When the original FXS Low Rider hit showroom floors back in ’77, it was immediately popular and dominated Harley-Davidson sales. Based on the FX Super Glide, which was essentially a mishmash of parts from the big-frame FL and smaller XL (Sportster ) models, the FXS was the first attempt by the factory (under the blighted AMF banner) to emulate the look of the home-job customs that were popular at the time.
Since then, the FXS changed from the original, hard-mount frame to the rubber-mount, FXR frame in the early eighties, and has been built on the new, hybrid Dyna frame (FXDL) since ’91. Fast forward to 2017, and you can see The Motor Company hard at it to further improve and refine the Low Rider, and these latest versions are certainly the best yet. Read on to find out why.
As always, the Low Rider seems to embody the essence of H-D design with details borrowed from the custom culture added liberally thereunto. An asymmetrical wheel layout accentuates the lowness of the slammed rear end with a 19-inch wheel up front and a 17-inch in back, and blackout springs visually diminish the already short rear shocks to add an optical effect to the mix.
A sparse front fender looks much like an old “bobber” fender, which is to say chopped down to a minimum, and it adds little unsprung weight to the front wheel while exposing same. The upper lines flow from the headlamp brow, back across the fat fuel tank complete with instrument cluster in a Wrinkle Black console to the full-scoop saddle.
On the “regular” Low Riders, the seat comes with a tapered, mustang-esque pillion, but the new-in-2016 Low Rider S sports a solo saddle. The “S” rear fender displays a bobber-style chop that thankfully stops short of looking like the desperately unpopular “boat tail” fender from years past, and the non-S model gets a fuller rear fender.
Mid-mount controls place the rider in a relaxed, cruiser position, and the pullback handlebars come on an adjustable riser with a 2.4-inch range. Whether you have long, ape arms or little, T-Rex arms, you should be able to find a position that suits you without going out of pocket for a whole new set of bars.
Harley didn’t exactly re-invent the wheel for the ’17 model year, and kept things much the same with just a few tiny Easter Eggs sprinkled about. Both the Low Rider and its souped-up “S” model sibling now come with a battery tender harness already wired up for plug-and-play battery maintenance. The base model, “non-S” version also gets a keyless ignition feature and an all-new, two-tone color option with the Bonneville Blue/Fathom Blue paint scheme.
(Low Rider S)
As the “F” in the model code indicates, the Low Riders are built upon H-D’s heavy touring bike frame with a rectangular backbone and round tubing that forms the typical double-downtube, double-cradle skeleton, all in mild steel. A steering-head angle of 30.5-degrees plus an offset in the tripletree adds up to a total fork angle of 32-degrees, well into custom territory just like the original. This leaves us with a stable, 5.1 inches of trail for typical,cruiser stability; great in a straight line, but somewhat sedate in the corners.
This leaves us with a stable, 5.1 inches of trail for typical cruiser stability.
Fat, 49 mm forks float the front end on 5.1-inches of travel at the axle, and come with fixed parameters and no external adjustments, though I will offer that while they still make spacers that increase spring preload, it’s not a quick and easy procedure, and certainly not something you would want to deal with more than once. Go ahead, ask me how I know.
Coil-over rear shocks come with the ubiquitous spring-preload adjustment, and provide 3.1 inches of travel on the Low Rider, but just a hair over 2 inches of travel on the “S” for an unladen seat height of 26.8 inches, and 27 inches, respectively, and 4.1 inches of ground clearance. As one would expect, the difference in ground clearance has an effect on lean angles. The base model can manage 29.5 degrees to the right and 30.5 to the left (because of the exhaust system), while the “S” is limited to 27.5 degrees to the right and 28.5 to the left before it starts throwing sparks on the 2016 model. Sport-O’s may find this to be a little shallow, but these numbers are fairly typical for the brand.
At 666 pounds soaking wet, this really isn’t what anyone would call a light bike, but H-D didn’t skimp on the brakes. A pair of four-pot calipers pinch dual, 300 mm front discs, and a twin-pot binder grabs the 292 mm rear disc. Front-wheel ABS comes as standard equipment on the “S” — at least it was in 2016 — but it is only available as a $795 option on the base model, so bear that in mind if you just can’t live without that safety net.
Cast rims come in Harley’s Split 5-Spoke design, and the base model gets a partial blackout treatment while the “S” comes with the “Magnum Gold” finish for a little extra curb appeal. Fret not if you are like me and prefer a more classic look; the factory offers optional laced chrome wheels that dress up the bikes quite nicely.
Between the 2015 and 2016 FXDL, and the new-for-2016 FXDLS, we have three slightly different engines to deal with here. All three mills look pretty much alike and follow the typical Big-Twin format fans of the brand will instantly recognize; the differences are more-or-less contained in the innards. The ’15 model came with a “standard,” air-cooled, Twin-Cam 103 engine that runs a 3.87-inch bore and 4.374-inch stroke for a total displacement of 1,690 cc. This vanilla Twin-Cam cranks out a respectable 98.8 pound-feet at 3,500 rpm, and provides a combined city/hwy mileage of 43 mpg.
The ’16 model-year FXDL got the high-output version of the same engine that comes with a dollop of Screamin’ Eagle yummy-goodness in the form of a factory Stage-1 package that boosts the torque on up to 102 pound-feet at the same rpm and drops one mpg for a combined 42 mpg.
In keeping with Harley’s “S” series that makes performance a front-burner issue, the FXDLS runs the enhanced, 1,801 cc, air-cooled Screamin’ Eagle Twin Cam 110B. For those unfamiliar with the brand, this is the largest production engine Harley had before the Milwaukee-Eight 114 and the most powerful in its day. At 3,500 rpm, this mill generates a punishing, 115 pound-feet of torque that puts plenty of go in the show. Surprisingly, it picks up a bit of fuel efficiency as well, and manages to milk 44 miles out of every gallon.
The FXDLS runs the enhanced 1,801 cc, air-cooled Screamin’ Eagle Twin Cam 110B.
All three mills run with electronic, sequential-port fuel injection, and the usual, pushrod-actuated, two-valve heads. Due to the higher volumetric requirements, the High-Output 103 aspirates through a Ventilator, low resistance air filter, and the 110B breathes through Harley’s Heavy Breather (giggity!) air cleaner.
The usual, cable-actuated, multi-disc wet clutch is present across the board, but the 110 model comes with a performance diaphragm spring that the others don’t get. Gotta gig H-D here; no slipper clutch yet guys? Really? A six-speed “Cruise Drive” tranny crunches the ratios to keep it in the usable powerband and provide reasonable highway-speed revs, and a reinforced-belt drive make the final connection to the rear wheel.
The 2015 FXDL rolled in Vivid Black for $14,199, and naturally the King of Paint offers plenty of opportunity to inflate that sticker as high as $15,149, depending on color choice. The Motor Company bumped up prices by two bills across the board for the ’16s for a starting price of $14,399. Naturally, the “S” commands the highest price with a $16,699 sticker, and you can get it in any color you like, as long as you like Vivid Black. The good news is that the “S” comes with front-wheel ABS, security system and cruise control as standard equipment. You can expect to tack on some cheddar if you want ABS and security on the base model, and cruise control is limited to the “S” model exclusively.
Prices jump a bit for the 2017 model year, and the base-model Low Rider eases up to $14,749 in Vivid Black and up to $15,699 for the top-shelf paint. The Low Rider “S” model also gets hiked up a bit to $17,499 and is still only available in basic black.
Regardless of which model you pick, all buyers can expect to pay $390 for freight, and California residents can look forward to an additional $200 for your special emissions package.
American-style performance cruisers are few and far between and I was about to abandon all hope of finding a bike with similar looks and performance when I took a look at the newly-rebundled Star lineup from Yamaha , and hit upon the Raider . Obviously built for the domestic market, the Raider sports features known to turn us (U.S.?) on, and it comes with the largest production V-twin lump in the world (okay, before the Milwaukee 8), so lets see how it stands up to the Low Rider S.
While the Low Rider is an iconic bike with a long and storied history, the Raider is kind of the new kid on the block with something to prove. Even though the Raider runs a yoke-style swingarm much like the “S,” the rest of the frame geometry carries shades of the old rigid frames, and the more modern Softail chassis. The sheet metal also sports features I would normally associate with the aforementioned, and while it cuts a slightly different figure than the “S,” it looks very much like a rolling slice of Americana, as long as one doesn’t look too closely. One thing Yamaha definitely got right is the 39-degree rake that really pushes the front wheel out there, and lends the Raider an undeniably custom air, even moreso than the factory-custom Low Rider.
Rolling chassis are comparable, with a double-cradle frame, fixed front suspension and preload-adjustable rear suspension. Harley pulls ahead slightly on brakeage since it offers ABS as standard equipment and Yamaha offers it not at all.
Now for the mills. Naturally, the Twin Cam 110 comes with a 45-degree V, but the Raider lump isn’t far from the mark at only 48-degrees, a detail that definitely plays into the looks. The Raider boasts a massive, 1,854 cc engine, bigger than Victory’s Freedom 106, ’s Thunder Stroke 111, and of course, Harley’s 1,801 cc Twin Cam 110. Folks, I ain’t exaggerating when I say this is a big engine.
In spite of its size advantage, the Raider doesn’t quite produce as much grunt as the “S” mill with “only” 109.7 pounds of grunt against the 115 pounds from the Twin Cam 110. Goes to show that size ain’t everything, and Harley’s experience with V-Twin plants carries the day.
Yamaha gets some back at checkout, but less than one might imagine. The Raider rolls for $14,990, less than two grand cheaper than the “S.” Given the pedigree of the Low Rider, I don’t feel like this is sufficient to rope in any buyers looking for an American, or American-looking, , power cruiser and folks looking for a certain look without top performance will likely be better off with a base-model Low Rider. Having said that, if someone were to hold a gun to my head and demand that I choose a Yamaha right now, the Raider would definitely be my choice.
“Yeah okay, the Low Rider is an iconic bike, and while I liked the old FXR frames, I never learned to appreciate the Dyna family. Still, it warms my heart that H-D included the Low Rider in its “S” series bikes, ’cause who doesn’t want more power? This is a good direction for Harley, and it’s about time The Motor Company started pushing the V-twin envelope a bit. Owners have been souping up their bikes for long and long, I confess that it would be nice to buy one already souped.”
My wife and fellow motorcycle writer, Allyn Hinton, says, “Good power-to-weight ratio and I like the bullet fairing. I’ve heard folks say they wish it was bigger, but I’m the opposite. If it isn’t a bullet fairing, I’d rather not have one at all; I prefer that look, but go-fast folks might want the better air-flow control that a bigger fairing gives them. I think the “S” is the first in the Dyna family to have RbW, correct me if I’m wrong.”
|Model:||2017 Low Rider||2017 Low Rider S|
|Engine:||Air-cooled, High Output Twin Cam 103™||Screamin’ Eagle® Air-cooled,
Twin Cam 110™
|Valves:||Pushrod-operated, overhead valves with hydraulic, self-adjusting lifters; two valves per cylinder||Pushrod-operated, overhead valves with hydraulic, self-adjusting lifters; two valves per cylinder|
|Bore x Stroke:||3.87 in. x 4.374 in.(98.4 mm x 111.1 mm)||4 in. x 4.374 in.(101.6 mm x 111.1 mm)|
|Displacement:||103.1 cu. in.(1690 cc)||110 cu. in.(1801 cc)|
|Fuel System:||Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI)||Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI)|
|Air Cleaner:||Ventilator intake with fiberglass media, washable exposed element with rain sock||Heavy Breather intake with black covers, fiberglass media, washable exposed element with rain sock|
|Lubrication System:||Pressurized, dry-sump||Pressurized, dry-sump|
|Primary Drive:||Chain, 34/46 ratio||Chain, 34/46 ratio|
|Final Drive:||Belt, 32/66 ratio||Belt, 32/66 ratio|
|Clutch:||Multi-plate, wet||Mechanically actuated, 9-plate, wet, with high-performance spring|
|Transmission:||6-Speed Cruise Drive®||6-Speed Cruise Drive®|
|Gear Ratios (overall)U.S. :|
|Frame:||Mild steel, tubular frame; rectangular section backbone; stamped, cast, and forged junctions; forged fender supports; MIG welded||Mild steel, tubular frame; rectangular section backbone; stamped, cast, and forged junctions; forged fender supports; MIG welded|
|Swingarm:||Mild steel, rectangular tube sections, stamped junctions; MIG welded||Mild steel, rectangular tube sections, stamped junctions; MIG welded|
|Front Forks:||49 mm with polished aluminum fork triple clamp and dual-rate springs||Premium ride, single cartridge, 49 mm diameter front suspension with black powder-coated aluminum fork triple clamp|
|Rear Shocks:||Coil-over shock with tri-rate springs||Premium ride emulsion rear shocks|
|Wheels:||Black, Split 5-Spoke Cast Aluminum||Magnum Gold, Split 5-Spoke Cast Aluminum|
|Front:||19 in. x 2.5 in. (483 mm x 64 mm)||19 in. x 2.5 in. (483 mm x 64 mm)|
|Rear:||17 in. x 4.5 in. (432 mm x 114 mm)||17 in. x 4.5 in. (432 mm x 114 mm)|
|Caliper Type:||4-piston fixed front, and 2-piston torque-free floating rear||4-piston fixed front, and 2-piston torque-free floating rear|
|Rotor Type (diameter x width):||Patented, uniform expansion rotors (floating, front only)||Patented, uniform expansion rotors (floating, front only)|
|Front (dual floating):||11.8 in. x .2 in. (300 mm x 5.1 mm)||11.8 in. x .2 in. (300 mm x 5.1 mm)|
|Rear:||11.5 in. x .23 in. (292 mm x 5.8 mm)||11.5 in. x .23 in. (292 mm x 5.8 mm)|
|Anti-lock Braking System:||Optional||Optional|
|Front Wheel:||5.1 in. (130 mm)||5.1 in. (130 mm)|
|Rear Wheel:||3.1 in. (79 mm)||2.13 in. (54 mm)|
|Engine Torque (per J1349):||99.5 ft. lbs. @ 3750 RPM||113.6 ft. lbs. @ 3750 RPM|
|Lean Angle (per J1168):|
|Fuel Economy (EPA urban/highway test):||42 mpg (5.6 L/100 km)(2015: 43 mpg (5.5 L/100 km))||44 mpg(5.1 L/100 km)|
|Length:||92.3 in.(2345 mm)||89.9 in. (2283 mm)|
|Overall Width:||35.6 in.(905 mm)||35.5 in. (902 mm)|
|Overall Height:||46.6 in.(1185 mm)||46.1 in. (1170 mm)|
|Laden:||25.4 in.(660 mm)||26.6 in. (676 mm)|
|Unladen:||26.8 in.(680 mm)||27 in. (685 mm)|
|Ground Clearance:||4.1 in.(105 mm)||4.9 in. (125 mm)|
|Rake (steering head):||30.5°||30.5°|
|Trail:||5.1 in.(128.3 mm)||5.1 in.(128.3 mm)|
|Wheelbase:||64.2 in.(1630 mm)||64.2 in.(1630 mm)|
|Tires:||(Michelin® Scorcher® “31” front and rear)||(Michelin® Scorcher® “31” front and rear)|
|Front:||“31” 100/90B19 57H||“31” 100/90B19 57H|
|Rear:||“31” 160/70B17 73V||“31” 160/70B17 73V|
|Fuel Capacity:||4.7 gal. (17.8 L)(warning light at approximately 0.9 gal.)||4.7 gal. (17.8 L)(warning light at approximately 0.9 gal.)|
|Oil Capacity (w/filter):||3 qts. (2.8 L)||3 qts. (2.8 L)|
|Transmission Capacity:||1 qt. (.95 L)||1 qt. (.95 L)|
|Primary Chain Case Capacity:||1 qt. (.95 L)||1 qt. (.95 L)|
|As Shipped:||644 lbs.(292 kg)||646 lbs. (293 kg)|
|In Running Order:||666 lbs.(302 kg)||672 lbs. (306 kg)|
|Gross Vehicle Weight Rating:||1085 lbs.(492 kg)||1085 lbs.(492 kg)|
|Gross Axle Weight Rating:|
|Front:||390 lbs.(177 kg)||390 lbs.(177 kg)|
|Rear:||695 lbs.(315 kg)||695 lbs.(315 kg)|
|Battery (per Battery Council International Rating):||Sealed, maintenance-free, 12V, 19-amp/hour, 270 cca||Sealed, maintenance-free, 12V, 19-amp/hour, 270 cca|
|Charging:||Three-phase, 40-amp system (493W @ 13.5V, 2000 RPM, 540W max power @ 13.5V)||Three-phase, 40-amp system (493W @ 13.5V, 2000 RPM, 540W max power @ 13.5V)|
|Starting:||1.2kW electric with solenoid shift starter motor engagement||1.2kW electric with solenoid shift starter motor engagement|
|Lights (as per country regulation):|
|Headlamp (Quartz Halogen):||55-watt low beam, 60-watt high beam||55-watt low beam, 60-watt high beam|
|Indicator Lamps:||High beam, directional light bar, neutral, low oil pressure, engine diagnostics, turn signals, security system (optional), 6-speed, low fuel warnings||High beam, directional light bar, neutral, low oil pressure, engine diagnostics, turn signals, security system (standard), 6-speed, low fuel warnings, ABS|
|Warranty:||24 months (unlimited mileage)||24 months (unlimited mileage)|
|2015:||Vivid Black, Amber Whiskey, Deep Jade Pearl, Brilliant Silver Pearl/ Vivid Black, White Hot Pearl/ Blue Hot Pearl, Black Magic||NA|
|2016:||Vivid Black, Superior Blue, Deep Jade Pearl/Vivid Black, Billet Silver/Vivid Black, Purple Fire/Blackberry Smoke, Cosmic Blue Pearl||Vivid Black|
|2017:||Vivid Black, Velocity Red Sunglo, Billet Silver/Vivid Black, Bonneville Blue/Fathom Blue Hamilton Gold||Vivid Black|