HARLEY-DAVIDSON LOW RIDER S (2020 - on) Review

At a glance

Power: 93 bhp
Seat height: Low (27.2 in / 690 mm)
Weight: High (679 lbs / 308 kg)

Prices

New £15,825
Used £13,500 - £15,900

Overall rating

Next up: Ride & brakes
3 out of 5 (3/5)

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.

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.

Harley-Davidson Lowrider S on sidestand

Ride quality & brakes

Next up: Engine
3 out of 5 (3/5)

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.

Harley-Davidson Lowrider S left peg

Engine

Next up: Reliability
4 out of 5 (4/5)

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.

Harley-Davidson Lowrider S engine

Reliability & build quality

Next up: Value
3 out of 5 (3/5)

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 rivals

Next up: Equipment
3 out of 5 (3/5)

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.

Harley-Davidson Lowrider S front quarter

Equipment

2 out of 5 (2/5)

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.

Specs

Engine size 1868cc
Engine type Air-cooled, 8v, 45° V-twin
Frame type Tubular steel double cradle
Fuel capacity 18.9 litres
Seat height 690mm
Bike weight 308kg
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 £93
Annual service cost -
New price £15,825
Used price £13,500 - £15,900
Insurance group -
How much to insure?
Warranty term Two years

Top speed & performance

Max power 93 bhp
Max torque 114 ft-lb
Top speed -
1/4 mile acceleration -
Tank range 170 miles

Model history & versions

Model history

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.

Other versions

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.

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