The 2022 Harley-Davidson Low Rider ST is a Two-Wheeled GT Car
Maybe this is part of the aging process, but I find myself increasingly drawn to grand touring cars in recent years. I should have noticed the early symptoms back in 2020 when I chose the relatively posh comfort of a Volkswagen Golf R over any one of the many Subaru STIs I test drove. Lately, my search history includes a lot more Toyota Land Cruisers and Porsche 911 Carreras than hot-blooded tuner cars or classics that have been stuffed to the gills with oversized crate motors. Apparently, seeing this big, old country of ours through a windshield is becoming more appealing just as collecting speeding tickets is growing old.
GT cars are perfect for people like me. They’re fast, comfortable, and generally look pretty fantastic. What a way to combine passions for driving and travel. If you get down to it, though, the GT lifestyle technically doesn’t require four wheels; it’s possible to balance on just two. Cue the newest model to roll out of Harley-Davidson’s Milwaukee factory: the 2022 Low Rider ST.
The bike’s predecessor, the Low Rider S, was unveiled in 2016. Back then, it used the Dyna platform’s dual rear shocks and a 110-cubic-inch Twin Cam engine. The current model has moved on to a single under-seat shock and the latest 117-cubic-inch Milwaukee-Eight engine. The inaugural Low Rider S was all about speed and attitude, which left it fairly Spartan in the amenities department. Harley-Davidson product planners sought to change that by adding a fairing and hard cases but needed to toe a fine line to avoid cannibalizing the company’s touring models.
So, how did they do? In short, very well. The Low Rider ST’s main attraction (in photos, anyway) is the just-right-sized fairing. By keeping it somewhat small and using a single headlight, Harley-Davidson maintained breathing room between the Low Rider ST and the touring-oriented Road Glide and Street Glide. By directing airflow through clever ducts and around subtle curves, the fairing reduces buffeting, turbulence, and noise to levels a clear shield or bullet fairing could never be expected to achieve. The hard cases are too small to store my full-face AGV X3000 helmet but they’re perfectly sized to carry my 20-liter backpack and a few other road trip essentials. It even has one of the most effective cruise control systems I’ve used, regardless of how many wheels are involved. I can’t help but recognize that all of this would have felt like mana from heaven during a certain trip through the Rockies.
Those details, combined with a seat that’s almost too good to be true, make the Low Rider ST an outstanding road tripper that wafts down the interstate effortlessly. Serious touring riders might point out that a real long-distance bike needs even more wind protection, larger side cases, an infotainment screen instead of a tiny digital speedometer, and floorboards instead of pegs. They might be right, but those components were omitted for a reason. Picking and choosing only the bare essentials of comfort freed up Harley-Davidson to spend consumer dollars on massive inverted forks, dual front brakes, and a ludicrously entertaining powerplant. The result is a sport-touring bike that can keep riders fresh until they reach a twisty road, then hustle along at a pace no 720-pound motorcycle should be capable of.
Pushing the Low Rider ST’s front tire into a corner takes some effort – it’s no sportbike, after all – but the road feel inspires confidence and the bike wears its weight surprisingly well. Watching the broad fairing plow an arc through the air is a lot like aiming the long hood of a GT car at an apex. Whacking open the throttle on two liters of V-twin power delivers an instant and cackle-inducing shove. Some brand purists might have had doubts when Harley-Davidson bestowed the Milwaukee Eight with four valves per head instead of two a few years ago, but I’m here to tell you it was a good call. Excellent, actually. On the other end of the rider spectrum, riders who look down their noses at air-cooled twins only do so because they’ve never held on for dear life as 117 cubic inches demanded to see their war face. Fortunately, enhanced braking components haul the whole package down to a reasonable speed well enough to keep the good times rolling in the right direction.
I’ve never considered myself a cruiser guy, but the Low Rider ST had me texting riding buddies to tell them that I’d seen the light. Maybe the majority of American motorcyclists are onto something. The Low Rider ST was designed to fill the gap between luxury tourers and hard-nosed street bikes, and it hit the target square in the bullseye. Sport-touring is a broad category – just like grand touring. Most of the attention has traditionally gone to bikes from Europe and Japan that are basically sportbikes with saddlebags – sorry, panniers – and higher handlebars. It’s nice to see a manufacturer push the other end of the spectrum with a cruiser that can legitimately hustle, even with an overnight bag and some camera gear.
After two weeks of riding the Low Rider ST all over southern Wisconsin, I can confirm that Harley-Davidson smashed the sport-touring fastball right out of the park. As I stepped away from the still-warm Low Rider ST and handed over the keys, I felt like a mature adult. I don’t need to fold my legs into a pretzel and light my hair on fire to have a good time; I can pack a nice lunch, take the scenic route, and act like a responsible member of society who just happens to enjoy a bit of speed every now and then.
And then came the next set of keys – ones that unlock a Fastback Blue hot rod with a shoulder-high handlebar, a shouty “1” graphic on the tank, and exactly zero effort made toward creature comforts. Oh, hello. Maybe I’m not completely grown up just yet.
Scott is a lover of motorized fun, whether on four wheels or two. A child of the ’90s, he has a particular soft spot for hatchbacks and believes all aging cars deserve a second chance at life. If he’s not behind a camera or a computer, he’s probably chasing down new coffee shops with his wife or throwing a frisbee for his dog.
The views and opinions expressed here are his own and may not align with the founders of Everyday Driver.