Best and Worst Years for the Harley-Davidson Road King

The Harley-Davidson Road King is a classic that keeps getting improved upon with each iteration. If you’re looking to add this stunning motorcycle to your garage, the best year to start with is the 2016 Road King Classic. And it’s best to avoid the 2006 model when you can.

Road King: Best and Worst Years

Harley-Davidson Road King Overview

At first glance, the Road King is a timeless motorcycle that encapsulates the classic motorcycle aesthetic. Each year sports a powerful V-twin engine to power down the highway, with extra features to keep you comfy for long rides.

Most models come with a windscreen though some models’ are detachable, and each Road King comes equipped with saddlebags for touring.

Depending on the year you’re looking at, specs like weight and seat height will vary, but overall it’s a big bike that makes long drives enjoyable.

And with several colors and customization options at your disposal, you can make the Road King fit your needs if you have your heart set on it.

Why Is the Road King so Popular?

Older models are a favorite among motorcycle purists because of the Road King’s classic look. And newer models are praised for their modern safety features and accommodations.

But the one thing everyone can agree on is the Road King’s position as an ideal touring bike.

The Road King is a people pleaser, and rightly so. Each year new features are added and improved upon, which makes it difficult to find one that properly fits your style and needs.

How Many Miles Can a Harley Road King Last?

So long as you’re riding responsibly and maintaining your motorcycle properly, the Road King can last well over 75,000 miles. There are many Harleys, Road Kings and otherwise, currently on the road that have well over 100,000 miles.

Common Harley Road King Problems

Here is a breakdown of common issues you might see with your Road King.

Trouble Reaching Top Speeds

Unfortunately, many Road King models without proper maintenance experience engine troubles. In older models, the twin-cam engine was a new addition and was often not installed properly. This leads to many Road Kings not being able to reach top speeds like other motorcycles.

Unless the previous owner of your Road King has addressed the issue and properly maintained it, you will need to speak with a mechanic about it. In much earlier models of the Road King (1999 and earlier), it will be more difficult to find certain parts.

Cam Bearings Issues

Another common problem with Road Kings is faulty or incorrectly installed cam bearings. This particular issue became worse during the release of the 2003-2009 models.

In certain models, the cam bearings can’t be entirely fixed and will need to be repaired consistently.

This is a very serious problem if you don’t address it immediately. In models from 2003-2009, the cam bearings can lead to engine failure. And if this happens while you’re on the road, this can lead to a life-threatening accident.

Road King: Best and Worst Years

Road King Years to Avoid

Before we get into the best that the Road King has to offer, let’s cover some of the worst years in the Road King’s history. Here are three models that you should avoid in your shopping endeavors.

Year 2006

Technically, the 2003-2009 series of models all had similar issues, but 2006 was arguably the worst of the bunch. After several years of failed attempts to improve the classic Road King’s style and performance, the 2006 model became a big flop, and Harley had to recall hundreds of bikes.

From wobbly bolts to parts that were challenging to repair or maintain, there were a lot of issues.

If you’re in the market for a real fixer-upper, you might enjoy working on the 2006 Road Glide. But don’t plan on driving it anywhere unless you have a tool bag handy.

Year 2004

2004 was a bad year for Harley as a whole, with several motorcycles missing the mark with customers. The 2004 Road King was marketed as the Dyna Superglide, and quickly gained a reputation for its faulty transmission system and incompatible engine.

These issues would snowball into other parts of the motorcycle, leading to many unsatisfied customers.

This is another model for people looking for a bike to fix up and display rather than take out for a road trip. While the 2004 Road King wasn’t a total disaster, it isn’t for riders looking to get out on the road.

Year 2014

While the 2014 model is impressive to look at, it has several issues that riders can’t let go of. Faulty engine parts led to several accidents, and Harley had to recall some of these motorcycles for replacement.

On top of this, the 2014 Road King had serious hydraulic issues. And considering the Road King’s main selling point is a smooth ride, many customers were unhappy with its performance.

While these issues are certainly frustrating to deal with, regular maintenance and solid repairs can help this particular model. But make sure to speak with your mechanic if you suspect there’s something wrong with your bike, since avoidance may lead to serious issues with your ride.

Best Years for Harley Road King

Now that you know what years to avoid, here are some of the best years to look for your new favorite motorcycle. Here are three models that you should consider choosing from.

Year 2016

The 2016 Harley Road King Classic is probably one of the best motorcycles Harley-Davidson has produced. The leather seating and saddlebags are one of its best selling points and expand on the model’s classic look.

Everything riders love about the standard Road Glide gets expanded on with a higher detachable windscreen, dual halogen headlamps, and chrome embellishments.

With all that leather, however, you will need to be mindful of taking care of it. The only complaint riders have about this particular model is the fact that these saddlebags aren’t watertight.

Year 2005

While this model came out in the middle of the iffy years, the 2005 Road King is a bright spot in the middle of a rough patch. The Road King Custom was a new take on the classic Road King look.

The streamlined fenders, chrome features, and pulled-back beach handlebars make this model a comfortable yet minimalist approach to the Road King.

Since this model was made during the iffy years, you will need to be mindful of your bike’s cam bearings. If you buy used, check if these parts have been replaced since they are vital to your bike’s well-being and Road Kings made during these years had faulty cam bearings.

Year 1999

If you’re more into the classic motorcycle look, the 1999 Road King is for you. It was also one of the best models for customization. Equipped with a die-cast chrome dash, new handlebars, and hardtop saddlebags, this model is a classic that’s perfect for road trips.

Unlike the 2016 model, the hardtop saddlebags are waterproof and easier to maintain.

This model is one of the Road Kings that struggles to reach top speeds. Some owners complain about engine troubles, which you should be prepared to confront depending on the condition of your bike.

Harley-Davidson Road King Pros and Cons

Smooth ride with suspensionNot ideal for short riders
Big visual appealMust frequently refuel
Comfortable ergonomicsModern features vary per year
Passenger running boardsDifficult to lift without assistance

Is the Harley Road King a Good Bike?

For the person that wants to go on road trips in total comfort, the Harley-Davidson Road King is a great pick. Despite its flaws in certain years, riders generally have nothing but good things to say about it. However, if you’re looking to get a Road Glide for yourself you may want to avoid the 2006 model in favor of something more modern.

Road King FAQs

Still looking for more information? Have a look at some answers below.

What is the difference between a Road King and a Road King Special?

The Road King has a smaller engine size than the Road King Special. The standard Road King uses a 107 Milwaukee V-twin engine while the Special uses a 114 Milwaukee Eight V-twin engine.

What is the difference between a Road King and a Road King Classic?

The Road King Classic is considered more luxurious than the standard Road King. It comes with genuine leather seats, leather saddlebags, and a more powerful engine.

What is the difference between a Road King and an Electra Glide?

The Electra Glide is much heavier and more powerful than the Road King. Since it is a single-seater with no floorboards available, it’s more meant for long journeys with plenty of rest stops in the middle.

Is a Road King good for touring?

Yes! The Road King is considered one of the best touring motorcycles for its many features perfect for long trips.

Is a Harley Road King a good first bike?

While the Road King is an excellent motorcycle, it isn’t ideal for a first bike. It’s very user-friendly and smooth for long rides, but it’s more suited for riders with some experience.

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Author: Dave Johnston

Dave is a hands-on automotive technician with experience in performing service, diagnostics, and repairs on domestic and imported vehicles. He enjoys writing and sharing his knowledge far and wide.

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