Harley-Davidson Low Rider S (2021) road test and review

Low Rider S Visordown Review

We put some miles on the new Euro5 Harley-Davidson Low Rider S to find out if there really isn’t any substitute for cubes!

IF you are looking for that ‘factory custom’ look from America’s most famous motorcycle manufacturer, the chances are the Harley-Davidson Low Rider S is in your crosshairs.

Based around the uber-successful Fat Bob, the Low Rider S is a Softail straight out of the Sons of Anarchy playbook. Mid-mounted controls, drag bars’, and a small headlight fairing, it’s all present and correct, and backed up by a thumping great 114ci (1,868cc) Milwaukee-Eight V-twin.

Harley-Davidson Low Rider S video review

To get to grips with Harley’s modern-day Dyna, we picked it up for a two-week test, most of which was spent blatting around the B-roads, although there were a couple of longer trips in there as well.

Harley-Davidson Low Rider S price and colours

The new Low Rider S starts at £16,995, which places it slap-bang in the middle of the Harley-Davidson cruiser range. The new bike is available in two flavours, Vivid Black, and the Midnight Crimson (+£350) optional colour we rode. It’s a stunning looking bike in the flesh, with paint that is so lustrous it still looks wet. Peer through the deep glaze a little harder though, and you’ll be greeted by a subtle metallic glint and period Stranger Things style decals.

Harley-Davidson Low Rider S engine and gearbox

Like any cruiser, the engine is the focal point of the Low Rider S, and despite looking like any other air-cooled V-twin, the latest Milwaukee-Eight powerplants are far from archaic. First off, it’s not totally air-cooled as oil-cooling assistance is also on hand. It’s an 8-valve engine (hence Milwaukee-Eight), features a ride-by-wire throttle, electronic fuel injection, and produces around 90bhp and a throbbing 114 lb-ft of torque at 3,250rpm.

With its sweet fuelling and its seemingly endless spread of torque, making swift progress on the Low Rider S is never an issue. It’ll happily squeal its rear tyre in a straight line and the liberal dollops of torque make every roundabout your own personal flat track circuit.

30° lean angle aside, the Low Rider S has no right to be as fast as it is, and most of the plaudits should be placed at the feet of that stonking engine. The quick action throttle allows you to dial in otherworldly levels of acceleration in an instant, just make sure you keep on top of the upshifts. The 114ci Milwaukee-Eight only gives you a small window of opportunity in the rev range, before slamming into the rev-limiter as a reminder to change gear. Away from the B-roads, the Low Rider S is perfectly at home on the dual carriageway, and at motorway speeds, you’ll barely be troubling 3,000rpm.

The exhaust is admittedly understated in Euro5 trim, with a rumbling exhaust that is missing that distinctive H-D sound, and you do get the impressions that the engine will feel much freer once the Euro5 gubbins has been deleted from the bike.

Harley-Davidson Low Rider S suspension brakes and handling

If you’re used to riding sports bike and super nakeds, it’s fair to assume that your first ride on a bike like the Low Rider S will be a bit of an eye-opener. For a start, you’ll probably end up over-riding the bike, pushing where you shouldn’t and generally looking a bit frantic. That won’t work with this bike. Instead, the slow in, fast out mantra should be at the front of your mind. Use the formidable front brake to scrub off the desired amount of speed, push it into the turn and wind on the throttle once the apex is out of sight. It’s not the prettiest and most flowing riding style, but it gets the most out of the bike and its associated geometry.

The ride quality is good, with the fairly plush feeling, non-adjustable forks and rear shock making a decent job of pot-holed UK roads.

Braking on the Low Rider S is provided by H-D branded 4-pot calipers at the front and 2-pot item at the rear. As mentioned above, the front brake is fairly powerful, although a full four-fingered grab of the lever will be required to haul the 308kg machine up from speed. Sadly, the rear brake is not as useful, with a vague feel and almost no bite whatsoever. The two-channel ABS is typical Harley-Davidson, it’s fairly antiquated in its feel and application, although if you can feel it cutting in, you’re riding the bike all wrong!

Harley-Davidson Low Rider S comfort

With mid-set pegs, bars that sit directly above the headstock and a seat nestled in between the rear wheel and engine, the Low Rider S does have a riding position akin to sitting on the loo. It’s not uncomfortable as such, but at speed, you have the aerodynamic profile of an octopus hanging on to a washing line. Cruise at 70mph and you’ll be fine, although if you venture much above that, it’ll quickly become tiresome.

Harley-Davidson Low Rider S verdict

It might not be the twin-shock Dyna the purists are screaming for, but the updated 2021 Harley-Davidson Low Rider S is still a bike that commands attention, mostly thanks to it’s bad-to-the-bone styling and footpeg-shredding handling. Admittedly, it does have some flaws, motorways cruising comfort, a vague rear brake, and muted exhaust being the biggest three that spring to mind. Whether you deem those to be minor flies in the ointment or big problems that put you off buying depends on which side of the fence you sit with bikes like this.

There are those that simply want to bash any cruiser for being flawed, slow, cumbersome, and outdated. But there are those (me included) that look at a cruiser for what it is, a cool looking bike that gets attention, allows you to make merry with custom parts and has a character all of its own.

Ultimately, the proof of any pudding is in the eating. If you have a hankering for a bike that will delivery its thrills at a more sedate pace, go check this bike or any of the other Softail range out. I’ve not been disappointed by any of them yet!