It’s back and the Dyna crowd is celebrating

LISTEN 10:55

Harley-Davidson’s cruiser line isn’t usually the first thing that comes to mind for a performance-oriented street machine, but that changes with its recently refurbished Softail Low Rider S model. The steering geometry is sharpened for the sake of agility, and as for power, the torque-rich, Milwaukee-Eight 114 engine delivers the goods with well over 100 pounds o’ grunt ready to be unleashed on the public roads.

  • 2020 - 2021 Harley-Davidson Low Rider S
  • Year:
    2020- 2021
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    V-Twin
  • Displacement:
    114 cubic inches
  • Top Speed:
    120 mph (Est.)
  • Price:
    17999
  • Price:

Harley-Davidson Low Rider S Design

  • Blackout factory custom styling
  • LED lighting
  • Four-inch analog gauges with LCD display
  • Gangster-style bullet fairing
2020 - 2021 Harley-Davidson Low Rider S
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2020 - 2021 Harley-Davidson Low Rider S
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With an intrinsic value all its own, the new Softail Low Rider S makes an excellent platform for a custom project with its rigid-looking rear end and nostalgic frame geometry. Harley had to borrow from the contemporary market for the front end though, as the front fender is the sort that mounts to the feet of the inverted forks. As such, it comes with splashguard-style uprights to protect the swept area of the inner for tubes from road grime. The entirety of the fender comes shot to match the rest of the sheet metal, but the rest of the front end, and indeed the bulk of the bike itself, rocks a blackout look for an immediate visual connection to the custom scene.

A chopped-down, gangster-style bullet fairing further dresses up the front end and doubles as a housing for the cyclops headlight. Is it big enough to actually afford some protection? Not even almost, but that’s hardly the point, now is it? Blackout bullet blinkers mounted at the switch housings complete the forward lighting.

A pair of tall handlebar risers behind the flyscreen lift the short-rise bar and loft your hands without going the mini-ape route, and you can go ahead an pencil me in as a fan. The five-gallon fuel tank rocks a teardrop profile, and credit where it’s due, the factory extended the blackout treatment to the dual-gauge instrument panel so the darned thing won’t blind you under bright ambient light that would otherwise reflect off chrome trim. If you are new to the brand, that instrument arrangement has deep roots in H-D’s cruiser line and it plays well with the other classic details.

Because of the Softail frame geometry and the all-up-front engine area, the seat slings your butt at 26.5 inches off the deck, providing that you have the 180-pound body mass to compress the rear suspension. The solo saddle has a a deep swale and a high back that cups and supports while preventing you from driving the thing out from under yourself when you grab a fistful of throttle and try to twist it off. There are no accommodations for a passenger, but as always, the rear fender has a second threaded insert for a p-pad and holes for a set of passenger footrests if you’re into sharing the fun with a friend.

Blackout bullets contain the rear turn signals, and a typical bulky taillight finishes out the rear lighting and doubles as a taglight. As for the tag mount, it’s also typical of the marque, and in my opinion makes a good starting point for a custom build as it screams for a laydown plateholder, or even a side-mount arrangement. If you ignore the inverted forks and just note that they are, in fact, hydraulically dampened, the overall effect of the design brings the imagination back to the 1940s when wet forks were new, but the rear end was still rigid.

Harley-Davidson Low Rider S Chassis

  • Sportbike-like agility and handling
  • Lightweight frame
  • Standard ABS
  • Motocross-style handlebar
2020 - 2021 Harley-Davidson Low Rider S
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2020 - 2021 Harley-Davidson Low Rider S
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2020 - 2021 Harley-Davidson Low Rider S
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Welded tubular-steel members on the Low Rider S make up the frame with a double-downtube/double-cradle layout that fully supports the powerplant – none of that stressed-engine business here – so the bottom members double as skid rails that protect the crankcases and transmission.

The real magic happens at the rear end in the triangular swingarm that mimics the geometry and look of the old rigid rear ends, but there’s an inconspicuous pivot point and hidden shock that articulates for rear-wheel travel and delivers a ride that gives lie to the overall design. Agility is the front-burner consideration with this ride, and toward that end, the steering head angle was shortened to 28 degrees down from 30 degrees. Trail numbers at 5.7 inches long promise solid straight-line tracking.

Overall comfort improved with the latest frame rebuild to make the Softail line more appropriate for longer trips than before, and the trail figure reinforces that element for low-stress cruising at interstate speeds. In front, inverted cartridge-style shocks run with a 43 mm inner fork tube and fixed values that are tuned for handling performance.

Radiate-style, cast wheels round out the rolling chassis with a Dark Bronze finish, but I kinda wish they were blackout instead since they’re the only non-monochromatic bits on the whole bike. As for the hoops, a 110/90-19 leads the way with a wide 180/70-16 in the rear for the usual offset, but I can’t help but wonder how much better it’d look with a 21-inch rim up front and blackout mags, or even laced wheels instead. Dual discs and four-pot anchors haul down the front wheel with a twin-piston caliper to bite the rear disc and stock ABS protection all around.

Rake (Steering Head): 28°
Trail: 5.7 in.
Lean Angle, Right/Left30.1°/30.1°
Brakes: 4-piston fixed front caliper and 2-piston floating rear caliper
Wheel, Front: Dark bronze, Radiate cast aluminum wheel
Wheel, Rear: Dark bronze, Radiate cast aluminum wheel
Tire, Front: 110/90B19,62H,BW
Tire, Rear: 180/70B16,77H,BW

Harley-Davidson Low Rider S Drivetrain

  • Milwaukee-Eight 114 V-Twin engine
  • 119 lb-ft @ 3,000 rpm
  • Ample roll-on anywhere in the rev range
  • 2-into-2 shotgun-style exhaust
2020 - 2021 Harley-Davidson Low Rider S
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2020 - 2021 Harley-Davidson Low Rider S
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2020 - 2021 Harley-Davidson Low Rider S
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The MoCo powers the Low Rider S with its Milwaukee-Eight 114 plant that marks a return to the classic valvetrain geometry as it runs a single cam rather than twin cams like the outgoing mill. This allows for a smaller nosecone area with the old-school twist to the pushrod tubes like the Evolution and prior Big Twins.

A 102 mm bore and 114 mm stroke give it a total displacement of 1,868 cc, or 114 cubic-inches, hence the diabolically clever name, with a whopping 119 pound-feet of torque at three grand. Compression measures at 10.5-to-1, so plan on premium fuel or, at the very least, an octane additive to prevent pre-ignition/detonation/dieseling.

Ride-by-wire control sends its signal to the ECU with a throttle body to meter the induction, and that couples with a catalyst and Lambda probes in the 2-into-2 shotgun-style exhaust to keep emissions low and deliver around 47 miles per gallon and over 200 miles per tankful. I’m glad to see that the mill meets requirements without having to embrace liquid-cooling, ’cause there ain’t no way to make a radiator look cool, and of course, the classic 45-degree V is always a welcome sight.

So far, the factory’s new top-shelf electronic engine features like the Drag-Torque mitigation and traction control hasn’t made it down to the cruisers, but it has trickled down to the tourbikes, and I expect any time now we’ll start seeing the fandanglery all through the Big-Twin range.

Engine: Milwaukee-Eight® 114
Bore x Stroke: 4.016 in. x 4.5 in.
Displacement: 114 cu in.
Engine Torque (J1349 ): 119 lb-ft @ 3,000 rpm
Compression Ratio: 10.5:1
Fuel System: Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI)
Exhaust: 2-into-2 offset shotgun; catalyst in muffler
Primary Drive: Chain, 34/46 ratio
Gear Ratios (Overall): 1st: 9.311, 2nd: 6.454, 3rd: 4.793, 4th: 3.882, 5th: 3.307, 6th: 2.79

Harley-Davidson Low Rider S Pricing

2020 - 2021 Harley-Davidson Low Rider S
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2020 - 2021 Harley-Davidson Low Rider S
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2020 - 2021 Harley-Davidson Low Rider S
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The 2021 Low Rider S rolls in Vivid Black for $17,999, same as last year, but if you want the Midnight Crimson paint, you’ll have to shell out another four Benjamins. ABS and the Security System comes standard, and as usual, California riders get hit with another two bills for the special emissions package.

Model ID: FXLRS
Standard Equipment: ABS, Security System
Colors:
└ 2020: Vivid Black, Barracuda Silver
└ 2021: Vivid Black, Midnight Crimson
Price: Vivid Black: $17,999, Color: $18,399

Harley-Davidson Low Rider S Competitors

2020 - 2021 Harley-Davidson Low Rider S
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2016 - 2019 Indian Chief Dark Horse
- image 733829

There really isn’t anything quite like the Low Rider S from the foreign manufacturers, and the Asian-made Charlie-Davidsons just won’t cut it for this bike. With that in mind, I went to America’s oldest manufacturer and grabbed the Indian Chief Dark Horse for my head-to-head.

Indian Chieftain Dark Horse

2019 Indian Motorcycle Chieftain Dark Horse
- image 796497

Like the Low Rider S, the Chief Dark Horse rocks some serious blackout treatment with only a handful of saddle studs and polished cooling-fin edges to break up the blackness. That’s okay, ’cause the result is dead sexy in my humble opinion.

Indian relies on its own deep roots for design inspiration, and it shows in the headlight nacelle, tank console, and rear sheet metal. Oh, and you can’t miss that classic war bonnet fender ornament that takes you back to the middle of the last century.

The steering geometry on the Chief Dark Horse definitely points to a more stable ride with a 29-degree rake and 6.1 inches of trail, which is great for low-stress cruising, but a bit more reluctant in the corners than the sharpened up Low Rider S. Brakes pretty much break even with dual front anchors and ABS protection across the board. Cruise control also makes it onto the Indian, but as far as higher electronics are concerned, neither really showcase much in the way of fandanglery.

Indian definitely scores in the engine department with its 111 cubic-inch “Thunder Stroke” mill, and even though it falls short by a couple of inches, it breaks even on the torque. If there’s an advantage for Indian, it’s in the engine’s aesthetics ’cause great lengths were taken to emulate the look of the old sidevalve/flathead engines.

Neither marque are famous for using price as a selling point, so it’s unsurprising that the Chief Dark Horse fetches $18,499 in Thunder Black Smoke as the only finish, so price is a wash. You’ll have to test ride each to decide which is more to your liking.

Read our full review of the Indian Chieftain Dark Horse.

He Said

“Yes indeed folks, the Low Rider S has always been a rather hot item, but I’m proud to note the efforts to increase handling performance. Could it be even hotter with the Mil-8 117? You betcha’, but I understand why the MoCo wants to reserve its biggest mill for the CVO models. I’m a little disappointed that the new tech items didn’t make it on this ride, but will concede that the factory is making progress on that front, and ya’ gotta’ crawl before you can walk.”

She Said

My wife and fellow motorcycle writer, Allyn Hinton, says, “It’s nice to see the Low Rider S again and on the new Softail chassis. It was a Dyna back in the day and it disappeared when the Dyna line was dropped. The front end on the Low Rider S is a bit of a mash-up. It has the same rake as the Fat Bob and the front forks off the FXDR 114 so I bet it’ll be in its element if you ride it hard. Performance-wise, I’m looking for agile handling and a thrilling ride. The Dyna Low Rider was very popular and the Softail Low Rider S is really the first cross-over Softail that will, in my opinion, appeal to the old Dyna crowd. If I were to make a prediction, I’d say the Low Rider S will carry forward and the Low Rider will drop out of the lineup.”

Harley-Davidson Low Rider S Specifications

Engine & Drivetrain:
Engine: Milwaukee-Eight® 114
Bore x Stroke: 4.016 in. x 4.5 in.
Displacement: 114 cu in.
Engine Torque (J1349 ): 119 lb-ft @ 3,000 rpm
Compression Ratio: 10.5:1
Fuel System: Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI)
Exhaust: 2-into-2 offset shotgun; catalyst in muffler
Primary Drive: Chain, 34/46 ratio
Gear Ratios (Overall): 1st: 9.311, 2nd: 6.454, 3rd: 4.793, 4th: 3.882, 5th: 3.307, 6th: 2.79
Chassis:
Rake (Steering Head): 28°
Trail: 5.7 in.
Lean Angle, Right/Left30.1°/30.1°
Brakes: 4-piston fixed front caliper and 2-piston floating rear caliper
Wheel, Front: Dark bronze, Radiate cast aluminum wheel
Wheel, Rear: Dark bronze, Radiate cast aluminum wheel
Tire, Front: 110/90B19,62H,BW
Tire, Rear: 180/70B16,77H,BW
Dimensions & Capacities:
Length: 92.7 in.
Seat Height, Laden: 26.5 in.
Ground Clearance: 4.7 in.
Wheelbase: 63.6 in.
Fuel Capacity: 5 gal
Fuel Economy: 47 mpg
Oil Capacity (w/Filter): 5 qt
Dry Weight: 650 lb.
Curb Weight: 679 lb.
Electric:
Lights (As Per Country Regulation), Indicator Lamps: High Beam, Turn Signals, Neutral, Low Oil Pressure, Engine Diagnostics, Auxiliary Lighting, Cruise, Abs, Security, Low Battery Voltage, Low Fuel
Gauges: 4-Inch Analog Speedometer With Digital Gear, Odometer, Fuel Level, Clock, Trip, Range And Tachometer Indication; 4-Inch Analog Tachometer
Details:
Model ID: FXLRS
Standard Equipment: ABS, Security System
Colors:
└ 2020: Vivid Black, Barracuda Silver
└ 2021: Vivid Black, Midnight Crimson
Price: Vivid Black: $17,999, Color: $18,399

Further Reading

Harley-Davidson

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TJ Hinton
TJ Hinton
T.J got an early start from his father and other family members who owned and rode motorcycles, and by helping with various mechanical repairs throughout childhood. That planted a seed that grew into a well-rounded appreciation of all things mechanical, and eventually, into a formal education of same. Though primarily a Harley rider, he has an appreciation for all sorts of bikes and doesn't discriminate against any particular brand or region of origin. He currently holds an Associate's degree in applied mechanical science from his time at the M.M.I.  Read full bio
About the author

All images featured on this website are copyrighted to their respective rightful owners. No infringement is intended. Image Source: harley-davidson.com, indianmotorcycle.com

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