Harley-Davidson has brought back the spirit of the V-Rod in an entirely new motorcycle - the FXDR Softail. We grabbed it by the clip-on handlebars to find out just how sporty this sports cruiser really is.
Okay, so the words "sports" and "cruiser" don't normally go together well but what Harley-Davidson has created here is probably as close as you can currently get to the two words making any sense together.
As above, the idea behind the FXDR is to bring back a bike into the Harley-Davidson linup that evokes the spirit of the short lived (by Harley model standards) but well-loved V-Rod.
With a 240 section rear tyre wrapped around the 18-inch sold rear wheel, a monstrous 114cu in Milwaukee-Eight engine and clip on handlebars attached to big USD front forks – you know you're in for a party with the FXDR.
First impressions upon walking up to the bike are conflicting. Sure, you've got all those cool parts and that beautiful exhaust, but the bike itself has a very large presence. While the FXDR is as big as any of the other Big Twin powered Harleys, it somehow manages to feel smaller once you thumb the starter and hit the road.
The solo saddle is comfortable, but ergonomically the bike is slightly compromised by the huge air intake off your right knee. If it annoys you too much you can swap it for a more traditional Harley-Davidson mushroom style air filter, but the big filter is such a
It seems that it has been quite some time in which Harley-Davidson has been without a truly sporty cruiser in their lineup. While bikes such as the Street Rod have tried to muscle in on the spirit of the infamous V-Rod – which was discontinued in 2017 – none have succeeded to gain the following of Harley’s first water-cooled mass-production motorcycle. But that could be about to change with the introduction of the FXDR 114.
It’s no secret that the V-Rod was discontinued due in no small part to its Porsche developed 1247cc V-twin being unable to meet Euro emissions standards. As such, it is no surprise to find that the FXDR utilises the latest Euro compliant Big Twin engine from Harley-Davidson – the muscular 114cu (1868cc) Milwaukee-Eight V-twin.
For an engine which was first seen in public between the frame rails of the Harley-Davidson CVO (Custom Vehicle Operations) tourers in 2016, the Milwaukee-Eight 114 makes for a brilliant powerplant for the sporty FXDR.
With a stump-pulling 160Nm of torque available from just 3,500rpm, the “114” as the emblem on the unique FXDR air intake screams (more on that later) is a monster of an engine and muscles the FXDR up to the legal limit and beyond via a 6-speed gearbox and massive 240 section rear tyre.
While such a large tyre would normally cause handling to suffer dramatically the FXDR, being part of Harley’s revamped Softail line of motorcycles, benefits from modern suspension and geometry. With an easily adjusted monoshock at the rear and large 43mm forks up front, the ride is firm yet not uncomfortable and helps the bike feel like a sporty machine rather than a large two-wheeled boat.
Like the rest of the new Softail lineup, the FXDR benefits from easy rear preload adjustment via an adjuster placed just below the saddle on the right-hand side. Turning the preload up from the factory setting sharpens the handling noticeably, with the big rear tyre fighting you less than previously. I set the adjuster to level 2, but it can be adjusted further depending on the needs of the owner.
Ergonomically the bike is quite comfortable, with the only fly in the ointment being that bulbous air intake. Despite looking utterly awesome in line with the power cruiser theme of the FXDR, I found that the intake would impact just below my knee while riding. This was only really noticeable while trying to make the most of the FXDR’s specially designed cornering abilities, which include an exhaust system which is sculpted to allow for maximum lean angle, but when you are trying to grip on to the bike with your knees as you brute force your way around your favourite back road that air intake quickly becomes an uncomfortable annoyance.
Thankfully the rest of the bike is as comfortable as you could ask for, with Harley-Davidson breaking from tradition and fitting the FXDR with genuine clip-on handlebars. These offer plenty of adjustment for tailoring the bike to the rider and really hammer home the sporty intentions of the FXDR.
However, there is no escaping the sheer mass of this motorcycle.
Despite its solo rider setup and stripped back hot-rod aesthetic, the FXDR tips the scales at 289kg dry. When you add to that the 16.7 litres of fuel plus oil for the big engine and you’re pushing over 300kgs of Milwaukee steel before you even add your own weight into the mix.
Thankfully Harley has equipped the FXDR with more than enough stopping power to haul that weight to a stop just as quickly as the big engine can put speed on. Up front, the bike is equipped with twin 300mm disc brakes with 4-piston calipers clamping down on both, while out back the 292mm disc brake is clamped down on by a twin-piston brake caliper. ABS is standard and when combined with that huge rear wheel and great suspension setup the FXDR has no issues when it comes to hauling itself up in a hurry.
This all comes at a cost, however, with the FXDR boasting one of the highest price points of the entire Softail family at $37,500.
For your money, you can choose from six colour options, with traditional colours such as the stunning Bonneville Salt Denim (White) and Vivid Black offset by more unique colour options such as the Rawhide Denim (matte brown) and Wicked Red Denim. Plus there is, of course, a plethora of additional extras to customise the big power cruiser to your liking including Screamin’ Eagle exhaust ready to bolt straight on.
One optional extra that may be well worth the investment is the pillion accommodation kit – which includes a pillion seat and footpegs retails for various prices here in New Zealand dependant on dealer according to H-D ANZ – as the FXDR leaves the dealership floor with accommodation only for the one rider.
If that doesn’t interest you, however, the FXDR is a wonderfully selfish motorcycle to get on and hit the road to enjoy the full muscle bike experience which Harley-Davidson has so carefully crafted.
PROS AND CONS | 2019 Harley-Davidson FXDR 114
Price: $37,500 + on road costs
Engine: 1868cc Milwaukee-Eight 114
Power: 160Nm at 3,500rpm
Pros: Stonking power, Looks cool, great handling for a big cruiser
Cons: Heavy, Air intake position can annoy