This past week I spent a couple days getting to know the new Harley Low Rider S, and some of the designers who helped create it. This is the first time Harley has approached Cafe Racer XXX to test ride one of their machines and I think it's clear they are broadening the scope of their target customer. Full disclosure: I haven't sat on a Harley in ten years, and I haven't seen one I'd pony up and buy since the Nightster. For a long time, the aesthetic of Harley was turning me off, but that's because it wasn't aimed at me. With the Low Rider S, Harley maintains it's grasp on it's base consumers--the hardcore Harley purists--by creating something performance-based and typically badass.
The Low Rider S Harley manages to hit another demographic within their target audience, the 18-34 year old crowd. The design team reached back and found elements of their poorly timed and not well received, cafe racer-esque 1970's XLCR model, and put them to good use. This bike is, for all intents and purposes, a “two-fer,” combining old time-y Harley nostalgia with hipster appeal. Those Harley lovers looking forward to the return of the “legendary” FXR models will be satiated as well. Really, who can argue with black on black with a little smattering of vintage design flair? Not this millennial. I believe that the design of the Low Rider S, and the throwback to a beloved Harley model might unify both hipsters and old school Harley purists, if nothing else does.
The bike fit me perfectly. I'm 6'2” and the aggressive riding position was ideal. When we hit the twists of the LA mountains I was happy to find that I was able to use my feet to assist turning the bike. Typically I'm used to “lowriders” having forward controls and consequently feeling like I've been kicked in the spine after every ride. Because of the mid-range controls on this cruiser, I had my feet pretty squarely underneath me and there was a general feeling of full body participation. For me, it was a very heavy motorcycle, as I'm used to mid-size Japanese bikes and my '73 BMW. Despite the heft, the weight distribution was low and evenly distributed. We hit some debris and pot holes along the way, and I was hardly aware of it. The small fairing was not helpful, but the cool factor was noted and appreciated. I was still taking air in the head and chest. Ideally I would have liked something a little taller if I actually wanted it to screen wind. As it is, I was unable to tuck into it's protection.
The engine has so much power it is almost ludicrous, boasting a Screamin’ Eagle Twin Cam 110 (over 1800cc), in a Dyna frame. This is currently the largest-displacement engine you can get from the Harley factory. Just in case that's not powerful enough for you: they offer a performance kit to boost your torque and horsepower, though they don't make any promises that it won't also boost your passenger off after installation. The good news is: with all that power they also threw on some seriously stellar dual front breaks with ABS. I had no problem slowing down at any point.
I'm mildy ashamed to admit--though my mom will be happy to read--I never got it into 6thgear, because we hit traffic on the highway and during the mountain twisties I didn't get the opportunity (or have the guts). Honestly I'd be surprised if anyone on the press ride got it into 6th gear that day (but it's still nice to know that it's there when you hit an empty highway in the future). This ride was merely a little taste of Harley, a glimpse into their very large world, from an outsider's perspective. I'm looking forward to exploring Harley more thoroughly in the future, and getting into 6th gear as soon as I can.
-Trinia of Hinterland Empire (Guest Contributer for Cafe Racer XXX)