A New Breed Of Bike
Harley-Davidson has never been a name I’ve considered to fill a space in my garage. But a brand-new model, released in the UK only a few days ago, and freshly registered with 31 miles on the clock is too much of a good thing to say no to, writes Andy Heath. Photography: Paul Currie
As John from Bowker Harley-Davidson took my details for the test ride we chatted about bikes: “Have you ridden a Harley before?” Thinking for a moment. “No” I said. “In over 20 years of riding different types and styles of bikes, I’ve never had the pleasure of any of Milwaukee’s finest.”
My introduction to Harley is in the shape of the stunning looking FXDR 114 – matt black paintwork with red pinstripes, a fat wide rear tyre, a skinny front tyre, huge gold single sided exhaust all evokes thoughts of what you would expect in a traditional Harley-Davidson. This is where the similarity starts to blur. Upside down front forks, clip on style handlebars, lightweight aluminium rear swing arm, the features you would normally read in a review about a sportier Japanese bike, but this is a Harley!
The FXDR doesn’t have a normal key. The Harley-Davidson Smart Security System allows you to sit on the bike with the key fob in your pocket, thumb the starter switch and 1,870cc, or 114 cubic inch, of Milwaukee-Eight V-Twin engine roars into life. Sitting in the single seat with the engine running you realise that this is quite a wide bike. The forward foot pegs and controls are very comfortable and easy to reach, the low swept back handlebars sit exactly where you want to find them. Harley has added a little hidden extra to the top of the forks, popping off the FXDR logo panel reveals traditional handlebar mounts. This means owners can, if needed, easily remove the clip-ons and fasten on a set more suited to their individual riding position.
I was excited to get the bike out onto the open road and set off through the Preston Riversway traffic. The low rumble at tick over was soon replaced with a pleasing throaty roar, bouncing off the brick and glass walls of the Alstom building. Turning onto the dual carriageway I became aware of how easy this bike turned. As the traffic lights changed from red to green the Milwaukee-Eight 114ci gets me off the line with a solid push to the back of the seat and the clean and clear digital instrument panel quickly tells me I’m at the speed limit.
Despite the straight line, drag bike quarter mile looks, this Harley can go round corners as well! Its sharp handling is thanks to the Softail, adjustable, monoshock rear suspension and the 43mm upside down (USD) front forks that have been stiffened to improve the response to steering and increase the agility of the bike.
The FXDR is more about how it looks and rides than the brochure numbers. The 1870cc engine, in bike terms, is huge. Its displacement is bigger than a lot of new cars! It produces 90 brake horsepower and 119 pound-feet of torque at just 3,500rpm, delivered through a smooth six speed cruise drive gearbox and a low maintenance belt final drive.
If you want more power you can tick the options list and add on a Screamin’ Eagle Titanium Performance slip-on exhaust, a Screamin’ Eagle Air Cleaner Kit and the Screamin’ Eagle Pro Street Tuner and you’ll see about a 10 per cent increase in your performance. This turns an already lively and quick bike into something a little louder and a bit more special.
Up front, the dual 300mm brake discs are squeezed by four pistons, the rear carries a single 292mm rotor and provide strong braking performance with little effort at the lever. Anti-lock braking system (ABS) is standard equipment on the FXDR 114.
This motorbike gets you noticed. Sitting at the traffic lights with the burbling exhaust note, car drivers can’t help looking. Riding through town and the throaty rumble almost forces people to turn and stare. As someone who’s always owned a sportier style motorcycle this Harley speaks to me, I’m the kind of owner that Harley-Davidson is trying to attract. It looks fast standing still, it’s an excellent ride and really sets a high bar for the power cruisers in this class.
Preston PR1 8UY