Published on February 6th, 2017 | by Boris
2017 HARLEY-DAVIDSON LOW RIDER S 117 – THE IRON THRONE
This is a nasty piece of work.
As motorcycles everywhere become smoother, more refined and more…well, civilised I suppose, Harley-Davidson goes and commits this act of atavistic brutality.
The 117-cubic-inch FXDLS (or Low Rider S if you can’t spell) is not so much a motorcycle as it is an act of primal rage incarnated in metal.
And I love it.
I ride it and it makes me wickedly happy. Or happily wicked. I’m not sure there is a difference.
It makes me feel like the outlaw I once was, and still am from time to time.
It’s like being an alcoholic.
An alcoholic is always going to be an alcoholic, but in order to save himself from himself he’s chosen not to drink anymore. But he’s still an alcoholic.
I’m a bit like that.
So this mechanical assault Harley has cooked up speaks to me like a bottle of rum speaks to an alcoholic.
But it’s not a quiet conversation of whispering and urging. It’s a guttural exchange of growling and daring.
“Get this up ya!” it declares, backhanding you across the face like you’re some fresh-mouthed twat in need of guidance.
Everything about it is wrong. And hard. And mean.
And paradoxically, ever so bloody right.
It’s black. Of course it is. It has to be black. Sure, the wheels are not black, but they’re not Jewish Racing Bronze, either. And they look better in real life than they do in pictures. But everything else is blacker than your ex-wife’s heart.
It pays the barest lip-service to cutting-edge technology. You get keyless ignition, cruise control and ABS. Oh, and self-cancelling blinkers.
Traction control? Engine maps? Lean-angle sensors?
Bah! We ride like men. Be grateful the brakes are adequate. But do mind yourself in the wet on the standard Michelin tyres. They’re reasonable in the dry (the ground clearance will keep you on them), but in the wet they will show you the face of Jesus if you’re ham-fisted with the throttle.
And that’s just excellent.
That front-facing heavy-breather intake that sticks out the side of the engine is like an affront to niceness. It says: “I’m sucking air in here, bastard!” And because your eye is drawn to it, you can’t help seeing that Screamin’ Eagle 117 metallically tattooed on top of the engine case just behind it.
Metrically speaking, this is a 1917cc engine. It’s beating out 150.7Nm of torque at 3900rpm, and 100.2 horsies at 5600rpm.
There is no sneezing at 150Nm of torque. There are just prayers of gratitude interspersed by lightning bolts of sheer terror and wild joy.
You can ride it around with your manners showing and it will rumble and grumble and occasionally spit some hatred out of its air-nozzle. Or you can man-up and ride like you mean it and it will roar and thunder and vomit steel-heated anger at the world.
The difference between the 117-cuber and the standard 110-cuber is huge. And it terms of return-on-investment, it can’t be beat. You can, of course, make a 120-cuber out of Harley’s vast parts catalogue (and maybe you should), but that’s a much bigger investment in dollars as well as time. This 117-cube “kit”, if you will, doesn’t require the engine to come out of the bike. And as such, it’s the largest bolt-on kit you can get from Harley. For your buck you get the following bang:
- Bigger 4.125-inch cylinders that slip perfectly onto the stock 110-cuber’s crankcase.
- Forged pistons that fire the compression ratio up to 9.9:1, and piston rings.
- High-flow fuel injectors and a 58mm throttle body.
- High-capacity roller tappets, SE-259E cams, inner cam bearings, and Perfect Fit pushrods.
So it breathes in better and it explodes petrol with more oomph. The difference is, as I said, startling. You should ride the 117 back-to-back with a 110 if you can. You will have no issue handing over the extra money. Even if you leave the pipes stock (and why would you?), there’s also definite aural edge to the bigger motor.
The actual riding of it all is a bit unhinged, which is fantastic.
It’s not comfortable. And that’s fine. Because it’s not uncomfortable, either. The seat is firm and the riding position is fraught and feral. I felt like one of those ninjas jumping off a tea-house. My knees were high, my toes pointed up and my arms were wide and pretty much straight out in front of me. It’s a tactical fighting posture for ninjas, and it’s perfect for riding the Low Rider. It’s just not comfy like an armchair is comfy.
But men do not ride armchairs into battle, do they?
Is a warhorse comfortable?
Of course not. But it is suitable, is it not? It is appropriate, is it not?
It is therefore right, is it not?
And like a warhorse, the suspension is not going to love you up any either. What it’s going to do is wham your soft bitch-bits into firm man-parts and make you pay attention. It’s adjustable at the back and it’s better than it’s been on previous models, but it’s still like a Viking assault on an English village – exciting and pitiless in equal measures. Do not ride with your teeth clenched. Ride with your mouth open and a war-cry in your throat.
You can’t really see the dials until you drop your eyes off the road, so they are obviously superfluous.
Whatever speed you’re doing at whatever revs you’re making is the right speed and the right revs for that occasion. It’s the kind of bike you can actually ‘feel’ your way along the road with.
At idle it shakes and grumbles and you can smell it baking oil – which if I were you, I’d be changing pretty regularly. Big-bores like oil. It makes them smile. It doesn’t smell of burning grease like my old Shovelheads did, but it does emit a wonderful primal odour that lets you know it’s enjoying the old dinosaurs you’ve fed it very much.
I even love the fact it’s got limited ground clearance. One look at the mid-mounted footpegs will tell you they are a disposable item.
Good. They should be. You will be disposing of them and getting new ones frequently.
I wouldn’t care. I wouldn’t even give it a second thought, because it doesn’t matter.
All that matters is how impossibly awesome this 117-cubic-inch lump of primal wrath makes you feel.
This is not a bike for parades. This is not a bike for touring. This is not a bike for whirring up to coffee shops on sunny days with your best girl on the back.
This is a bike for the dark-of-heart. This is a bike for hard nights on mean streets. This is a bike to get your badness on with.
Thus it is a joy to ride. A shadowy, demonic, price-exacting joy to be sure, but a joy nonetheless. Slam that throttle open in third gear and you will feel every damn one of those glorious Newtons churning through you. Watch that speedo needle point at silly numbers (for a Harley).
The Milwaukee Eight engine is smoother, more refined and addresses, according to Harley, what its world-wide customer base is wanting today.
This engine is not that engine. And I really hope Harley never stops building this engine, and just keeps making bigger capacity versions of it.
Because this engine is the last buffalo. The last glorious, thundering, uncivilised and unrefined hate-bison in a world that’s convinced itself that is somehow wrong.
But it’s not wrong.
The world is wrong.
Precisely because this Low Rider S is what it is and does what it does, is why I love it.
It’s totally uncivilised.
It’s unashamedly unrefined.
It’s a barbaric meat-eater dressed up in a smooth black killer’s suit – and because it is that and doesn’t pretend to be anything else but that, is why I’m chubby for it.
When there’s evil in the air and thunder in the sky, this is what you need to be riding.
George RR Martin understood.
You want to sit on the Iron Throne?
You have to pay the Iron Price.
And it’s worth every single damn cent.
A LITTLE BIT OF OUTLAWRY
To make sure I wasn’t mistaken in my views about the Low Rider S, I took it down south for a ride with the Black Uhlans MC.
I have spoken about riding with outlaws before and you may read about that HERE and HERE.And I guess if you want to see how well your Harley works, the best way to find out is to take it for a ride with an outlaw motorcycle club.
So I chased Sean and Kev up the Macquarie Pass and I noted several things…
Sean is very fast and Kev is very fast.
Sean has sticky tyres on his Wide Glide and far more ground clearance than me. He also rides faster than I do.
Kev smashed his Softail up Macquarie Pass faster than I’ve ever seen a Softail smashed up Macquarie Pass.
Both of them have the view that the more you grind off your bike, the more ground clearance you will have for future corners. This was not a discussion I wanted to have with Harley when I returned the bike, but I have always shared that view.
Both of them liked the Low Rider S very much and Kev went so far as to declare actual love for it, but felt it would need forward controls fitted for bigger blokes.
A 117-cubic-inch Harley cannot out-accelerate a 120-cubic-inch Harley.
It can, however keep Reggie’s thundering VRod in sight at redline in top. Can’t pass it. But can see it.
My thanks to the Black Uhlans MC for their hospitality.
HOW MUCH: The 2017 Dyna Low Rider S is $26,250 ride-away. The 117-cubic inch kit is a few grand more and Harley recommends you contact your dealer for a quote using the product code 93500054.
More details can be found HERE.
Once again, thanks to Nick Edards for the photography. His work can be found HERE.