I have a confession: cruisers are a guilty pleasure of mine. Sure, many of them are expensive, low on tech and wrapped in chrome. But hand me the keys to one and I’ll ride it—and probably enjoy it. I just won’t admit it.
Unless it’s Harley-Davidson’s Dyna Low Rider S—in which case I’ll ride it, love it and shout its praises from the rooftops (or, at the very least, from my Instagram feed).
That’s because the Low Rider S is not your grandpa’s Harley.
For starters, it’s the best looking bike Milwaukee has on offer. Harley call it a ‘factory custom’: a re-working of the iconic Dyna Low Rider, with a brawny, drag-bike effect.
The chassis and fuel tank are stock Low Rider—complete with the classic, albeit impractical, placement of the clocks on the tank. But the S gets a small nose fairing, raised drag bars, a bobbed rear fender and cast wheels.
The rear light’s been ditched (the turn signals do double duty), the seat’s made for one and there are no passenger pegs. There’s also no chrome: the Low Rider S is a black-on-black affair, broken only by the forks, polished engine fins and matte gold wheels.
But it’s more than just a dressed-up Dyna. The ‘S’ stands for ‘sport’—a designation that’s backed up by a quick look at the specs.
The Low Rider’s standard 103 cubic inch V has been swapped out for a 110 cubic inch, twin-cam Screamin’ Eagle mill. It’s Harley’s biggest factory-installed engine, good for a whopping 156Nm of torque. Fuel injection, a 6-speed transmission and a heavy duty clutch handle power delivery.
The heavy breather kit—with its exposed air filter—is standard equipment, as is the double-barrel exhaust system. The exhaust is probably the one part I didn’t like: it looks good from afar, but up close it’s a little tinny—both in finish and sound.
The Low Rider S also benefits from a twin disc brake up front, ABS, cartridge forks and Harley’s new nitrogen gas-charged emulsion shocks.
All of those upgrades make for a seriously fun time on the street. I first rode the Low Rider S on the mountain passes of France’s Côte d’Azur, and then in and around Cape Town. The hardest part of both experiences, was giving the key back (or rather, the keyless ignition’s fob).
The Low Rider S won’t devour long distances like a bagger, flick through corners like a supermotard or scream down the track like a superbike. But it doesn’t need to. Instead, it delivers bucket loads of torque, in a crisp and unhindered fashion.
It gets up to speed quickly too—so much so that the rev limiter snuck up on me a few times. The gearbox does its job—provided you give it positive enough input—and the brakes provide ample stopping power.
The mid-mounted foot controls, drag bars and solo seat create a riding position that encourages tomfoolery. It’s surprisingly easy to toss the bike from side to side—though you’re likely to scrape the pegs (or exhaust) way before you get a knee down.
Harley-Davidson’s new suspension performs adequately, but whack the throttle hard enough off the apex, and you’ll feel a little flex from the stock Dyna chassis. Which is, actually, great: it’s little enough to be a bother, and just enough to keep you entertained.
Which is really what the Low Rider S is all about: entertainment. It’s sheer hooliganism—packed into a burly, murdered-out package that’ll have you smiling (and everyone else staring), ride after ride.
And that’s something I can get behind.