Harley-Davidson Low Rider S review

With its aggressive riding position, 114-cube Milwaukee-Eight engine and sharpened steering, the Harley-Davidson Low Rider S really does mean business.

And Harley-Davidson Australia will be hoping it means lots of business as did the original, short-lived 2016 Low Rider S with its 110-cube Screamin’ Eagle engine. That was a twin-shock Dyna.
 
Now it’s part of the updated Softail family with a stiffer and lighter frame and improved handling. Price is now $A27,995, up from $25,995 in 2016 when it had a 110 engine and $3500 more than the standard Low Rider.
 
Apart from the extra cubes — and there is no replacement for displacement, right? — riders get a cruiser that looks the goods. That little headlight fairing, aggressive mid-control riding position, blacked-out finishes and solo seat is very mean. It’s knuckles to the wind with a 2.5cm diameter motocross-style handlebar mounted on 10cm (four-inch) straight risers.
 
The Low Rider S powertrain, primary cover and tank console are finished in Wrinkle Black, the derby cover, intake, and lower rocker covers are Gloss Black, the mufflers and exhaust shields are Jet Black and the forks, triple-clamp, riser and handlebar, and rear fender supports are Matte Black. Even the LED layback tail lamps have a smoked lens. It sits on very tasty bronze cast-aluminium wheels and comes in Vivid Black and Barracuda Silver.
 
The business end of this bike is the 114 M8 engine. While the counterbalanced 107 M8 is a refined and sophisticated engine that feels like two hippos bouncing on a trampoline, this has more thump, more grunt and a little more “character” — like two elephants on a trampoline!
 
It pulls from low down in the rev range and surprisingly revs out without losing a lot of puff.
Yet for all that mechanical thump, it feels smooth, doesn’t jolt when switched on and clicks into first gear without a lot of clunk.
 
Clutch pull is heavy, so you will be glad at every set of lights that neutral is quite easy to find. Click through the gears and it rides around town in fourth. It will even go into sixth as low as 80km/h with enough roll-on acceleration for overtaking without changing down. At the end of the day, I suspect you’ll return decent figures of around 5-5.5litres/100km which means about 380km from the 18.9-litre fuel tank.
 
To harness the extra oomph of the 114 M8, Harley has swapped out the traditional telescopic forks for inverted 43mm Showa forks with a steeper 28-degree rake compared with 30 on the standard and 32 on the older Dyna. This set-up sharpens the steering, so you feel more connected to the road with lighter and more precise turn-in.
 
Yet on long swooping corners, it still feels balanced and stable thanks to the 19-inch front wheel and long 1615mm wheelbase. You also can amend your line mid-corner.
 
Together with the underseat single coil-over monoshock hydraulically adjustable for preload, it has reasonable ride even though it’s a short 11cm spring. The Michelin Scorcher tyres have plenty of grip, even across patchy wet and dry surfaces.
 
The analogue speedo and tacho dials sit on top of the tank and are angled toward the rider for a reasonably clear view. However, the accompanying LCD screen is a little small and difficult to read in bright sunshine. All the info is available via the usual toggle on the left switchblock.
 
The target market for this bike is obviously not ageing Baby Boomers like me. I found the riding position more like a yoga position with my knees sitting high and akimbo which put pressure on my dodgy hip nerve.
 
Even though I’m 183cm tall, it is still a bit of a reach to the bars. At least the solo low 690mm saddle is very comfortable with an extra hump of lower back support.
 
However, I’m not the target market for this bike. Harley is targeting a younger, hipper (no pun intended), more nimble and supple rider.

Harley-Davidson Low Rider S

  • Ride-away price: $A27,995
  • Engine: Milwaukee-Eight 114 (1868cc) V-twin
  • Power: N/A
  • Torque: 155Nm
  • Bore x stroke: 102x114mm
  • Compression: 10.5:1
  • Length: 2355mm
  • Seat height: 690mm
  • Clearance: 120mm
  • Rake: 28deg
  • Trail 145mm
  • Wheelbase: 1615mm
  • Fuel: 18.9L
  • Tyres: 110/90B19,62H,BW; 180/70B16,77H,BW
  • Wet weight: 308kg
  • Lean angles: 33.1deg
  • Brakes: 4-piston front, 2-piston rear.