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.
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.
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.
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.
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.