Umm, it's to do with trail and castor angle and stuff. Somebody else will post a better answer than this one and explain it in engineer-speak, but basically it's the same as having trailing-link forks, like a Honda Cub does. Keeps it in line while making the steering lighter.
I've never ridden one myself and i would also think that they would be horrible handling bikes. Till i saw a clip from a motorcycle course in my area that uses retired road king police bikes. The students in that class were doing some amazing manuevering on those big hulking hunks of steel.
I own a 2004 FLFR and I love it. The bike is great at slow and fast speeds. With the Road King you can take a long road trip. The side packs offer ample room and the gas tank will take you a long way before a refuel.
My bike is customized with a Pingel electric shifter. I have a bum leg and can't shift on my own so the size of the King makes my ride confortable and enjoyable.
Every year a "Police Motorcycle Rodeo" is held in our area. I've been riding a long time, but the things they do with their Road Kings astound me. When you first look at the course they lay out, it's hard to believe you could put a skateboard through the cones, let alone a full size motorbike. There may be more agile bikes, but I think you'd be hard pressed to find a bike as versatile as the "King." It's not my choice, but I've ridden a bunch of them and I understand their appeal completely. Is it "strange" that the bike turns with just a little body english, or is it a sign of a well balanced, responsive bike?
It's the saddest thing in the World to see 4 Road Kings, 2 Dyna's and 2 Choppaz all bein' towed around by a King-Cab Chevy full of Hardened Bikers(tm) (that are also mighty good friends, it seems!), and to see the active sneers on their RUB faces when I ride by them on I-95. Twice.
And they had Florida tags on truck and trailer, to boot.
I've got the Electra Glide varient. It's a big fat slow pig ......a big fat slow pig that's sooo comfortable and eats miles up like....well, like a hungry pig eats slop....cept for the mess part. I'll never stand up on the floor boards and ride a wheelie for miles on end but I feel better than I should after a 600 mile day in it's saddle.
"...the forks are located slightly aft of the steering head"
This is unique to the Road King and Road Glide models. It makes these large, heavy bikes handle much lighter.
I came to the RK by way of Honda's '98 ST1100 as my sport touring ride and the '99 Valkyrie as my highway munching tourer. My wife got her Road Glide after her '98 VFR kitted with bags and extended windscreen as her sport tourer and the Yamaha V-Star 1100 as her "big" touring bike. I mention these only to identify my perspective.
Both of us found the Harley's we have to be great touring bikes. She misses the cruising ability of her vstar at times but for a five or six thousand mile getaway the Glide is the only bike she'd have. I miss certain abilites of all bikes I've owned but specifically to the Valk the power was addictive but the very heavy front end became tiresome. It was a chore to turn the bike. At any speed that huge front end would tend to fall into the turn.
That unique steering head design was the best thing ever engineered into the big bikes. Both bikes are very sensitive to proper suspension adjustment and tire pressure. If the rear airshocks are even a few pounds off the front end losses stability. We carry a little zero-loss hand pump in the saddle bag to adjust for different loads and conditions. I don't know if this is because of the steering head or not but if it is it's a small price to pay for such great handeling bikes.
Helped my buddy replace a missing screw on his Heritage today. Kinda cool just to find a screw from a junked lawnmower and have it fit perfectly. I did notice that his bike felt cramped compared to my 1150 GS and LeMans. I am not a big guy but you are forced up into a pocket between the buckhorn bars and small tank/big seat ergonomic position, it did feel confining. I put about 2000 miles on a Electra-Glide in Florida one spring and the bike quickly became an old friend on the backroads. An old, slow friend that seemed more like a 72 Chevy pickup instead of a bike. It was nice, cruising through the orange groves,listening to 50's music on the radio. Just don't try to pass a 18 wheeler into a headwind, I found out the hardway, I bet the driver is still laughing.
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