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Discussion Starter #1
It's been decided. I will be joining the ranks as a first time HD owner within the next few months. Started riding desert and motocross in my teens. Went with the sport side on the street. Everything from '78 GS1000 Suzuki (My first streetbike) to my current, Honda 954. Owned a Triumph Sprint a few years ago, etc. Now my body says no more sportbike crouch. The law says no more tickets and wife hasn't liked the hit on depreciation when I change bikes every two years. She knows I have always wanted a HD when the time was right, and now she's encouraging me to go ahead. Great! Except, during research I keep hearing how the Road King is HD's most versatile bike, no...it's the Fatboy, no...it's the Heritage. I also get conflicting accounts in magazine reviews as to comfort, handling, etc. Spending 17-20k on a bike is a big deal to us. I think all the bikes look great ('cept I'm not crazy about the Glide's). I have been leaning towards the Road King cuz I've heard they have a bit more clearance for corners and better suspension, but I would really like to hear from some experienced owners/riders. If you could have only one current bike, and you were going to cruise town, tour the Southwest, feel an extra G or two in a corner,and run out for beer and pretzels, which would it be?
 

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Theres is a million threads on this. But I am board and trying to avoid doing other stuff.

I got a FLHR, and thats the only HD I have rode. Its got tour pak and lowers, so half way to full dresser.

You can put a windsheild on any of those bikes. Theres not a great difference between fatboy and hertiage other then looks and Heritages comes already set up with bags. IMO.

Heritage comes with more stuff then Fatboy. I have to have windsheild, bags, engine guard and sissy bar. Question is do you like the studs? Not sure if you can get without.

Road King, does strip down nice. Its probably less mobile, then soft tail. I got used to it. Probably better for two up riding.

People say theres more customizing products for softails. I have never had a lack of stuff to spend money on.
 

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Also comes down to how much you ride. The hard bags hold alot of stuff. If you ride alot, that comes in handy.
 

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I have a heritage but if your trying to decide between the 3 you mentioned, I would recommend the road king. It has hard water proof bags, unlike the heritage which are soft and not water proof. the fatboy doesn't come with bags. road king has more aftermarket options for seats that will be more comfortable for the passenger. I think the heritage is a better looking bike but as far as riding comfort and stock options the road king has the advantage.
 

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I like my heritage the way it's set up. Instead of the studded soft sided saddlebags I have the hard bags. I also put detachable sideplates on the sissy bar. When I take the sissy bar and rear pillion off it looks semi Road Kingish. Take 6 bolts off for the saddlebags and take the quick release windshield off, it looks more like a Fatboy (except for the fenders of course). Plus you gotta love the smoothness of the counterbalanced engine. The Heritage is a very versitile bike imo....depending on your mood you can just take stuff off.
 

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My FLHR has detachable sissy bar and windsheild too. But looks awful without bags on. Exposed hardware. I would never go without bags, so not an issue.
 
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Limper,

When people talk about "versatility" they are generally referring to a single bike's ability to look different, by adding or removing accessories. A better definition (IMHO) would be a single bike's ability to fill different rolls.

First, the Fat Boy and Heritage are Softtails. This design uses a rigid mount engine. To avoid transmission of vibration to the rider, the motor, the TC88b, uses internal counter-balancers. When this system was introduced a lot of people worried about the addition of extra moving parts affecting the motor's reliability. Time has proven this fear to be groundless. The TC88 and the TC88b, have proven to be equally reliable. The counter-balancers do scavenge a few horsepower, but not really enough to worry about. People may argue this fact, but my opinion is that the counter-balancers are only capable of canceling the vibration to a point, and that at highway speeds (over 70 lets say) you get more vibration transmitted to the rider than you do on the touring models. The rear suspension on the Softtails consists of two shocks mounted horizontally beneath the bike, which hides them from view. This results in a bike that really looks nice, since there are no shocks visible. Thus whether to have saddlebags or not comes your desire for the bags, as opposed to a need to cover the shocks for aesthetic reasons.

The Fat Boy and Heritage are very close relatives, so picking between those two will not be a matter of handling, or performance, so you would have to decide on which bike’s features suited you better.

The touring bikes, including the Road King, all share the same frame. They also all have the reversed steering head. This has the fork tubes behind the frame neck. This gives the touring models the highway characteristics of a motor with a lot of rake, while retaining the low-speed handling of a motor with short trail. It’s pretty ingenious. The other difference this creates is that the steering is self-centering. If you raise the front end of most bikes, the wheel will go to full lock one way or the other. On a Touring model, the wheel will come to center. When riding at low-speeds, it will take more steering input to get into a tight turn, and less to bring the motor back out of the tight turn. This aspect is not good or bad, just different. The engine on the Touring models is a TC88 (no counter-balancers). Vibration is handled by the engine’s being rubber mounted, so the mounts absorb the vibration. This results in less transmitted vibration at high speeds. The rubber mounting would not work on the Softtails because of design considerations (frame space, and the company’s desire to retain the external oil lines) but it is a more effective way to reduce vibration.

Handling is very subjective. Within the bounds it can be measured, most people would probably give the nod to the touring frame, but in reality, any of these bikes will serve you equally well in that regard. I’m used to the Road King, and have never found it wanting at highway speeds, and it will handle at low-speeds far better than most riders can handle it.

The Road King’s looks change dramatically with the removal or addition of the windshield. However, that is the end of quick changes. The saddlebags pretty much have to stay in place, since they hide the large, and not very attractive, air shocks on the rear. There are kits out there to make the rear of the RK more presentable without saddlebags, but they’re not cheap, and don’t quite hit the mark of making the rear look “right” (again my opinion).

The place where a Road King shines is (big surprise) on the road. On long trips it’s no problem to stop only for gas, and 700-800 days are amazingly easy to do. These distances can be done on Softtails, but not as comfortably.

The Softtails are great bikes, but a lot of people that travel by motorcycle eventually make the move to the touring model. On the other hand, it’s fairly uncommon for people to make the move from a touring model to a Softtail.

Harris

(P.S. I ride a Road King Classic, so that's my own bias)
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Thanks for the comments. I'm sure there has been much discussion on this topic and I will keep reading, but I had been getting so much seemingly contradictory feedback in my research so far, that I felt I needed to go directly to a good knowledge base. IMO, the FatBoy is the best looking bike on the planet. But in going to the "other" side--having spent all my time on bagless, uncomfortable sportbike platforms--I look forward to the convenience of pretty much full time bags. Harris, you were spot on when you addressed different views of versatility. I want a bike that provides function as well as form. I will be riding 2-up quite often and to keep up with the flow on highways, will be cruising between 75-80. Sounds like the vibration issue may be better with the RK at that speed.
I have a friend who used to own a Heritage and she absolutely loved hers. She keeps pushing me in that direction. I like the sit in feel of the Softtails, as opposed to the sit on feel of the Road King, but I keep drifting back to the RK just the same. I especially like the wheels and look of the Custom but don't want the less clearance with lowered bike.
Thanks again for the replies.
 

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I ride a Heritage, but I have to agree with everything Harris says. I got it because I like the seating position (you sit in a Heritage, you sit on a Road King) and the fact that if you take off the windshield and bags you have a Fat Boy. I put a quick release kit on the pillion seat, sissy bar, and saddlebags, and although I rarely put the pillion seat and sissy bar on the bike, I only take off the saddlebags for cleaning. If you don't get saddlebags, you'll eventually wish you had. I rarely take off the windshield, but you will find lots of folks who rarely put theirs on. I've gone as much as 400 miles in one day on my Heritage, and felt like I could have gone more. I do feel the need to get off every 100 miles or so, but I'm not sure I would feel any different on a RK. My next bike (and only if I can keep the Heritage) will be an Electra Glide, which is the same as an RK except with a batwing fairing.
If you only get one, before you take anyone else's opinions you should go out and rent each model you think you might like to own and put several hundred miles on each. Then decide for yourself what you will be happy with in the long run. It will be money well spent.
 

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For riding long distance and 2-up with bags, the Road King outshines the Softails. Softails are the best looking bikes in the HD line up but they are not as functional as the Touring bikes.

If you don't like the Batwing fairing, pick the Road King model you like best and don't look back. They don't call em Road Kings for nothin. And I ride a Night Train. :D
 

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Harris said:
Limper,

The Softtails are great bikes, but a lot of people that travel by motorcycle eventually make the move to the touring model. On the other hand, it’s fairly uncommon for people to make the move from a touring model to a Softtail.

)
zbeen thinking of getting 2nd bike, in a year or so. Been thinking about softail. But after riding touring bike with all the storage, I don't know if I could go back to small saddle bags. I recently put on tour pak, with detachable hardware. Hasn't been off. I am growing to the size of my tank.
 

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If its a lot of two up and some touring, a RK with the detachable tour pak can not be beat. The Heritage is by far the better looker, but for two up comfort, a touring model frame and rubber mount motor is the only way to go.
I have toured two up on both styles, and the wife says RK and she ain't goin back to no Softail.
 

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If most of your riding is going to be single, around town or relatively short trips, get the fat boy. It's great for that!

If your going to occasionally ride double and do some longer trips and you need bags, the Heritage will do. The Heritage just isn't real comfortable for a passenger on long, all day rides.

If you plan do to mostly longer trips and/or all day rides and have a passenger much of the time, then by all means get the Road King. It has the air shocks, floorboards and the aftermarket touring seats that are available for the Road King make all day rides comfortable. Good luck with your choice and I don't think you will be unhappy with any of them.
 

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as far as vibration, my heritage doesn't vibrate oner 70 mph like some have said. maybe different from bike to bike, but I don't have that problem. but again I was directing you towards the road king. I've rode 550 miles in a day and no problem on the heritage.
 

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I think you would be tickled with any of the choices you mentioned. I have a Heritage Softail Classic, it looks great, it rides very comfortably with my LePera seat, and I have no vibration at 75 mph. I chose this one because 1) I liked the seating position, and 2) I just loved the appearance.
 

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I ride a Heritage and like it.
I swap bikes with a friend that has and RK.
There is absolutely no comparison in handling on mountain
or any other kind of twisties. The RK or any other touring
model wins hands down. Even on fast sweepers I'd rathar
be on his RK. Coming off rice rockets I'm thinking you'd
enjoy the handling of an RK more. They are quite nimble.
Between the FB and Heritage I would choose the Heritage.
If for no other reason, alot of FB owners wind up spending
alot adding bags, windshield and chrome to basically make it a Heritage.
As for the studs on the Heritage seat and bags, they are easily removed and
woven with leather.
My Heritage is great but my next bike will be one of the FLH models for sure.
 

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FWIW-

I am fortunate in that I have a Fatboy and an Electraglide so I have a good first hand comparison btwn a Softail and a touring-type bike.

Based on what you seem to want to do with the bike, IMO you would get the most "bang for the buck" with the RK or Heritage. Don't get me wrong, I love the Fatboy, but the Heritage is a better value if you intend to do any touring since it is cheaper to buy the Heritage equipped standard vice adding to the FB. My FB has engine guards, hwy pegs and bags now. For about what I spent just for that, I nearly could have bought the Heritage off the floor and got a windshield too (which my wife wants to add now since it has become her bike).

With that said, I'd chose the RK over the Heritage just from riding the two types of bikes. As mentioned in another post here, you sit "on" the RK vice "in" the Heritage and the RK will have a little different feel. I think the RKs (well, the touring bikes) handle better than the Softails (using an Ultra as the comparison). It may seem a little backwards since the touring bikes (esp the Ultra) will outweigh the Softails, but the wheelbase is shorter and, as you said, have a bit more ground clearance. Some of my students are amazed at how the Ultra handles in the range (MSF classes), but the course is actually easier on the Ultra than the Softail (once you get past the "mental-block" concerning the weight and "percieved" bulk of the bike). The RK will be a little more versatile over the long-term- they make great bar-hoppers and can shift over and hit the open road 2-up without batting an eye. Again, this is just one more opinion....

Bottom line is you won't go wrong with any of your candidates. If I had it to do all over again from scratch having ridden lots of different models, I'd go with the RK standard (I prefer the hard bags) based on the ones you have listed. To pick from the whole line-up, I'd go one further and take a new Street Glide or another Ultra Classic- but I have gotten spoiled with the Bat-wing fairing and love it! :woohoo:

Take the wife with you (since she may ride with you and may be more receptive to upgrades if she likes it too :banana:) and go RIDE them. The one that gives you the biggest chubby, get that one!

-2$en#e-
Allen
 

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Discussion Starter #20
nvsteve said:
I ride a Heritage and like it.
I swap bikes with a friend that has and RK.
There is absolutely no comparison in handling on mountain
or any other kind of twisties. The RK or any other touring
model wins hands down. Even on fast sweepers I'd rathar
be on his RK. Coming off rice rockets I'm thinking you'd
enjoy the handling of an RK more.
They are quite nimble.
Between the FB and Heritage I would choose the Heritage.
If for no other reason, alot of FB owners wind up spending
alot adding bags, windshield and chrome to basically make it a Heritage.
As for the studs on the Heritage seat and bags, they are easily removed and
woven with leather.
My Heritage is great but my next bike will be one of the FLH models for sure.
nvsteve,

This is what I was kind of concerned about. I am ready to slow down a bit and enjoy the moment and the ride, but...not ready to give up the pleasure of at least a 6/10ths run thru the mountains. If I can bring along the wife, a girlfriend, or a girlfriend of the wife, plus have room for my vitamins and viagra in the bags, so much the better.
 
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