2016 Harley-Davidson Low Rider S

Editor Score: 82.75%
Engine 17.5/20
Suspension/Handling 12.5/15
Transmission/Clutch 8.0/10
Brakes 7.75/10
Instruments/Controls4.0/5
Ergonomics/Comfort 8.0/10
Appearance/Quality 8.5/10
Desirability 8.5/10
Value 8.0/10
Overall Score82.75/100

Harley-Davidson doesn’t ask for much, says U.S. PR Manager Jen Hoyer, only to: “1. Lead in every market. 2. Grow the sport of motorcycling in the U.S., in part by growing the number of core customers and growing U.S. outreach at a faster rate. 3. Grow U.S. retail sales and grow international retail sales at a faster rate. 4. Grow revenue and grow earnings at a faster rate through 2020. 5. Outperform the S&P 500.”

Alrighty then, and with that business out of the way, one of the ways they’re going to accomplish that is with this new Low Rider S, giving the primary market (“young adults seeking an aggressive looking cruiser that delivers on power and performance, packaged in a raw, dark looking motorcycle”) what it wants. That would be a blacked-out hot rod, with more power and premium-riding suspension.

What you get is H-D’s 1801cc air-cooled, Screamin’ Eagle Twin Cam 110 engine, said to be good for 115 lb-ft of peak torque at 3500 rpm – mated to a 6-Speed Cruise Drive transmission. That engine’s rubber-mounted in your basic Dyna chassis, and suspended at the rear by a pair of Premium ride emulsion rear shocks “with enhanced compression and rebound damping control” (sourced from Showa), and up front by a “Premium ride” 49mm single cartridge front suspension.

The Twin Cam 110 inhales through this Heavy Breather Performance Air Cleaner, which is somehow not nearly as loud as you’d expect. If it rains hard, you put the little sock on it that you won’t forget to keep in a pocket. Harley says it produces 115 lb-ft of torque at 3500 rpm when measured at the crankshaft.

The Twin Cam 110 inhales through this Heavy Breather Performance Air Cleaner, which is somehow not nearly as loud as you’d expect. If it rains hard, you put the little sock on it that you won’t forget to keep in a pocket. Harley says it produces 115 lb-ft of torque at 3500 rpm when measured at the crankshaft.

The “S” stands for Sport when we’re talking Harleys, so along with the premium suspenders and heavy breathing motor, you get sporty ergonomics, consisting of a semi-flat handlebar and mid-mount footpegs on a platform that’ll let you heel over up to 30 degrees (give or take half a degree).

I can’t remember any manufacturer staging a press ride up the Angeles Crest Highway, which winds its way high into the mountains from here in our own little SoCal sandbox, but that’s what H-D did with the LRS. It was a nice-enough ride up the back way via Big Tujunga, but we also stopped a few times to shoot photos and schmooze. After lunch at Newcomb’s Ranch, though, when it was time for the non-stop flight to L.A. back down the Crest, it seemed like Paul James, H-D Product Planning Director (and longtime Buell/XR1200R racer) was in a hurry to get back to the hotel?

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Granted, 30 degrees of bank angle is not optimal for sport riding, but by the time the footpeg feelers and a little unnecessary undercarriage are ground away, let’s call it 33 degrees: That’s almost enough for public roads if self-preservation is anywhere toward the top of your priority list: The S is an exhilarating ride as long as you think in cruiser terms. Downhill is preferred; 115 lb-ft at 3500 rpm is a lot of torque, but the downside of that is the rev limiter cuts in at 5500 rpm, and when you’re spinning the big V-Twin up in the high end of its range, its fueling is pretty herky-jerky as you attempt to smoothly modulate throttle while keeping the 674-pound Hog between the lines. The abrupt power doesn’t upset the bike though, thanks to pretty dialed suspension and the fact that 2.13 inches of rear wheel travel isn’t really enough to allow much front-to-rear weight joggling.

030416-2016-harley-davidson-low-rider-s-loriders6

But leave it in a tall gear and let it roll, and the S is a happy, stable pussycat, even if it feels more like a big old ’80s superbike with its heft, bias-ply tires, and the fact that you need to include ground clearance in every corner calculation (it’s why they invented “hanging off,” children). In spite of that, one kid on a new Ninja (which might be the perfect bike for downhill on the Crest) waved us on by.

The “speedscreen” knocks a bit of wind off your chest. The tachometer is the bottom gauge, pretty impossible to safely consult when you’re flogging the Hog. A cool ZX-10R-style multicolor digital bar graph tach across the inside of the fairing would’ve been cool for me, but the lead designer seemed aghast at the thought. All is forgiven thanks to the little cruise control button on the left housing below the turnsignal button.

The “speedscreen” knocks a bit of wind off your chest. The tachometer is the bottom gauge, pretty impossible to safely consult when you’re flogging the Hog. A cool ZX-10R-style multicolor digital bar graph tach across the inside of the fairing would’ve been cool for me, but the lead designer seemed aghast at the thought. All is forgiven thanks to the little cruise control button on the left housing below the turnsignal button.

Well, that’s not really the kind of riding most Harleys are meant for, but the S comported itself way better than I would’ve expected (and I’ve only ridden that road 1000 times), so big fat MO kudos to Paul James and crew for having the courage to take us there on the Low Rider, and reminding us that it’s not the speed of the bike so much as it is the speed of the road: Where a BMW S1000RR is yawning as you roll down through the Crest’s fast sweepers as quickly as you dare, the Hog is sweating to a vintage Jane Fonda workout tape on the VCR, and that’s in fact a lot of fun, maybe more fun, in a completely different way. It’s that old saying about riding a slow bike fast, except that this Hog’s not that slow it’s just Large.

The latest in 300mm floating discs mounted directly to the 19-inch wheel meets the latest Michelin bias-ply rubber – the company that invented motorcycle radials in 1984. It all works. ABS is standard with the ABS sensor cleverly hidden in the wheel bearing.

The latest in 300mm floating discs mounted directly to the 19-inch wheel meets the latest Michelin bias-ply rubber – the company that invented motorcycle radials in 1984. It all works. ABS is standard with the ABS sensor cleverly hidden in the wheel bearing.

Meanwhile in the big city below, people seem to get out of your way on this bike. Is that a Son of Anarchy? Look, it’s the whole gang! The seat’s down there low, at 27 inches. My 30-inch legs like the mid-mount footpegs way better than forward-mount ones, but taller guys ride with their knees higher than their hipbones. H-D will be more than happy to fix you up with a different handlebar if you don’t like this one (it could come backward an inch or two for my short-fingered vulgarian taste). Another problem my stubby left leg has that I don’t remember having on other Big Twins, is that my left calf touches the derby cover when I’m stopped. It’s hot even on a cool day.

Undeniably hip Magnum Gold Split 5-Spoke wheels (okay, five pairs of spokes) are inspired by ’60s-style mag wheels, and cover your ears while we hearken back to the old XLCR with that headlight/fairing and gold badge.

Undeniably hip Magnum Gold Split 5-Spoke wheels (okay, five pairs of spokes) are inspired by ’60s-style mag wheels, and cover your ears while we hearken back to the old XLCR with that headlight/fairing and gold badge.

I actually had to check the spec again, but 2.13 inches is the claimed rear wheel travel: Given that, the “Premium ride emulsion shocks” do an amazing job ironing out the bumps, and no seating complaints from me. With a more pulled-back handlebar, I could go places on this bike as it also has the Magic Button, that’s right, cruise control, right there on the left handlebar – standard equipment on the Low Rider S, along with ABS and H-D’s security system. I’d be going it alone, though, since there’s no place for hangers-on on the LRS.

These Showa shocks and their dual-rate springs deserve a medal for making 2.1 inches of wheel travel seem like enough.

These Showa shocks and their dual-rate springs deserve a medal for making 2.1 inches of wheel travel seem like enough.

At the end of the day, maybe you’re just a Harley person or you aren’t. Lately as I mature, it’s a little surprising how some people you’d never suspect become one. A good friend just traded in his KTM Super Duke 990 for a previously owned Low Rider, as a matter of fact. He’s not down to his last resort yet, but is increasingly, annoyingly patriotic in this election year. Dais Nagao, H-D’s Tokyo-born Senior Stylist on this project and a lover of all sorts of classic ’60s objects of speed, worked on the Honda Fury, among many others, before jumping at the chance to come to work for Harley in Milwaukee. The man speaks of Harley in hushed, reverential tones, as if he were summoned to the Vatican by the Pontiff. Love it or hate it, H-D really is as “authentic” as motorcycles get.

Yours truly has to be impartial, the Ruth Bader Ginsburg of motojournalism. I wouldn’t want an LRS for my only bike, simply because it weighs 674 pounds. Not many days go by when I don’t ride my motorcycle, and I don’t want to wrestle a thing that big in and out of the garage every day even though I could use the exercise. But I definitely see the attraction for when the mission involves less business and more social trolling; it’s also a great bike for parking and admiring three or four months at a stretch, for people who live where that’s a requirement.

If the Low Rider S speaks to you and you can scrape up the funds, I find zero reasons why you should not have one.

030416-2016-harley-davidson-low-rider-s-lowriders3

2016 Harley-Davidson Low Rider S
+ Highs

  • Basic black big-block hot rod
  • Easy to clean your air filter
  • Cruise control!
– Sighs

  • I wouldn’t complain if the shocks were one inch longer
  • Instrumentation looks a few decades old (for many that’s a “High”)
  • Modern radial rubber might be a better choice for an “S” model
2016 Harley-Davidson Low Rider S Specifications
Engine type Overhead-valve air-cooled 45° V-twin
Displacement 1,801 cc (110 cubic inches)
Bore/stroke 101.6 x 111.1mm (4.0 x 4.374 in.)
Power N/A
Torque 115 ft-lb @ 3500 rpm
Compression ratio 9.2:1
Starter/battery Electric starter/12V 19Ah
Transmission 6-speed
Fuel system Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection; Rider-Initiated Engine Temperature Management System
Lubrication Dry sump
Primary drive Chain, 34/46
Final drive Belt, 32/66
Clutch 9-plate, wet
Frame Dyna, double-downtube mild steel, rectangular section backbone
Front suspension Premium ride, single cartridge 49mm fork; 5.1 in. travel
Rear suspension 2 Premium ride emulsion shocks; 2.13 in. travel
Front brake 2 300mm floating discs; four-piston calipers, ABS
Rear brake 292mm disc; two-piston caliper, ABS
Wheels front/rear Cast aluminum; 2.50 x 19 in. front, 4.5 x 17 in. rear
Tires front/rear 100/90B19 57H / 160/70B17 73V
Rake 30.5°
Trail 128mm (5.1 in.)
Wheel base 1630mm (64.2 in.)
Seat height 27 in. (685mm) unladen
Fuel capacity 4.7 gallons (17.8 L)
Curb weight (claimed) 674 lb. (305.7 kg)
Colors Vivid Black
MSRP $16,669
Warranty 24 months, unlimited miles

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  • DickRuble

    Don’t care for the bike but I like the review.

    • john burns

      dick, Dick Dick… it’s hard to see how moving them from the same place they’ve been since I got here in 1988 is going to lower costs? But I’m sure you know the way, let us have it man.

      • DickRuble

        John, john, john.. attaching two dials with a bracket to the handlebar simplifies manufacturing of the tank (fewer cuts and seam welds) and avoids a rather complex system to tie dials to the tank. Ask others if you don’t believe me.

        • Max Wellian

          Is there an echo in Here, here, Here?

        • john burns

          Unless they changed it during the Clinton administration, the tank is in two halves, with the gauges mounted up to the backbone right between them. About as easy (and cheap) as it gets. And the way they’ve always done it. Surprised you don’t know that. I should think you’d be able to extrapolate HP in your head given torque, rpm and your unshakeable faith in your own infallibility?

          • Buzz

            I used to have a coffee table book titled, “Dick Ruble’s great engineering achievements.”

            I can’t find it right now.

          • DickRuble

            If you’re an HD owner, you wouldn’t find your ass with both hands. Check the picture below.

          • Buzz

            I just checked my garage. I saw a BMW, Moto Guzzi and a Yamaha. You’re quite a Dick, guy.

          • Sayyed Bashir

            That’s exactly what I was going to say. The tank is in two halves, connected by a tube. The gauges as well as the ECU is in the middle, making wiring easier. The only thing coming in is the speedometer cable from the front wheel. As regards manufacturing costs, this is the cheapest Harley you can buy with a 110 motor and all the other goodies. The Sons of Anarchy guys will flip over it. This is the highest performance Harley since the FXR, which has been the favorite of MCs.

          • DickRuble

            You’re sure about that? You’d bet your house that’s how they are made? Hint, check the pictures above.

          • DickRuble

            Well, you said it. Now check the pictures above. Is that egg on your face?

          • Sayyed Bashir

            What pictures?

          • DickRuble

            scroll up two comments. the picture of the lowrider tank.

          • Sayyed Bashir

            OK, so you are right that it is an expensive gas tank to make, but each model has its own style, and this is the Low Rider style. HD has other models that have the speedometer on the handle bars. Using the gas tank with a single filler hole in it, it would look more like a Honda.

          • DickRuble
    • Douglas

      Us “real Harley riders” don’t need no dam “steam gauges”….rpm, mph, and other metric nonsense, we just KNOW! Those things are just there to satisfy some bureaucratic rule.

      • DickRuble

        Sorry.. I forgot these bikes are for Harley riders..They should mount them gauges on the sissy bar.

        • Sayyed Bashir

          All we need is the speedometer, to keep “smokey” at bay.

        • Douglas

          Yeah, well, sissy bars ain’t what they usta be. Now they’re short and have pads (at least most of ’em).

          • DickRuble

            Yeah, well, nostalgia ain’t what it used to be either.

          • noblsht

            Nostalgia is the pleasant emotional memory of the past when you’re too old to remember how bad it really was.

    • Sayyed Bashir

      Harleys are about style first, functionality second. Why would anyone need to look at the tach anyway? My bike doesn’t have a tach. This is not a sport bike where you have to watch the tach all the time. If you have ridden a Harley for a while, you know the engine rpm by the sound and vibration and know when to shift up and when to shift down. What else do you need the tach for? It is not a high revving engine. 3500 rpm peak torque. 5500 rpm rev limiter.

  • 12er

    Harley Octane?

    • Sayyed Bashir

      The Victory Octane may or may not sell that well, but this Harley Low Rider S is a winner and will fly off dealer showroom floors for many years to come. Better reserve yours now. The FXR is still in high demand after 34 years.

  • http://www.motou.info Gabe Ets-Hokin

    “the Hog is sweating to a vintage Jane Fonda workout tape on the VCR”

    Classic Burns! (takes Cuervo shot)

    • Born to Ride

      I was genuinely amused by “…by the time the footpeg feelers and a little unnecessary undercarriage are ground away, let’s call it 33 degrees: That’s almost enough for public roads…”

      Burns always manages to get a chuckle out of me.

    • john burns

      wished I’d thought to bring like pink leg warmers.

  • Randy Darino

    an extra inch of rear suspension,2 up seat with passenger pegs and a slightly lower price and it would be perfect.

    • Sayyed Bashir

      Less than $16,500 for a 110 cu in Harley with ABS, security system and cruise control? You must be dreaming.

    • Born to Ride

      This bike has to honestly be the best bargain of any Harley. When the new fixed fairing bikes are sitting on the showroom floor of my local Harley dealer for 30 grand and up, you better be glad this “Screamin Eagle” thing isn’t pushing 25 big ones.

  • Born to Ride

    Oh you did it now Burns. Sayyed flamed me pretty good when I implied that this bike would be more pleasing to park in your garage than ride everyday. You outright said it haha. Prepare yourself for a diatribe.

    • Kenneth

      Mr. Burns said, “it’s also a great bike for parking and admiring three or four months at a stretch, for people who live where that’s a requirement.”
      He didn’t say that the bike would be more pleasing to park than ride every day.
      There’s a bit of a difference, there.

    • Sayyed Bashir

      I don’t buy bikes just to look at. Harleys may not be for twisty mountain roads but they are great for commuting and long distance riding. The weight makes them stable and comfortable. And as Burns himself said “people seem to get out of your way on this bike”. They don’t do that for sport bikes.

      • Born to Ride

        This is why if I have an opportunity to follow some fool on a straight pipe Harley down the 91 freeway, I take that shiz every time. It’s like the red sea of traffic parts for the Moses-bearded 1% riding contingent.

        • Sayyed Bashir

          You said it! You can follow me anytime, that is if you can keep up with me.

          • Born to Ride

            Haha shouldn’t be a problem with the size of the berth cagers give you guys. My problem is that Harley riders often attempt to do the “courteous” thing when they see me in their mirrors and wave me by. In doing so, they reduce my likelihood of reaching my destination in one unbloodied piece by at least a factor of 2.

          • Sayyed Bashir

            That is the first time I have seen the word “courteous” used in the same sentence as “Harley riders” in this forum. What is the world coming to? They think you want to go faster than them so they let you go by. That is the biker thing to do. I have seen vehicles go all the way on the shoulder to let me go by. I do not have loud pipes. Maybe they think I will break off their mirrors. I keep my headlight on high beam as recommended by CHP. Funny thing is, they do not get out of the way when I am on my KTM 1190 Adventure R.

          • Born to Ride

            I don’t care what kind of bike you ride so long as you actually ride it, and aren’t an asshole about it…

          • Kenneth

            You’re “…the fool on a straight pipe Harley”?
            That explains everything.

          • Sayyed Bashir

            I have original factory pipes. John Burns also didn’t have straight pipes or a Moses beard but people got out of the way for him. It is not the person on the bike, it is the bike.

  • Craig Hoffman

    I can see Burns now, hopping on the 300cc Kymco scooter for urban runabout missions, then pulling LRS out for more serious impressing the public work. That arrangement actually makes a certain amount of sense, but I am sure the Faithful would hang such an infidel, just like the SAMCRO crew took care of their business…

  • Buzz

    Damn you JB with your cleverly-worded, perfectly informative reviews! Now I want this damn thing.

    My first H-D was a 1996 Low Rider. I added the detachable windshield and detachable sissy bar and it could go from tourer to profiler in a jiff. Of my three Harleys, the Low Rider was always my favorite.

    The mid-mount controls are great and it’s easy to add a set of highway pegs. You can even shift with your heel and pretend you have forward controls.

    There’s no room in the garage right now and I’m not willing to give anything up at the moment. I can always rent one I suppose.

    I hold a carton of smokes high in the air in your honor.

    • Sayyed Bashir

      I was desperate to get this bike, but after getting two speeding tickets on my 2007 Softail Custom in the last few weeks, I don’t want to tempt fate any further.

      • Buzz

        Yeah 65 HP can get a guy in a lot of trouble. You don’t anything to do with 72!

        • Sayyed Bashir

          In sixth gear you can do 130 mph on mine. Theoretical limit is 157 mph.

          • Buzz

            Your theoretical chances of death on a softail at 130 mph are pretty high.

          • ADB

            Ha! Now that was funny!

          • Sayyed Bashir

            Chances of death on any bike at 130 mph are pretty high. One does not ride a motorcycle if one is afraid of death.

      • Craig Hoffman

        It works like that. One can go for years without interaction The Man, and then bam bam! Hit twice. Sorry to hear it. Getting hassled by the man for having a little mild mannered fun sucks.

        One can get in trouble with 33 horsepower. I an ’83 XL600 back in the day, was really good at riding wheelies on it. Could go through all 5 gears, and just balance the thing as long as the road was straight. Naturally the cops took a dim view of that. Rode over medians, and other stuff to get away. Sold and confined such antics to the dirt bike. To this day as a 54 year old old dude, I avoid the strong desire to obtain a big motard bike like a KTM 690 or Husky TE 630. I know what would happen 😉

        • Sayyed Bashir

          I got two speeding tickets last year in May when I went to the Overland Expo in Arizona on my 2015 KTM 1190 Adventure R. I thought that was the only bike I could get tickets on and the Harley was slow and safe. Unfortunately I have to commute daily on the most heavily patrolled section of I-80 in Northern California. There is no escaping The Man. I believe the speed limits should be different for bikes compared to cars and trucks because they are so light, agile and maneuverable with excellent brakes. If the speed limits could change anywhere, it would be in California. After all we are the only state where lane sharing is allowed and motorcycles are allowed in carpool lanes. Also in the interest of cutting pollution and green house gases and traffic congestion and reducing our dependence on foreign oil, the state should encourage more motorcycle use. And what better way to do it than establishing a separate speed limit for motorcycles?

          • Craig Hoffman

            How about optional graduated competency testing for drivers? Earn the right to drive faster and get special different color “high performance driver” plates on your vehicles. Crappy drivers with a history of accidents, teenagers and old ladies, would be confined to the right lane with the “dunce plates”. That would rock.

          • Sayyed Bashir

            That would work, but it would make it harder for CHP to enforce speed limits. Every time they see someone speeding by, they would first have to note what color plates the vehicle had before giving pursuit.

        • Sayyed Bashir

          The only reason I haven’t bought the 2016 Low Rider S yet is that I cannot get a decent trade-in value for my 2007 Softail Custom which has 143,000 freeway miles on it and which has been dealer maintained since I bought it. It is worth a lot more to me than to the dealership which has to get rid of it.

    • Ian Parkes

      Phew! I’m glad you thought that because I was a tad concerned he’d opened the kimono a bit too far in exposing its horribleness. Truly a masterful exhibition of funambulism.

  • Starmag

    There’s times I really envy your job. This wouldn’t be one of them.

  • Sayyed Bashir

    A Harley review by a sport bike enthusiast. Good job MO.

  • Warren W. Weiss

    It shouldn’t be long before Progressive offers a rear suspension upgrade. They might have something already.

  • TheMarvelous1310 .

    This is the exact Harley-Davidson I’ve been waiting for. I’ve said that so many times but it’s still so true, the only thing I would change is to add two inches to the rear shock travel. And scrape three grand off the price tag.

    • Sayyed Bashir

      Do you want to downgrade to a 103 engine, no ABS, no cruise control, no security system, no heavy breather, no ECM recalibration, and standard wheels? The regular Low Rider sells for $14,400. That’s $2300 less.

      • TheMarvelous1310 .

        I thought about it, I really did. But I wouldn’t know how to go about bobbing my own fenders, and I kinda do need those rims.

    • Ian Parkes

      There’s a reason the rear shock has so little travel – the lack of room on the low rider frame. I guess they could try and lay it down but obviously looks are more important.

      • TheMarvelous1310 .

        Well, it is called the Low Rider. If and when they make another Super Glide, then I’ll be unforgiving about the travel.

  • Jamo11

    They really should have put it in the Street Bob or Fat Bob. The Low Rider is for girls.

    • Born to Ride

      Lol, why is it that every Harley that actually looks nice is “for girls”?

      • Ian Parkes

        They should all be promoted that way, then perhaps there would be fewer fat old men riding them.

        • Sayyed Bashir

          You have a lot of Harleys in New Zealand?

          • Ian Parkes

            Yep. Common as muck.

          • Sayyed Bashir

            Aww, I am sorry they spoiled your riding fun by making the bendy roads easier and safer! Do you really have fat old men riding Hogs? New Zealand is one of the places in the world I like, even though I have never been there, but I have read about it and seen it in people’s riding videos and in TV documentaries. Chris Birch is there, doing crazy things with his KTM 1190 Adventure R, the exact same bike I have, but with 1/20th of his abilities.

      • DickRuble

        Why is it you find girl bikes nice? That is the questions.

        • Born to Ride

          Goddamn it ya got me. I must be a girl.

    • Sayyed Bashir

      He means the seat height is low so a lot of women buy it.

  • Ian Parkes

    “…Screamin’ Eagle…”? ( chuckles)

  • Ian Parkes

    Love the footpeg foundry fireworks in the photos as MrBurns customises the ground clearance.

  • CFLAP

    Or, head on over to your nearest Suzuki dealer and get yourself an M109 and save yourself a couple of thousand dollars while getting a liquid cooled, tech savvy, beast.

    • Ian Parkes

      Or a Triumph, which is both old school and modern – and it goes round corners.

  • Tom Dinchuk

    Hey John, I can give you plenty of reasons not to have one. Especially since my 2002
    Superglide Sport could blow this turkey into the weeds on any mountain road. Harley
    Davidson( take note); Design an updated version of the Sport by making it lighter (like mine), getting rid of that silly air cleaner and giving it adjustable suspension that has
    more than 2 inches of travel. Take a ride on an old Superglide sport and see if you don’t
    agree.

  • Jamo11

    I have to believe that next year there will be a Fat Bob S, or a Street Bob S. The Current Fat Bob has a High Output TC103. The current Street Bob has a (regular output) TC103. And then there are Softail models and this one with a TC 110 and HO103.

    I’d really like to know the performance differences.

    It’s getting so there are a lot of different displacement and performance versions of the Harley Davidson Twin Cam engine.