2015 Harley-Davidson Freewheeler Review

A trike for cruiser riders

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Trikes occupy a niche that is both inside and outside the motorcycle world. While they share attributes with motorcycles (the rider sits astride them, is exposed to the elements, and is vulnerable in an accident), trikes also share features of cars (they don’t depend on the rider to stand up and are steered, rather than countersteered). Typically, aftermarket companies produce trikes through extensive modifications to a motorcycle chassis, making Harley-Davidson the only motorcycle OEM to produce factory trikes. The Tri Glide has filled that slot in the Milwaukee company’s lineup for a number of years, but this year, it is no longer the sole trike on the Harley dealer’s manifest. For 2015, the Freewheeler doubles the number of trikes available from the Motor Company.

While the Tri Glide has been a successful model (and it returns for 2015 as the Tri Glide Ultra Classic), the Freewheeler (or FLRT) was designed to be even less intimidating for a new rider to operate. To that end, a great deal of effort was directed towards making the trike easier to steer. Additionally, the styling was directed towards making it “more like a cruiser and less like a trike,” according to Cole Harris from H-D Motorcycle Product Planning. Following along the same vein, Chief Stylist, Ray Drea, said that achieving this goal was an exercise in proportions. Where the Tri Glide was a big, touring-styled machine, the Freewheeler would become a more elemental ride.

Harley-Davidson Freewheeler

Stable at a stop, the Freewheeler features lower effort steering than its sibling, the Tri Glide.

The FLRT has no batwing fairing, and the front end is (both visually and physically) lightened even further by the shape and size of the seven-piece headlight nacelle. Similarly, the front fender was reduced in size and styled similar to that of a Fat Boy. The Tri Glide’s tour pack was removed and replaced with a more compact version in the rear. While the updated tour pack is three inches shorter, the trunk’s volume remains the same, and is claimed to hold two helmets. (Our experience was that, due to the shape of the trunk, a single XL full-face helmet barely fit, and a pair was impossible. So, the claim must be for smaller sized lids.)

Update: Harley-Davidson's PR person sent us a photo showing that two XL helmets do fit and provided the following directions: "The left side helmet should be installed sideways, then tilted backwards at an angle."

Update: Harley-Davidson’s PR person sent us a photo showing that two XL helmets do fit and provided the following directions: “The left side helmet should be installed sideways, then tilted backwards at an angle.”

The changed proportions of the Freewheeler also allowed for a bar bend rising 12-inches above the clamp to be positioned closer to the rider for easier operation while maintaining the cool ape-hanger style. Even the seat was reshaped to shift the rider closer to the bar. The result is a trike that has a lower and more rearward CG that Harley claims has reduced steering effort by 15–30%, although no explanation was offered as to how this figure was calculated.

The same air-cooled, High Output Twin Cam 103 with integrated oil cooler that powers the Tri Glide also motivates the Freewheeler. With a claimed weight of 1045 lb. “as shipped” (with 6 gallons of fuel, the weight goes up to 1081 lb.), the Freewheeler carries 135 lb. less bulk, so the performance should be sportier than that of its older sibling. The engine also features a handy reverse gear to make parking and U-turns easier.

Harley-Davidson Freewheeler

The seat offers good passenger accommodations with integrated grab rails and (under the black covers) a slip-in passenger backrest.

Riding the Freewheeler is similar to riding any name-brand trike. (Since we’re motorcycle riders and not daily trike users, our impressions will certainly be influenced by that perspective.) At parking-lot speeds, the Freewheeler is a breeze to steer, and the reverse is easy to use once the proper button-pushing sequence is mastered. A hot rod at heart, the Freewheeler’s power delivery is what we’ve come to expect from the HO Twin Cam 103, ample motivation at a wide variety of engine speeds. The transmission shifts smoothly, and the clutch slip function is appreciated on botched downshifts.

The suspension feels quite taut at low speeds, with the stiff back end bouncing over bumps. As the speed increases, the stiffness of the air-adjustable rear suspension begins to make more sense – on smooth roads. However, get on bumpy or broken pavement, and every surface irregularity can be felt in the seat of the pants. Braking is what you’d expect from a machine with two big rear tires and one tiny front one. The linked brakes and the trike’s rearward weight bias heavily favor rear brake use. In fact, try to stop quickly with just the front binder, and the petite contact patch cries out in pain fairly quickly. Using both brakes stops the Freewheeler in short order.

Harley-Davidson Freewheeler

From the saddle, the cockpit looks like any Harley two-wheeler.

The Freewheeler’s handling is the point where motorcyclists and trike riders part ways. Steering through a turn feels alien for motorcyclists, at first, but is easily adapted to after a short distance. However, when cornering, the laws of physics work against both the rider and the machine. Where corners press a motorcyclist into the seat, trike riders have to fight the forces that want to toss them off their perch. Up the speed, and the rider’s need to lean into the turn becomes apparent. When pushed even faster, a trike wants to lift its inside rear wheel. In tight turns on bumpy pavement, we were able to push the front end (understeer) when trying to initiate a quick turn – which is quite disconcerting if the double-yellow and oncoming traffic loom ahead. The final challenge of a trike is that, unlike single-track vehicles, which can go around obstacles in a lane, or dual-track vehicles, which can straddle potholes and the like, three-track vehicles’ contact patches have a much bigger challenge when avoiding road irregularities.

So, as motorcyclists, we have to wonder how trikes – once you look past the fact that they don’t require balance to ride at low speeds – are supposed to inspire confidence in newer riders when they are harder to handle on the road. We can’t help but think that, aside from those who have physical limitations that prevent them from riding a motorcycle (yet still want to get out in the wind), novice and less confident riders would be better served by smaller, low CG bikes like Harley’s Street 500 and additional training.

Harley-Davidson Freewheeler

The Freewheeler’s engine adds to the fun; the harsh rear suspension, not so much.

That being said, the Freewheeler is a sporty alternative to the larger, more expensive Tri Glide Ultra Classic. Weighing in at a base price of $24,999 for black (or $25,999 for Amber Whiskey or Superior Blue), the FLRT is $8,000 less than the Tri Glide and offers distinct styling and performance differences from the established trike. Riders interested in getting a sporty Harley trike, rather than a more touring-focused one, should take a serious look at the Freewheeler

+ Highs

  • Improved steering
  • Lighter weight
  • Hot rod styling
- Sighs

  • High cornering effort
  • Stiff rear suspension
  • Awkwardly shaped trunk
2015 Harley-Davidson Freewheeler Specifications
MSRP $24,999/$25,499
Engine Capacity 103.1 cu. in. / 1690 cc
Engine Type Air-cooled, High Output Twin Cam 103 with integrated oil-cooler
Bore x Stroke 98.4 mm x 111.1 mm
Compression 9.7:1
Fuel System Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI)
Transmission 6-speed Cruise Drive
Final Drive Belt
Frame Mild steel; square-section backbone with twin downtubes
Front Suspension 49 mm telescopic fork
Rear Suspension Air-adjustable
Front Brakes Two 4-31.75 mm front pistons and 2-25.4 mm linked rear piston calipers, 300mm disc
Rear Brakes Two 31.75 mm, single-piston caliper, 270.8 mm disc
Front Tire D408F 130/60B19 61H
Rear Tire D407T BW 180/65B16 81H
Seat Height 27.4 inches
Wheelbase 66 inches
Rake/Trail 26°/3.96 inches
Curb Weight 1081 pounds
Fuel Capacity 6 gal.
Observed MPG 39

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  • Kevin

    Evans, you might not see it this way and I’m not trying to start an argument, but I see the Spyder RS as a trike (though I see the Slingshot as a car) and a direct competitor for the Freewheeler:

    • Jason

      I agree, the Spyder is a direct competitor for the Freewheeler. The difference is that Can-Am put the double axle at the correct end of the bike. From a vehicle dynamics standpoint, rear axle trikes make absolutely no sense.

    • pwndecaf

      Much money saved, too. About $10k.

  • litedoc

    Two helmet capacity trunk might mean two “do-rags”.

  • RandleMcMurphy

    Once again, HD pays ZERO attention to rear suspension. Once again, another review on a new HD reveals that fact. No less a TRIKE! IMO, doesn’t it make sense that there’s an effort to have ample rear suspension on a machine that surely is produced to provide the comfort and stability 3 wheels provides? Why bother with 3 wheels if you have a $25K trike that when you “get on bumpy or broken pavement, every surface irregularity can be felt in the seat of the pants”?

    HD proves over and over again that even on it’s most expensive bikes, rear suspension is a completely overlooked component. It’s all about “looking cool” on rides to the pharmacy to pick up your pain medication for your bad back.

    Fail. Again. Big time. HD will spend time and money buffing and shining and polishing every part of their bikes to appeal to buyers with big $$. Buyers that apparently HD assumes have no knowledge about such things. That’s what they’re counting on.

    Your ignorance.

    • Buzz

      That darn Harley. Trying to make profit and stuff. Morons!

  • Nedemeyer Muldoon

    It’s bad enough that 3-wheelers are abominations and mutations of actual, real motorcycles, but to have Harley produce one is paramount to insanity. Taking a 1930′s technology irrigation pump motor and installing it in an inherently unstable frame and selling it for 26K is proof that there is a sucker born every minute.

  • michael jackson

    Let’s just call this the AARP Harley

  • http://batman-news.com george

    ..cool looking scooter..it will be affordable..to the masses. As the population gets older it will be an option. Towing may be easier I love the price..way to go Harley…cheers…

  • E8BILL

    Let’s just call this the AARP Harley , Or Lets call it the Disabled blown up Vet Harley (ME) Cause my legs are not strong enough to hold up My Glide Anymore. Sorry People like me wanting to enjoy the wind in our face still after fighting for our country. I apologize. Thanks Harley Just now if they could make it more affordable would be nice.

    • fastfreddie

      If not Harley stepping up to the bill,maybe look further east.Urals run forever,and much more practical.Granted accustically,it leaves one wanting,but there are options out there for everyone:)

      Edit:Just looked at the price.That’s just waaay out there.

      • Kevin

        If I were ever to take up residence in Northern Europe again (lived in Scotland for a couple of years,) I might consider the year round advantage of a 2wd Ural: But here, depending on the pricing, the new Spyder F3 would probably be me choice over this, but if the First Shirt wants to ride a Harley he has damned well earn the right to do it!

    • DickRuble

      I’d get myself a used convertible car. Cheaper, more reliable, far more comfortable, and all the wind in the face one can take.

  • TalonMech

    Point…Laugh.

  • sgray44444

    I would be FAR more likely to buy a Piaggio MP3 than this. I know many will disagree, but it’s just not a motorcycle (to me) unless it leans! In my book, that makes the mp3 more of a motorcycle than this.

  • Ed Modzinski

    This trike is stripped down as much as possible. No fairing, no tacometer, no back rest for the pasenger, no safety support such as anti-lock brakes, stability control and it’s not that cheap. Add on accessories that you would probably want and you could end up paying around $28,000 for it. An ultra-glide is loaded and costs about $33,000. The Freewheeler does not seem to be worth the money and for the price you could get a Mazda Miata for the open air feeling and year round use. I had a few bad accidents and think of them every time I get on the bike. I’m fine once on the road but I still have to be concerned with potholes, deer, and other road hazards. I have a Sportster 1200 Screamin’ Eagle stage 1 performance tuning, high air flow exhaust and intake. I’m convincing myself to keep the ’08 Sportster and buy a Mazda Miata instead of

  • f d

    i love the new black 2015 harley freewheeler . i believe it is the best trike ever designed by any motorcycle company . i am ready to put one in my garage . my highest compliments to harley .

  • BBunsen

    $25k, 1100 lbs, handles like a pig. What’s not to like?

  • frankfan42

    Is the rear suspension

  • drdr445yahoocom

    My equilibrium is off I want to thank You for making this bike.

  • Thomas Hamill Jr

    i was hit by a 70 year old woman in a Chevy and lost my right leg from below the knee and had my elbow crushed and the ligaments in my thumbs tore out i got my 87 lowrider fixed and if i had looked under the tri glide i got i would have never bought it with no differential in the rear if you go to fast around corners the front end jumps up and down and i have owned a can -am spider if it wasn’t for the resale value i would have sold the tri glide in a heart beat 33 thousand dollar piece of SHIT