FIRST RIDE: HARLEY FXDR
The Motor Company mine drag racing’s good looks for their latest.
THE FXDR’S PROMOTIONAL video is almost unbelievable. It roars around a racetrack. It sounds like a mobile ack-ack gun firing on all four barrels. It flicks between corners and carves towards the next apex. It looks lithe and spirited… for a 300kg motorcycle with huge 240-section rear tyre and a raked-out 19-inch front wheel. Turns out Harley must have employed a world champ weightlifter to get the bike turning that quick. I’m on the FXDR’S launch in Greece – a grippy mountain road, bright sun, an ambient 38°C. Holding the bike at maximum lean angle (32.6° left/32.8° right) requires proper bulging of the triceps. Navigating S-bends is a full-body workout, like swimming. This is an amazing road, but the ‘racetrack-ready’ FXDR makes it hard work. Give me Harley’s agile Street Bob, and never mind the £8000 price difference. Just like the Street Bob, this new FXDR is built on 2017’s Softail platform, which means a new double cradle frame with an inline rear shock for a hardtail look. It’s the tenth model using the platform, alongside the Breakout, Fat Boy, and apocalypse-ready Fat Bob. And similar to the Fat Bob, the FXDR is aiming at an audience that isn’t traditionally Harley. In their own words that means someone who’s bold, sophisticated, goes fast and wants cutting-edge technology. The 114 cubic inch (1868cc) V-twin ticks the ‘going fast’ part. It’s vibey, with satisfying grunt and the kind of solid, slow-revving feeling that comes with a huge crank and flywheel. It’s powerful, but not the kind of instant power that lifts the front wheel over crests – they define it as stop-light-to-stop-light acceleration. Ack-ack soundtrack, too.
Peak thrust is between 2000 and 4000rpm and feels awesome. Rev higher and the handlebars vibrate enough to make you worry about encroaching white finger. It idles at 800rpm, low enough for the whole bike to shake on its sidestand. But surprisingly it doesn’t provide efficient torque until 1500rpm. Accelerate from 30mph in fourth gear, for example, and you’ll get a lot of shudder and not much else. Accelerating is when the whodunnit riding position makes most sense. Harley list drag bikes as the main influence for design, and you can tell this by the placement of the clip-on handles. They don’t feel too far forward when
‘It’s powerful, but not the kind of power that lifts the front wheel’
your feet are on the ground. But then you realise that the footpegs are still far, far forward. The resulting position has most in common with a ballerina’s warm-up stretch. It is without merit. Whodunnit, where are they, and let’s send a constable round to have a word. Get off the thing, stretch out, and admire the drag-inspired touches. The huge rear tyre is accented by a short-cut rear subframe, and the down swept air intake uses a filter that doesn’t need a rain sock or oil. It also makes a good glove shelf. There is, however, a whiff of style over substance. Reach behind the intake and you can feel that the ‘big’ duct is just for show. A smaller tube inside feeds air to the engine. And the short-stroke rear shock punches you in the coccyx once per bump. Despite the pain the FXDR fills a niche for young riders looking for something more extreme than a Fat Bob. If it had the same price tag. But no. It’s a jaw-dropping £19,855 – that’s £327 per month on PCP. The ‘Rawhide Denim’ colour you see here pushes the? price up by another £350. If you’re set on a Harley and love the look, save yourself £4000 and buy the fantastic 2018 Fat Bob – it does it all better.
The act of steering turned into a workout Costs a jaw-dropping £20,205 Challenging riding position
Suitably tough/mean looking dash Fat drag race-style tyre Even Aprilia’s RSV4 RF sportsbike won’t make your back ache as much as the FXDR