With a 114cu Milwaukee-Eight engine and the dynamic chassis of the revised Softail family, there's a lot to like about the new Harley-Davidson FXDR. So, what are our top 5 favourite bits (along with some bits we're still not sold on) of the newest member of team Harley-Davidson?
Words and Photos: Mathieu Day-Gillett
5 Things to LOVE about the new Harley-Davidson FXDR
LED Lighting | We make no secret of our love of LED lighting. The benefits are huge compared to traditional bulb technology, with our favourites being the excellent light output of the headlight and the fact you don't have to worry about blown bulbs.
The FXDR features LED lighting everywhere, with large indicators front and rear and a brilliant headlight assembly below the small fly screen.
The MW8 114 engine | The Milwaukee-Eight was first seen on Harley's touring range in late 2016, but now you'll find the Big Twin in pretty much every full-sized Harley-Davidson. In 114cu form the engine pumps out a whopping 160Nm of torque, which is plenty to push the 300kg of fully fuelled bike (plus you) down the road.
Harley-Davidson also offers a 117cu stroker kit for the 114 Milwaukee-Eight - which Road and Sport Harley-Davidson of Hamilton have fitted to one of their FXDRs (along with supporting mods) and reeled off an 11-second quarter mile time.
The suspension setup | One of the best aspects of modern Harley-Davidsons is the fact that the team in Milwaukee have spent plenty of R&D time trying to rid the brand of the poor handling reputation the bikes of old suffered. The FXDR is no different, based on the new Softail chassis which sees the inclusion of a monoshock rear end to the mix instead of the twin shock arrangement of the previous generation of Softails. The result is a bike which is easily dialled in thanks to its remote preload adjuster just below the seat, and it makes an incredibly noticeable difference when you crank up that preload.
Up front are big USD forks with a steep rake which are connected to a twin disc braking setup. Our impression so far has been that the marketing slogan has been correct, this bike is certainly "fast on the straights, agile in the corners."
The fuel filler cap | Okay it's a little bit of a strange thing to love, but the fuel cap of the FXDR. Seriously, it looks fantastic as you sit astride the monster engine. It's a simple design, but the way Harley have placed the fuel cap in the centre of a blacked out section of fuel tank really sets things off. The only shame is that it's not lockable - but who steals gas out of motorcycles these days anyway?
The overall feeling of riding this thing | There is something special about riding a Big Twin powered Harley-Davidson. With Harley stating that the FXDR is a "Power Cruiser" they had to get that feeling of grunt right. Thankfully the combo of that big ol' air/oil-cooled V-Twin and its near on 2-litres of capacity mixed in with that dynamic new chassis makes the FXDR quite the fun machine to ride. Oh, and did we mention the FXDR has actual clip-on handlebars? Yeah, this Harley has clip-ons and they're cool as hell.
Things we're still not sure about
The dash/gauge cluster | It's pretty small and as I discovered, you can miss when you are breaking the speed limit…
The air intake | It is undoubtedly one of the signature features of the FXDR - and man does it look cool - but the air intake isn't the most ergonomically positioned in Harley-Davidson history. The thing is the intake can hit you just below your knee while riding, especially if you're trying to clamp on to the bike while having fun in the twisties and that can be annoying from a comfort perspective - but we keep coming back to the fact it looks so damn cool and we're still on the fence on whether it is awesome of a minor fail on Harley's part.
The lack of pillion accommodation | It might be clutching at straws a bit since the FXDR is a performance cruiser, but for the money - which is $37,500 + on road costs in New Zealand – it’d be nice to not have to fork out extra to share the experience with your favourite pillion. Yes this style of bike is a selfish man's plaything, but surely easily removable pillion pegs and a seat under the rear cowling wouldn't have been too much to ask for?
Things we don’t like
The LED indicators up front | Straight up, they are ugly from the cockpit. It is almost like there is a big black bar duct taped to the front forks.
The price tag | At $37,500 the FXDR is one of the more expensive Harley models in the stable and I think it is overpriced considering what you actually get for your money (the Harley-Davidson badge and 114cu engine aside as they come with a decent premium in of themselves). With no pillion accomodation, a simple electronics package and an overall stripped back no frills feeling to the bike, it is almost like Harley have taken a leaf out of the Porsche playbook and are offering less bike for more money.
If you're looking for a fun Harley with good handling characteristics, you'd almost be better off looking at the Sport Glide – which while only available with the 107cu Milwaukee-Eight offers far more practicality.
But then the FXDR is a very cool machine, and while the price may be high, the performance at your throttle hand is undeniable. With the ability to smoke the 240mm wide Michelin Scorcher tyre at will, the modern looks, and possibly the greatest lean angle available on any current Harley-Davidson, the FXDR does have its place despite the price.