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Iconic. Aspirational. Instantly recognisable. Pop Culture King. And unapologetically cool. It is not hard to guess that the one motorcycle manufacturer that can be referred to as any and all of the above is Harley-Davidson. We recently got our hands on a Low Rider S and it really makes us want to talk about it.
Text: Karan Bansatta
Photos: Sunil Gupta
The Milwaukee marquee has been making motorcycles for around 117 years now and to this day and their motorcycles have been what a lot of motorcycles have aspired to be. While a history lesson on Harley-Davidson is not needed for the most part (we all know that), a little history on the Low Rider S will do one good.
So, the Low Rider S is the spiritual successor of the Dyna Low Rider, perhaps the most loved Harley-Davidsons of all time. So it was natural for people to cause an uproar when it was axed. Why? We don’t know. But we guess it was to make way for the Low Rider S, the new kid on the Softail block that aims to not only better its predecessor, but to add more riders to the bandwagon. Will it succeed? God only knows. Should it? To that, we give you a ‘H*ll yeah!’
One look at the Low Rider S and you can tell what Harley-Davidson was up to. Tall handlebar, mid-mounted pegs, a mini fairing complete with colour matching, and 19”-16” wheel combination. It is meant to make you look like you don’t give two sh*ts about the world when you are out on the Low Rider S. The only thing you care about is the sports-cruiser pedigree of the motorcycle and lyrically accurate recital of Hardwired by Metallica. We aren’t kidding.
We generally avoid expletives but not on a Harley… Moving on, there are two colour options- Vivid Black and Barracuda Silver. We had the latter. The design has been executed tastefully. ‘S’, in Harley-Davidson speak, is Special. And that means more black and a tad less chrome. Most of the motorcycle is blacked out and there’s chrome garnishing on muffler tips and engine fins.
The low rear fender with a single seat setup and masked rear suspension are subtle nods to the Softail theme and the offset twin-shotgun mufflers add to the appeal of the Low Rider S. Overall, the design of the Low Rider S sits well with the purists and new riders alike with classic references and modern touches.
We loved the recessed LED headlight inside the mini fairing, the twin dial instrument cluster and the relatively aggressive general stance of the motorcycle. Though we did expect better-looking RVMs. Also, we believe that most people will get rid of the long-ish rear fender to make the motorcycle even softer on the tail.
Sitting on the saddle of the Harley-Davidson is a sacred feeling. You almost instantly recognize that what you are sitting on is a Milwaukee beast. In the case of the Low Rider S though, you have to reach out a little for that recognition. The motocross-style handlebar sits on 4” risers and requires some reach. The seat is low and the footpegs are mid-mounted. Because of the former, shorter riders have to stretch too hard and because of the latter, taller riders may feel cramped.
But all of that happens after you have spent a few hours in the saddle and those will be one of the best hours of your life. The 308 kilos of the Low Rider S is felt as soon as you remove the side stand and disappear as soon as you get going. And then, it is all chasing butterflies in the meadows till you run out of all the fuel in the 19L fuel tank. Though we feel like chasing eagles is more appropriate here…
One of the biggest reasons for that unexplained disappearance of 300+ kilos is the engine- Milwaukee-Eight 114. 1,868 cubic centimetres of displacement shared between two cylinders arranged in a V filling the 2 into 2 shotgun mufflers of the Low Rider S with a familiar Harley-Davidson thump and roar. Blip it once and you exclaim, “This is the Harley life!”
The engine is good for 155 Nm of peak torque, all of which is delivered around 3,000 rpm. What that means is that despite the smoothness of the throttle, the Low Rider S is ready to pounce so you have to keep some of that brash coolness in your back pocket till you get used to it.
The motorcycle accelerates feistily and it sounds better and better as the revs climb. It will take you north of the 100 km/h mark swiftly and doesn’t even lose steam long after that. The gearbox is smooth but you don’t engage much because of the abundance of torque almost everywhere in the rev range.
And now to the fun part, where you unleash all the badassery of the Low Rider S- handling. On the technical front, the rake is steeper, there are USD forks up front, the wheels are light, and the chassis is both stiff and light. In the real world, the Low Rider S is a heck of a handler. Despite the gyroscopic resistance from the large-dia front wheel, it tips into corners relatively effortlessly and even holds its line through corners.
As you string together corners on a winding mountain road, the song changes to Brighton Rock by Queen and boy, it is fun. The only limitation here is the lean angle. 30-degrees on either side is too less compared to what the motorcycle can do and the culprits here are the footpegs. But you can’t have it all in one motorcycle now, can you…
On the straights, the 1,615 mm ensures rock-solid stability and the suspension lets only the gnarliest of bumps to the rider. The brakes are more than decent with ample bite and feel on the lever though we wish the friction zone arrived a little earlier, especially on the rear brake lever. There isn’t much use of it but we’re just sayin’. ABS on both the ends looks out for you under panic braking and keeps the ‘black’ of the motorcycle from unsolicited chroming.
On the electric front, the Low Rider S is bare. Indicators include high beam, turn signals, neutral, low oil pressure, engine diagnostics, auxiliary lighting, ABS, low battery voltage and of course, low fuel. The information is imparted to the rider via an instrument cluster that consists of a 4” analog speedometer with a digital readout for the selected gear, odometer, fuel level, clock, trip meter, and range with another twin dial serving as the analog tachometer. Pretty basic. Quite functional.
Now, the Low Rider S starts from INR. 14,69,000/- (Ex-Showroom, Delhi). That is a lot of money which the Low Rider S is most definitely worthy of. Firstly, the Milwaukee-Eight 114 is a beauty and the Low Rider S is the cheapest Harley-Davidson with that mill. It is smooth, vibe-free for the most part, a torque monster, and simply, pure joy to ride hard. And the Low Rider S can be ridden hard with ease.
Apart from a few visual gripes, the only trouble could be the riding position which can take a toll over long distances. Despite that, our closing statement remains firmly in favour of the motorcycle and it goes like this: The Low Rider S is iconic, aspirational, instantly recognizable as a Harley-Davidson, and unapologetically cool. And with the right playlist, it can easily be your pop culture king too!