Harley-Davidson Low Rider S Review: The Brand Epitomised By Effortless Cruiser
— Updated on 2 August 2023

Harley-Davidson Low Rider S Review: The Brand Epitomised By Effortless Cruiser

— Updated on 2 August 2023
James Want
WORDS BY
James Want

When Harley-Davidson launched the Low Rider in 2017, I was adamant that it would be the ideal Harley-Davidson for me. An aspirational buyer looking for a jack-of-all-trades bike, to be ridden only in perfect conditions, and epitomised style, power, and prestige.

Naturally, I couldn’t make up my about the Low Rider S until I rode it, which I did on a test ride in 2018, but it’s hard to feel engaged on a Harley-Davidson doing 60km/h, along O’Riordan St, in Alexandria. I rode the Street 500 in Singapore, an Ultra Glide around Montana, a Forty-Eight around New York, and both the Breakout and LiveWire around Sydney, but I couldn’t get a proper ride on the H-D I really wanted, to confirm once and for all.

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After years of waiting I was finally given the chance to ride my unicorn, granted a few weeks with the new Harley-Davidson Low Rider S. But was she all I’d wanted and ever more?

You better believe it.

Firstly, just look at it. The Low Rider S showcases pure Harley-Davidson attitude, with its low-slung Dyna profile, muscular lines, and aggressive stance, with a single seat built for solo moments, alone with my thoughts. Every detail of the Vivid Black example has been thoughtfully finished to channel the brand’s rebellious nature, and now mine. Licks of copper-gold against matte black, with a burst of polished chrome and a must-have fairing for open road riding (and to bring the SOA vibes). Do I want to feel like Jax Teller when I’m riding my Harley? Yes, yes I do. And did I? Every single time.

The Low Rider S is powered by the potent Milwaukee-Eight 117 engine, and it’s a peach of a thing delivering effortless acceleration and plenty of mid-range torque. The updated powertrain produces five per cent more torque than Milwaukee-Eight 114 which I gushed over after riding the Breakout.

The ergonomic single seat and riding position, combined with adjustable rear shocks ensures rider comfort during long journeys, while the responsive handling allows for precise control. Whether you’re cruising on the M4 or navigating tight city streets, the Low Rider S feels adept at every task. I never found it too cumbersome when parking or oversized trying to lane split. It’s the right size for those who want to be seen by other motorists but avoid them when the traffic is at a standstill.

If I were to pick one qualm, it would be that the riding position was just a tad hunched for myself, longer-armed riders wouldn’t have the same issue and it’s something you could fix easily with a riser or a custom set of handlebars – which is most definitely the route I’d be going down if I was to purchase one myself. It also doesn’t sound as mean as I’d like, but the Harley-Davidson stock pipes rarely do.

Let’s face it, you never ride these things as often as you’d like to, so you need to ensure you choose a bike that can do it all and what the Harley-Davidson Low Rider S does so well is the transition from commuter to cruiser. I rode it out to Tarana Hotel, tackling some of the worst bitumen roads I’d ever seen and it was a dream. Sudden potholes are easily avoided, open stretches of road greedily consumed with a blip of the throttle, and sweeping corners confidently tackled at speed. It’s a bike I felt comfortable on from the moment I sat down. Proportions, layout, capability. It’s all exactly how you want it to be.

Furthermore, it’s a Harley everyone loves. It’s more approachable than the Breakout, which has older man ‘bikie’ vibes. People want to stand next to it, look at it and talk about it. For me, that’s a huge part of the Harley-Davidson experience, something you don’t get with other brands (aside from Ducati). It’s grounding and reminds you to step back and appreciate the nice thing.

I spent a lot of time on the motorways with the Low Rider S and I couldn’t help but feel it would have been perfect with a larger fairing. Amazingly, and previously unbeknown to me, Harley-Davidson had the exact same thought, and when I dropped the bike back I was introduced to the Low Rider ST ‘Sport-Touring’.

Harley-Davidson Low Rider ST

The ST features a larger frame-mounted fairing and removable panniers for luggage bringing added practicality and rider comfort for a $4,500 premium. I haven’t sampled it myself but after my time on the Low Rider S, I know the ST is the bike for me.

In my opinion, the Low Rider S is the pick of the crop for aspirational Harley-Davidson buyers. Its iconic design, effortless performance, and excellent manoeuvrability create an unrivalled H-D riding experience. Most importantly, it’s a bike that makes you feel alive while embracing the heritage and lifestyle Harley-Davidson has built its name on.

You simply can’t go wrong with the Low Rider, you just need to choose between the S or the ST.

James Want
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