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Common Tread

2019 Harley-Davidson FXDR 114 first ride review

Sep 06, 2018

After Harley-Davidson announced its big news for the 2020 model year, the 2019 model that got the most attention was the FXDR. I had a chance to ride it briefly during Harley-Davidson's 115th anniversary celebration in Milwaukee.

The 10th new bike in the Softail lineup, the FXDR has styling inspired by drag racing, is designed loosely around the Breakout chassis, offers the highest lean angle of any Softail, sports an inverted fork and an aluminum swingarm that trims a bit over 10 pounds, and is powered by the Milwaukee-Eight 114 engine. The bike sits curbside at 668 pounds.

riding the Harley-Davidson FXDR
The FXDR can lean. Photo by Brian J. Nelson.

"The main customer we focused the motorcycle on is the person who wants performance ahead of just about anything else," says Vice President of Styling and Design Brad Richards. The launch video shows the FXDR diving around a race track, but I would be testing the bike in the city. Thrown a set of keys in downtown Milwaukee, I leaped into a sea of riders who were all in town for the big celebration. I did my best to avoid the police desperately trying to corral the city-wide two-wheel shenanigans and set out to see what the FXDR 114 was all about.

Harley-Davidson FXDR
2019 Harley-Davidson FXDR 114. Photo by Kevin Wing.

Harley-Davidson FXDR: Looks and style

The FXDR's looks do set it apart. The new intake and two-into-one exhaust are eye catchers with clear drag-bike roots. The FXDR runs all LED lamps. Bolted to that inverted fork is a sportier 19-inch front wheel (two inches smaller in diameter than the Breakout's) and a massive Michelin Scorcher 240 sits at the rear. There are elements of the V-Rod in the oil cooler shroud and forward controls.

The FXDR comes with clip-ons, but remove that panel in the center of the top clamp and you find mounts where you can put a standard handlebar, so riders can change the ergonomics. Photo by Kevin Wing.

The FXDR comes standard with clip-on bars, but popping off the FXDR logo panel atop the triple tree reveals traditional mounts. That means riders can easily remove the clip-ons and bolt on a handlebar of their choice to adjust the ergonomics. The rear panel can be removed without tools to accept a pillion pad or stash a pair of gloves. Like the other Softails, the FXDR has a neatly tucked away USB port. The integrated instrument panel has a clean look and functions well in bright light.

Harley-Davidson FXDR
Harley-Davidson took a different approach with the tail section and rear fender on the FXDR, but the belt final drive is regular Harley issue. Photo by Kevin Wing.

Overall, it's a divisive look, but I like it. At a quick glance, it reads like a sportier Fat Bob, a look that's already won me over. There's no doubt it has stirred some interest. People around Milwaukee were excited to see it and asked me questions about it.

riding the Harley-Davidson FXDR
Forward controls are high enough on the FXDR that they don't drag easily in the corners, but that makes for a riding position that gets tiring after a while. Photo by Brian J. Nelson.

Harley-Davidson FXDR: First ride impressions

Having just come off a few days on the comfy new touring bikes, I immediately felt clumsy fumbling around for the forward controls. Once I got comfortable with the ergos, I started to feel the fun of pushing the bike into corners. There is a ton of power, and as I built some confidence with the riding position, I realized all the bike needed was a little bit of extra effort to lean over. As daunting as the 240/120 tire-size combination appears, it's a fast learning curve to get the bike to corner. The FXDR has a 33-degree lean angle and with the high clearance of the controls I never dragged a peg. Harley-Davidson says the Milwaukee-Eight engine in the FXDR puts out a peak 119 foot-pounds of torque at 3,500 rpm, and I can say that launching the bike at a stop light or up an on ramp is all giggles.

Harley-Davidson FXDR
Dual front disc brakes and an inverted fork hint at the FXDR's intention to be a sportier Harley. Photo by Kevin Wing.

Despite the straight-line, quarter-mile looks, the FXDR still allows for sharp handling. I've spent a decent amount of time on the surprisingly sporty Fat Bob and found the FXDR to handle just as well, if not better, in theory partly due to the shorter 4.7-inch trail and upgraded suspension. The rear mono shock has a handy external hydraulic pre-load adjustment knob and the front suspension sports a single-sided cartridge and a triple-rate spring.

The stock exhaust has a nice rumble, but for a cool $924 you can throw on a titanium Screamin' Eagle slip-on pipe with a carbon fiber end cap. There is no denying the FXDR is fast. The clip-ons allow for a snug grip and a tight tuck as the bike tries to tear you off it on acceleration. Tons of fun for speed, but not so great for long runs. Once I had ripped through a tank of fuel, my lower back was barking and I was ready for a barstool.

Harley-Davidson FXDR
The 2019 Harley-Davidson FXDR 114 combines drag-bike styling with extra lean angle. Photo by Kevin Wing.

Who is the FXDR for?

Though I had access to the FXDR 114 for the weekend, Harley-Davidson had so many events planned around the anniversary celebration that I really didn't get much time on the bike and I never had a chance to escape the city traffic and try it in a different setting. As I scoured Milwaukee for deserted on-ramps and hidden straights, I kept wondering to myself who this bike was designed for and how it fits into the Motor Company's mission of building new riders. If performance was the key product demand, why does it have forward controls? And how did it end up only four pounds lighter than the Breakout, the model it was based on? And why does it not easily bury what I imagine is its prime competitor, the Ducati xDiavel S, which offers eight degrees more lean angle, smarty pants electronics with ride modes, cornering ABS, cruise control, and weighs a whopping 123 pounds less?

Harley-Davidson FXDR
The air intake is one of the distinctive styling touches on the FXDR. Photo by Kevin Wing.

At nearly $22,000, the FXDR 114 carries a premium price. It's a fast and expensive Harley with bold looks and specs, and despite what you might expect from its drag-bike looks, it somehow still handles really well. If there are core customers who are in the market for that, I think the FXDR 114 has absolutely nailed it. However, I'm not sure what new riders this will build.

From an overall vision standpoint, it's hard to dig too hard at Harley-Davidson on the heels of their vague but thrilling product roadmap announcement. I do believe that overall what they're doing will build new riders.

The FXDR is fun to ride and exciting enough to keep my interest. I guess it's just going to take more than a few days of riding in a congested city gone crazy nuts with a big Harley party for me to understand the FXDR 114's place in the world.

2019 Harley-Davidson FXDR
Price (MSRP) $21,349 in vivid black
$21,749 other colors
Engine Type Milwaukee-Eight 45-degree V-twin
Displacement 114 ci (1,868 cc)
Bore x stroke 102 mm x 114 mm
Torque 119 foot-pounds at 3,500 rpm
Transmission Six-speed, belt final drive
Front suspension Inverted single cartridge fork, 5.1 inches of travel
Rear suspension Single shock with toolless preload adjustment, 3.4 inches of travel
Front brakes Dual 300 mm discs, four-piston calipers, ABS standard
Rear Brake Single 292 mm disc, two-piston caliper, ABS standard
Tires front/rear 120/70ZR19; 240/40R18
Rake and trail 34 degrees, 4.7 inches
Wheelbase 68.4 inches
Seat height 28.5 inches
Tank capacity 4.4 gallons
Wet weight 668 pounds