2020 Low Rider S Test
Is the New Softail Low Rider S the remedy for the missing Dynas?
Brum said, “You know that Bee Gees song ‘How do you mend a broken heart?’, that’s what I reckon the angle should be, Dave.”
“You mean the readers who were so annoyed when the Dyna was discontinued now have a bike to rejoice?” I asked.
“Precisely!” said the Boss.
“I think you are right in principle, but we do know what some Dyna owners are like.” I mused as I headed to our Facebook page and posted up some pics from my first ride on the latest Low Rider S.
Sure enough the response was immediate. “Nice Bike, but it’s not a Dyna.” And sundry other … let’s say … less complimentary comments.
However, after a pretty thorough 2-week test that included all manner of riding and conditions, Urban crawl, commutes, open road, freeway and twisty mountain byways I’ve come around to agree with Brum’s point.
Let me qualify by saying that when I tested the 2017 Dyna Low Rider S in Heavy Duty Issue #146 I had a huge wrap on the bike. I called it the best Dyna ever and with many others bemoaned that the platform was discontinued right after H-D released the best-ever model. The strap line even trumpeted ‘Dave says yes to the 110-S.”
That Dyna had emulsion shocks, cartridge forks, mid controls and was the ‘sportiest’ big block since the vaunted FXDX. It had great handling, a responsive engine, good brakes and an ergonomic that allowed for more body English when hard charging.
The 2020 Softail version has all that … more and less: Less vibration, less flex, with more comfort, performance and overall ride-ability.
Put the two side-by-side and unless you have Dyna-only eyes there isn’t a lot of difference in the aesthetic. They are both great looking motorcycles with a beautiful, menacing blackness that sucks the light from the air as you ride by.
What the Dyna Diehards will probably have trouble coming to grips with is the fact that the Softail is simply a better motorcycle.
For starters it’s a stiffer chassis, it has USD Cartridge forks mounted at a noticeably sharper rake, it has longer rear suspension travel with pre-load adjustment and it has the 114-Cube Milwaukee 8 power plant and gearbox. The latter means it doesn’t have that big dose of engine vibration that came with the rubber mounted Twin Cam. That’s not to say that the 114 is vibration-free, it still transmits a pulse through the bars and foot pegs, but not nearly as prevalent as on the Dyna. It means that the Softail isn’t as tiring to spend a 400km day aboard without ‘vibe-fatigue’.
The four-valve M8 also means that it will be easier (and cheaper) to coax higher performance out the engine when time for upgrades comes around. Both models offer a head start with their larger capacity, higher-performance engines and air cleaner assemblies fitted as standard.
But in the here-and-now, the Softail’s saddle is plusher and the revised pull-back Handlebars and risers fall to hand more comfortably than the Dyna’s drag bars and while the new 2-into-2 offset shotgun exhaust system is similarly quiet to the 2016’s it’s much harder to scrape it on the tarmac.
Both models are fitted with 19 inch front wheel, a 100 section on the Dyna and 110 section on the Softail, but the 17” x 160 Rear on the Dyna has been modified to a 16” x 180 on the Softail. The Softail’s wheels have slimmer spokes and while colour is always subjective the new model’s shape, graphics and livery seem nicer.
Lean angles are similar on both incarnations. The Dyna has 29.5° and 30°. The Softail’s are 30.1° on both sides. The difference in dynamic between the bikes comes the rake. 30.5° for the Dyna and 28.5° for the Softail. It’s quite obvious when you look at the bike and even moreso when you ride it.
Side-to-sides and direction changes on the Softail are joyous. Like the Dyna it is an eminently ‘chuckable’ Harley, but now it’s even more so. The front end works a treat and the shorter wheelbase 1615mm v 1630mm hasn’t made any noticeable difference to the Softail’s stability and planted feeling on the open road and Freeways.
Out on the Interstate the Speed Screen fairing is also remarkably efficient at keeping wind off the torso. In concert with the low saddle height (690mm unladen) it meant that my helmet was out in clean turbulence free air, while the mid controls and wide bars meant that I was leaning in to the remaining wind blast and had no need to clench anything or lock elbows even at higher speeds. With the relaxed lope of the 114 it is a very easy bike to rack up decent K’s on.
Like those fitted to the Dyna, the mid controls will be a love ‘em or hate ‘em affair. Most of my pals said they would convert to forward controls if they bought one. I wouldn’t. I liked the way they make it easier to get a knee out and shift buttocks off the saddle to get weight off-board when hooking in. The bike has handling and cornering capabilities that goes well beyond the available lean angles. The mid control’s ergos help make the most of that capability.
The lighting on the 2020 is also an improvement. The headlight casts a wide flat pattern and the high beam is really good. The prominent taillight is a very interesting design and quite a contrast to the Dyna’s combo indicators and lack of taillight. The older model’s number plate mounting was much nicer however. The horn on the new one is a bit beep-beep embarrassing.
As per the ’17, The instruments comprise a pair of piggyback 4-inch analogue dials mounted on the tank with Speedo sitting above the tacho in the traditional Low Rider configuration. The new model has a larger and more legible digital trip computer inset in the Speedo but the Tacho’s position on both models means taking your eyes off the road to read it – particularly in a full-face helmet. It looks good, but it’s not a particularly efficient design. It’s noticeable when compared to how well-sorted the rest of the new model is overall.
From its black wrinkle finishes and sparingly used chrome highlights to its great handling, excellent twin disc 4-pot brakes and sweet road manners the Low Rider S already has an array of customizers licking their chops at the bike’s potential. I can’t wait to see what the Power Build specialists do with the platform. It will be awesome.
Starting at $27,995 the 2020 Low Rider S might just be the cure for a broken Dyna’s Heart.
Engine2 Milwaukee-Eight® 114
Stroke 114 mm
Displacement 1,868 cc
Compression Ratio 10.5:1
Fuel System Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI)
Exhaust 2-into-2 offset shotgun; catalyst in muffler
Length 2,355 mm
Seat Height, Unladen 690 mm
Ground Clearance 120 mm
Rake (steering head) (deg) 28
Trail 145 mm
Wheelbase 1,615 mm
Tires, Front Specification 110/90B19,62H,BW
Tires, Rear Specification 180/70B16,77H,BW
Fuel Capacity 18.9 l
Oil Capacity (w/filter) 4.7 l
Weight, As Shipped 295 kg
Weight, In Running Order 308 kg
Engine Torque Testing Method EC 134/2014
Engine Torque3 155 Nm
Engine Torque (rpm) 3,000
Lean Angle, Right (deg.) 33.1
Lean Angle, Left (deg.) 33.1
Primary Drive Chain, 34/46 ratio
Wheels, Front Type6 Dark bronze, Radiate cast aluminum wheel
Wheels, Rear Type Dark bronze, Radiate cast aluminum wheel
Brakes, Caliper Type 4-piston fixed front and 2-piston floating rear
Lights (as per country regulation), Indicator Lamps High beam, turn signals, neutral, low oil pressure, engine diagnostics, auxiliary lighting, ABS, immobiliser, low battery voltage, low fuel warning.
Gauges 4-inch analog speedometer with digital gear, odometer, fuel level, clock, trip, range and tachometer indication; 4-inch analog tachometer