2016 Harley-Davidson Low Rider S Test – Screamin’ 110
The Harley-Davidson Low Rider has a presence that reaches into the intangible—a soul that makes you yearn to absorb the earth around you. The Motor Company has drawn on every line of influence throughout its history to create an instant classic with the new 2016 Harley-Davidson Low Rider S.
There is something indispensable about an American twin, yet it still must have a personality unto itself; charm, confidence, and an unmistakable poised stature leads to one conclusion—the Low Rider S is Harley at its finest.
Taking its stylistic cues from the hallowed halls of H-D’s back catalog, Harley has run them into the future to build a machine that could be uncovered in any time, any place, any barn—handed down from father to son, mother to daughter. This is an instant heirloom from the moment the last bolt was tightened on the assembly line.
Black-and-gold is a color combination that cannot be disputed. The Low Rider S has gorgeous Magnum Gold split five-spoke cast aluminum wheels ripped right out of the 1960s, when similarly tinted Halibrand and Campagnolo rims were savaging the tracks of old. Add to that an XR750-inspired solo seat 27 inches above the pavement, black-on-black features all the way through, and a speed screen, and the Low Rider S makes it clear that this isn’t a sleepy Harley.
The Low Rider S builds great anticipation for firing up the Screamin’ Eagle Air-Cooled Twin Cam 110 powerplant. Twisting on the throttle makes use of the claimed torque peak of 115 ft/lbs at 3500 rpm. This motorcycle was not made to be ogled at; it was made to be ridden. It’s a compatriot, willing to hold the conversation through thick LA traffic and the accomplice while bearing down on your favorite set of corners.
There is nothing that will shake off the cobwebs of a poor night’s sleep like a big-inch V-twin that is ready to be wrung out. It is a wake up call like no other. Through the freeways, the industrial blocks, and the neighborhoods, the Low Rider S roars along as if being beckoned into the canyons. It knows where it wants to be with the blacked out shotgun-style dual exhaust releasing a guttural tone that still has me shocked it passes EPA standards. Neither obnoxious nor ear splitting, the Screamin’ Eagle motor hums a tune that is quintessentially Harley, removing all worries in life from the first green light.
For those of you who want to throw caution to the wind and put some money into the exhaust, Harley has you covered from the get-go. That prominent Heavy Breather air filter isn’t just for looks; it is a high-flow, high-performance intake. You won’t need to replace it if you choose to go the high-performance exhaust route.
Not just an urban cruiser, the Low Rider S is impressive in the twisties. It leans in without any hesitation and soaks up tar-snake battered canyon roads without any trepidation. It wants to be there, digging into apexes with Harley’s ‘premium ride’ suspension and Michelin Scorcher 31 rubber—100/90-19 in the front and 160/70-17 out back.
This is how a performance cruiser is meant to feel, rock solid, absolutely no headshake or carnival-esque bounce, even with the limited rear wheel travel—just over two inches. With maximum lean angles that hover in the 30-degree territory, you can do plenty of spirited riding. H-D’s upgraded suspension has a supple yet firm feel that is functional—no fuss, no muss.
The Low Rider S shines when pushed into a corner at speeds that aren’t going to land you in handcuffs. Sporting a 64-inch wheelbase the chassis holds a line with ease. Want a little more in the corner? Just shift it to the side gently and let bike lead the way.
A sport bike might need a little more on the speedo to get the same thrills, but this motorcycle is not about that—it’s about using every bit of torque, driving out of the apex down low, way low in the rpm range, and getting a satisfaction that can only be given from a high-displacement, long-stroke twin.
Riding the Low Rider S, I have become insatiable, wanting to fuel it up and ditch my friends for another 200 miles of riding. I want to repeat the feeling of twisting it on, being thrown back into the solo seat in that upright power riding position. Harley-Davidson has made this motorcycle for someone who wants that experience, and addiction it brings.
Slowing down is always a result of going fast, and sometimes even the 9.2:1 engine compression braking of a big twin isn’t enough. Up front you will find dual fixed calipers and floating 300mm rotors, plus a hefty 292mm rotor in the rear.
The brake lever has a medium pull—progressive and predictable. The biggest triumph here is that there is absolutely no shocking bite to them. The Low Rider S also comes standard with an ABS package and it works flawlessly. Hard braking—we’re talking about full-fist grabbing of the brake lever—causes no shuddering of the front end. The only thing you can expect from the Low Rider S’s electronic aids is a faster and safer way to stop.
After my first experience on the Low Rider S, I got back home and kicked off my boots to process the ride. I turned to the spec sheet. Everything made sense—right where it should be in my mind—except one thing: the weight.
The Low Rider S boasts a claimed wet weight of 674 pounds, but it has certainly been hitting the gym because 100-percent of that weight is muscle. It doesn’t even begin to show its heft when riding; the S is a quick-on-its-feet cruiser that can keep up with some of the sport bike guys.
Nothing about the Low Rider S is jarring, from the soothing rumble of the 110 motor, to the complete lack of dive in the front end when you have been goaded by the bike’s flat torque curve. The mid controls don’t bind you up and the bar height sits at a perfectly neutral level for me. Even after four hours in the saddle, you aren’t saddled with a sore posterior, so there is no added fatigue in that department.
I certainly put some miles on the Low Rider S and, thanks to the 4.7-gallon tank, range is not an issue. Despite all that displacement and my need to use every cubic inch of it, the bike does very well on fuel economy—over 40 mpg—and can do the long hauls, when needed. Harley built its brand on the open road—putting down the kind of miles that most riders and bikes would shake their collective heads at; with its cruise control and plentiful power, the S can function as a
The Harley-Davidson Low Rider S is something worthy of a photo album. It’s going to be nestled in next to baby pictures, graduation photos, and wedding photos because, once it has taken its place in the garage, the motorcycle will become part of the family.
Some will roll their eyes, but progeny inheriting a 2016 Harley-Davidson Low Rider S at some distant date will understand. They will know the power that it brings, and the mark that it leaves—reaching down into a primitive space, satisfying me as if I had walked miles through the desert to stumble upon an oasis of fresh water in the two-wheeled world.
Photography by Riles & Nelson