Harley Davidson Softail FXDR

Mark Hinchcliffe test rides the 2019 Harley-Davidson Softail FXDR.

Harley-Davidson has replaced the spirit of the V-Rod muscle cruiser with the new Softail FXDR, the first Harley with clip-on handlebars.

The solo-seat FXDR costs $35,495 ride away, making it the most expensive Softail yet. It looks and feels like the V-Rod, right down to the riding stance with hands and feet forward.

Instead of the water-cooled 1247cc V-Rod engine (93kW/113.9Nm), it is powered by the 114 cubic-inch (1868cc) Milwaukee Eight air-cooled engine (61kW/162Nm). It sprints off the line with neck-snapping torque, almost 50 percent more than the V-Rod, but it doesn’t have the same drag-strip top-end fizz.

I love the drag-inspired air snorkel which provides a loud and proud induction roar to match the two-into-one exhaust.This sounds quiet at idle but also has a full-throated tone at high revs.

The ‘go’ is matched by stopping power. On several occasions I performed panic stops, simply grabbing as much front and rear brake as I could. Stopping power from the two big front discs is almost wrist-breaking. There was a bit of fork dive, but the rear wheel did not lift at all.

With a 120-section front tyre and double that on the back, there is excellent grip and no ABS action that I could feel. The wide, rear tyre is the same as the Breakout, so it has great traction and lateral stability, but it does make cornering a bit heavy. It handles closer to the new Fat Bob, rather than the Breakout.

Lean angle is 32.6° on the left and 32.8° on the right thanks to the chamfered exhaust shape. It’s the best of Harley’s big twins and only beaten by the 750cc Street Rod (37.3° right, 40.2° left).

The hidden rear shock is short, and it thumps over the bumps, but the upside-down dual-bending-valve forks feel reasonably compliant with no jack-hammer effect. Although the front end feels a little too lively and chatters a bit over high-frequency bumps. A steering damper could be in order – never thought I’d say that about a Harley!

The small digital instruments are mounted above the handlebar. They feature readouts for odometer, two trips, range, revs and clock, like most other Softails, with a toggle switch on the left switch block. They are easy to read, even in broad daylight and are up nice and high for quick reference without having to take your eyes off the road.

The whole bike oozes a high-quality finish, from the full LED lighting with Daymaker headlight to the new light-weight swingarm.

While the bike was designed as a solo-seat machine, you can remove the rear cowl and fit an optional seat and foot pegs. The rider’s seat is firm and comfortable, but the riding position is only good for short stints.

The Softail FXDR comes in Vivid Black, Black Denim, Industrial Grey Denim, Wicked Red Denim, Bonneville Salt Denim and Rawhide Denim, but we are not sure whether Australia will get all the colours.

Tech specs

  • Length 2416mm
  • Seat Height 723mm
  • Fuel Capacity 16.7 litres
  • Dry weight 289kg
  • Engine Milwaukee-Eight 114
  • Displacement  1868cc
  • Bore 102mm
  • Stroke 114mm
  • Engine Torque 162Nm
  • Transmission 6-Speed Cruise Drive
  • Wheels Gloss/satin black, split 5-spoke, Ace cast aluminium
  • Tyres Front 120/70ZR-19 60W
  • Tyres Rear 240/40R-18 79V