2016 BMW r1200r vs 2016 Harley Davidson Low Rider (FXDL) RoadCarver

2016 BMW r1200r vs 2016 Harley Davidson Low Rider (FXDL)

R1200r vs FXDL Low Rider, really?

What a strange comparison.

This article is a quick comparison of the two bikes, not an in-depth review of each one. For full details, please refer to each bike's full review in a separate article.


  • The same year (2016)
  • Similar price: ~24k (AUD) retail
  • Same target age group
  • Twin Cylinder
  • I've had both of these bikes in my garage for a longer-term so have had a lot of time to reflect! I like them both so I'm not biased to one in particular.

Age group: Teenagers are not likely to buy these bikes, neither are pensioners. Some may argue about the Harley, but there are many models in the HD line up that are way more suitable for old folks. Similarly, the Beemer is typically out of the price range of young upstarts, and not quite the bulky/faired touring machine the old-timers are looking for.


The Harley goes well in its own right. The 1690cc powerplant moves the low rider along swiftly. A broad spread of power that kicks in right away. The characteristic shake on idle smooths out once underway. Some people complain about the shaking thing, but I quite like it. It lets you know you're are sitting aboard a big, powerful v-twin animal.

With Twin disc brakes and ABS, this is a Harley that finally has decent stopping power. The ABS works well, however, not quite up there with the refined systems on the BM. When the ABS does kick in, it switches on and off in very discernable half-second periods. A bit clunky, but works ok. On the BMW, the ABS action is barely noticeable, it just seems to keep braking. The power of the BMW Brembo brakes is outright insane. Probably the best I've ever used.

Despite the heft, the low rider never feels slow. It pulls strongly from any rev range in any gear and is quite deceiving. Without much fuss or revs, you'll be at 100kms in no time. Similarly, cornering clearance is decent on the HOG, and you don't drag anything on the tarmac easily.

Oddly there seems to be more windblast on the BM. Probably because you're perched on top of the bike rather than sitting 'in it' like on the low rider. The forward-leaning position on the r1200r counters this nicely, and at freeway speeds, you are left resting on the wind relieving your wrists.

The r1200r will smoke the Low Rider in any performance comparison; acceleration, speed, cornering, braking. (read the full review on the r1200r for more details), but the Low Riders dynamic are more than enough for the bike and enough to make it a fun ride.


The BMW r1200r as of 2015 was re-designed and sported an aggressive shape and a greater visceral appeal than the earlier conservative/bland boxer designs. It looks fast, just standing there. The bike (specifically the white with red frame) looks refreshingly modern, racy, while still very BMW. A bike a well funded 20-year old wouldn't be ashamed to ride.

The low rider, in contrast, is straight from the '70s with a timeless aesthetic Harley is well known for. Plenty of chrome combined with black paint, low slung seat and the thundering 103 ci (1690cc) gives the admirer plenty of eye-candy to feast on.

Its a fact, you do feel cooler riding the Harley Low Rider.


Short trips, they are both very comfortable. Upright in position and bars in a sport that you don't have to go fishing for them.

On longer trips, the BM is vastly better due to the advanced suspension seating position and gadgets (cruise control, dynamic & adjustable suspension, heated grips). That's not to say you can't do a long day on the Harley, I do it often but can certainly tell the difference in fatigue. As is typical of many cruisers, on the HD you are rocked back on your tailbone a bit which gets uncomfortable.

If I were planning a multi-day trip with 600kms a day, the BM it would be a natural choice from these two.

Ease of use:

Both are easy to ride. The Dyna Low Rider is remarkable easy to swing around, despite the weight and boasts relatively good ground clearance - you have to be going proper-quick to scrape the footpegs. The broad bars and low gravity centre on the HOG make it a smooth ride around town too. Surprisingly easy to corner.

The r1200r requires less effort in all areas; including clutch and braking force, manoeuvring at plodding speed and in a parking lot.

Controls and features on the Harley are pretty basic, but some new modern touches like range gauge, trip meters, keyless ignition and auto-arm alarm are convenient. The BM has all of this, except the alarm, and then a raft of other technology and features too long to list here. If you like a classic interface, you may not like the BM's space-age cockpit crammed with information.

On the opposite end of the scale, the main features on the Low Rider include a tachometer and speed gauge.


While similarly priced, the BMW r1200r (liquid cooled), is a far superior motorcycle in technical terms. It goes faster, stops faster, corners better, has better suspension, better riding two-up, better range and economy, less service required, a stack more gadgets.... need I go on?

So the BMW is the better motorcycle hands down, right? Meh. Yes, it is is, but the answer is more complicated.

On paper and numbers - technically speaking, Yes. Overall enjoyment from the bike they are about even - and that what it's about right?

So what has the Low Rider going for it?

The HOG oozes cool. The Dyna is one of the sleeker-looking models without all the extra pork and tassels. It's a work of art sculpted in metal. I definitely spend more time admiring the Low Rider. While not generally considered cutting edge engineering, Harleys today are far better than they were - and cheaper. No one can argue that Harley doesn't build a well-made motorcycle. Just about everything is made of metal, which obviously adds to the weight, but also the appeal. The bike feels super dependable and authentic, which in today's age of plastic is appealing.

The low rider feels formidable when you're riding it. The rumble of the engine, the solid feel combined with the low-end dollops of torque provides a unique experience. I've had Japanese cruisers, and they are good but they ain't Harleys.

It's fun to ride. Unless you want to go scraping your knees through the canyons, the Harley is as much fun as the Beemer - if not more so at moderate speeds. At low speeds, it's all Harley. While some of you may scoff, I'd say there is a particular pleasure in a bike that doesn't mind going slow. You'll know what I mean if your motorcycle is fuelled for a fire-breathing redline experience but hates low revs and stutters when going slow. The r1200 is not bad at cruising too, but doesn't match the Low Rider - it needs more revs to keep it alive.

If you like cruisers, the FXDL Low Rider is lean, and sporty by Hog standards and makes you feel like a total badass. While there are many cruisers brands - Harley Davidson still has the strongest and indeed is the grand-daddy and inspiration for all other cruisers out there. Might as well get the original.

There is plenty to like about the Dyna, and I'm not talking some mystical Harley character. This is truly a fine modern motorcycle with plenty of power, comfort and modern conveniences to suit today's rider. It's also outright beautiful and sounds amazing.

The BMW r1200r (liquid-cooled) is a sporty naked machine that will suit anyone from a sports orientated rider (not track), commuter, and nimble sport touring. (with a few additions).

The bottom line is, number and facts aren't the deciding factors that make you feel good. There are the aesthetic and emotional responses that technology alone doesn't always cover for.

While the BMW is the better bike technically, the Low Rider is just as enjoyable to ride and that why I have both in the garage!

One bike will never cover all bases. Stop trying to find the perfect bike!

Hope you enjoyed the review and please post your thoughts and comments below.

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