In the motorcycle world, Harley-Davidsons are a lot like Jeeps: you either get them or you don’t. And I’m not going to lie, I’ve always counted myself among the “don’ts”. Although I have been sufficiently intrigued and impressed by Harley’s recent efforts to diversify, such as the Live Cable and the Pan America Special, the traditional big V-twin cruisers that defined the company never did anything for me. Even BMW’s attempt to make a traditional Harley, the R 18left me flat.
So when the opportunity arose to review one of Harley-Davidson’s latest models, the 2022 Low Rider ST, I accepted it with a sense of bewilderment and morbid curiosity. I expected to hate the thing and all its chrome and tassels and what would surely be an outrageously obnoxious exhaust.
And then the delivery van came and drove this and I suddenly realized that I was going to let my preconceptions take over me. I mean, there was hardly any chrome on the thing other than the levers and pushrods. It was tall, sure, but somehow the long, low stance that defines this bike made it look almost svelte. The plain gray paintwork without a hint of shine paired with matte black, everything else looked neither pompous nor overbearing. It just looked mean.
The 2022 Harley-Davidson Low Rider ST brings bags to the party
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This murderous look even helped hide the overwhelming number of shield and bar logos. HD signage is absolutely everywhere, even embossed in the tire tread and printed on the drive belt. For someone who doesn’t consider themselves a member of the faithful, this was a bit difficult to understand.
The basic concept of the bike itself is also perhaps a bit difficult to process. The recipe goes like this: take the 2022 Low Rider S, an intentionally stripped-down performance cruiser, then add a larger fairing and bags, building it halfway to a true touring machine like the Street Glide. The T in ST is indeed for “touring,” and at first glance the existence of this bike seems to slice too thinly an already narrow segment.
But stay tuned, because the minds of Milwaukee know exactly what they’re doing. With the ST, Harley-Davidson took inspiration from California custom cruisers—low, long, fast bikes that didn’t drop their bags along the way. And so the ST packs a pair of svelte saddlebags, not big enough for a helmet (at least not one my size) but offering enough volume to swallow clothes and miscellaneous for a weekend getaway. More likely they’ll hold a set of wetsuits for work and maybe an adult drink or two for after hours, but if you want to ride with a little less girth they pop off in seconds with a locking mechanism smart and simple.
Up front is a slender fascia, visually similar to that of the Road Glide but much smaller, offering a bit of respite from highway speeds but barely a cocoon. Your feet and legs are left trailing in the breeze on the high and mid-mounted stakes. The bars, meanwhile, sit on generous risers and those two points of contact correspond to a low solo seat, forcing you into the arms-up, feet-forward posture that will hurt you for a run down Highway 1. .
Instead, I took it for a cruise on the New York State Thruway and a U-turn around Lake George. I had missed the Americade for a few weeks, but so much the better, I prefer the empty roads to the spectacle. Before getting to the freeway, I had to drive through an endless sequence of crushed and ripped roads as the local DOT crews are really doing their job. I had to pass half a dozen “motorcyclists use extreme caution” signs.
There was no need to worry. The ST just rolled over the grooved and ridged pavement without the slightest hint of wobbling or weaving, soaking up the rougher transitions without knocking me out of the saddle. That stability carried over onto the highway, where the bike was rock solid in crosswinds and even when overtaken by a semi with a long way to go and seemingly little time to get there. .
I was never able to get comfortable behind that non-adjustable fairing. I’m 6ft but have short legs. In other words, I’m sitting up straight and it left my helmet shaking in the wind that blew over the top of the windshield. Closing the vents on my headset helped quell some of the weirdly loud vibrations, but another inch of screen would have done me better.
These vibrations were much stronger than the bike itself, which surprised me. Harley’s “Heavy Breather” intake-fueled Milwaukee-Eight 117 V-Twin looks downright civilized, only letting out a low, raspy bark when you summon all of its 103 horsepower and 125 pound-feet of torque. That last figure is available at 3,500rpm, but there’s plenty of twist throughout, ensuring you won’t have to worry about flicking the six-speed transmission too often.
It’s a shame because it moves very cleanly. The brakes, too, work well, but feel good and are supported by ABS. There’s no traction control, though, so be careful where and when you dip into that throttle. I spun the rear tire unintentionally a few times, but considering there’s 720 pounds of American steel to accelerate, you can forgive the thing for giving up grip every now and then.
During my ride, I wasn’t really taking charge, but I got a solid 50 mpg, which means a theoretical maximum range of 250 miles from the generous 5-gallon tank. That said, the digital gauge on this tank is extremely unpredictable. I rode for almost 100 miles before it showed anything but full. Later in the ride it went from 30% left to flashing the fuel light in less than 30 miles.
Another complaint concerns the optional Rockford Fosgate audio system, which is integrated into the fairing. Now I enjoy the clean integration and simplicity of the Low Rider ST bars with just the tiniest of LCD screens integrated into the upper handlebar clamp. However, the bike offers nothing beyond the bare minimum of controls for the bike itself.
Everything about media, including volume, should be controlled through your phone. As you can imagine, it’s a little tricky when driving. I queued up Lizzo for a bit to test the speakers, turned the volume up uncomfortably loud, then hit the highway. Even its glorious pipes stood no chance against the Low Rider STs. At high speed, I couldn’t hear anything, so I stopped at a rest area to adjust the volume. As I stopped, the music was again so loud I knew I was a rolling nuisance. A road tripping family trying to enjoy their sandwiches on a picnic bench deservedly gave me a dirty look. I couldn’t in good faith crank up the sound system even louder, so I just turned it off. Sorry, Lizzo.
I admit that I hate speaker systems on motorcycles anyway, and this experience has only soured me further. But that’s really a minor weakness and, since it’s an option, I certainly won’t hold it against the bike itself.
While on the surface the Harley-Davidson Low Rider ST appears to be another sprawling half-tone in Harley’s already hefty palette of offerings, it presents itself in its own right as a motorcycle that’s not just fun to ride. to look at and to drive, but which has just enough practicality to be not only a toy but a real part of your life. It’s good enough for me to finally get it.