2016 Harley-Davidson Low Rider S

First Ride Review

Harley-Davidson continues to fill the need for riding individuality by offering standard factory models that provide a major amount of custom features right on the showroom floor. Case in point is the mid-year release 2016 Low Rider S, the latest iteration of the Dyna Low Rider that has been in the H-D lineup, except for a five-year hiatus from 2009-2013, since 1977. It was originally intended as a low-down, laid-back cruiser, but oh how things have changed in the ensuing nearly 40 years.

Joining the Fat Boy S and Softail Slim S models, the new Low Rider S is the third member of the S-series cruiser lineup, each with stripped-down styling but with standard features that are optional on other models such as upgraded suspensions, brakes and big motors. Each of these three is powered by the air-cooled, 45-degree Screamin’ Eagle Twin-Cam V-twin that, with a bore and stroke of 101.6 x 111.1mm, displaces 110 cubic inches, or 1,801cc. This is the largest motor that H-D currently installs at the factory, and the company claims that it produces 115 lb-ft. of torque at 3,500 rpm, 13 percent more than the standard Low Rider model.

The all-black treatment on this newest S-model is the only color in which it is available. Standard custom touches include the bobbed rear fender, solo seat, flat drag bar on 5.5-inch risers, mini fairing, two-into-two exhaust system and H-D’s Screamin’ Eagle Heavy Breather performance intake with its custom-look air filter. For contrast the motor features bright fin edges and chromed pushrod tubes, and the bike is framed by those Magnum Gold cast aluminum wheels, complemented by the gold tank badge that pays homage to the 1977 XLCR Café Racer. It also comes standard with anti-lock brakes, cruise control and the security system, all of which are optional on the standard Low Rider.

To introduce this new model, Harley-Davidson invited a group of journalists to ride the S-model up Highway 2, the Angeles Crest Highway, into the mountains north of Los Angeles in early March. Climb aboard to find that the narrow solo seat with pronounced rear kickup is just 26.6 inches off the pavement, and though I’m fairly tall I found the bars a bit of a reach. The pegs are mid-mounted and relatively high, providing a more compact, aggressive, feet-up riding position. Claimed wet weight is 674 pounds so this is no lightweight, but the low seat height makes it quite manageable.

With its electronic, sequential port fuel injection system the bike starts easily, and the rubber-mounted motor shakes noticeably at idle. However, once you click the six-speed Cruise Drive transmission into gear and release the clutch the throbbing melts away, the rubber mounts take over and the power smoothes out.

The next immediate impression is “what a motor!” Torque output is prodigious and sweeps you away. The speedometer and tach are located down on the tank, not in easy view, but power comes on by 2,000 rpm and in very entertaining amounts. The tiny fairing actually does deflect wind from the rider’s chest, but its rear surface appears unfinished.

Rolling on the mountain roads our group began to pick up the pace to test the bike’s handling properties. With a 64.2-inch wheelbase and 30.5-degree fork angle steering is rather lazy, but the bike feels well planted. The upgraded suspension consists of twin nitrogen gas-charged emulsion shocks (adjustable for preload only) and a cartridge-style non-adjustable fork, which do provide a well-damped ride. However, they lack the finesse of suspensions usually found on lighter bikes. We gave the bikes a workout, scraping their folding pegs in the corners where their Michelin Scorcher tires (with the H-D logo imbedded in the tread pattern) gripped tenaciously. Triple disc brakes are standard, with dual floating rotors on the front. Their anti-lock capabilities are a welcome safety feature, and they’re powerful, but lack feedback.

MSRP on the Low Rider S is $16,699, which includes the standard H-D security system, cruise control and ABS. California residents add $200 for the emissions package. The standard Low Rider model carries the 103-inch motor, starts at $14,399 and lacks those features listed above, but two-up seating is standard.

Overall I was very impressed with the Low Rider S, from its blacked-out, custom styling to its torquey motor to its stability when pushed hard on a winding road. Personally, I might tweak the handlebar and peg position, but H-D has many options available. Overall, this is an impressive bike both visually and in performance terms.