Test Drive: Harley-Davidson Low Rider S

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Courtesy Harley-Davidson

Earlier this year, Harley-Davidson released its first "S" models: the Fat Boy S and Softail Slim S. And now, the S family just added a new member, the Low Rider S, which is more performance-oriented than its non-S counterparts thanks to upgraded suspension, brakes, and Harley-Davidson's Screamin' Eagle Twin Cam 110 engine. We recently spent a day on one, cruising the highways of Los Angeles as well as the roller coaster canyon roads of Angeles Crest Forest.

Aesthetically, the Low Rider S takes a page from old choppers and bobbers. These bikes were popular in the Easy Rider era of the 1960s. With some design cues from the Billy Bike that was ridden by Dennis Hopper on the big screen, the Low Rider S is more menacing thanks to a mix of matte black and gloss black. "Form follows function, but both report to emotion," says Brad Richards, director of design at Harley-Davidson Motor Company, who oversaw the 20-person team responsible for the Low Rider S. Looks aside, the machine rides great, transcending motorcycle categories. It's badass, distinctive, and powerful.

The Screamin' Eagle Twin Cam 110 is the largest-displacement engine Harley-Davidson installs at the factory, producing 115 foot-pounds of peak torque at 3,500 rpm — 13 percent more power than the standard Low Rider. Air-cooled and belt-driven, H-D reports 44 mpg. The V-Twin is connected to Screamin' Eagle's Heavy Breather intake, which is the first thing you'll notice on the bike. And the six-speed transmission is complete with an electronic throttle control that comes standard with cruise control. Stopping power is handled by triple disc brakes with dual floating front rotors that are equipped with an anti-lock braking system.

With a low seat height of 26.6 inches, even shorter riders should have no problem feeling confident on the bike. Thanks to forward pegs, taller riders won't feel cramped. Stocked with a solo seat, this is a motorcycle for one. And the narrow, flat drag bar on 5.5-inch-tall risers helps keep the rider in an aggressive position.

The bike looks clean from behind, thanks to a chopped rear fender and a side-mounted license plate. Head on, the speed screen is minimal. Black on black, there are only two exceptions to the bike's monotone style. A matte gold on the cast-aluminum wheels is inspired by the gold-tone magnesium wheels found on race cars in the 1960s. There's also a gold tank badge that's a homage to the 1977 XLCR Cafe Racer model. Of course, there are plenty of accessories to add to the Lowrider S, but the bike looks and performs admirably totally stock.

Tipping the scales at 674 pounds (wet), the Low Rider S is a great rig for anyone looking for their first Harley, riders looking to upgrade from Street, or H-D fans who just want to add another article of American muscle to their garage. Nitpick? The tachometer and speedometer are mounted on the gas tank, which makes for a cleaner look but is more challenging to see at a glance.

[$16,699; harley-davidson.com]

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