ROAD TEST: 2019 Harley-Davidson FXDR 114 Review

By Koz Mraz

Photos by Mike Cupp

I attended the Harley-Davidson Softail press event unveiling the 2019 models and rode every bike over three days. They are exceptional motorcycles and the FXDR 114 is the tenth model in Harley’s new generation Softail range. The idea was to build a contemporary power cruiser—a drag-inspired bike with outstanding performance and handling. It’s the only Softail that’s exclusively available as a 114 ci (1,868 cc) Milwaukee-Eight V-twin.

There’s been much web banter about this new bike and I agree that it’s the modern incarnation of the retired VRSC V-Rod. Like the V-Rod, the FXDR has a raked-out front end, a lower cowl attached to the frame’s down tubes and a wide 240mm rear tire on a solid-disc rear wheel. Most notably, it has the V-Rod clamshell riding position, using forward foot controls with drag bars. The rear wheel is the same 18” / 240mm fat-tire as the Breakout, plus the oval LED headlight is borrowed from the Breakout. The tiny LED speedo is from the Street Bob.

A completely unique feature of the FXDR is the large intake, inspired by Harley’s own drag bikes, and is designed to enhance airflow.  At 6.1 I felt it was in the way, especially when I was diving into high speed corners. Plus, I am not a fan of the clamshell riding position for aggressive cornering.

There will be the naysayers and doomsdayers regarding the FXDR but personally, I applaud Harley-Davidson for making bold moves. They in fact have stated they are releasing 100 new motorcycles by 2027.  Whatever the incarnations or iterations we shall see between now and then, rest assured, they will lay some golden eggs.

From the Horse’s Mouth

“The look of the FXDR 114 expresses its performance potential and highlights the technical features that set it apart from the rest of the Softail line-up,” said Brad Richards, Vice President of Styling and Design. “The drag-bike influence is strong with the raked and inverted front end, massive intake and exhaust, proportional contrast between the wheels, and the clipped tail section. But we made sure that purely technical elements like the aluminum swingarm, fully integrated digital instrumentation within the rider controls, and exposed external suspension adjuster are highlighted as well and help define this bike’s mission, which is pure performance, not just straight-line performance.”

Nuts and Bolts of the FXDR 114

(courtesy of H-D’s press release)

The FXDR 114 is equipped with the most-powerful engine offered in the Softail chassis, a Milwaukee-Eight 114 V-Twin tuned to pound out up to 119 ft. lb. of torque at 3,500 rpm (U.S. model). The shape of the forward-facing air intake is inspired by the World Champion Screamin’ Eagle/Vance & Hines drag bikes and designed to enhance the airflow into the engine. The exposed air filter utilizes a new synthetic media that does not require oiling. A new 2-into-1 exhaust is tuned to emit a throaty rumble and shaped to maximize lean angle. Advanced four-valve cylinder head design, dual knock sensors, and precision oil cooling permit a 10.0:1 compression ratio for strong torque output – and thrilling acceleration – from off-idle to wide-open throttle. The engine is rigid-mounted to further stiffen a Softail chassis engineered to deliver precise response to steering and braking input. Dual counter-balancers cancel primary vibration at idle for improved rider comfort.

Harley moved the mount for the (preload adjustable) shock, effectively raising the rear end and improving both ground clearance and lean angle.

The FXDR now has more lean capability than any other Softail, at just under 33 degrees left and right. The aluminum swingarm achieves a 10.2 lb. weight reduction (13.8 lbs. vs. 24 lbs., or 43 percent less) over a steel Softail swingarm accommodating a 240mm rear tire. The unsprung weight (weight located below the suspension) has a significant impact on rear suspension performance, enhanced further by a lightweight 18-inch-diameter aluminum disc rear wheel. The 19-inch forged aluminum Ace front wheel is a light-weight design that features very thin spokes. The FXDR 114 seat and tail section are supported by a sub-frame of welded aluminum tubing, and the tail section is composite. This replaces a steel subframe, steel rear fender and aluminum fender supports used on other Softail models, for a weight savings of about seven pounds. Front and rear fenders are lightweight composite material.

The dual 300mm front disc brakes provide strong braking performance with less lever effort. A confidence-inspiring Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) is standard equipment on the FXDR 114. High-performance Michelin® Scorcher® 11 front (120mm) and rear (240mm) tires contribute to optimized handling and braking performance. Secured by the deep solo seat, the rider grips aluminum clip-on handlebars in an athletic position over the tank. Information is presented by a compact digital display located within the speed screen.

Complete LED lighting, including a Daymaker™ LED headlamp with LED signature halo plus LED rear lighting and LED turn signals, make the FXDR 114 more conspicuous in traffic and offer optimal lighting performance. Keyless ignition, the Harley-Davidson Smart Security System and a USB charging port are standard equipment.

I didn’t get to really wind the FDXR out on a track but can tell it’s designed for speed. As mentioned, for me, the riding position is challenging for any real distance riding. Also it looks like the weird plastic cowling over the rear wheel is easily removed with a few bolts, cleaning up the entire ass end. Like the Harley Fat Bob, this is an aggressive venture into form and function for the Motor Company and I can’t wait to see more.

The FXDR 114 is available in six color choices: Vivid Black, Black Denim, Industrial Gray Denim, Wicked Red Denim, Bonneville Salt Denim, and Rawhide Denim

Starting at $21,349, its upgraded components make it the most expensive in the Softail line.