- Road King: 1994–Present
- Street Glide: 1984–Present
The Harley-Davidson Road King and Street Glide are two extremely popular bikes in Harley’s Grand American Touring line.
Both bikes are considered baggers, although one is slightly more stripped back than the other. The styling is significantly different between the two models, with the Road King being more classic Harley and the Street Glide being more modern.
These two bikes are giants in the industry, and Harley fans have difficulty choosing between them.
So we have put together all the information you need about both models, from their origins to their cost in the ultimate showdown between the H-D Road King and Street Glide.
Let’s get to it.
History of Each Motorcycle
To start with, let’s take a brief look at the history of both the Road King and the Street Glide.
Harley-Davidson Road King
- 1994: Introduced to replace the Electra Glide Sport, it had a huge headlight and no fairing but saddlebags and a large windscreen—this differentiated the bike from others in the lineup.
- 1996: The Road King received fuel injection.
- 1998: The Road King Classic is released, the most notable feature being leather saddlebags and retro 40’s/50’s styling.
- 1999: Received new 1450cc Twin Cam 88 engine.
- 2008: New frame, range indicator, Brembo brakes added along with increased fuel capacity.
- 2012: Received new 1690cc Twin Cam 103 engine.
- 2018: Received the all new Milwaukee-Eight engine.
Harley-Davidson Street Glide
- 1984: First introduced with full touring features, like a passenger backrest/trunk and locking saddlebags.
- 2006: The Street Glide was completely revised.
- 2007: Received six-speed Cruise Drive transmission and fuel injection.
- 2008: Brembo braking system fitted, as well as optional ABS.
- 2009–2017: No major revisions added, just electronics upgrades and cosmetic refinements.
- 2018: Received Milwaukee-Eight 107 engine.
Harley-Davidson has a habit of making several models of its motorcycles. It has done this with both the Road King and Street Glide throughout their production periods.
Road King Models
- Road King Classic
- Road King Custom
- Road King Special
- Road King Classic 105th Anniversary Edition
- Road King Police
- Road King Fire/Rescue
- Road King Peace Officer
- Road King Shrine
- Road King 110th Anniversary Edition
The Road King Classic is, as the name suggests, more classically styled, with a large windscreen and leather saddlebags. This is the model that most resembles the FL models of the 1940s and 50s.
The Road King Custom, on the other hand, is more stripped back, with factory-custom colorways and no windscreen.
For the two anniversary editions, 2008 and 2013 respectively, Harley produced limited runs of the Road King with special paintwork.
The other models—Road King Police, Road King Fire/Rescue, and Road King Peace Officer—were specifically built for police, fire service, and other first responders, so these models have functional features, such as specialty luggage.
For 2023, Harley released the Road King Special. The only Road King in the current lineup, this model is similar to the previous Road King Custom models but is equipped with the bigger 114 engine.
Street Glide Models
- Street Glide Special
- Street Glide ST
- CVO Street Glide
Typically, the Street Glide Special has been a standard Street Glide, with extras such as extended luggage for greater carrying capacity, the infotainment system included as standard, and a more premium finish.
For the 2022 Street Glide Special, however, the bike received the bigger Milwaukee-Eight 114 engine, whereas the base model retained the 107 engine.
The Street Glide ST is a more performance-focused version of the Street Glide, with improved suspension on the rear, the 117 engine, and forward-mounted pegs as opposed to floorboards.
Finally, the CVO Street Glide is the most premium version of the model, with factory-custom finishes and superior components, like Kahuna pegs, grips, and muffler end caps.
2023 Model Showdown
The 2023 lineup currently includes just the Road King Special and two versions of the Street Glide, the Special, and the ST.
To keep things fair, we will mainly be comparing the Road King Special and Street Glide Special, with just a small nod to the ST to clear up the main differences (mostly the engine).
Let’s start at the heart of it all, the engine.
Engine and Transmission
There isn’t too much to compare between the two models when it comes to the motor since they both share the same engine and transmission and they produce the same performance figures.
Both the Road King and Street Glide are fitted with the Milwaukee-Eight 114 V-twin, mated to a six-speed transmission that produces around 100 horsepower and 158 Nm of torque.
The Milwaukee-Eight was first introduced in 2016 for 2018 Harley touring models. It is the ninth generation of big-twin engines that Harley has produced, and it differs from the previous Twin Cam engines, which are equipped with internal counterbalancers, configured for a single camshaft, and have a total of eight valves, four per cylinder.
There are three different capacities of the Milwaukee-Eight: the 107, 114 and 117.
The Road King and the Street Glide share the same 114 V-Twin, so both perform pretty much the same.
However, on the Street Glide ST, Harley has used the bigger 117 engine, which produces slightly more power and torque overall. The 117 is largely reserved for performance-focused, sportier, limited models such as the CVO versions.
Chassis, Suspension, Brakes
The Road King and Street Glide are fitted with identical chassis, suspensions, and brakes.
The big differences you’ll notice between the bikes are in the styling and features, so let’s move straight on to that.
Handling, Comfort, Styling
The Road King Special is a stripped-back, low-slung cruiser capable of touring, if that’s what you want it for.
It has a huge retro headlight—a trademark for the Road King—it comes in three striking hot-rod colors, and it has stretched-hard saddlebags that ooze street style.
The engine covers, exhaust, forks—everything—are blacked out for a mean, sleek look.
You get a natural, upright riding position aided by spacious floorboards and mini-ape bars for both a comfortable and commanding riding position.
Like the Road King’s Custom models, the Special has no windscreen, so you sit straight up ready to face the elements. If you’re planning on touring with the Road King, a windscreen might be a worthy investment.
The low seat height of 26.4 inches ensures even the shortest rider can feel comfortable. Once you get moving, the engine takes the pressure off the rider in terms of struggling with the weight. The bike is well balanced with a low center of gravity.
Handling is pretty lively considering the size of the bike and its geometry. The sweeping rake, long wheelbase, and hefty front wheel don’t hinder the bike’s maneuverability, which is a nice surprise.
The seat for the rider is big and comfortable, leaving you plenty of room. But if you’re touring, you might want to invest in a better seat, especially if you plan to have a passenger—the rear pad is basic, to say the least.
In terms of rider aids, you get ABS and ELB as standard. This isn’t the bike for you if you want all the fancy electronics of Harley’s big tourers.
For everyday riding, there is no doubt that the Road King is perfectly comfortable and practical. Despite being a huge motorcycle, it is competent in all riding situations.
In contrast to the Road King, the Street Glide Special is a fully loaded touring bike capable of cruising.
The most notable difference is the fork-mounted batwing fairing that offers up serious wind protection and is host to the TFT display and Boom! Box GTS infotainment system and its speakers. If you were to remove the fairing off the Street Glide, the differences between the two bikes would be very minimal.
The Street Glide does have a slightly higher seat height, and due to the extra weight of the fairing, it is heavier. The overall seating position is similar being natural and upright, with floorboards and comparable handlebars. Like the Road King, the seat is good for the rider but would need upgrading for a passenger pretty quickly.
Saddlebags are also stretched to keep the bike in line with the low-slung hot-rod vibe that the Street Glide and Road King are going for.
Unlike the Road King, you can have either a blacked-out finish or a chrome finish, with a variety of paint schemes for the Street Glide Special. You can really customize the bike to your tastes.
The infotainment system has more features than you’re ever likely to need or use. With preset Sirius XM radio channels, USB, MicroSD compatibility, and Bluetooth, it is all singing and dancing. The speakers are loud and effective even at highway speeds, angled at the rider for better audio delivery.
Read about Harley speaker upgrades
The Street Glide is slightly more top-heavy than the Road King, so that is something to consider if you struggle with heavy bikes.
In terms of handling, the Street Glide Special is not all that different, particularly when you are up and moving. The weight dissipates and you will find it much more maneuverable than a fully dressed tourer like the Road Glide.
2023 Model Specs
Buying the Harley Road King or Street Glide
For the 2023 model year, Harley has only one Road King available in the lineup, the Road King Special, which starts from $23,999.
This is available in three colorways: Industrial Yellow, Vivid Black, and Bright Billiard Blue.
There are two Street Glide models currently in the lineup: the Street Glide Special and the Street Glide ST.
Prices for the Street Glide Special start from $27,999, and you get 10 different color options, including single- and dual-color paint schemes.
The ST starts from $29,999, and for the pro-tourer you only get a choice between Vivid Black and White Sand Pearl.
When it comes to buying either a Road King or a Street Glide on the used market, you will see a great variation in price. This is down to things like age, condition, mileage, specific model years, and custom work that has been done to the bike.
A used Road King can start somewhere in the region of $8,000 for a mid-2000s model, and prices go all the way up to around $28,000 for pristine-condition models with factory custom paintwork.
For a Street Glide, you can see prices from $7,000 all the way up to $30,000.
So when it comes to buying either model on the used market, the range of prices are not all that different.
Reasons to buy a Road King
- Known as the basic bagger, it’s a great option for those on a budget who still want the bagger style. There is a bagger resurgence happening so you would be on-trend with the Road King.
- Despite some modern development in later models, the Road King retains classic styling, taking style cues from the FL bikes of the 1940s.
- The Road King is capable of long-distance touring and can be customized to be as modern or classic in style as you like.
- The Road King is often chosen as law-enforcement or highway-patrol vehicles. This means you can usually pick up high-mileage but regularly serviced and maintained bikes at a good price. (what is high mileage for a Harley?)
Reasons to buy a Street Glide
- You can tour quite easily on the Street Glide, but equally, it isn’t too heavy for around-town, everyday riding.
- It’s a more practical bagger than the Road King, with the batwing fairing for wind protection.
- It’s not the lightest bike, but the low center of gravity, slammed rear, and low seat height make the Street Glide easy to maneuver.
- The Street Glide bridges the gap between the stripped-back Road King and the fully dressed Road Glide, perfect for those who prefer simplicity but appreciate touring-bike comforts.
Road King Issues
The 2003–2006 Road King models weren’t great for Harley’s reputation.
Fueling issues, transmission problems, incompatible engines, and plastic components breaking off were all pretty common issues during this period of time.
In addition to this, the 2014 model suffered malfunctioning engine parts, resulting in recalls.
For these reasons, it’s best to avoid bikes from those years unless there is evidence from previous owners that relevant work rectified these issues.
Street Glide Issues
Unlike the Road King, it is the newer bikes that the Street Glide had issues with. In particular, the 2017 and 2018 models.
Brake and oil pump issues, clutch failures, and drops in performance were all serious problems that the Street Glide dealt with during this time. (Read more about the best oil for Harleys.)
Best Model Years for the Road King and Street Glide
The Road King debuted in 1994, so this is a popular model with collectors.
However, for reliability, performance, and modern technology, the 2018 Road King model is one of the best, since that’s the year it received the Milwaukee-Eight 107 engine.
The very first Street Glide was released in 1985. Now widely considered a classic bike, it remains quite collectable. However, the Street Glide didn’t really find its feet in the Harley lineup until the revised model was released in 2006/7. So in terms of early bikes, the 2006–2010 model years would be good options.
If you want something more modern however, go for a bike from 2019 onwards to avoid the dreaded 2017/18 models.
Harley-Davidson Road King vs. Street Glide: The Verdict
There you have everything you need to know about the Road King and the Street Glide.
The bikes’ many similarities make it hard to pick between the two. In the end, it will all come down to personal preference.
Personally, I am a huge fan of the current Road King Special. It’s an awesome-looking Harley that beautifully merges tradition with modern hot-rod styling.
With that said, I much prefer the older Street Glides over the Road King and would quickly opt for a 2006–2010 Street Glide for long-term touring.