Sunday, September 4, 2011

A Brief Illustrated History of the Harley-Davidson Road King FLHR

I am proud of my 2008 Road King, which I custom-ordered from the factory in York, PA while deployed to Iraq. My cycle was waiting for me at Patriot Harley-Davidson in Fairfax, VA, when I returned from Baghdad.

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

The very first Harley-Davidsons crafted in 1903 resemble motorized bicycles. As the Motor Company developed larger engines, designers built specialized frames for track racing, off-road racing, climbing, or hauling. The modern Road King is a highly refined touring machine which evolved from the big frame bikes that hogged the American roads in the 1940s.

Following is an illustrated history of the King of the Road, Harley-Davidson's FLHR Road King.

Big frame bikes included EL, U, UL, UH, and ULH

FL is introduced with 74 cu in Kucklehead, same frame as EL, U, and UL.
FL replaced UH and ULH

FL gets a 74 cu in Panhead. U and UL with Flathead discontinued, leaving FL
and EL as the only two large frame bikes

FL gets new front suspension, hydraulically damped telescopic forks, and 
a new name, "Hydra-Glide." The "Glide" name was applied to other bikes, 
leading to some confusion.

FL gets a new transmission (hand clutch and foot shift). The EL with its old 
trans and 61 cu in Panhead is discontinued, leaving the FL as the only large frame bike.

FLH gets a high compression, highly tuned engine and the 3d letter H

FLH gets a new frame with a rear swingarm with coil-over-shock suspension 
and a new name, "Duo-Glide."

FLH gets an electric starter and a new name: Electra-Glide

FLH gets the Shovelhead and a removeable, fork-mounted Batwing fairing.
Later, when the instruments were moved to the fairing it became permanent.

FLs (H & T) get front disc brakes

An unfaired FLH is available called FLHS Electra-Glide Sport.
Discontinued in 1982.

Optional 80 cu in engine is offered; becomes standard in 1981

FLH gets a new frame. FLHT is an Electra Glide on the larger FLT Tour Glide 
frame. Comes with Batwing fairing instead of the Tour Glide's frame-mounted
Sharknose fairing.

All FLs get the rubber-mounted Evolution engine and 5-speed transmission

After a 5-year hiatus, an unfaired FLHT is offered under the revised FLHS Electra-Glide Sport name.

The new FLHR Road King replaces the twice-discontinued FLHS.

FLHR gets the Twin Cam 88.

FLHR gets the Twin Cam 96.

FLHR gets a new, longer frame, a 6 gallon fuel tank, a 6-speed transmission, 
and antilock brakes.

FLHR gets a new chassis

FLHR gets a new helical cut 5th gear for improved transmission sound

FLHR gets new security package option including factory-installed 
Harley-Davidson® Smart Security System with hands-free fob and Anti-lock 
Braking System (ABS).

FLHR gets new rubber-mounted Twin Cam 103™ V-Twin engine with
Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI),  with heated O2 sensors 
and Electronic Throttle Control (ETC), new tubeless chrome aluminum 
profile laced wheel option, and new paint color options.

The standard FLHR is essentially unchanged from the previous year's model, but H-D's 110th Anniversary edition (shown) features a new tank badge and bronze & black paint scheme. The popular Classic edition returns with leather bags and wide white walls, and the fifth CVO Road King edition (FLHRSE5) features these Road King firsts: factory-installed audio, fairing lowers, and a split windscreen. 

20th Anniversary of the FLHR Road King. I can hardly wait to see what Milwaukee has in store for Road King fans!