HARLEY-DAVIDSON LOW RIDER S (2020 - on) Review
- Good handling for a cruiser
- Great V-twin soundtrack
- Softail hidden shock
At a glance
Overall ratingNext up: Ride & brakes
Ridden in its ideal environment, carving Californian canyons in 25°C sunshine, you’d need a heart of ice to not fall for the Harley-Davidson Low Rider S.
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It looks great, sounds fantastic, radiates huge presence and deep-thudding personality, and stops and steers with impressive ease (at least, in between its rubber-coated footpegs touching down).
But back in a drizzly British Monday morning rush-hour, that dream will inevitably be overshadowed by its limitations and irritations.
Ride quality & brakesNext up: Engine
The chassis sits at the sporty end of Harley-Davidson’s spectrum. Shorter, steeper and sharper than the regular Low Rider, this S version has the same tighter head angle, reduced wheelbase and longer-travel shock as Harley’s Fat Bob. It also shares that bike’s upside-down Showa forks, pulled through the yokes to compensate for the Low Rider S’s 19in front wheel (the Fat Bob has a 16in front).
The S steers easily and obediently, at least within the limits of its 33-degree lean angle. Turn-in isn’t quick but is intuitively smooth and tracks accurately. The bolstered brakes (twin front discs are double the Low Rider’s setup) have impressive power, and the forks offer decent support when you’re stopping hard.
But the riding position takes a lot of getting used to. As the name suggests, this is a short bike with a tarmac-scraping 690mm seat height. Combining that with the Low Rider’s mid-mounted footpegs makes for cramped legs, with knees packed in high and tight.
EngineNext up: Reliability
The Low Rider S’s brawny image is backed up by the biggest, most powerful motor in any of Harley’s regular road bikes – the Milwaukee-Eight 114. In plain English that’s an air-cooled, undersquare, 1868cc V-twin with four-valve heads.
But despite its extreme dimensions, it’s surprisingly civilised. Fuelling and throttle response are smooth, the gearbox clunks a bit but shifts cleanly, and vibration at tickover is a charismatic, characterful chug rather than Harley’s previous generation of shake, rattle and roll-off-the-sidestand.
Peak torque is a mammoth 114ft lb at a lowly 3000rpm – although, with a redline marked at just 5500rpm, that’s still halfway through the range. Tall gearing and a 308kg kerb weight means this titanic torque doesn’t translate to shoulder-dislocating acceleration on the road, but it still pulls with purpose and a plentiful 93bhp top end. It sounds genuinely glorious on full throttle too, a rich, rounded racket of thick, gloopy bass pulses.
Reliability & build qualityNext up: Value
The paint looks quality and the blacked-out surfaces (rather than shiny chrome) give a classy feel. But up close the various fixings and fasteners across the bike are a multitude of sizes, shapes and styles, with several bolts and clips looking particularly industrial.
Owner reviews of the Fat Bob (from the same Softail family as the Low Rider S) give mixed reports on reliability. Some owners of early Milwaukee Eight engines have reported issues with oil transferring from the gearbox to the primary case, though this should be resolved on new engines.
Value vs rivalsNext up: Equipment
The Low Rider S costs £15,825 in black, or £16,175 in silver. That’s a whopping chunk of change for a bike that doesn’t exactly overflow with ability in any single area – it’s not the fastest custom, nor the best-handling, nor the most practical, and definitely not the most comfortable.
However, Harley-Davidsons cling to their residual value with astounding tenacity, and the previous Low Rider S is no exception. With three-year-old used bikes still commanding £15k, a brand-new model with superior speed and a sharper chassis for just a grand more actually looks pretty decent value. While the Low Rider S isn’t exactly cheap, you probably won’t lose a lot.
Twin test: Harley-Davidson Low Rider S vs Ducati Diavel 1260 S
First published in MCN 8 January 2020 by Phil West
In early 2020 we pit the Low Rider S against its main rival, Ducati's Diavel 1260 S, to find out which one of these sporty cruisers takes top spot. Contributor Phil West concluded: "If you’re after a sporty cruiser the new Low Rider S is a significant step up over the old: more punch, better ride and suspension yet the same classic JPS looks for a fairly reasonable price – it’s certainly better value than the £2000 more FXDR, for example.
"For Harley fans that might be enough but for the rest of us, it probably isn’t as it’s also crude, uncomfortable and frustrating. Harleys like the Fat Bob and Sport Glide are better motorcycles while the latest Diavel, even though imperfect, is simply light years better. If you want a slick, modern, fast V-twin cruiser – though how much of a cruiser the Ducati is remains debatable. Go for the Diavel, but I’d save £3k and go for the base version.
There’s not a lot of luxury for your £16k. The Low Rider S comes with a solo seat, minimal suspension adjustment, and no electronics other than basic ABS and keyless ignition. The small, tank-mounted twin clocks are awkward to glance at – they’d be better-placed on the wall of unemployed black plastic inside the headlight cowl.
|Engine type||Air-cooled, 8v, 45° V-twin|
|Frame type||Tubular steel double cradle|
|Fuel capacity||18.9 litres|
|Front suspension||43mm upside-down forks, no adjustment|
|Rear suspension||Single shock, adjustable preload|
|Front brake||2 x 300mm discs with four-piston calipers|
|Rear brake||292mm disc with twin-piston caliper|
|Front tyre size||110/90 B19|
|Rear tyre size||180/70 B16|
Mpg, costs & insurance
|Average fuel consumption||41 mpg|
|Annual road tax||£96|
|Annual service cost||-|
|Used price||£12,500 - £15,500|
How much to insure?
|Warranty term||Two years|
Top speed & performance
|Max power||93 bhp|
|Max torque||114 ft-lb|
|1/4 mile acceleration||-|
|Tank range||170 miles|
Model history & versions
2016: Low Rider S arrives, combining the Screamin’ Eagle 110 engine (1801cc Twin Cam) with a deceptively agile twin-shock Dyna chassis.
Discontinued for 2018 when Harley-Davidson folded their Dyna range into the Softail family. Short-lived cult favourite means that a Low Rider S still commands £15k on the used market today – the same money as it cost when it was brand new.
Low Rider – slower and less sporty than the S version. Uses a smaller ‘107’ (1746cc) motor with less power and torque, has conventional forks kicked out at a 2-degree shallower rake angle, has a single front brake disc, a smaller-travel shock, higher handlebars, two seats and a lot more chrome.
Fat Bob – shares the same sporty chassis geometry as the Low Rider S and can be bought with the same 1868cc engine. Big difference is tyre and wheel sizes: the Fat Bob has a wide 150-section 16-inch front, while the Low Rider S has a taller, skinnier 110-section 19-inch front. Fat Bob has a pillion seat, a handy remote rear preload adjuster and a lozenge-shaped headlight.
Owners' reviews for the HARLEY-DAVIDSON LOW RIDER (2020 - on)
No owners have yet reviewed the HARLEY-DAVIDSON LOW RIDER (2020 - on).