FLH got rear brakes and hydraulic rear suspension. The letter designation remained the same, but the name was changed to Duo-Glide. When in 1965 the company swapped the kickstart for a more modern electric starter the FLH got its iconic Electra-Glide (still in production today).

In 1977 the Electra-Glide Sport was unveiled and Harley-Davidson added an “S” to the FLH model designator. The Sport was a less expensive version of the Elctra-Glide and did not have a fairing.

In 1994 the Harley-Davidson Road King, code FLHR, was introduced on the market. It had hard saddlebags and a windshield but no fairing. One of the defining features of the Road King was its large, retro headlight, reminiscent of the Big Twins of the 60s. In 1996 the Harley-Davidson Road King received fuel-injection and had its code changed to FLHRI.

1998 was the year of the Road King Classic (FLHRC), which featured leather covered hard saddlebags. In 1999 the Road King complete line received the new 1450 cc Twin Cam 88 engine.

In 2004 the Harley-Davidson Road King Classic was introduced. Its styling was very similar to the old Electra-Glide Sport, and guess what? Model code was FLHRS.

A cool thing about the Custom is that, coming in at 28.3 inches, it was given the lowest seat height of all the Road King line up. It also rocked Beach Bar handlebars, and smooth finish leather wrapped hard saddlebags. Harley-Davidson dismissed production in 2008.

Harley-Davidson celebrated its 105th anniversary with the 2008 model year. Part of that celebration included a limited edition Road King Classic. The anniversary Classic rocked laced wheels, whitewall tires, tooled leather seats and covered hard saddlebags. The entire Harley-Davidson Road King lineup got a new frame that stretched the wheelbase to 63.5 inches, and a complete Brembo braking system. Finally, the company added a range indicator and increased fuel capacity to six gallons.

The engines on the Road King models (and the entire Touring and Softail lines plus many of the Dyna family models) got another bump in displacement for the 2012 model year with the 1690 cc Twin Cam 103. Everything remained business as usual until 2018, when the Harley-Davidson Road King received the all-new Milwaukee-eight engine. Nowadays the Road King lineup features the Road King and the Road King Special.

Field of Duty

Harley-Davidson has a special thing for those who dedicate their lives to serve and protect their community and their country. In the USA there are more than 4000 units of Harley-Davidson Road King specifically equipped for the Police force and for Fire Departments.
Even more special, these models serve beside the Police force and Firefighters in more than 45 countries across the world.

News and conclusions

A couple of days ago a new custom paint called “Apex”was released for the Harley-Davidson Road King Special. According to Brad Richards (Harley-Davidson Vice President of Design) “Apex factory custom paint gives riders the opportunity to express the thrill of speed and competition on the bodywork of their bagger. This paint scheme communicates velocity and forward momentum with lines and colours inspired by Harley-Davidson competition motorcycles.”

What to say? Harley-Davidson never fails to surprise us. Since its launch in 1994, the Road King platform has evolved and introduced top of the class equipment while preserving its heritage and tradition. I cannot wait to see what the future holds and what new and incredible version of Road King models Harley-Davidson will release.

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