Harley-Davidson FXDR 114: Hot Rod spirit road tested
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It seems some time that Harley-Davidson has been without a truly sporty cruiser in its lineup. Although bikes such as the Street Rod have tried to muscle in on the spirit of the infamous V-Rod — discontinued in 2017 — none has succeeded to gain the following of Harley’s first water-cooled mass-production motorcycle.
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 that 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 3500rpm, 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 a massive 240 section rear tyre.
Such a large tyre would normally cause handling to suffer dramatically the FXDR but 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, as Harleys were formerly known.
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 comfortable, the only fly in the ointment being that bulbous air intake.
Despite it looking utterly awesome in line with the power cruiser theme of the FXDR, I found 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 sculpted to allow for maximum lean angle — sitting at a lean angle of 32.6 degrees to the left and 32.8 degrees to the right — but when you are trying to grip the bike with your knees as you brute-force your way around your favourite back road, that air intake is quickly 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 300kg of Milwaukee steel before you add your 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 tyre 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, and the FXDR has one of the highest price points in the Softail family at $37,500.
For your money, you can choose from six colours, with traditional options such as the stunning Bonneville Salt Denim (white) and Vivid Black offset by Rawhide Denim (matte brown) and Wicked Red Denim. Plus there is, of course, a plethora of extras to customise the big power cruiser exactly 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 pad and footpegs, as the FXDR leaves the dealership floor with accommodation only for one rider.
If carrying a pillion doesn’t interest you, however, the FXDR is a wonderfully selfish motorcycle to get on and hit the road to enjoy every bit of the American muscle bike experience.
2019 HARLEY-DAVIDSON FXDR 114
Engine: 1868cc Milwaukee-Eight 114
Power: 160Nm at 3500rpm
Pros: Stonking power, looks cool, great handling for a big cruiser
Cons: Heavy, air intake position can annoy