The FXR is perhaps the most revered Harley-Davidson model line from the past half century, debuting in 1981 as a 1982 model. Its stout frame gave it the versatility to be a stripped-down road burner or a faithful touring platform, especially in its FXRT version that included a frame-mounted fairing and hardshell saddlebags. Our September 2021 issue featured a 40th-anniversary story about FXRs.
The FXRT’s popularity has recently been surging among custom builders eager to showcase creations beyond the typical choppers, bobbers, and baggers. Harley-Davidson was hip to the FXRT’s newfound interest and created a modern interpretation of the model in this new Low Rider ST. H-D says it’s for FXRT devotees who want the latest riding enhancements.
Related Story: FXR Friends Throwdown at Arizona Bike Week
“Our customers truly inspire us,” said Brad Richards, Harley-Davidson vice president of design, “and the Low Rider ST was born from seeing the incredible builds at motorcycle shows around the world. We took the iconic Motor Company design from the ’80s and gave it a new identity with a modern echo.”
As much as this new LRST (officially: FXLRST) mimics the venerated FXRT, it doesn’t use the FXR’s celebrated-but-long-defunct frame, but rather the new-gen Softail chassis that debuted for 2018 (as does the unfaired Low Rider S version). Both employ styling rooted in the California “tall bike” movement and are equipped with a longer rear monoshock than the standard Softails, which yields an extra inch of rear-wheel travel. There’s now a relatively generous 4.4 inches of travel out back, as well as 5.1 inches up front.
The Finish is the Start
The current styling trend has turned away from chrome bling and pivoted toward anti-shine, so the LRST’s only bright bits are pushrod tubes, tappet covers, and machined cylinder fins. Most everything else has dark finishes, including the front end, controls, powertrain, and exhaust.
To keep a tidy appearance, Harley has fitted a compact digital display inset in the handlebar riser for a clean “no gauges” look. The digital display is relatively comprehensive considering its tiny size, with speeds and fuel level always visible. Riders can toggle between engine rpm, a clock, the odo, and two tripmeters. A low-profile textured-black console tops a slim but curvaceous 5-gallon fuel tank. Overly long silver bolts from the black inner fairing visible from a rider’s perch are perhaps the bike’s only finish gaffe. They look crude.
Those who demand road tunes can order an optional Rockford Fosgate audio system ($1,019.95) that pumps out 125 watts per channel. It’s a plug-and-play system that includes a preinstalled 16-gauge ground wire – no tank removal required. The amplifier and speakers add 8 lb to the fairing. Our test bike didn’t have the audio system, but I’ve heard reports from those who have tested it, and they report great audio quality and volume.
Jewel in the Ring
Bolted to the steel frame rails is Harley’s 117ci Milwaukee-Eight powertrain, the biggest motor in the MoCo’s OE catalog. Each 961.5cc cylinder draws air via H-D’s Heavy Breather intake, and they pump out the familiar loping potato-potato through a 2-into-2 offset shotgun exhaust.
It’s a big mechanical lump of heavy metal thumping assuredly between your legs. Selecting 1st gear is accompanied by the traditional Harley thunk, and predictable clutch take-up simplifies getting underway. The 117’s well of power is practically bottomless, pulling ably from just above idle speed to make tractoring away from stops or passing semis a breeze. H-D says it churns out 125 lb-ft of torque at 3,500 rpm, 5% more twist than the powerful M-8 114.
Low Rider ST Cockpit
Don’t bother looking for a keyhole, as the bike comes with a proximity-based, hands-free security fob that perpetually stashes inside your favorite jacket for carefree keyless ignition.
It’s also part of H-D’s Smart Security System that immobilizes the bike’s systems when out of range.
The LRST’s seat is taller than other Softails, but it’s easy for almost anyone to straddle its 28.3-inch height. The solo seat is deeply sculpted to backstop riders from sliding rearward under acceleration. Hands reach up to the moto-style handlebar set atop 4-inch pullback risers, a position that provides strong leverage for bending the long bike into corners.
Mid-mount foot controls allow using legs actively for additional control and bump absorption, which is my preferred stance. As with most mids, tall riders might feel cramped. Fitting a taller seat would be an easy fix to provide additional legroom.
Low Rider ST Tour-Ability
The FXRT’s hallmark is that it was as at home cruising boulevards as it was rolling down Route 66, and the LRST ably picks up that baton and carries it forward.
Leading the way is the sharp remake of the FXRT’s iconic fairing, which not only looks terrific but also performs better than expected. Topped by a tinted 6-inch windscreen and designed for a 5-foot-11 rider, it provided excellent wind protection for my 5-foot-8 body. A 5.75-inch LED headlamp with round position lighting is quite good at peering into the darkness, augmented out back by H-D’s Zeppelin LED tail lamp framed by incandescent bullet turnsignals.
The ST’s lockable saddlebags enable packing for road trips or just stashing stuff for commuting. They’re sourced from the defunct Sport Glide but are mounted higher and tighter for a lean appearance. While definitely handy, they’re smaller than they appear. Combined capacity is 1.9 cubic feet (53.8 liters). Bonus points are earned for being easy to remove via internal quick-release mechanisms and for latches that are simple to operate.
While the LRST isn’t as intimidating as a full-boat bagger, it’s by no means a lightweight. Harley says the fairing and bags add 42 lb to the Low Rider S package, translating to a 721-lb curb weight with its 5-gallon tank full of fuel. Righting the bike from its sidestand requires a quiet grunt, partly because it leans on the stand farther than necessary.
Around town, it’s liberating to be on a touring bike that is smaller than traditional baggers, which weigh as much as 200 lb more. The LRST is easier to manage, whether threading through the garage or snarled traffic.
While baggers are heavier, they have steeper steering geometry than Softails (26 degrees on a Road Glide vs. the LRST’s 28 degrees), so the agility difference isn’t huge. The Low Rider is very composed once leaned over, making me wish for more than the 31.3 degrees of available lean angle before the pegs begin to drag. H-D-branded Michelin Scorcher tires provide reliable grip.
The LRST’s braking package is plenty powerful and exhibits a solid feel through the levers. Dual 4-piston calipers bite 300mm discs up front, backed up by a 2-piston floating caliper and 292mm rear disc. ABS is standard equipment. Personally, I’d prefer a stronger initial bite from the front, which could probably be enhanced by aftermarket pads. Perhaps a machine this sporty deserves the FL’s Brembos?
No complaints about the suspension. The 43mm inverted cartridge fork held by aluminum triple clamps performed flawlessly, despite its lack of adjustability. The Softail rear’s longer monoshock helps mitigate gnashed teeth when potholes suddenly appear. Hydraulic preload capability enables quick adjustments for various loads. Passenger accommodations are extra-cost accessories.
I scoffed when I first saw the small size of the instrumentation, especially after riding bikes with giant TFT color screens. Surprisingly, it didn’t bother me much, as all I really need to see is speed, gear position, and fuel status. And if you can’t figure out when to shift a big V-Twin properly without an easy-to-read tachometer, maybe you need seat time more than you need a tach.
Combine the shelter from the elements and standard cruise control with an engine that is just as happy at 60 mph as it is at 95, and the LRST inhales roads in giant gulps with unerring stability. Motor vibes are alive and omnipresent but never objectionable – perfect.
The old FXRT was stylish and capable in ways no other motorcycle could top. And here we are again, treated to a similar but dramatically better experience. The build quality is higher, and reliability is way up – a huge factor when deciding how far down the road you’ll want to point it. And as beautiful and loveable as the Shovels and Evos are, none of the stock ones could hold a candle to the prodigious power produced by the 117 M-8.
More to the point, the Low Rider ST looks fantastic and elicits admiring stares on every road it travels. Its strong appeal is evident by its widespread absence on dealer floors. Harley-Davidson Huntington Beach here in Southern California told me an LRST was sold just 30 minutes after an Instagram post announced its arrival.
Of course, all this style and performance comes at a fairly lofty price. It’ll take $21,749 to get one in Vivid Black. Choosing Gunship Gray adds $450. If you need to save a few bucks, you could opt for the S version of the Low Rider, which retails at $18,349. But then you wouldn’t have the style or the versatility of the ST, which is nearly an irresistible combination.
2022 Harley-Davidson Low Rider ST Specifications
Base Price: $21,749
Engine Type: Air-cooled, transverse 45-degree V-Twin, OHV w/ 4 valves per cyl.
Displacement: 117ci (1,923cc)
Bore x Stroke: 4.075 x 4.5 in.
Compression Ratio: 10.2:1
Horsepower: 103 hp @ 4,750 rpm (claimed)
Claimed Torque: 125 lb-ft @ 3,500 rpm (claimed)
Final Drive: Belt
Frame: Steel tube
Rake/Trail: 28.0 degrees/5.7 in.
Wheelbase: 63.6 in.
Suspension (F/R): Nonadjustable 43mm inverted fork / preload-adjustable monoshock
Suspension Travel (F/R): 5.1 in. / 4.4 in.
Brakes (F/R): 300mm discs w/ 4-piston calipers / single 292mm disc w/ 2-piston caliper
Tires (F/R): Michelin Scorcher 110/90B-19 / 180/70B-16
Seat Height: 28.3 in.
Fuel Capacity: 5.0 gals
Curb Weight: 721 lb