Harley-Davidson FXDR 114
Because motorcycle reviewers from traditional media outlets are obsessed with handling – that bikes are a purely binary choice around ‘is this the best? Yes/no’ – they never, ever consider charm or soul.
As if the customer scene hasn’t taught them anything, they all completely ignore what should be top of anyone’s list: character.
Some years ago bikes all attempted to be the best in each respective category, and so they became like cutlery in a drawer: you chose one depending on how good it was to achieve the practical use that you wanted it for.
Because of that, bikes got boring.
As a reaction, the custom scene started to gather pace and the creativity began to flow – bikes got fun!
For those traditional reviewers that doesn’t ever seem to have happened. None of those learnings matter, and so most Harley FXDR reviews in traditional media outlets follow the same format.
They start off with the stats: the FXDR is built around an 1868cc version of the Milwaukee 8 – the pushrod, 8-valve, 45° V-twin – making 90bhp at 4500rpm and 118 lb.ft at 3500rpm.
Then go into how it’s great off the lights but they think it’s too raked out in corners to turn in properly, doesn’t have enough tech on board compared to the likes of Ducati’s Diavel and generally costs too much money.
My review of it on the other hand goes like this…
Firstly it starts with: hoooollllllyyyyyyyyssshhhhhhhiiiiiiiiiiittttttttttt!!!
That low end torque is incredibly fun. Off the lights it’s immediate, getting you away from any trouble with a smooth roll of the throttle.
The power delivery is predictable and the more you use it, the more fun that confidence becomes. You can really feel the street-drag inspiration coming into play.
Secondly on my review is this caveat: I shouldn’t like this bike. It’s not for me.
I’ve never been a fan of the bike that this spiritually replaces – the V Rod – so I really wasn’t sure about the FXDR.
It’s blinkin huge for a start. Like a pick-up truck. The first thing anyone says when they see it is: woah, that is huge.
With a big 16.7 litre tank (that should be good for 150 miles), a ridiculous 240-section rear tyre and a wide seat, the proportions smack you in the face.
Every piece of oncoming traffic I’ve met head-to-head in a country lane, has actually pulled over and given way to me – that’s how imposing a presence this bike has.
Because of that macho alpha male stance, I wasn’t ever really sure about it. I’m also not really a fan of the forward foot controls either – I much prefer them to be under me.
However, as soon as I pressed the start button and that engine kicked in with its pleasingly deep womp-womp I realised I’d lifted the lid on something – a confirmation that I’ve grown an unhealthy addiction to power.
Ever since I passed my test I’ve shied away from the idea of a massive engine: I started with a 998 Sportster Iron.
However, when I then moved onto a Roadster with a 1200, all the benefits of a bigger engine started to reveal themselves to me. That addiction began to grow.
So when I got onto this 1800 – it still boggles me that this is a 1.8! – those benefits got even bigger.
I now roll back on the FXDR’s throttle whenever the opportunity arrives, grinning like a loon at the drama of it all – the noise goads me into hearing it more and more.
Low down that sound is fab, but it’s also great higher in the rev range, and at motorway type speeds there’s a lovely deep sound sitting in behind the air resistance.
Anyway, all this drama is the first thing I love about the FXDR. Couple that with its visuals – the sculpted lines of the front light cowl repeating themselves down through the tank and out onto the rear end/the insane air intake that has a soundtrack all to itself/that awesome looking solid rear wheel – and I’m finding every opportunity I can to ride the thing.
Maybe it doesn’t handle as well as its competitors, but that isn’t really the point.
The charm and character this bike has is why this bike is great. It’s like a bulldog: completely impractical for massively long walks or obstacle course races, but has bags of character, strength and determination that demands you love it.
I’m supposed to be giving the FXDR back soon, but honestly I’m thinking of ways to stop that from happening – if I can get hold of the pillion pad I think I’ll ride away to Europe with my wife.