Harley-Davidson Harley-Davidson FXDR review

The Harley-Davidson FXDR is the performance end of the Harley Softail line up, but does it deliver the thrills to match the styling?

Details
Manufacturer:
Harley-Davidson
Category:
Tourers
Overall
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

I’M a bit of a sucker for a big, burly power cruiser, ever since being asked to take a Harley-Davidson Fat Bob for a service when a newly qualified journo and rider. From that first ride I’ve been totally hooked on the look, the stance and the riding experience of hustling a bad to the bone naked down a decent road!

Harley-Davidson FXDR (2019) video review

The chance to have a play on Harley’s latest performance cruiser came about at a recent press event in Barcelona. The idea was to try out the new LiveWire in the morning and afternoon, although I couldn’t help but ask for a go on the FXDR as it sat menacingly outside of H-D’s Barcelona-based training centre.

With the remainder of the journos and Instagram influenzas (or is that influencers?) opting for another session on the new, all-electric LiveWire, firing up the 1868cc behemoth immediately drew jealous glances from all present. The Milwaukee-Eight, 114ci pushrod V-twin is typically Harley-Davidson in its sound and feel. It’s got a deep baritone rumble that shook me to the core at tick-over and easily overpowered the back tyre on the polished concrete floor of the warehouse. With disaster avoided – no LiveWires were harmed in the making of this review – I begin to acquaint myself with some of the numbers that go along with this machine.

Harley-Davidson FXDR price and colours

The FXDR comes in at £19,855 for the Vivid Black bike and £20,205 for the colour options. Colours available are Black Denim (as ridden), Industrial Grey Denim, Wicked Red Denim, Bonneville Salt Denim and Rawhide Denim.

Harley-Davidson FXDR engine

For those people not used to riding big pushrod V-twins, the idea of more torque than power (90bhp against 119ft-lbs in this case) is probably a weird concept. In practice, and on bikes like the FXDR, the lop-sided delivery makes perfect sense. Peak torque arrives at a lowly 3500rpm, although out on the roads in the hills above Barcelona it seems almost omnipresent from tickover. The bike makes mincemeat of harpin bends, stretching its legs out of the tightest corners with arm wrenching enthusiasm. Some may scoff at a sub-100hp power output from an engine this big, but I guarantee they’re the same people that have probably never ridden a bike of this type. And power is a headline figure anyway, a bit of willy-waving to folk at the bike meet and something few people extract 100% of on the road anyway. What you really feel when you crack open the throttle is thrust, not power. Lovely juicy and, more importantly, useable thrust. Regardless of the numbers, this bike delivers effortless shove in spades at almost any revs.

Suspension brakes and handling

As with any stretched-out sled, handling will always play second fiddle to the art of looking cool and the FXDR is no different – although that doesn’t mean it can’t hustle with the best of them. Harley has done a lot of work to make the FXDR as lightweight as it can be. The seat and tail section are supported by a sub-frame of welded aluminium tubing to reduce weight. The whole unit is then wrapped in a composite material that’s also used for the front and rear mudguards – or fenders as our friends across the pond call them! The biggest weight saving through comes in the form of the aluminium swingarm, which sees a 4.6kg weight reduction when compared to the steel item fitted to the rest of the Softail range.

The rake of 34 inches and trail of 4.7 inches mean the bike rewards a rider who’s willing to grab the 300kg beast by the scruff of the neck and chuck it on its ear into a bend. If you’re looking for a bike to waft you along the road on a whiff of throttle, there may be better suited bikes in the H-D range. It’s a point and squirt type of machine, riding it in any other way is kind of missing the point.

Ride quality from the 43mm forks (Showa internals but branded as Harley-Davidson) is firm but fair. With just enough give over bumps and potholes to prevent any jarring, but well damped enough to make the bike as quick turning as anything this long and low can be. At the rear end, the Harley own-brand rear shock does a good job of soaking up bumps but still offers you enough feedback through the thinly padded seat to let you know what’s going on beneath you via that massive rear tyre.

The braking system is a set of 4-piston calipers and 300mm discs up front and a floating 2-piston caliper and 292mm disc at the rear. The front brakes have decent feel although they do take a bit of a heave for more extreme braking, with two fingers being fine for the majority of the work they will have to do. They’re more than powerful enough though and will quickly overpower the ABS system and the bike’s geometry, causing audible chirps from the front tyre under hard deceleration.

The rear brake on the FXDR is great, loads of bite and when used mid-corner helps you to tighten the bike’s line last-minute if needed. ABS is fitted as standard with no adjustability or cornering functions to speak of and it was only really noticeable at the front when braking really heavily. To be honest, I don’t think a bike of this type really needs it fancy cornering ABS or switchable modes. It’s just adding more layers of electronics that would just distance the rider from the experience of riding the thing, that’s what a bike like this is really all about.

Equipment

There’s not a lot to add in this section as the Harley-Davidson FXDR is as stripped back and raw as a bike gets. The tiddly dash is adequate although becomes tricky to read in direct sunlight and comes equipped with some trips, fuel, speed, revs and not a lot else. There’s no riding modes or ABS to fiddle with. If that’s your thing, get yourself a sporty naked or a sportsbike.

What we like about the Harley-Davidson FXDR:

  • It’s unapologetically brutish styling
  • Effortless torque anywhere in the revs
  • Handling characteristics that reward a firm hand

We don’t like:

  • Riding position is a bit of a stretch for shorties (ie me!)
  • Dash can be tricky to read in direct sunlight
  • You’ll get through a lot of footpegs – although that’s also quite good fun

Harley-Davidson FXDR verdict

You don’t walk into an Italian restaurant and complain when they don’t serve steak and ale pie with mash and gravy or wonder where the foie gras is on the McDonalds menu. But still, people who ride sportsbikes will take one look at a bike like this and say it’s lacking in this or that their tricked up Gixxer would eat it for breakfast on a trackday. Yes, it would, well done, now let’s give you a gold star. The thing is, expecting a bike like the FXDR to perform like a sportsbike is like judging a fish based on its ability to drive a forklift. But if you leave the preconceptions at home and ride this thing like its meant to be ridden it’s a bloody good bike which will provide you with bags of laughs every time you roll it out of the garage.

In the stable of performance cruisers, I also think it’s pretty near the top of the tree. There aren’t many of the current crop that look this long, this low and this cool. Sure, there are faster bikes in the segment like the Ducati Diavel and XDiavel, but they are almost face-meltingly fast, when losing your licence could arrive in second gear without too much effort. The FXDR delivers a different kind of thrill, it’s definitely still there but comes in a unique, more accessible form.

And finally, for those reading this who might have never ridden a Harley, or only tried one in the 80s or 90s. You may just see a big American bike with a V-twin engine, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t moved on in the last twenty years; beneath the skin that are poles apart. The current crop of Harley bikes are some of the most refined, easy to ride and best performing machines they’ve built. Some will say that in the process they’ve lost character, I say they’ve gained in pretty much every other area. Go out, ride one and then make up your own mind.

Harley-Davidson FXDR (2019) specs

New price

£19,855

Capacity

1868cc

Bore x Stroke

102 x 114mm

Engine layout

45°V-twin

Engine details

8v SOHC, l/c

Power

90bhp @ 4500rpm

Torque

118 lb.ft @ 3500rpm

Top speed

115mph (est)

Average fuel consumption

n/a

Tank size

16.7 litres

Max range to empty

(displayed) 150+ miles

Rider aids

ABS

Frame

box steel spine

Front suspension

43mm Showa usd

Front suspension adjustment

none

Rear suspension

cantilever monoshock

Rear suspension adjustment

hydraulic preload

Front brake

2 x 300mm discs, four-pot calipers

Rear brake

292mm disc, two-pot caliper

Front tyre

120/70 R19 Michelin Scorcher

Rear tyre

240/40 R18 Michelin Scorcher

Rake/Trail

34°/120mm

Dimensions

2416mm x 929mm x 1083mm (LxWxH)

Wheelbase

1785mm

Seat height

723mm

Kerb weight

303kg

Warranty

unlimited miles / 2 years

Website

www.harley-davidson.com