2017 Road King On-board

A walk around and cruise on the latest Milwaukee 8 equipped Road King:

Kings of the Road

Man of Means by no-means, King of the Road – Miller, R.

15 years Ago.
As far as I can tell my first ride on a Road King was around the middle of 2001. It was one of Auckland Motorsports’ rental fleet and I produced a Kiwi Rider Magazine quick spin article on it.
I’m not exactly sure of the date because it was back when I was still shooting on film, so there is no ‘file created’ date stamp on the pics, but I figure it was ’01 because I had another go on a Blue and Silver Classic not long after, shot on a very early Kodak digital and those files are dated 2002. It too was a quick spin/KR article.

In 2005 I produced another short piece for Kiwi Rider on a Yellow Classic. Even then, if the Road King wasn’t already my favourite Harley-Davidson, it was certainly the model I would buy.  Gorgeous Cruiser, capable tourer and ideal for 2-up riding - which is an important consideration in this household. It had all the benefits of the roomy, big-man friendly Touring chassis and was a joy just to look at.

10 Years Ago
In October 2006 I had my first long term loan on one of Harley’s Press Bikes. It was for a full test feature in Kiwi Rider and involved several weeks of riding the wheels off a stunning White Classic around Auckland and environs. I had one of the most memorable days ever, off on my own, exploring the wonderful roads of the Western Waikato and simply enjoying the beautiful machine. Now thoroughly hooked on Road Kings. By then I was also hooked on night time photography and bike portraiture and the RK has always been one of the most photogenic bikes ever.

5 Years Ago

October 2010 and another long term test on a blue beauty. Four years since the previous piece meant it was time to re-evaluate the bike with the 2008 upgraded chassis for the NZ mag and also to produce a touring article for the HOG magazine. We rode to Raglan on the West Coast of the North Island in one of those long weekends that will live in my memory forever.

October 2011 (what is it with me and Road Kings in October!) and we had not long returned home to Aus and it was off on another feature ride for the HOG Magazine. This time it was on a Red and Orange Std up to Hervey Bay in Qld. And the bike was ‘only perfect’ for the task.

November 2011 saw production of a feature for Heavy Duty magazine on a wild Turbocharged and chopped RK. It was a rather amazing machine. The cover story - no less.

May 2013 and I had another longer-term loan of an orange-red standard and spent 6 weeks touring around SEQ, covered charity rides, HOG events and some of the best local cruising going.

April 2015 – A weekend with a 2008 model. A loaner to cover a 400km ride for Heavy Duty Motorcycles.

And Now...
September/October 2016. I received an email from Harley’s PR agency notifying that the Milwaukee 8 press fleet was available – and which model would I like to test for Heavy Duty Magazine. Naturally, I didn’t hesitate to nominate the Road King. It's my go-to Harley and I can't wait to ride a Milwaukee 8.

Indian Springfield Test

When news of the Indian Springfield first broke it appeared the bike was a variant of the existing naked Indian models (the Vintage and Classic) the difference being that it was fitted with the hard bags from a Chieftain. But in looking more closely it turned out it’s actually closer to the fully dressed Chieftain – without the fairing.

The Chieftain has always been the best cornering of the Thunderstroke equipped Indians and that’s due to slightly different geometry. We’ve always assumed that the Chieftain was set up to accommodate the extra weight of the large fairing, power windscreen, stereo, speakers and instruments that are all mounted on its 48mm telescopic forks.

Accordingly it has steeper rake - 25 degrees compared to the Classics and Vintage’s 29 degrees while the trail is 5mm less (150mm as opposed to 155mm). The rake also means that the Chieftain’s wheelbase is a couple of mm shorter, thus delivering a motorcycle that steered a little more quickly and felt like it had better cornering clearance than its stable mates.

The Springfield has that same 25-degree rake as the Chieftain, but the triple trees have been revised to give it even less trail (132mm) and a slightly longer wheelbase.

But here’s what I got wrong.

What really blows the ‘weight on the forks’ assumption out of the water is that the Classic weighs 341kg dry, the Chieftain tips the scales at 370kg and the Springfield (somewhat surprisingly) is heavier at 371kg dry.

It appears that the big headlight and massive chromed nacelle, (approx. 8kg), touring windscreen screen (approx. 5kg) and light bar (about 3kg) add up to slightly more payload than the Chieftain’s accoutrements.

Regardless of the mass, the result of all this geometric fettling is that the Springfield is the best handling and cornering incarnation of the new Indians so far – and it’s predecessors were already very capable.

The handling is only one aspect where this model sees improvements. It was the most comfortable, felt the most refined and had the sweetest gearbox of any of the numerous Thunderstrokes I’ve tested so far too.

Comfort-wise The saddle seems a little plusher than previous models and the handlebars feel different too. It was about as comfortable as I’ve been on a bike.

The footboards are wide and the upper surface is slightly sprung to isolate the (minimal) vibration of the engine. They are also mounted high enough to give excellent cornering clearance and lean angle - without compromising comfort. It was an absolute pleasure to roll away long sessions on the Freeways and Toll Roads as well as getting amongst it in the foothills. The cruise control worked flawlessly out on the open roads too.

The Overtaking power and ‘hurry up’ that comes form the Thunderstroke is also a torque lover’s delight. It gets away from the lights so effortlessly that it sometimes took me aback to see how far back, and how quickly the tin tops disappeared in the rear view mirrors when giving it a handful from the traffic lights.

It just seems to do it all so easily. Indian claim 138.9nm@3000rpm are developed by the 111 cubic inch, 49-degree OHV Pushrod V-twin with 2 valves per cylinder, hydraulic lifters and 9.5:1 compression ratio. The same engine is fitted to all models in the Thunderstroke family.

So far I haven’t been able to find out exactly what Indian have done to the gearbox, but whatever they did – it sure worked. Not that they were cantankerous at all before this model, but this Springfield had a gearbox good enough to mention twice.

The clutch is light and easy and the gear primary drive and belt final give a very direct feel. So tight is the drive train that on throttling down to low speeds the EFI can cause a slight surge as it finds idle revs – but it’s only minor.

Apart from the slight geometry changes there aren’t many other differences on the frame anc chasis spec sheets of the Chieftain and the Springfield. The air adjustable pre-load on the rear monotube suspension is common to both, as are the cast 16.5” x 3.5” wheels front and rear.

The Dual floating disc front and single floating disc rear brakes pull the big units up just fine. They are genuine two-finger fronts and ABS is fitted as standard.

Feel good.

The Springfield was pretty much a lust affair for me from the moment I first hopped on it. Over the course of the test I put in some day rides and country runs that were simply outstanding.

It also worked brilliantly as a city and boulevard cruiser. Relaxed, comfortable, unique, and I just felt good about myself every time I rode it.

It’s feature laden, with cruise, central locking, self-cancelling indicators, security fob, multi function trip computer and a host of other high tech hidden beneath its heritage styling.

More people engaged me on this bike than the other Indians I’ve been on too.

“Is that the Indian that broke the record?” Asked the bloke in the hatchback at the traffic lights and a heap of people questioned me about the bike everywhere I parked it.

“Yes, they still make them. Yes, it is beautiful. Yes, your brother’s Indian was probably built in the 40’s”.

The sort of engagement that comes with a premium motorcycle.


Engine Type: Thunder Stroke® 111
Displacement: 111 cu in / 1811 cc
Bore x Stroke: 3.976 x 4.449 in (101 mm x 113 mm)
Compression Ratio:9.5 : 1
Electronic Fuel Injection System
Closed Loop Fuel Injection / 54 mm Bore

Primary Drive: Gear Drive
Clutch: Wet, Multi-Plate
Final Drive: 2.2 : 1
Peak Torque: 119.2 ft-lbs (138.9 N-m)
Peak Torque RPM: 3000 rpm

Front - Type/Travel: Telescopic Fork (119 mm)
Front Fork Tube Diameter: 46 mm
Suspension: Rear - Type/Travel: Single Shock w/ Air Adjust / 4.5 in (114 mm)

Brakes/Front: Dual / 300 mm Floating Rotor / 4 Piston Caliper
Brakes/Rear: Single / 300 mm Floating Rotor / 2 Piston Caliper
Tires/Front: Dunlop® Elite 3 130 / 90B16 73H
Tires/Rear: Dunlop® Elite 3 Multi-Compound 180/60R16 80H
Wheels/Front: Cast 16 in x 3.5 in
Wheels/Rear: Cast 16 in x 5 in
Exhaust System: Split Dual Exhaust w/ Cross-Over

Wheelbase: 1701 mm
Seat Height: 660 mm
Overall Width: 39.0 in (990 mm)
Overall Height: 56.8 in (1442 mm)
Overall Length: 101.7 in (2583 mm)
Rake: 25°
Trail: 133 mm
Fuel Capacity: 20.8 litres
Weight (Empty Tank / Full of Fuel): 372 kgs 388 kgs)

Victory Octane Test

Comapact killa.

“Pin-able. Highly, eminently pin-able. It actually needs the type of self control at the throttle hand that normally comes with riding a modern sports bike, rather than a cruiser.” was how most of the conversations started when I was asked about riding the new Victory Octane.

The other question that came up more than once was “Isn’t it just an Indian Scout in different clothes?”

Well … I have to admit that when I was first taking to Brum about this article I thought that might be the case too – but that was until I spent a week with the machine. It turns out that the differences are more than just skin (and flared guards) deep.

Compared to the Scout, the Octane has an additional 46cc capacity (via a bigger bore) resulting in three more ponies (103) and an extra 3.8ft lbs of torque (76@6000rpm) on call. It’s also four kilos lighter.

No big deal on paper maybe, but the difference is in the riding and the Victory has better suspension and is geared far more ‘aggressively’ than its more ornate Indian stable mate.

The real joy of the machine is the power plant. It’s a beauty. It really does require a deal of self-control because giving the liquid cooled 1200cc, 60 degree V-Twin a handful is a pure delight. It hammers. Victory claims that the engine is “derived from the Project 156 Race bike developed for Pikes Peak. It has 4-valve heads with twin overhead camshafts and is geared for acceleration.” And accelerate it sure does. At 240kg dry and 103hp it isn’t modern sportbike kind-of fast, but it does have more than ample hurry-up. The way the bike is geared also makes for quite remarkable top gear acceleration and roll on. Even hauling my payload it pulled readily away in top gear from 40-45kph - with ease and a very pleasant torque hammer – and it keeps on pulling. With the stage one exhaust system fitted it makes for a very nice note while doing so too.

What made pinning it even more enjoyable is one of the sweetest gearboxes I’ve used. Sure shifting, confidence inspiring, hot knife through butter, no matter how sloppy – or urgent I was – both up and down shifting. Rowing it through the cogs is most satisfying. The wet, multi plate clutch is mechanically actuated and is also suitably efficient.

On the road the Octane’s manners are pleasing. The frame is high-tech cast aluminium and its rigidity no doubt contributes to the solid and neutral feel of the ride. It’s stable at normal to high speeds and it corners and handles reliably. It also felt very well balanced while performing low speed U-turns and manoeuvres and wasn’t thrown off line at all by irregularities in the road surface – even when giving it a real handful on exits.

That said, it is a firm ride and you do feel those irregularities with 120mm of travel available from the 41mm front forks (fitted with dual rate springs). Another of the important differences between Scout and Octane are the rear shocks. The Octane’s have dual rate springs with (threaded) pre-load adjustment and are fitted at a noticably steeper angle that the Scout’s. They offer 75mm of travel and suited my weight much better than the standard Indian’s.

Overall I thought chassis the dynamics were well suited to the engine’s output and the 32 degree lean angle is good for a muscle cruiser, although with that engine, and the pleasing way it does tip in, it’s still pretty easy to start dragging pegs and grinding hard parts not long after. But, for a cruiser it is agile and rewarding, particularly in an urban setting. It’s pretty good on a set of twisties too. The 18-inch front wheel runs a 130 section tyre while the 17-inch rear has a 160 and they are fitted to 10 spoke cast alloy wheels. That no doubt helps in the agility stakes, as does the bike’s aggressive rake and trail.

Stopping it is by way of Dual piston 298mm disc brakes front and rear (with ABS as standard). They are good brakes without being ‘killers’ - with genuine two-finger fronts. I did use the rear more than some others I’ve tested lately, but that also had something to do with ‘utilising’ the engine’s output - as well as the brake’s stopping power.

The ancillaries are in keeping with the quality of the machine. The headlight is remarkably effective considering the size of the reflector, the self-cancelling indicators - and the overall comfort levels of the machine are good. Like the rest of the package, the saddle is much more comfortable than it looks.

Victory have also addressed the fact that not everyone is average height and weight by offering three different fitment packages for the Octane. The standard unit has pulled back handlebars and mid/forward lower controls that gave me a pretty upright riding position. Also available for us tall guys is an extended reach option that includes a saddle with the bolster further aft ($308 fitted), extended reach lower controls that put the pegs a few inches forward ($397 fitted) and drag bars ($778 fitted).  Shorter inseams are also catered for with a ‘Reduced reach’ package that costs the same for saddle and a set of mid controls, but has reduced reach handlebars for $397 fitted. Bravo!

The $1437 (fitted) Stage One exhaust system isn’t ‘too’ loud, sounds great and it really does help that lovely engine breathe. A set of Victory piggyback shocks ($1290 fitted) would also be on my wish list, particularly if two-up riding is on the agenda, although I thought the Octane is more of a selfish pleasure and I tended to ride it more ‘violently’ than I would when carrying a passenger (did I mention pinning it everywhere?). The accessory catalogue does offer pillion seat, pegs and luggage options to make it suitable for more general duties too.

Overall I found the Octane to be a very pleasing motorcycle. I liked its modern, mono-chrome, high tech appearance. Flowing back from its bullet fairing and hard creases it has some tidy lines. It’s a look-ahead machine with spirited performance from a delightful engine fitted in a competent package, but most importantly it’s great fun to pin … err … ride it.


Bike: Victory Octane       

Type:     Liquid-cooled 60° V-twin       
Carburetion: Sequential Fuel Injection with single 60mm throttle body       
Bore x Stroke (mm)     101.0 x 73.6mm
Exhaust: Dual slash-cut mufflers with common volume       

Type: 6-speed       
Clutch: Wet, multi-plate       
Primary Drive:       
Rear Drive: Belt       

Type: Cast Aluminium       

F Rim: 18 X 3.5-in. cast, 10-spoke       
R Rim: 17 X 4.5-in. cast 10-spoke   
F Tyre: 130/70-18 63H       
R Tyre: 160/70-17 76H       
F Brake: Dual piston caliper, 298mm disc ABS as standard           
R Brake: Dual piston caliper, 298mm disc ABS as standard
Front:  41mm damper-tube forks with dual-rate springs; 4.7-in. travel       
Rear: Twin shocks with dual-rate springs, adjustable preload; 3.0-in. travel   
Colours     Matte Super Steel Gray
Colour/Graphics     Matte Super Steel Gray

Overall Vehicle Length     2286mm
Fuel Capacity (Litres)     12.9 LTR
Rake/Trail     29.0° / 130mm
Wheelbase     1578mm
Seat Height     658 mm
Curb Weight     240 kg
Lean Angle     32 degrees