We ride Harley’s crowd-pleasing Low Rider in its latest incarnation, the ST.
Low Rider is one of those bikes that just keeps evolving. Harley-Davidson first used the name in 1977 to describe a “factory custom” variant of the venerable FX Super Glide with alloy wheels, twin front discs, extended forks with a 32° rake and a low 660mm seat height.
The then-new FXS 1200 Shovelhead was an instant hit and continued with the Dyna chassis and larger 96ci and 103ci Twin-Cam engines. It was also one of the models that transitioned, if in name only, to the totally redesigned Softail lineup in 2018. Back then, FXLR came with the spanking new 107ci Milwaukee-Eight, the same engne shared with Breakout and pretty much every other bike in the range right up to CVO.
Well, we all know how that has changed and you can thank the loud chorus of customer feedback that has seen the 114ci powerplant become the engine of choice in many new models like Street Bob, Fat Boy and Heritage along with Low Rider S.
To follow that famous edict, ‘Ain’t no substitute for cubic inches’, Low Rider S (FXLRS) now joins Breakout (FXBR) and Street Glide (FLHXST) with a factory-fitted 117ci (1917cc) Milwaukee-Eight as part of the new ST (Sport Touring) nomenclature.
So, the question really is: “What is the new ST all about?” Well, it’s the ‘T’ that holds the clue.
Low Rider ST (FXLRST) can be quickly identified by the new ‘80s-inspired, frame-mounted fairing and the high-cut 50L panniers which it shares with Sport Glide (FLSB), but sit slightly higher.
Riding position is also slightly different. According to Harley’s lead designer, Dais Nagao, “While Low Rider S is a little more of a relaxed cruiser, with ST I wanted riders to be in charge of the bike sitting on top of the bike rather than sitting in the bike.”
Paul Weiss, H-D product development lead, was somewhat more forthright, saying “this is a true lightweight bagger. It's got the performance punch you know that 125 foot pounds (170Nm) of torque and also comfortable on the long haul. The bike comes standard with cruise control and we wanted the tall suspension in the rear and that was by using a 56-millimeter shock. We did shift the saddle bags vertically about two inches compared to the Sport Glide and you can remove them in seconds.”
We took the ST on an extended, 3-day test to the Yorke Peninsula in South Australia and found, among other things, that the brutish 117 was an effortless tourer, gobbling tarmac like no tomorrow. While it may not have the celebrated long haul status of the likes of Road Glide, Street Glide and Road King, the FXLRST performed admirably, adding a more sporting flavour to long hours in the saddle albeit with some sacrifice in pillion comfort.
Even Harley sceptics were impressed, despite the bike’s 327kg weigh-in.
In something of a back-handed compliment, Wayne Vicko from MCNews wrote: “I got the same sort of enjoyment from riding this bike that I do from driving my old (Ferguson Tractor). I love my old Fergie. It’s hard to define why, but it’s simple, unkillable and you have to tune yourself in and work with it to make it work well. When I started to apply the same thinking to the Low Rider ST, I enjoyed it all the more.”
But don’t take our word for it. Head into your local H-D dealer and make up your own mind.