Screamin' Eagle Road King

Milwaukee builds an even bigger twin

If bigger really is better, you're looking at the best off-the-rack Harley-Davidson in captivity. Known as the FLHRSEI2 in Milwaukeese, its 98.4mm x 111.1mm cylinders add up to 103 cubic inches or 1690cc--the biggest factory-built Harley Big Twin yet. Except it's not exactly stock. Created as part of Harley's Custom Vehicle Operations (CVO) program, the Screamin' Eagle Road King is a limited-production, expensive piece: $27,995 ($28,095 in California) vs. $16,215 for a basic 2002 Road King. The CVO ensemble is also a painless way for Harley to run new ideas up the flagpole of public opinion and see how many checkbooks salute.

These internal dimensions aren't big news to anyone with a Harley Screamin' Eagle catalog at home. A set of 3.9-inch pistons and cylinders will turn any off-the-rack Twin Cam 88 into a 95-incher. Adding a Screamin' Eagle crankshaft/flywheel to the equation stretches stroke from the stock 88's 4.0 to 4.4 inches and you have your own 103-incher. What you don't have is a warranty or a squeaky-clean 50-state EPA certification. This version delivers both, plus a beefier 1.4-kilowatt starter to coax bigger pistons into action. Given all that, it's fairly steamy for an air-cooled lump with 9.0:1 compression with standard cams, intake and exhaust plumbing.

If torque is the name of the game, the biggest Harley is a player. Strapped to the unflinching Motorcyclist dyno, the factory 103-incher gets with the proverbial program right off idle, churning up 80.3 foot-pounds of torque at 2500 rpm. Hold the throttle open from there and 84.4 foot-pounds of torque arrive at 4250 rpm, followed by 72.8 horsepower at 5500 rpm. Comparing that with the elementary Twin Cam 88's output of 75.1 foot-pounds of torque and 66.3 horsepower makes Harley's biggest big-incher look pretty good, especially if you concentrate on the bottom of the torque curve. Still, if anyone says VTX, change the subject.

At 3000 rpm, Honda's 110-inch mega-twin peaks a 100.3 foot-pound reading--nearly 16 more than the Twin Cam 103. People who understand such things tell us less punitive intake and exhaust plumbing would even that score. It would also nix the idea of owning an EPA-legal bike with a warranty for people to whom such things are important. And unlike some other homegrown Harley hot rods we've ridden, the Twin Cam 103 is every bit as civilized as its smaller, mass-produced brothers. The stronger starter turns those 845cc cylinders over easily in the morning, and thanks to the miracle of electronic sequential port fuel injection--using the same 45mm throttle body as the standard 88-inch/1450cc engine--the bike is as cooperative and tractable as any new Harley twin. A beefier clutch, high-strength final drive belt and custom oil cooler help the cause there.

Despite its 745-pound dry weight (22 pounds heftier than a standard FLHR/I Road King due to the full bauble/bangle CVO treatment we'll get to shortly), Harley's biggest twin surges away from a light in a rapid-yet-dignified '60 Coupe de Ville sort of way. It doesn't explode into motion. It surges, but it does so quite smartly. Expect the same sort of fluid, big-inch torque when ripping around minivan dullards on the freeway, or pulling a long grade with Ms. Road King and a full gear payload in the hard bags. To us, this CVO bauble/bangle assortment borders on an embarrassment of riches for all but CEOs, sultans and emeritus Elvis impersonators.

All things considered, the "more is better" approach works best in the engine bay. For $6495, Harley will sell you the biggest twin as a crate engine that could one day power any number of leaner, meaner, less ostentatious iterations. Put us down for a 103-inch Dyna Super Glide Sport.

Milwaukee's maximum 103-inch twin crushes it's little 88-cubic-inch brother with torque right where it hurts: from just off idle all the way to 4500 rpm.