I picked up an 1987 FXRS-SP or Lowrider Sport in the summer of 2004. The bike had 19,000 km on it.
One of the previous owner(s) added forward controls and converted the front end to wide glide using the stock legs.
Once I did the usual maintenance, I rode the rest of the season trouble free.
The next spring however was a different story. The first thing to happen was the rear axle bearings failed. Then the speedo drive broke, the ground strap on the regulator broke, so forth and so on.
I got through that year and went over the bike top to bottom. That winter I added self cancelling signals, changed the rear pulley to a 65 tooth and lowered the bike using shocks from a dyna. This winter I plan to change the carb (junk), the cam, pipes and plan on raking the front using raked clamps. We'll see how far I get.
As far as overall rideability etc, the bike is pretty good with good mileage, good feel and is not bad for long trips. Adding bags and a windshield (for bugs mostly) sure help. The longest trip so far this year was just over 650 miles.
I bought my FXRS Convertible last year with 8000 miles on it (now 10000). Rode it 250 miles home and wondered what had I done! After 30 years of japanese bikes and one BMW, I thought I would try a Harley, and I was very disappointed. A friend advised to avoid the newer bikes as they were not so characterful and rebuildable as the last evo engine bike. I suppose he had a point, but the bike is so poor in so many ways, and it just eats money in servicing schedules.
I found the bike to be horrendously uncomfortable; changed the seat, handlebars, billet brakes etc, and just used it for Sunday short rides, buying a Kawasaki ZZR1200 for touring around on. They say Harleys have character and presence, but if you want to get on a bike and ride, there are better and cheaper alternatives to these.
Perhaps considering its age I'm being a little unfair, but I've had old GSX1100's that did everything much better than this.
I should do something with it; change it to how I would want it, or sell it on to somebody who will live the Harley thing.
Last summer I had three bikes in the garage; the ZZR, a BMW GS1150 and the FXRS. The Harley keys always remained in the drawer with the BMW & ZZR sharing equal honours; says it all really.
I've owned my 1987 FXRS since December, 2006. Injuries from a catastrophic work accident in 2004 were keeping me off my beloved rigid, kick-only shovelhead. While my BMW R1100R was still ridable with my limitations, it wasn't a Harley, and I missed being on a Harley.
I was at my local independent shop to look at a swing-arm frame for my shovelhead when I came across the FXRS. It had been destroyed in a fire, but was still solid when the shop owner bought it at auction. The engine was rebuilt to stock specs by a master engine builder. The only upgrades were an S&S Super E carburetor, Screaming Eagle cam, and Python pipes.
The bike was then styled to a customer's specifications, as a gift for her husband. She ordered wide-glide forks, dresser fenders fore and aft, a pseudo-fatbob tank, FXRP floorboards and shifter, studded Mustang saddle, a bunch of useless chrome covers and "Live to Ride" junk, and a gaudy two-tone paint-job with panhead tank emblems and silver-and-gold pinstriping. Surprise, surprise, the husband didn't like it, didn't ride it, and soon returned it to the shop for re-sale.
It sat on consignment for at least three years before I got to it, but I took it on a grueling test-ride, and it behaved admirably. A little slow off the line, but a screamer at speed, with good throttle response and superb shifting up and down. The owner had just dropped the price, and I was able to get a good deal on it.
Other than cosmetics (a major revamp!) the only mechanical repair I've had to do so far (knock wood) is replacing the clutch basket when one of the little spacer "towers" broke. I found a heavy-duty replacement, and haven't had a problem since.
So far as comfort goes: due to my injuries (including a broken back and nerve damage) I could not ride the frame-mounted seat. I bought a used FXRP saddle and springs, which set me up high enough off the frame to stave off pain from the back injury, and cushion the worst bumps and jolts. I sometimes get mistaken for a cop in traffic, but with the saddle and higher bars I'm able to spend all day in the wind without destroying myself.
As an added bonus, my wife (who has back problems of her own) can passenger pain-free on the FXRS. This is the only HD she's ever been comfortable on, and we tried a bunch of 'em!
I like my FXRS, and look forward to riding it for years to come.
Just purchased an 87 FXRC. I will be putting in a new cam, fat front forks, new carb, and various other goodies. I do like how the bike rides. A little rough around the edges, but I like to feel like I'm riding... not sitting on a cloud. I will update when I get some of the "upgrades" completed.
I've had my FXRS-SP for 10 years now. The only major issue I had was a leaky base gasket. After I replaced that one along with the rocker arm shafts that were worn in pretty close to limit, it now runs like a bat out of hell.
Of course it's Harley, but that's why I bought it. And the FXR is the best one they ever made.
I also have a Suzuki 1200, and that certainly is a different kinda fun.
But you will never get a bike that joins ALL attributes.
If you wanna race, you buy a race bike, you wanna do trail, you buy a trail bike... you wanna ride Harley, you buy a Harley. As simple as that :-)
I started riding in '67, on Honda step-thru 90s and such, moved up through the twins and then fours, with an occasional BSA twin, XT500 Yam, first year Virago 750 thrown in.
In '84 I got a used Sportster, quick, scary, and unreliable.
A few years later I bought a well-sorted '78 FXS Low Rider (old style frame) and while it ran well, it was not a technological or handling marvel.
In '89 I got a decent deal on a low mile '85 FXRS Low Glide, which was comfortable, reliable, and handled reasonably well. It was my only transport while I attended college and served an internship.
The next spring I traded it in on a new Fatboy, which was a huge mistake, the most evil handling machine I've ever owned. Fortunately I was able to sell it for more than I'd paid initially, and bought a dust-gathering new FXRT Sport Glide (Low Rider Sport with a full fairing and hard bags). It was a fantastic machine, handled great, the anti-dive fork worked well, loved sweepers, just an all-around excellent motorcycle. Not awkward like an FLH, not buzzy like a Sportster or foreign bike, just very well laid out, quiet, with decent acceleration, suspension, and braking.
As some here have said, though, improvements can be made: brake lines, solid bar mounts, maintenance access, but these motors will last forever if maintained properly. Note that the one weakness of Evo motors is that they will blow head gaskets if you ride them hard prior to the engine being fully warmed up. My FXRT was stolen prior to getting truly broken in, and was replaced by another FXRS, then building an FXRD custom, which I soon sold. I then switched to BMW airheads for that same sort of simplicity, that zen.
Whoever wrote above about their negative experience with their Low Rider Convertible... I don't believe you are getting the big picture. An FXR frame is super-rigid and really handles great, but one does need to learn how to get the best from it. Part of that is not running on old tires, adjusting shocks properly or replacing if they're damaged or have rust on the shafts (short shocks are bad news), and getting rid of those ridiculous rubber bar mounts helps with road feel. Just my experience, speaking for my own self.
But right now I've sold off all my Kaws and my Beemer, and I'm hunting an FXRS-CON, FXRS-SP, FXRT, FXRP, 1990 or newer. I know what works and what I like.
We have a 1988 HD FXRS SP. We love it. No more problems than with any motorcycle a person would buy. Maybe we are lucky. I think we've had less problems. I give it 5 stars.
I bought a brand new 87 FXRS-SP. I took it on numerous trips... Co and Sturgis a few times... I put over 20,000 miles on it and sold it in 1994. I miss the handling and ease of riding. I did it without a leak or problems... I now ride an Electra-Glide, and I miss the bare bones bike with great handling!