This interview features Bob Lennon, an Open Road customer from Calgary, Alberta. He shares his experiences with the Time Out camper he purchased from us. Bob also talks about the import process of bringing a motorcycle camper into Canada. Thanks Bob!
The Harley-Davidson Road King has existed in one form or another for decades. Not that it was called that. You can trace its mechanical and visual origins back to the introduction of the big-framed Knucklehead and the first FL designation in 1941.
The contemporary Road King (FLHR) was introduced in 1994 and received its first major upgrade in 1999 when the Twin Cam 88 was stuffed into its frame. As far as Harley hitches for the Road King are concerned, this is where the story begins.
Because the Road King is a close stable mate of the Electra Glide (FLHT), hitch design is similar. The key difference is that most Road Kings do not have a rubber bumper under the rear fender. Hitch design between the FLHT and FLHR varies because of this.
Of course, there are exceptions. It’s entirely possible to put the rubber FLHT bumper on a Road King. And some bikes like the Road King Custom sport a chrome v-rail under the rear fender that takes up the same space that the rubber bumper would. In that case, the Electra Glide hitch is prescribed.
The Road King remained largely the same from 1999 to 2008. A slight frame lengthening in 2008 changed the bike a bit but did not change hitch fitment.
The Road King got the same chassis redesign in 2009 as other members of the full dresser family, which means hitch designs changed as well. Many Road Kings also feature a removable TourPak for those who prefer a more classic, less dresser look. While that feature doesn’t directly affect hitch design, it does require different hardware for some hitches.
So, given that, here’s the line-up of hitches for the Road King.
Hitches for Harley Road King – 1999 to 2008
The Road King hitch we offer for bikes from ’99 to ’08 is available in either a vertical receiver or horizontal. The biggest distinctions between the two are the orientation of the receiver, the amount of hitch that’s visible, and the price.
The vertical receiver Road King hitch design fits entirely behind the rear fender and is the least visible. When the towbar and ball are removed, there is very little to see of this hitch. This design is made by Hitch Doc, who mostly makes chrome hitches. Some might classify this as a “chrome hitch” but I hesitate to call it that. The only part that is chrome are two side straps that bear the tongue weight of a trailer.
The black powdercoat hitch for the Road King is almost identical in design to the Electra Glide hitch. The only difference is that it’s designed a little shorter to account for the fact that the Road King doesn’t have the rubber bumper.
If you have a Road King Custom or any version with a bumper or chrome rail under the fender, then you want to consider the Electra Glide hitch selection for your model year.
Hitches for Harley Road King – 2009 to present
From 2009 to present, the Road King has enjoyed a lot of tweaks in addition to its chassis, an improved transmission, bigger power plant, and more cosmetic and accessory changes. Changes that affect hitch design have been minimal.
This time, I can safely say there is a true chrome hitch option for the Road King. The Hitch Doc hitch for the Road King is beautifully made; a heavily chromed vertical receiver hitch. The standard chrome Road King hitch is designed for a bike with no bumper and a fixed TourPak. If you have a removable TourPak, you want to specify the added hardware kit option (see the bottom of the order page).
The black powdercoat hitch for the 2009+ Road King is of the same design as the black Electra Glide hitch. It is slightly shorter to provide a close fit to the rear fender without a bumper. If your Road King has a bumper and you want the black hitch, choose the Electra Glide model. No additional hardware is required for this hitch to be compatible with the removable TourPak.
This is the fourth article in a series about Harley hitches. The first article discusses in general the Harley hitches we sell. The second article discussed Electra Glide hitch options. The third article covered Street Glide hitch options.
In 2006, Harley-Davidson introduced a new model to its touring line up, the FLHX Street Glide. Designed by Willie G. as his “personal ride,” the Street Glide added a bit of flair to the full dresser category.
While the underlying bike is an Electra Glide, differences in the back end of the bike affect hitch fitment. The most significant difference is the lighted rear fender. While this adds a touch of attitude to the back end, the light housing occupies some of the room used for hiding the receiver portion of a motorcycle trailer hitch. (Not that Harley cares. You ain’t supposed to be pulling a trailer anyway, according to their manual.)
In 2009, the Street Glide underwent the same frame change as other touring bikes in the FLH/FLT series. Hitch designs changed, again, to accommodate the new frame. New hardware was added to accommodate bikes equipped with the four-point quick release system for the TourPak.
Then, in 2010, another change to the Street Glide added a new twist that really complicated things for Harley hitch makers. For the 2010 model year, Harley moved from an incandescent light fixture to an LED powered fixture in the rear fender. That’s not a surprise. LEDs are becoming common on bikes. The problem is that the housing for the LED lights was much larger than before, completely eliminating the space behind the fender that hitch makers counted on.
While this complicates things, it doesn’t mean you can’t get a hitch for a current Street Glide. But for now, you can’t get one that is quite as fully hidden as in years past. That may change as the light fixture box evolves. But for now, here’s the line up of choices.
Hitches for Harley Street Glide – 2006 – 2008
Your choices in this category are pretty simple. Our chrome hitch for the Street Glide is almost identical to the one for the Electra Glide. It installs in exactly the same way. If you watch the video for installing a hitch on an Electra Glide, you’ll be set. The only difference between the two is that the receiver tube is cut down so that it doesn’t make contact with the light box housing behind the fender.
In black powdercoat mc hitches, the receiver is horizontal instead of vertical. That means it required no changes, so this is exactly the same hitch as is used on the Electra Glide.
Hitches for Harley Street Glide – 2009
2009 was a unique year for the Street Glide. It had the new frame, but still had the incandescent lights in the fender. A new chrome receiver hitch was designed for it. This is the same as the chrome Electra Glide hitch, except for the same change – the receiver tube is shorter.
The black powdercoat Harley hitch for the 2009 FLHX is the same as the 2009-to-present Electra Glide.
At present, there is one hitch option for Street Glides from 2010 to present. That is the black powdercoat hitch. Because it uses a horizontal receiver, there’s nothing to get in the way of the light box housing. The folks at HitchDoc who build our chrome hitches have been working on a fixed-ball chrome hitch, but no release date has been announced.
Of all the touring bikes made, there are probably more choices for the Electra Glide than any other (except the Honda Gold Wing). That means you have a lot of choices when it comes to hitches, which can also make things confusing. My previous post explained that I’ve narrowed my range down to two different Harley hitch styles.
Your hitch choice for the Electra Glide begins by model year range, either 1984 to 2008, 2009 to 2013 or 2014 to present.
Hitches for Harley Electra Glide – 1984 to 2008
This includes the standard Electra Glide, the Classic and the Ultra. Bikes in this model year range have a lot of structure at the back of the bike. The hitch attaches to the fender struts and the saddlebag sub-frame. This hitch installs easily.
Does your bike have a rubber bumper under the fender?
Most Electra Glides do. In this case, your bike requires the standard Electra Glide hitch. The chrome version has a vertical receiver. The black powdercoat hitch, which is nearly identical in design, has a horizontal receiver.
Here’s a video showing how to install the chrome hitch on a 2007 Harley Electra Glide. The black hitch installs similarly.
Does your bike lack the rubber bumper?
If you have an Electra Glide without a rubber bumper, you want the Road King hitch. It’s basically the same but designed to fit flush with the fender. This, too, is available in two different styles with a “chrome” version with vertical receiver and a black powdercoat with a horizontal receiver.
The chrome version of this hitch doesn’t have much chrome, because most of the hitch is hidden behind the fender. Its advantage is the fact that because most of it does fit behind the fender, it is less visible than the black powdercoat hitch.
Harley Electra Glide – 2009 to 2013
In 2009, Harley redesigned their flagship full dress touring bike frame. An updated design made the bike lighter. Overall, that was a good thing. However, in doing so, H-D eliminated much of the structure in the back that hitch makers relied on for support. This meant hitch design would have to change.
Furthermore, H-D began introducing more CVOs and Screamin’ Eagle editions. Road Glides started appearing with Street Glide fenders. Tires got wider, then narrower. Filler strips between the fender and saddlebags became more common. More bikes beyond the Street Glide appeared with removable TourPaks. That’s all great for customers, but man, it’s a headache for hitch makers.
When fitting a hitch to a present-day Electra Glide, three common questions need to be answered.
1) Does your TourPak mount permanently or is it on the Harley 4-point quick release system?
2) Do you have filler strips between the saddlebags and fender? And are they lighted?
3) Does your bike have the rubber bumper under the fender?
Standard setup: Fixed TourPak, no fillers, bumper present
This is what most folks have; an Electra Glide with a TourPak that bolts on, no filler strips, and a rubber bumper. This hitch mounts higher up than the older hitch because of the frame redesign.
This chrome receiver Harley hitch mounts at the point where the TourPak bolts onto the bike. When you have someone helping you install this, it is a fast an easy installation. The chrome hitch sweeps down the side and the receiver is hidden behind the fender. The chrome blends nicely with the saddlebag support structures, so you really don’t see much at all.
This video demonstrates the hitch being installed on a 2009 Harley. This bike happens to have a removable TourPak, but the installation is the same. And this will give you a good idea what this looks like on a current model year Electra Glide.
Harley Electra Glide and Ultra, 2014 to Present
Project Rushmore bikes appeared in 2014, sporting all sorts of new goodies like water cooling and a CAN-BUS wiring architecture. The frame was also changed and lightened, which means, a different hitch design was required.
Thankfully, there are fewer differences between models which means almost everyone will use the same hitch. And once again, we have two hitch offerings, black and chrome.
Here’s a link to the chrome hitch for Ultras and Electra Glides. Installation is largely similar to the 2009 to 2013 bikes.
If your bike has something different from the standard setup, there is probably a hitch for you, but the exact version will vary. Rather than list fifty different permutations here, it’s just easiest to contact me and I can match you up with the right hitch for your Harley.
The next installment will discuss Street Glide trailer hitch options.
If you ride a Harley touring bike like an Electra Glide or Softail, you’re in luck. There are many choices of motorcycle hitches for your bike, going back to models in the 80s. This article series summarizes what I carry and the primary differences between them.
After years of selling the widest range, I’ve narrowed down my range to two primary styles. What I sell now represents the best combination of features, value and performance among everything that’s available. Yes, you will find cheaper hitches, but not better ones.
Country of Origin: All my Harley hitches are made in the U.S.A. We talk about keeping our dollars at home–this is a good place to do it. Our US made hitches are designed, cut, welded, and chromed right here by US workers. When you buy a US-made hitch, you are directly supporting US manufacturing and working folks who enjoy riding, just like you.
Materials: Now, let me be clear – I don’t sell US-made hitches just because they’re made here. I sell them because they are the best available. US-made hitches use thicker, better quality steel than most imports, typically ⅜” throughout. Imported hitches use thin materials for flat surfaces and hollow tubes for rounded surfaces.
Finish: Many imported hitches have rough welds with spatter. They are usually painted with a thin coat of cheap, flat enamel that will nick easily and begin to rust. Imported hitches with a chrome finish have a thin plating that gathers surface rust quickly. The welds and finishes on on US-made hitches are of a much better quality. The chrome hitches I sell are triple-plated show chrome. You can feel the quality of the chrome. Those that have a black finish are powdercoated. This is superior to paint for surfaces that are exposed to weathering.
Most of hitch models I sell are receiver-style, which means you can remove the ball for a cleaner look. There are a few for older models bikes that have a fixed ball, but for anything built after 2000, I have a receiver style. And, every Harley hitch I sell is a bolt-on. No modifications, cutting or drilling are required.
Lastly, each is designed to safely pull anything that you can reasonably tow with your bike. I am frequently asked how much a particular hitch is rated to carry. The only way to state that with any certainty would be to test them to the point of destruction to determine a maximum rating. That isn’t done in this industry. But I can tell you that the materials for these are sufficient to pull any motorcycle cargo trailer or motorcycle camper that is sold today.
In the next post, I’ll begin a round-up of the different models and hitches.