2014 Harley-Davidson Low-Rider

First Ride Review

Despite the traditional stereotypes, younger riders and women make up a substantial, and ever-increasing, portion of Harley-Davidson’s customers. The Motor Company says that in 2012, it held 50 percent of the U.S. market share for men and women riders ages 18-34, and over 60 percent for women ages 35 and up.

To more directly target that audience, last March Harley used the sunny stage of Daytona Bike Week to launch its latest motorcycles, the SuperLow 1200T and Low Rider. Neither bike is all new in name or equipment, but for 2014 they’ve been changed enough to appeal to a new generation of motorcyclists that wants to go farther and ride lower for less coin.

After a five-year hiatus the Low Rider name has been revived for 2014, and with it Harley has produced a streetwise custom-inspired cruiser that’s accessible to a wide variety of riders. Foremost in the new Low Rider’s feature set is its three-point adjustable ergonomics. The 26.8-inch seat features a removable lumbar pad that pushes the rider forward 1.5 inches; those who utilize it can still achieve an assertive, feet-forward riding position thanks to foot controls that are two inches farther forward than the standard Dyna’s mid-mounts. A cool new “dogleg”-style handlebar riser allows a 2.4-inch range of adjustment by rolling it forward or rearward; the bar itself can then be rotated within the riser. All of these adjustments only require a hex wrench.

The Twin Cam 103 engine in the Low Rider flexed its usual muscle around the Florida backroads. It’s finished in wrinkle-black powdercoat with a chrome cover, and the chrome 2-into-1 exhaust gives it a throatier sound than a 2-into-2, perhaps enough to dissuade owners from perusing aftermarket catalogs. Harley’s 6-speed transmission continues to improve, getting less clunky and more refined every year. Handling is nimble, and the 160/70 rear tire only adds to the agility. Braking is strong and readily actuated, though the brake and clutch levers lack adjustability. All these factors and more combine to make the Low Rider a kick to ride aggressively, but be warned: those rubber pegs grind readily.

Priced near the bottom of the Dyna pack at $14,199, the affordable new Low Rider provides modern adaptability while successfully harkening back to its roots. With its alloy wheels, I think it looks more 1983 than ’77—but then, I always preferred Magnum P.I. to Tony Baretta anyway.