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Harley-Davidson Reveals Low Rider S Amid 2020 Line-Up

No, there's not really anything new here. Yes, I do want one

I don’t know what’s wrong with me. There’s nothing about the new Low Rider S that we haven’t seen before. And yet…I kind of want one.

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The eleventh model to join the Softail line, the Low Rider S was the feature attraction Tuesday in a press release issued to hype Harley-Davidson’s 2020 line-up. Rocking the larger version of the always-enjoyable Milwaukee Eight V-twin, the 1868cc (or 114 cubic inches) motorcycle brags a respectable 69 Kw of power and 155 Nm of torque (92.5 hp and 114 lb-ft).

2020 Harley-Davidson FXLRS – aka Low Rider S

With a price tag that’s roughly £2,000 more than the standard Low Rider, the Low Rider S promises more maneuverability thanks to a tighter rake angle – 28 degrees* as opposed to the standard Low Rider’s 30 –  and better stopping power thanks to two front brake discs instead of one.

“The look of the new Low Rider S is really rooted in the legacy of the Low Rider models of the 1980s… and in the recent Dyna-based Low Rider S model,” said Brad Richards, Harley’s vice president of styling and design.

Harley’s given the bike ye olde all-blacked-out treatment here, which, as the owner of a bike that is all blacked out (a Triumph Bonneville T120), is a style that I think may now be played out. It feels a few years behind the curve to be doing that sort of thing now**. Thankfully, there is also a Barracuda Silver option (“Oooh, barracuda!“) that looks much better, highlighting the old-school Dyna roots. Unfortunately, it costs even more (£16,175, as opposed to the £15,825 of the Vivid Black version).

Everything else is, as I say, stuff we’ve seen before in the rest of the Softail line – which will almost certainly be the foundation of haters’ criticisms. The bike is not really new. This is not the Pan America that folks are waiting to see. Like the FXDR that came out last August, this is a bike for the home team, the folks who are quite happy with what Harley-Davidson is doing already. I’m OK with that. If I had £16,000 I might buy one***. 

If I had all the money I might buy one of these. Probably won’t, though

That’s Not All

The good news is we know Harley is doing new stuff. It has already delivered its ‘shockingly’ expensive LiveWire, of course, and the company’s website is still describing the Pan America as a bike that will be “launching in 2020,” something that seems likely with a styling prototype having been displayed at a dealers event recently (see video below). There’s other stuff in the pipeline, as well. But there were also a few newish things to be found in Harley’s media release.

Video of a styling prototype of the Harley-Davidson Pan America

To me, the most interesting of those things is the rider aid bundle that Harley has awkwardly named the “Reflex Defensive Rider System,” or RDRS. The system will be standard on Harley’s most expensive bikes – the aforementioned LiveWire, as well as trike and CVO models – but will be available as an option on all its touring bikes. Look for the tech to find its way to most of Harley’s bikes in coming years. This is the way the MoCo works: roll something out on CVOs, then touring models, then to other models.

RDRS has a number of elements that are new to Harley bikes: cornering traction control, cornering ABS, and slipper clutch. There’s also linked braking, hill hold control, and tire pressure monitoring, but those first three are what have my attention. They’re features that I’ve long wished existed on big twin touring bikes, features that help to mitigate the challenges that come from riding extremely heavy torque monsters in less than ideal conditions on tires that are more geared toward longevity/weight tolerance than performance.

Harley-Davidson is also hyping an app. Because of course it is. God forbid someone should offer a motorcycle these days that doesn’t have the ability to connect with my phone. Offered standard on any 2020 bike with an infotainment or TFT screen (ie, most touring models and the LiveWire) the app offers the standard fare of service warnings and vehicle diagnostic information. Because, you know, sometimes you’ll be sitting at Waffle Houser and suddenly think: “Oh shit, what’s the tire pressure on my bike right now? I need to know!”

Harley’s got ya covered, my friend.

I remain unconvinced as to the necessity or usefulness of bike-linked apps

More useful, perhaps, is the fact the app can let you know if your bike’s security system has been activated. Additionally, the app can help you track down the bike if you’re not able to respond quickly enough to the security system alert and it ends up getting stolen.

Because it’s Harley-Davidson we’re talking about, you will be expected to pay for all this phone-based goodness. H-D Connect is a subscription service that is free for the first year but will cost a fair amount thereafter. Harley-Davidson doesn’t offer full details but there appear to be multiple plans available, with the cheapest one starting at $150 a year****. The words “no,” “fucking” and “way” come to mind.


* The same rake angle as you’ll find on the Fat Bob
** I wish I had realized this before I bought my T120 Black. But perhaps one day I’ll give the thing a little bit of life by changing the paint scheme.
*** Not really. I’d still choose a Street Bob and just spend all the extra money on accessories, gear, and a road trip.
**** There is no pricing information for outside the United States, though the service is mentioned in Harley-Davidson UK’s press release.