FXLR 1340 Low Rider Custom
Air cooled, four stroke, 45° V-Twin, OHV, 2
valves per cylinder.
Bore x Stroke
88.8 x 108.0 mm
38mm Keihin carb
- / electric
50 hp @ 4000 rpm
69 ft-lb @ 3000 rpm
5 Speed / Belt
38mm Showa telescopic forks
Dual Showa shocks 5-way preload adjustable.
Single 292mm disc 1 piston caliper
Single 292mm disc 1 piston caliper.
For longer than I'd care to admit
my mate and I have been trying to upstage each other with more and more
extravagant race replicas. Having topped his FZR1000 with a race tuned
GSXR1100, I was waiting with baited breath for his next move. From the way the
house reverberated I thought the mad bugger had bought a bloody great tank.
But no, not quite, it was a malevolent looking Harley with what sounded like
Whenever one of us brought a new
bike we always went for a race.....the GSXR had no trouble blowing the antique
vee-twin into the weeds but my so-called mate turned up at the pub we were
racing to with a bloody large grin on his face, making some comments about my
back making me look like an hunchback from the GSXR's racing crouch. Worse
still, when we got back to the bikes a bunch of frails were gasping with
admiration at the beauty of the Harley whilst my flash paint job was
completely ignored. The devious bugger had put me firmly in my place.
Six months later the fool got
married to the kind of woman with thunder thighs but a mind like a piranha.
The upshot was that he had to get shot of the FXLR pronto. As I'd just smashed
my beloved Suzuki into the side of a bus it seemed quite natural to hit the
bank manager for a seven thousand pound loan (I told him it was to buy a
Strangely, I immediately felt at
home on the Low Rider. Lolling back like I was on a thundering armchair with
the huge vee-twin engine throbbing away like every power pulse that was
wrenched from its ancient design was only done so at great cost from
overcoming huge physical forces. The mill is actually rubber mounted but their
effect only comes in once more than 2000 revs are dialled in. Even then, the
motor is never going to be electric smooth and fade into the background.
Of course, torque is what this
engine is all about. Huge great gobs of it that hit you in the pit of the
stomach as you roll on the throttle in third or fourth. The relatively basic
nature of the gearbox is to a great extent alleviated by the rubber belt final
drive that gives an uncanny smoothness to the transmission....until you've
tried a bike without a chain it's hard to realise how harsh and primitive is
the normal means of final drive. I could quite happily roll on the throttle
with just 20mph on the speedo in top gear, the grunt giving more than adequate
acceleration. It took a while to adapt to not needing to pump the gearbox like
a lunatic....clutchless changes made the gearbox sound like it was about to
Harley's are endowed with quite
primitive suspension, but I found the Low Rider stable on good A-roads and
motorways. It would trundle along at 80mph without a care in the world,
although more than an hour would have my shoulders aching from the wind blast.
Fast cornering was always accompanied by a mild weave that threatened to go
terminal when the road turned rough.
Rather more worrying was trying to
hustle through tighter bends when invariably the undercarriage would put on a
spark show and even try to lift the back wheel off the ground if I got really
serious. Despite its chopper looks, though, it could be stormed through most
sections at a decent clip. The low centre of gravity helped to give a very
secure feel to the bike.
Braking was barely adequate, not
so much that the front single disc didn't work well but rather that I was used
to twin discs of ferocious power on the race replicas. It took a while to
adjust to the slow retardation, I was often sent into full panic mode as the
bike headed into the side of some cage.....I soon learnt to use the engine
braking and plan ahead a little.
By way of contrast, the rear disc
was rather vicious, able to lock up the back wheel with hardly any effort. The
first time it rained I almost browned myself when the wheel went into a
vicious skid, not helped in the least by the poor grip of the Goodyear tyres
some wretch had deemed suitable for a heavy bike like the Low Rider. As the
skid happened as I was threading through some stalled cars, the cagers were
treated to a dose of metal carnage as the back end waggled from side to side.
Being a good citizen I did not hang around to find out their opinion of
Damage to the Harley was minimal
but enough to throw me into a frenzy of polishing and cleaning. Finish is not
brilliant, it needs a twice monthly dose of tender loving care to keep the
copious quantities of chrome and alloy shiny. Less than three years old,
chrome has fallen off the shocks, the exhaust downpipes and the sissy-bar.
Vibes have got through to one of
the back indicators, causing it to do a runner and the footrest bolts have a
nasty habit of coming undone despite using Loctite on them. Having done 12000
miles so far, (5500 on the clock when I bought it) the engine has needed
nothing more than a couple of oil changes (consumption between changes
miraculously minimal given the amount of thumping and grumbling the mill puts
out). With hydraulically self-adjusting valves, a single carb and electronic
ignition the only thing that's left to muck around with are the primary and
final drives, neither of which has needed much adjustment.
The Evolution series of Harley
engines gets better with each passing year, minor refinements ironing out
potential problems. Most of my complaints about the Harley come from the
nature of the bike not its inherent design, although with Harleys these are
almost inexorably bound together.
For long distance work, the fuel
tank is too small, giving a range of only 120 miles even when the FXLR is
ridden mildly, which given its nature is most of the time. 35-40mpg is not
that good for a bike that doesn't like to do more than 90mph (weird handling
and vibes) - probably down to the brick shithouse aerodynamics and near 600lbs
Large passengers put the shocks
down on their stops, inducing wild wobbling....taking male friends on the back
is a rather too intimate experience for my liking, nubile frails are another
matter, though. For some reason, even with the Harley at my behest I have
failed to coerce droves of frails on to the pillion....they take one look at
me and burst into hysterical laughter!
The pillion perch is usefully
shaped for strapping on my camping gear. In the summer I'm usually out on the
road every weekend, either going to bike meets or off on my own wanderings. I
once had the Harley attacked my an enraged bull who seemed to mistake the bike
for a rival bovine. I'd camped in the wrong field. After three attempts, the
bull managed to knock the HD over, but was in a bad way by the time it had
finished, shaking its head from side to side as if it didn't quite know where
it was. Pulling the Harley out of the mud, no mean feat, I was almost in tears
as I clocked the dented exhaust, airfilter cover and tank. I had to clear out
fast as the bull was eyeing the resurrected Harley like he wanted another
fight. I made a mental note to never buy a red bike again.
After about eight months with the
Harley the insurance paid up for the damage to the Suzuki GSXR, so I had two
completely different bikes in my garage. However, I had become so enraptured
by the easy going nature of the HD that I found the Suzuki almost impossible
to ride. Its racing crouch was now agony, its smooth engine horrifying in its
remoteness and blitzing acceleration somehow lacked the fundamental edge of
the Low Rider. Much to my horror I had become a total Harley devotee.
As the bank payments were
threatening to cut off my petrol money the GSXR had to go.....the Harley's
original owner had found out the true nature of his wife by then and needed
some highway excess to bring him back to life. Poor chump kept the Suzi at my
house for the first couple of weeks until he could summon the nerve to inform
his wife about the terrible deed. We'd come full circle and were once again
eyeing each other to see who would try to outdo the other with a more
outrageous machine - always fancied one of those Heritage......
Source Dick Williams