2015 Harley-Davidson Low Rider Test

When you hop on the 2015 Harley-Davidson Low Rider and take it for a spin, it’s hard to imagine that The Motor Company ever let it disappear from the line. A mainstay from its debut in 1977, it was the victim of the tough times of 2009. Fortunately, last year the Low Rider was brought back and it’s return for 2015 is a welcome sign.

From its performance — handling and motor — to its instinctively comfortable ergonomics, the Harley-Davidson Low Rider is an ideal cruising machine. Mid-position pegs and pullback bars are perfect for my 5’ 10” frame and taste, though Harley does offer some built-in ergonomic customization. The bars can be raised or lowered over a 2.4-inch sweep, and a seat bolster can move the rider farther forward on the machine. With the ergonomics putting you in a position to dominate the chassis, the Low Rider feels good in every situation.

I’m a big fan of the 17-inch/19-inch wheel combination. It avoids the nervousness of 21-inch front-end bikes, and the ponderous feel of bikes with fat 16-inch wheels up front. Whether you’re in the canyons or negotiating city streets, the Low Rider’s steering hits that sweet spot that is confident, yet reasonably light. The rake of 30.5 degrees is moderate, with steering made a bit more leisurely by a +1.5 degree offset.

The Michelin Scorcher 31 tires do their job admirably, as you would expect. Lean angle is about 30 degrees on both sides, so there’s decent cornering clearance. The tires never complain in that 60-degree swath, so you can ride it as hard as conditions allow. There are no peg feelers, but the peg or your boot heel (depending on your riding style) will let you know when your limit is reached, and it doesn’t do it especially early. Even though the engine is rubber mounted, the Low Rider doesn’t feel unsettled, even when pulling out of turns.

When Harley-Davidson brought the Low Rider back, the FXDL got the latest Twin Cam 103 motor. That means plenty of power, with nearly 100 ft/lbs at your disposal at just 3500 rpm. In town you can pull away from traffic at any time without shifting, and it makes those canyon runs a blast. Acceleration out of corners is as satisfying as it is controllable, and it won’t mind if you have a passenger.

Once up to speed, the Low Rider is absolutely stable. With the 32-degree fork angle, 64-inch wheelbase, excellent rubber, and sensible ergonomics, the Low Rider works at speed. It doesn’t have wide bars, so you can ride it on the freeway for decent distances.

For all-day runs, the Low Rider seat is perfectly amenable. The rubber-mounted engine reduces fatigue, as it isolates you from the big bore motor. When possible, slip the 6-Speed Cruise Drive into neutral at stops to give your hands a break. It helps that the transmission works flawlessly in the Low Rider configuration.

Harley knows that hot-rodders will be attracted to the Low Rider’s stance and performance, so it gets a pair of 300mm rotors up front, with four-piston calipers. Thanks to the secure front footprint, you can use the brakes aggressively. If you’re not sure about your braking, ABS is an option. The rear disc is large, but with such good front braking, and a chassis that works well for using the front brake, you won’t use it as often as you might with a typical cruiser.

The seat height of 27 inches is, indeed, low. You will feel very secure at stops, yet you don’t feel like you’re riding around on a skateboard. The Low Rider has a serious presence.

As is the case with Dynas, the suspension is on the crude side. Compliance is reluctant, and you’ll find yourself avoiding any sort of road imperfections. Riding on concrete freeways is a jarring experience. If you want to treat yourself, get the Premium Ride Emulsion Shocks ($600) and Premium Ride Single Cartridge Fork Kit ($350). For less than a grand, you get top-notch suspension and the Low Rider will be much more enjoyable no matter where or how you ride.

It’s difficult to describe just how much fun the 2015 Harley-Davidson Low Rider is to ride. The Low Rider is perfectly comfortable, handles well, and has a great motor — you can decide if you like the tastefully modernized 1970s styling. It is the kind of motorcycle that encourages you to ride, and that’s the best compliment a bike can get.

Photography by Kelly Callan

RIDING STYLE

 

2015 Harley-Davidson Low Rider FXDL Specifications:

ENGINE

  • Engine: Air-cooled, Twin Cam 103
  • Valves: Pushrod-operated, overhead valves with hydraulic, self-adjusting lifters; two valves per cylinder
  • Bore x stroke: 3.87 inches x 4.374 inches
  • Displacement 103.1 cubic inches (1690 cc)
  • Compression ratio: 9.6:1
  • Torque: 98.8 ft/lbs @ 3500 rpm
  • Estimated fuel consumption: 43 mpg
  • Fuel capacity: 4.7 gallons
  • Oil capacity: 3 quarts
  • Fuel system: Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection
  • Air cleaner: Fiberglass media, washable
  • Lubrication system: Pressurized, dry-sump
  • Clutch: Multi-plate, wet
  • Transmission: 6-Speed Cruise Drive
  • Transmission capacity: 1 quart
  • Primary chain case capacity: 1 quart

CHASSIS

  • Frame: Mild steel, tubular frame; rectangular section backbone; stamped, cast, and forged junctions; forged fender supports; MIG welded
  • Swingarm: Mild steel, rectangular tube sections, stamped junctions; MIG welded
  • Lean angle r/l: 29.5°/30.5°
  • Rake (steering head): 30.5°
  • Fork angle: 32°
  • Trail: 5.1 inches
  • Forks: 49 mm with polished aluminum triple clamp and dual-rate springs
  • Shocks: Coil-over shocks with tri-rate springs
  • Suspension Travel:
    • Front wheel: 5.1 inches
    • Rear wheel: 3.1 inches
  • Tires
    • Front: Michelin Scorcher “31” 100/90B19 57H
    • Rear: Michelin Scorcher “31” 160/70B17 73V
  • Wheels
    • Front: 19 inches x 2.5 inches
    • Rear: 17 inches x 4.5 inches
  • Brakes: Front calipers: Twin 4-piston fixed; Rear: 2-piston torque-free floating rear
  • Brake Discs: Front: 11.8 inches x 0.2 inches x 2; Rear: 11.5 inches x 0.23 inches)
  • Headlamp (quartz halogen): 55-watt low beam, 60-watt high beam

DIMENSIONS

  • Length: 92.3 inches
  • Width: 35.6 inches
  • Height: 46.6 inches
  • Seat Height:
    • Laden: 25.4 inches
    • Unladen: 26.8 inches
  • Ground clearance: 4.13 inches
  • Wheelbase: 64.2 inches
  • Curb weight: 644 pounds

2015 Harley-Davidson Dyna Low Rider MSRP: Starting at $14,199