2020 Harley-Davidson Low Rider S

May 01, 2020 View Comments by

2020 Harley-Davidson Low Rider S

The Low Rider S is the new addition to Harley-Davidson’s Softail line for 2020, reviving a model last seen on the Dyna platform that became defunct in 2017. It hews closely to the previous iteration but it replaces the Dyna’s twin shocks with a shock hidden under the seat in the newly excellent Softail platform.

As such, the Low Rider S is a Southern California-themed cruiser, amping up the standard Softail-based Low Rider with a bigger motor, a sportier front end, and an aggressive, blacked-out attitude.

“We’ve applied that coastal style and performance-first attitude to the Softail chassis to create a Low Rider S that’s more powerful and agile than ever, with a heavy dose of tough-as-nails attitude,” said Brad Richards, H-D’s vice president of styling and design.

This S version of the Low Rider is mostly devoid of chrome, swapping in an extensive black-out treatment that includes the powertrain, exhaust, fork, and handlebar. A black finish option costs a substantial $1,900 on other H-D models. The Radiate cast-aluminum wheels are finished in matte dark bronze to subtly contrast with the bike’s dark components. An LED headlight provides a touch of modernity.

The Low Rider S appears small when standing next to it, and the low seat (26.5 inches) makes it accessible to just about any rider, no matter the inseam. The seat is quite plush, but passenger comfort is absolutely terrible because there’s no pillion seat.

The LR-S is intended to look good during hops to the coffee shop or short rides. Longer trips will be compromised by a scrunched riding position forced by mid-set footpegs combined with the low seat and the reach to the narrow-set handlebars. Short or daylong rides are fine, but consecutive days in the saddle would be uncomfortable. Wind protection was surprisingly good during the test ride, which included interstate and backroads.

A steeper rake angle and the inverted fork gives the LR-S the ability to carve corners swiftly for a 679-pound machine. Even though it doesn’t sport the best lean angles (30.1 degrees), the flex-free Softail chassis made it fun riding through the curves up to the point when the footpegs begin to drag. Dual four-piston calipers clamping on 300mm rotors deliver decent feedback, while ABS provides confidence during panic stops.

Getting up to speed is made easy by the 114-cubic-inch (1868cc) version of Harley’s Milwaukee-Eight powertrain, an unnecessary but appreciated upgrade from the 107-cubic-incher in the standard Low Rider. Strong grunt is available regardless of engine speed. The larger engine’s one fault is that it emits more vibration than its little brother. The sound emitted through the exhaust is authoritative without being obnoxious. Clutch pull is amazingly light for an engine the size of some cars.

The instrument panel bulging from the top of the 5-gallon fuel tank seems to be there for legal reasons only, because the placement is almost impossible to see, especially with a full-face helmet. It sits not far in front of a rider’s belly, so eyes are forced to look sharply downward to see the gauges. H-D’s turn-signal design with a button on both grip sides is still strange to me, but at least the system is blessed with first-rate self-canceling strategy that eliminates the embarrassment of being caught with the blinker on.

The Low Rider S provides plenty of style and attitude, but it comes at a premium price: $17,999 in Vivid Black or $18,399 in Barracuda Silver. Not cheap, but it includes a ton of upgrades from the standard Low Rider, which starts at $14,899.

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About the author

As long as I can grab a handlebar, I'll ride it. Trail riding is becoming my favorite hobby as of late. Hope to meet you on the road.