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Review: Harley-Davidson Softail Low Rider
To be honest, the last generation of Softails weren’t the most impressive motorcycles. The chassis’ were too ‘flex-y’ and the engine was a bit rough. But ever since we rode the newest generation of Softails, we haven’t had any of these complaints. And this here, is the latest of that same line to arrive in India. Say hello to the Low Rider – the motorcycle that, in Harley’s own words, captures the very essence of the freedom that the brand holds close to its heart.
But what is it? Harley says that the styling is straight out of the ’70s. That means sweeping handlebars, classic cruiser dimensions and some chrome here and there.
At the heart of the matter, the Low Rider is very much a Softail. That means the new chassis and suspension cradling the new Milwaukee-8 motor. The suspension needs some mention here as the updated front and rear makes for a very sporty, yet pliant ride. The rear is a monoshock but with remote preload adjustability. It has more travel than the old Softails, so yay! Special mention for the front-end though. The cartridge-type fork comes from Showa and it gives the Low Rider some very sporty dynamics.
This is one Harley that can be really hustled. You can go into corners hard and the amount of lean is only limited by the footpegs. It feels planted around corners and doesn’t get too upset with mid-corner bumps and corrections. But the biggest takeaway is how much stiffer the whole chassis feels. It is incredibly confidence inspiring. You can come into corners quite aggressively once you get used to the amount of effort it takes to get the motorcycle turned. I mean it does weigh nearly 300kg. So quick steering is not one of its strong suits. You really have to muscle it into corners.
And what adds to this confidence is that the new brakes are pretty solid numbers. The four-pot calipers have great bite and shed speed like never before.
Of course, the chassis is only half of the story. The other half is about the engine. The Milwaukee-8 has impressed without exception ever since it came out in the Touring line. The new engines are 45-degree V-Twins that are now oil- and air-cooled. They are also all internally counterbalanced, reducing vibrations. The engines are also now running single camshafts unlike the earlier twin-cams. Harley claims the new engines accelerate 10 per cent faster and emit 75 per cent less vibrations.
In the Low Rider, it is in its 107 avatar, which means the engine displaces 1745cc to make 144Nm of torque. This, with the relatively light weight of 287kg (dry), makes for a very quick-accelerating motorcycle. The Low Rider will happily lay darkies on the tarmac all day long without ever getting bent out of shape. In fact, it is so addictive that you will run out of tyre before you run out of confidence!
Another feature that really stands out with the new Softails is how smooth the engines feel. I remember the last generation of Softails being rather unrefined in that they used to vibrate your globes off at idle and high revs. Only the mid-ranges of the revband was safe. That no longer holds true. You can push it all the way to the top of its performance range and it stays more or less composed. Of course, you will run out of courage long before the motor runs out of power!
Overall, the Low Rider is a very likeable motorcycle. We would have preferred a less extreme handlebar on it, since the stock one sits a bit too close to knees for comfort. But in every other way, it is a fantastic motorcycle. It has the go and it certainly has the show. It is the quintessential modern-day cruiser. Although, we must say, that the black with red and blue detailing isn’t the best colour option. That said, it does look great and at `13.59 lakh (ex-showroom), it doesn’t break the bank either.