Design //

Low Rider S: Harley-Davidson’s New Motorcycle Rolls in Right Direction

The Harley-Davidson Low Rider S will make a lot of noise as a sporty, tough addition to the motorcycle lineage.

John Scott Lewinskiby John Scott Lewinski

The recent steps by Harley-Davidson to re-create, reshape and otherwise evolve its motorcycle line settled on solid ground. The latest addition to the Milwaukee iron family stands up with the same confidence.

The new Harley-Davidson Low Rider S is a good-looking, powerful and comfortable bike that throws in a satisfying noise — all while moving away from the big, heavy touring bike in favor of a trimmed, sportier design language.

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The styling of the Low Rider S fits its name, departing slightly from the previous incarnations of the bike’s namesake. It uses a sleek, Dyna frame and mid-mounted seat set below elevated handle cars. Off the line and pre-customized, the dominant color is a black that steps away from flashy chrome.

There remain some metallic accents around the fuel tank’s H-D badge, but the vibe of the motorcycle is tough, understated and decidedly urban. Add the matching five-spoke, cast aluminum wheels with the slim rear fender qnd old school fairing with its narrow headlight casing, and this isn’t a machine for peacocking.

Also: Riding Harley-Davidson through Glacier National Park

All of that black wraps around a Twin Cam 110 engine built by the long-standing Harley-Davidson race tuning company, Screamin’ Eagle. The power is ample for an urban-designed, sit-up cruiser like the Low Rider S. The bike is well-balanced, and it never feels out of control or back-end heavy if banking at high speeds. 

The ergonomics are comfortable for a cruising bike with mid-mounted pedals and controls set up under the rider in a more natural sitting position. True to Harley-Davidson’s promises, the rider’s end position is “arms up, feet square” — with the rider’s weight centered over a straight spine.

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The end result’s riding position isn’t as posh as one of Harley-Davidson’s touring bikes, but it’s a more comfortable feel than some of the company’s older sportsters and cruisers. While you wouldn’t want to do a daylong ride on the Low Rider S, you could easily enjoy  100 or so miles on one in a shot — with your arse still willing to speak to you when it was done.

The ride is generally smooth. But — when get rid of that big touring bike’s bulk and creature comforts — you should expect a more raw riding experience. The Low Rider S offers only a speed screen standard and exposed pegs, so the owner is very much out in the wild wind while on the go.

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Give credit to Harley-Davidson for equipping this Low Rider S with a classic, throaty rumble as an exhaust note. To the uninitiated, that might seem unnecessary. All Harley-Davidson motorcycles make that Harley exhaust noise. Don’t they? The sound is even copyrighted. 

No. There are some recent Harley-Davidson editions that kept the noise down in standard trims, sometimes due to a certain consumer class demand and sometimes because of engine size. Those quieter bikes could be upgraded to angrier volumes with Harley-Davidson and Screamin’ Eagle custom parts.

The Low Rider S won’t make you wait around to hear the protestations of an eager V-Twin. You’ll be able to wake the neighbors with the standard issue engine and exhaust kit.

Starting at $17,000 for all intents and purposes, the Low Rider S sits in the middle of the Harley-Davidson pricing scheme. While hardly priced to be an entry-level bike, that MSRP should allow the urban professional entry into this cruiser’s club.