Hey GabrielB, saw your post on the Ventureriders. 2 NICE bikes!
In addition to my '06 Roadie I also have an '07 Venture. I like them both and can't pick a favorite.
To clear up a few things...
A Royal only feels sluggish if you try to ride it like a Road Star and lug it. If you get the RPM
's up they have plenty of power. A '97 doesn't have the power of the '99 & up Royals but it's hard to tell it. Any Royal will still outrun a R*.
Yep, 4 carbs and syncing them is an easy 10 minute job with a $100 tool. I made my own tool for $8 but it takes an extra 5-10 minutes. LoL
Engine life... there are 200k mile R*'s and 200k mile Royals.
Clutch whinne... some have it bad, some hardly have any. My '07 has a little only at an rpm where I'm always either above or below.
As far as gearing... I don't shift out of 4th unless I'm above 65mph and even then I really should stay in 4th till 75mph. In fact, if you try to hit the limiter in each gear then you'll be past 90 before shifting to 4th.
You'll be happy with the Royal if you do swap.