A Modern Harley Davidson Is Born
My recent review of the 2018 Harley Davidson Sport Glide (review here) left me unfulfilled searching for a sport touring offering from the “Bar and Shield”.
Despite that disappointment, I didn’t hesitate to swing a leg over the brand new 2019 FXDR while at AimExpo. No one wants to be disappointed twice in a row and I especially don’t want to seem like someone who just piles on undeserved criticism. For the record, I am a fan of every motorcycle brand and Harley does build some nice bikes.
Happily, the FXDR didn’t disappoint me. It made me just as happy as I was with last year’s Fat Bob 114 (review here). I compare the two bikes quite a bit in this review. You may think the V Rod would be a better comparison point, but it’s discontinued and was liquid cooled etc. Certainly, I do admit there are some similarities between the two designs, but why dwell on the past?
The Significant Numbers
The FXDR uses the fuel injected Milwaukee Eight, 114 cubic inch engine coupled to a six-speed transmission. Since it’s the same powertrain setup used in the Fat Bob, the power and performance numbers are basically identical between them.
- 1868cc Air Cooled Oil engine putting out 90 hp and 119-foot lbs of torque @3500 rpm
- Seat Height 28.5 in
- Ground Clearance 5.3 in.
- Steering Rake 34 degrees
- Front Tire 120/70ZR-19 60W, Rear Tire 240/40R-18
- Michelin Scorcher 11 tires
- Fuel Capacity 4.4 gal.
- Weight full of fluids 668 lb.
- Max lean angle 32.8 degrees
- Fuel Economy 46 mpg
- Brakes: 300mm dual disc, 4-piston fixed front and single disc 2-piston floating rear
- Price Vivid Black $21,349 or other premium colors for $26,949
Distinctive & Stretched
The look is modern and sleek. Very “un-Harley” from a traditional standpoint. Devoid of chrome and somewhat drag bike-esque with dual staggered exhaust openings housed in one canister. The outside edge of the can is tapered noticeably to prevent dragging in the corners.
The raked out front end with inverted forks for whatever reason reminds me of the Livewire electric prototype. I think it’s the triangular signal lights protruding from each side of the daymaker headlight that is constantly glowing orange while the bike is running. They look similar to the ones on the Livewire and might even be the same ones.
It stands out markedly in amongst the crowd of other demo units from the 2019 Harley lineup.
My eyes are drawn to the unusual air intake on the right side of the engine. It looks nothing like a Harley Davidson I would dream up and that’s a good thing. Whether or not this will affect performance isn’t known to me, but It’s another indicator HD is moving out of the “Harley box” and their comfort zone. They probably realize that’s where we experience the most growth as people and hope it holds true for a bike builder too.
Other reviewers have noted this intake flows more air than the one on the Fat Bob and so allows for faster acceleration when coupled with the lower weight. For me, it wasn’t noticeable enough on my test ride, but it’s been a year since I rode the Fat Bob to be fair. At best I would say it’s marginally faster off the line than the Fat Bob.
Here’s a link to a terrific review from Matt Laidlaw showing the FXDR vs the Fat Bob worth watching.
Aluminum & Carbon Fiber
The forks and rims are aluminum billet and the fenders are carbon fiber in an attempt to keep the weight down on this muscle bike. Harley was somewhat successful because this FXDR comes in 8 lbs lighter than the Fat Bob when fully fueled.
At 668 lbs it’s certainly portly compared to some other bikes on the market the FXDR would line up against from Japanese and European builders.
Dash & Display
The dash is unlike the other Softails in the 2019 lineup.
It’s similar to the Breakout, but not quite. I like the large banner badge below the display proclaiming the FXDR model with the R in red. It suggests this is the Racing model of Harley and they aren’t wrong.
The 2.14-inch viewable area LCD with a dark grey background and lighter colored digits wouldn’t be my choice compared to the vividly bright tones available on full TFT displays currently on the market. I would have preferred Harley go that way with their modern muscle machine instead.
There’s a lot of unused space in the area covered in plastic that easily could have been omitted in favor of a flat TFT.
I found the dash hard to use on the fly because of the small size, but I was much happier having it on top of the handlebars as opposed to a tank mounted dash as it is on the Fat Bob and basically every other Softail.
Having said that subtlety appeals to many people and nearly everything you’d want is available there on the display:
- Speedometer and tachometer
- High beam, turn signal indicator, neutral and gear position indicator
- Low oil pressure, engine code diagnostics, ABS warning light, security system indicator
- Low battery voltage warning, low fuel, odometer, fuel level gauge, clock, trip, range remaining
What happened here? What a brutal choice.
This is a sculpted machine of modern making, but Harley decided to dismissively toss on a pair of standard style mirrors that you can find on any other Softail model?
Frankly, it smacks of a case where the designer actually forgot to put mirrors on the bike! Almost like no one noticed until it hit the assembly line where a sharp-eyed veteran assembler pointed it out and quickly saved the day by screwing on a set from the Heritage Softail parts bin.
A Total Miss
Even worse than the out of sync mirror styling is the fact they don’t perform. The vibration at anything above 45 mph makes them almost unusable.
Please remedy this next year by putting on some aluminum framed, wind tunnel tested mirrors with integrated turn signals.
The single seat on the FXDR is surprisingly comfortable. I’m not a big guy being 5’7” tall and about 175 lbs with an athletic build so take my opinion with those figures in mind.
I felt like my backside was cradled in a butt-shaped dish for lack of a better description. It’s firm foam but accommodating in a way that I experienced zero discomfort or pressure points during my 45-minute test drive.
There’s no passenger seat as standard, but an optional one is available from Harley for $209.
The style is great and all, but how does this machine do out on a test drive?
Viva Las Vegas!
As I mentioned I got to ride the FXDR while attending AimExpo in the beautiful October weather Las Vegas is known for. A motorcycle-centric day of 80 degree temps with bright sunshine beaming down and nary a cloud in the sky to be found framing the scene of me being let loose on Harley’s new muscle bike. Left far behind was my Canadian home where my bikes had been winterized and put into storage due to snow and cold arriving early this year even by our standards.
I was in a near dream state of mind as I climbed aboard the pearl white colored, big bruiser cruiser in the parking lot of the Mandalay Bay convention center.
Typical Transmission Clunk
The FXDR fired up and I dropped it into first gear with the familiar “BANG” I associate with all Harley transmissions. To be fair, my Kawasaki Ninja H2SX is just as rough going into first gear.
All other shifts came smoothly and without missing a beat. It makes me wonder how only first gear is noisy.
Rolling out of the parking lot onto Las Vegas Blvd I gave it the opportunity to thrill me by shifting aggressively into second and third gear while whacking open the throttle.
It didn’t disappoint whatsoever. That 119 ft lbs of torque made by the 114 engine are almost enough to make your fingers numb trying to hold on during full out acceleration. Not even my Ninja pulls this hard off the line and that’s saying something being that it’s supercharged and tuned for mid-range gusto.
I like the 114 engine so much more than the 107 that I can’t even be bothered with it anymore. Harley should just shelf the smaller engine and put the bigger one in every bike they have.
This bike loves the road. That’s immediately obvious as I fly down the asphalt and watch the scenery in my peripheral vision blur while the speedo digits ascend. Oh, look there’s the Welcome to Las Vegas sign… and it’s gone as I roar past curious onlookers left in the snarling wake of this road hungry motorcycle. There’s no jiggle, wiggle or shimmy even at higher speeds. Why didn’t they call this the Sport Glide???
The Michelin Scorcher tires stuck like glue to the road and made me happy with their performance. The rear 240mm tire is a real beauty with how wide it is. It gave lots of confidence in the tight corners. I wanted to use every inch of the sidewalls in each turn.
Loads of fun!
The numbers from Harley say the max lean angle is just over 32 degrees on either side meaning it should corner slightly better than the Fat Bob.
I found it easy to turn tight corners without having anything drag, including the heels of my boots (which was a problem with the Sport Glide).
The exhaust was louder on the FXDR I demoed than the Fat Bob even though it was just the stock can and intake. There’s a beautiful tone to it without being obnoxious and it purrs like a tiger at cruising speeds just as I want it to. Well done Harley! Nailed it.
One interesting difference is a high pitched whine coming from the engine I noted. I would guess it’s from the unusual air intake or the throttle body valves constantly adjusting. It’s not annoying, but worthy of note since I don’t remember hearing it on the Fat Bob.
Other than that, there weren’t any clanks, clunks or other annoying sounds to distract from the terrific performance I experienced on the FXDR.
Brakes & Suspension
Wow, is all I can say about the 4 piston caliper, twin disc setup on the front end of the FXDR.
I had the “opportunity” to test the brakes in an emergency stop. Many thanks to the woman in the white Kia who decided to brake suddenly well before the red light we were approaching. I may have been going a little too fast at the time I admit, so I’ll take half the ownership of the situation.
For a 668 lb motorcycle, it stopped in nothing short of what I would rate record fast! I actually chirped the tire and felt the back end getting a little light. I didn’t hear the standard ABS feature kick in or notice it if it did in any way.
The front forks didn’t dive much during any braking maneuvers but did their job soaking up faults in the pavement well. The rear was adjusted perfectly for my weight as well and was mainly unremarkable during my ride.
Very impressive work on Harley’s part. I would say
Feel The Burn
Whenever I stopped at red lights and put down my left leg the hot primary drive cover became a nuisance. My short legs need to stay in close to the bike in order to reach the ground and so my inner calf muscle would touch slightly on the cover. The heat didn’t leave a scar or anything, but it was noticeable.
My First Time In Vegas
The planned route for my test ride was to circle McCarran International Airport ending back at the Mandalay Bay.
The people from Harley let me loose for an unguided test ride which I would normally appreciate in a city I’m familiar with. Las Vegas isn’t one of those cities for me, though. I actually asked them to send someone with me to help navigate, but none of them were local to Vegas either, so I was on my own!
Wandering Through The Desert
My route got pretty convoluted thanks to me enjoying the performance of the FXDR instead of paying attention to where I was going. As a result, I got some extra seat time along with the opportunity to see how the bike performed at almost all speeds. This included heavy traffic, very slow speeds (while trying to read unfamiliar street names) and riding over several speed bumps in the airport parkade I accidentally entered looking for a way back to the hotel.
In the end, I gave up on trying to remember key street and highway names and instead decided to just landmark the tall Mandalay Bay hotel and try riding towards it. That worked, but I ended up circling most of the south end of the city in the process before making it back in one piece much to the relief of the Harley event staff.
The unexpected benefit of getting lost in an unfamiliar city while test riding is that I feel well acquainted with the FXDR now. I really like it a lot. I didn’t want to get off it when I got back. I asked them if I could ride it to California because I was traveling there after AimExpo ended to tour the Motoport USA factory in San Marcos. More on that later.
Which Would I Buy?
The FXDR is still going to play second fiddle for me to the Fat Bob, but mostly because the Fat Bob fits my short frame better than the stretched out FXDR. Look at how far I had to reach in the photo above. I find I’m not reaching for the pegs and bars as much on the Fat Bob and as a result, I feel more confident going into the corners on it than the FXDR.
Dollars And Cents
Add to that the MSRP on the FXDR is $26,949 for the fanciest paint scheme while the Fat Bob tops out at $21,499. That’s quite a significant difference. The paint available for the FXDR is undeniably way more impressive and all that aluminum and carbon fiber might add up to $5000 more I suppose.
If I stood 5 inches taller it would be a lot harder not to opt for the newer and marginally faster FXDR if I could find the extra money.
Dress It Up
There are many optional accessories available for the FXDR as you would expect from Harley. This is something they are second to none in providing and a huge part of the brand’s appeal.
I would definitely get the windshield and Screamin’ Eagle exhaust for the FXDR and hope for a different dash with a larger TFT display and better mirrors to come available down the road.
As always I’ll gripe there’s no cruise control and especially loud because it would be easy to include as an option on the FXDR and the Fat Bob for that matter.
All in all, Harley has got a great handling and powerful bike that is greased lightning off the line. Other muscle bikes will definitely be faster further down the line, but HD has always been about massive torque numbers more than horsepower ones after all.
The FXDR is a winner.
- Above average torque
- Can corner well for a cruiser
- Lighter than other Softails
- Dash is too small
- No passenger seat
- Long reach for short riders and primary cover burns your leg
- Manufacturer: Harley Davidson Motorcycles
- Price (When Tested): $26,949
- Made In: USA
- Alternative models & colors: six colors
- Sizes: 114 Milwaukee Eight only
- Review Date: October 28, 2108