First Ride Review
The V-Rod is dead, long live the V-Rod. Well, sort of. When Harley-Davidson overhauled the Softail platform for 2018, it created an all-new chassis to accommodate the Milwaukee-Eight V-twin in different sizes (107ci and 114ci) as well as a wide range of body styles. Capitalizing on the flexible design, Dyna models were folded into the Softail line, creating one big, happy family, like the Brady Bunch.
Joining the Softail lineup for 2019 is the FXDR 114, a long, lean, dragbike-inspired power cruiser that channels the spirit of the VRSC V-Rod, which quietly exited the stage last year after 17 years of production. Like the V-Rod, the FXDR has a raked-out front end, a lower cowl attached to the frame’s downtubes and a wide 240-section rear tire wrapped around a solid-disc rear wheel.
To enhance the FXDR’s performance potential, Harley-Davidson gave it an upside-down single-cartridge fork with a triple-rate spring, a remote preload-adjustable rear shock with “internal free-piston technology” and a pair of 4-piston front calipers that squeeze 300mm discs. To save weight, the swingarm and subframe are aluminum and the tail section and fenders are composite. And everything is wrapped around a torque-rich 114ci V-twin with a massive, forward-facing air intake and a 2-into-1 exhaust.
My 100-mile first ride on the FXDR was on California State Route 33, a curly ribbon of pavement that climbs up and over two mountain ranges. With its 68.4-inch wheelbase, drag bars and forward pegs, my arms and legs were stretched out and my back was hunched over. Even though the seat was comfortable, it didn’t take long for my lower back to cry “uncle.” Lean angle is impressive—nearly 33 degrees, according to Harley—and the first thing to touch down were my boot heels, which were severely beveled by the end of the ride.
But what’s even more impressive is the suspension damping, particularly at the rear. Even when powering through G-out dips midcorner, the FXDR absorbed the hits and maintained composure. Strong brakes slow the 668-pound (claimed) machine with authority and steering is lighter than expected given its rangy wheelbase and wide rear tire. Of course, there’s plenty of torque available, but the FXDR needs to be shifted early to avoid banging into the 5,500-rpm rev limiter.