Harley-Davidson FXDR 114: Road Test

No motorcycle maker can do business as usual, we’re told. The industry is under threat, they say. Harley’s new FXDR 114 is proof of radical ideas and bold experiments at Milwaukee’s best-known enterprise and the bike world in general. But does it work? Mukhtar Mukuddem grabs on the bars to find out.

The rake angle on the steering head looks striking, but it makes steering the FXDR challenging at times.

I get on the bike, flip the switch, push the start button, and the familiar Harley gurgle penetrates my ears. I twist the throttle and blip the throttle of the massive 1,868cc engine. I feel the rumble beneath me, watch the revs drop down to 800rpm and think to myself ‘this is going to be interesting’. I had no idea!

Leaving a bustling office park in the city on a busy Friday afternoon will always be torture, unless you are riding one of these.

The sounds flung from the bike makes people hear you before they see you. It’s a deep throaty sound, very much like a big V8, yet so distinctively Harley that most bike people stop and look again.

Design and comfort

The seating position and angle to foot-pegs and handlebars make for a different seating view. With a traditional sports bike you’re sitting ‘in’ the bike, while this bike makes you feel like you’re sitting ‘on’ it. Slightly raised bars and a forward foot position takes a little getting used to. Once you get settled, you’ll find the seat has been designed to fit snugly and provide a level of support for the acceleration that follows.

The LED headlight is super bright – all bikes should have these! Improved visibility is key to staying alive on the roads. The mirrors are pretty much ineffectual. They are too high, so all I saw behind me was my shoulders. H-D have a fat accessories book, including handlebar raisers that will make the mirrors sit higher and wider, allowing you to see those you leave behind.

It’s a mean and aggressive looking bike, and the test model was finished in a matt grey, with orange striping. The lack of any wind protection only becomes an issue over 120km/h. Expect lots of stares when you ride this bike!

Harley-Davidson FXDR side view
The FXDR runs the Milwaukee-Eight 114 V-twin, displacing 1,868cc. This air-and-oil-cooled unit is mated to a 6-speed transmission.

Engine and performance

The acceleration of this bike is astounding. G-forces push you back into that firm seat, while you’re holding on to the handlebars with everything in you! On a drag strip, this bike will be a force to be reckoned with.

It’s a powerful machine and makes no bones about it. The recently released Milwaukee-Eight engine was launched late in 2016 and made its way into assorted models last year. This eight-valve motor is different to the old twin-cam motor in many ways. A single cam replaces the dual cam meaning less friction and weight saving. Dual spark plugs per cylinder makes for more efficient combustion, all resulting in a 10 per cent increase in power over the older motor.

Power comes in low, from 1,000rpm, unleashing 160Nm in a near vertical torque curve. It’s a very different ride to the Breakout and (whisper) the old V-Rod – but that’s my take on it – go test ride one today and find out for yourself.

The zero to 60km/h sprint happens in no time, and the ABS does an excellent job of stopping the bike without drama. For what this machine is designed for (racing from robot to robot between tall buildings in the city and scaring old men in their Porches), the FXDR is unapologetic.

With all this torque, you can expect this bike to feel powerful and fast. Forget muscle cars, think muscle bike! This beast has been to the gym and has had some serious workout time. You’ll want to get some gym time in yourself.

Harley-Davidson FXDR on a twisty track
It’s lighter than other Softails, but the FXDR still weighs in at a hefty 303kg, with all fluids.

Ride and handling

Riding the FXDR is an abs workout all by itself, forcing you to tighten that six-pack when accelerating hard. And yes, you’ll want to do that all the time.

Once you are moving, the weight at 300kg, is not felt at all, and lane splitting is as easy as slicing butter with a hot knife. That said, the FXDR needs active engagement to turn into corners, largely due to the ultra-wide rear tyre (240/40/18).

Clichés aside, riding this bike inspires confidence. I felt in full control of the oodles of power, only letting my inner devil take control from time to time.

Left view of Harley FXDR
Harley-Davidson describes the styling as a drag racer crossed with a fighter jet.

Verdict and rating

This bike defies conventional thinking around Harleys. It’s fast and powerful, with precious few chrome bits to polish. It’s a city bruiser that wants to be wrestled. At R300k it makes a bold statement – ‘I make no excuses for who I am’. I give it 10/10.

Specifications

Engine 1,868cc (114 ci), ‘Milwaukee-Eight’, v-twin, 8-valve, liquid-cooled
Gearbox 6-speed manual, belt drive
Power 67kW (90hp)
Torque 160Nm @ 3,500 rpm
Weight 303kg (wet)
Seat height 720mm (unladen)
Length 2.4m
Fuel tank 16.7 litres
Fuel consumption 5.4 litres/100km
Warranty and servicing 2-year warranty with 8,000km service intervals
Price R299,900 (Vivid Black) or R304,900 (colour)
Also consider Ducati xDiavel S

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