2014 Harley-Davidson Low Rider Test | The Rugged Rider Returns

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2014 Harley-Davidson Low Rider Test

Although 1977 may not overly thicken the history books, many events that year had significant impacts on culture. Star Wars hit the theaters and became the highest- grossing film of the era.

Led Zeppelin played its final American concert, at the same time the Ramones were establishing themselves. Jimmy Carter became the 39th President, ending the Watergate Era. Legendary comedian Groucho Marx died at the tender age of 86.

In motorcycle culture, another orgasmic wave of American V-Twin machinery was about to crash into society — the Harley-Davidson Low Rider. Harley’s thinking was simple — take the popular Super Glide, which Willie G. Davidson designed six years early, lower it and add bolder styling.

The audience for the bike was the rugged rider who would rather ride than dance to the “Saturday Night Fever” soundtrack that also debuted that year.

The formula worked. In its first full production year, the Low Rider was Harley’s best seller, and it remained in the line until being discontinued for 2009. However, motorcycle culture would not let the design cease, and the machine quickly gained cult status.

Harley listened and, following a five-year hiatus, returned the Low Rider. The 2014 FXDL enters modern culture with more power, better handling and brakes, and aggressive styling.

The Low Rider uses a new “perfect fit” formula by Harley, which utilizes three features—adjustable handlebars, a two-position adjustable seat, and footpegs that are relocated two inches forward.

The Low Rider fit my just over 5′ 11″ body perfectly. In a few minutes, any rider armed with a Hex wrench can change the position of the handlebars throughout a 2.4-inch range. The bars can be moved forward and rearward through adjustments well as rotated forward, if desired.

Harley also incorporated a removable padded spacer that moves the rider 1.5-inches forward. This helps shorter riders get closer to the controls, but I was most comfortable without the spacer. Inserting the spacer is easy; just remove the seat and replace the stock chrome Harley-Davidson badge with the padded unit.

Adhering to its name, the Low Rider arrives with a 26.8-inch seat height, the lowest of the 2014 six-model Dyna lineup. All told, Harley claims a stock Low Rider can be configured to fit any rider from 5′ 1″ to 6′ 1″.

Once you’re settled in the saddle, it is time to enjoy a bit of power. The Dyna-based Low Rider arrives with a Twin Cam 103 motor that produces a claimed nearly 100 ft/lbs of torque at 3500 rpm. Thumb the starter, and the Low Rider easily throttles to life with a deep sound emanating from the chrome 2-into-1 exhaust—a sound musically rooted in 1977. Unlike the 1977’s 74 ci Shovelhead, vibrations are few.

The 103’s fuel injection is beyond refined; it never displayed a hiccup, even under wet and cold conditions. The smooth-shifting Six-Speed Cruise Drive impressed as much as the 103; the Low Rider doesn’t require downshifts when passing at speeds near 80 mph, and finding neutral is never an issue.

The Low Rider’s dropped center of gravity improves handling as much as the seat’s low profile adds to the flowing muscular image. You sit so low, the headlight actually helps deflect some stinging rain when riding at highway speed.

This profile is further enhanced by the fat styling of the 4.7-gallon gas tank with the new black-crinkle finished console. It houses the analog speedometer and tachometer, which are stacked vertically like a streetlight. Just as eye-catching is the chrome battery box, which features the black-crinkled Low Rider logo.

Even on bumpy roads, the new Low Rider presented no comfort issues. The 49mm front forks and twin shocks—arriving fashionably black—combine with the cruiser-happy 64-inch wheelbase to provide a smooth ride across all road surfaces.

The Low Rider dons Michelin Scorcher tires, and they demonstrate optimal grip, even in wet conditions. The tires are wrapped around stylish mag wheels finished in crinkle black with diamond- cut highlights that shine like buffed stain- less steel.

Single-disc front brakes can be dicey on a 666-pound bike, especially one with a fairly narrow 19-inch front tire. Harley realized this, and equipped the Low Rider with a dual-disc setup; the only other Dyna with twin 300mm front discs in 2014 is the Fat Bob.

The front brakes don’t have the strongest initial bite, which is reasonable on a cruiser, yet they have optimal power for quick stopping or loading the front suspension ahead of a corner. It takes a strong pull to slow down the Low Rider quickly, so work on that grip. The levers are not adjustable, which could cause some issues for shorter-fingered riders.

As for the rear brake, stomp and you shall receive. It has gobs of deceleration power, but I had to make some pedal adjustments. Out of the crate, I had to lift my entire foot off the right peg to use the brake. Once adjusted, interaction was easier. ABS is a $795 option, and it is invaluable when braking hard on any surface condition.

Harley-Davidson certainly got it right with the new Low Rider. The Motor Company didn’t simply revive a name lost in the archives without regard to its original purpose and personality, something automobile manufacturers are notorious for doing.

The 2014 Harley-Davidson Low Rider doles out everything the modern rugged rider seeks — bold styling similar to the original ’77, with the power, handling, and comfort expected from a 21st century machine. Harley-Davidson has done the Low Rider legend proud.

Photography by Riles & Nelson

Riding Style:

  • Helmet: Bell Custom 500
  • Eyewear: Harley-Davidson Wiley-X Gravity Ballistic
  • Jacket: Roland Sands Design Ronin
  • Gloves: Harley-Davidson Lone Star Full-Finger
  • Jeans: Drayko Drift
  • Boots: Icon Superduty 4

Story from Ultimate MotorCycling magazine; for subscription services, click here.

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