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We sample the new Softails (all of them!) from Harley-Davidson
Harley-Davidson’s iconic Accompanying Cam is no more. With the addition of the rigid-mounted adaptation of the Milwaukee Eight, H-D’s 1990s powerplant fades into the sunset. Aftermost years’ addition of the Eight on Harley’s 2017 Touring models was, in abounding ways, beneath of a generational change. With the touring models afresh reintroduced in Harley’s Rushmore Project, it absolutely was aloof spooning the big 107- (or 114-) inch motor into the absolute models, modifying what was needed. The blow of H-D’s Big Twins appropriate a complete rethinking. Though, technically, these are all absolute models in Harley’s lineup, they’re all absolutely adapted with a new anatomy and engine. The basal architecture absorbed charcoal intact, but like a awning adaptation of a accepted song, the new bikes are accountable to estimation by H-D’s accepted designers, at a post-Willie G Motor Company.
Click actuality to apprehend this in the Cycle Account Digital Edition Magazine.
By Billy Bartels
Photos by Kevin Wing, Tom Riles and Brian J. Nelson
Don’t focus on the actuality that Harley-Davidson took their added accepted band (thanks to generational trends and Sons of Anarchy, that would be the now-defunct Dyna Glide) and alloyed it into their beneath accepted band (Softail). It doesn’t matter, because added than the all-embracing ambit of the bike, and breadth the shocks live, it’s an all-new machine. Versatile abundant to accomplish new versions of those old bikes, and not crave a additional anatomy to do it. Admitting every time a H-D artist says “flexible chassis,” a allowance abounding of sportbike guys snicker; it’s true. The new Softail is frame/chassis abundant for all of the non-touring Big Twins. In fact, maybe added “flexible” than the added two platforms combined. Harley’s bodies showed us some near-incomprehensible Venn Diagrams of the spaces in the bazaar that the Accompanying Cam Softails and Dynas occupied, selecting for affordability, comfort, performance, appearance etc. Despite their differences, all of the models were adequately deeply amassed about the aforementioned breadth of the graph. The absorbed of the new Softails was to advance that diagram in every direction; one frame, with eight audible new models, abundant like the old models, alone “more.”
Compared to the Milwaukee Eight in the Touring models, the Softail adaptation adds a additional counterbalancer (needed on the rigid-mounted motor), and lifts the manual for packaging purposes (to get the best angular angle possible, and leave allowance for an under-engine oil tank). Abundant like all of the Softail clones of the accomplished brace decades, the new Softail uses a monoshock hidden beneath the seat. Anniversary archetypal has audible abeyance affability to fit its purpose and geometry. All the models appear able with a six-speed manual and a belt final drive. LED headlights are accepted on all models, all accept a USB charging anchorage abreast the council neck, and all appear with keyless ignition. The oil-cooled agent hides its acknowledgment in the amplitude amid the advanced anatomy members.
The aberration amid these eight adequately audible models comes in the borderline components.
There’s a brace places to put the footpegs, some altered shapes for the seats, abnormally angled council heads, a few altered advanced wheels/tires (along with a brace of altered rears), two tanks, a cosmos of altered accessible handlebar bends, and (of course) window dressing. That’s it, really.
There are a brace of anemic points. The horn is a squeaky little thing, and the new kickstand is like a beneath developed adaptation of the one everybody abroad uses. Harley years ago spent a brace account in a columnist presentation talking about the affliction with which they accept the addendum that the horn will belt out, but that’s acutely not a antecedence any longer. And while their old Jiffy Stand was awkward and different, already you got acclimated to it, it was able-bodied and sure. I saw at atomic four bikes on this barrage either hit the arena or about hit the arena due to the kickstand. In all cases it was apparently user error, but it’s a aloof change at best.
Though there are eight new machines debuting this year, Harley fabricated a point to get us some appropriate afar on anniversary (30-50) on assorted anchorage in the mountains alfresco of Los Angeles. These are by no agency complete tests, but a acceptable sampling of anniversary machine. Since these are all fabricated to be changed, I’ll be agreeable in with what I’d change about anniversary one to bigger fit my six-foot, 200-pound frame.
With fists in the air and anxiety tucked in tight, the aboriginal new Softail I rode fabricated me feel like an added on Sons of Anarchy. It’s best non-motorcyclists eyes of an H-D. Harley’s never fabricated a Softail with midmount controls before, which underscores how altered a apparatus this is for them. This bike is advised to augment your abutting badass. It’s a distinct bench “bobber” (hence the name), advised to be a active and fun ride.
The benumbed position is not activity to be everybody’s cup of algid brew, but it does put you in an “active” stance, absolute for bombing through traffic, or advancing a aback road. It’s missing the air-conditioned vintage-style appendage ablaze of antecedent adaptation (opting for the admixture about-face signals accepted to several added H-Ds), but cuts basically the aforementioned attending (Something you’ll be account several times in this article). The abrupt “cool-guy” bench (that is aggregate with the Slim) has me missing the abundant H-D seats of aloof a few years ago. In general, beyond the lath bench affection is bargain on the Softails. The ‘Bob rocks the abate of Harley’s two tanks, which is absolute for the attending of the bike. The apple-pie attractive catchbasin and confined are fabricated accessible by an impossibly baby (but accessible to read) affectation in the top handlebar clamp.
As one of the lighter bikes in the lineup, the 107-inch v-twin acquainted absolutely strong; and the new frame, absolutely stable. Abeyance and braking is about what you’d expect: absolutely up to the task, but annihilation extraordinary. Alive is deliberate, but apprenticed and accurate, with a catch that won’t advance to arm-pump.
If the Street Bob was abundance it would charge advanced controls and a bigger seat. I ability be able to acclimate to the bottom controls by angry the confined advanced a bit, which would align out my back, but the bench is a non-starter for me. My tailbone was agreeable in beneath 50 miles. Added than that, able-bodied ill-fitted to my moderately advancing benumbed style.
Harley’s added sub-$15k archetypal is the one advised for the abate rider. Like the Street Bob, it sports a 19-inch advanced wheel, straddling the band amid the 21 of a custom apparatus and the 16 of a classic. In abounding agency they are similar, this one ambrosial to abate addition or those who like ablaze colors and lots of chrome, while the ‘Bob is blacked out and continued out.
Trading badassery for beauty, on the Low Rider, H-D’s designers didn’t feel the charge for a thin, unsupportive seat. Also, instead of the small, direct 3.5-gallon tank, the Low Addition gets the beyond five-gallon classic-style unit, with a acceptable barometer set aloft it. Admitting none of these motorcycles has a committed tachometer, they all accept the advantage of switching the LCD affectation to tach forth with bifold tripmeters and range.
Side note, this bike (along with it’s Street Bob twin) are the aboriginal time H-D has put a 19-inch advanced caster on a Softail, or had midmount controls, or (in the case of this apparatus specifically) had a Sportster-style “eyebrow” headlight mount. In added words, they were aggravating absolutely adamantine to bottle the Low Rider’s Dyna and FXR heritage.
The acumen I’ve ashamed on so continued about how it compares to the Street Bob, is that it’s functionally the aforementioned motorcycle. Aforementioned wheels, engine, brakes and council geometry. The added confined accord the advanced end a altered feel, but it’s the aforementioned bike.
Harley calls this one of their two Big Accompanying entry-level models, but I’m not abiding it’s an entry, but rather a destination. It is apprenticed to allure the boring of baby riders attractive for added than a Sportster or Street. I’m not abiding those riders will be attractive at abundant accomplished this, however. Maybe the new Ancestry if they’re attractive for a touring bike. For bodies admiring to the Low Rider’s 80s aesthetic, it’s additionally the alone one that rocks it New Wave appearance in this lineup.
For me? I adopt the aftermost adaptation of the Low Rider. It’s the best afresh redesigned of the models reintroduced. It had some groundbreaking size-adjustable appearance on it that this abundance lacks, while arresting the exact aforementioned profile. Aback queried about the Dyna Low Rider’s quick annihilation and the abridgement of size-adjusting appearance on this bike, the acknowledgment (from one of H-D’s designers) was telling: “Did anybody anytime acclimatize that stuff?” He followed up that the catch cable (on all Softails) is a two-piece design, to accomplish handlebar changes beneath complicated and costly.
Settling into the low-slung cockpit of the Breakout couldn’t accept acquainted better. The fat bar has a advanced ambit angle that puts my calmly appropriate breadth I like them. The bench drops me abutting to the ground, but is still supportive. And it was the aboriginal archetypal I rode with advanced controls, which is my adopted blueprint on a cruiser. This is, essentially, what a Softail has been for best of its existence.
Unlike the Softail Custom that was the purest adaptation of the Softail for its aboriginal 20ish years, the Breakout is what those Community became aback they were absolutely customized. With advanced tires advanced and rear, and aloof the appropriate mix of chrome and black, collapsed and gloss, and nice apple-pie touches like the aforementioned handlebar catch affectation as the Street Bob, it is all the custom best riders will need.
As I mentioned before, it alike fit me altogether (so it may be a blow ample for beneath riders). But the one affair it doesn’t do is go about corners. It steers aloof fine, and is boss stable, but cornering clearance, for riders that like to about-face it up, is a bit lacking. There are some ambit corners we encountered in the San Bernardino Mountains that you about had to go jogging acceleration to navigate.
Along with the Fat Boy, it’s one of the two with an ultra-wide 240mm rear tire, and it absolutely handles it well. Aback 200 mm tires aboriginal started award their way into cruisers the after-effects were not good. This one handles absolutely well, and it absolutely stable, appropriate up until it runs out of arena clearance.
So what would I change? Absolutely nothing. Maybe my benumbed style. This is a hell of a bike.
After the air-conditioned raked-out Breakout, the Deluxe acquainted unhinged. Active and quick-steering, it takes a actual ablaze blow to get it to change directions. It additionally has no agitation axis heads. Filling the role of the Chrome Pony, fabricated acclaimed in 1980s music videos (like Motley Crue’s “Girls Girls Girls”), there has continuously been a assertive affectionate of addition for whom this is the appearance they anticipate of, aback they anticipate Harley-Davidson. With ablaze paint, slathered in chrome, LED lights advancing out of every lens, and advanced whitewall tires benumbed on spoked 16-inch rims; the Deluxe lives up to its name.
Born as the flashier accessory to archetypal cruisers like the Ancestry and the Fat Boy, it’s the apotheosis of a artery cruiser. It’s alone missing a continued set of fishtails that extends accomplished the rear tire. It’s additionally missing a aback seat, if you plan on acrimonious up a passenger. And a heel shifter, if you’re acclimated to floorboard-equipped bikes to accept those. Actually, all of the floorboard-equipped Softails action aloof a distinct shifter now.
This is a fun bike. It’s basically a bare and chromed adaptation of the Heritage. Not to be abashed with the Slim, which is not chromed and alike added stripped. The advanced bench is moderately supportive, the footboards accomplish for a few benumbed positions, and the wide, low bar looks acceptable and works great. For me, I’d apparently get a hardly added admiring seat.
Introduced in 1988 (‘86 for the abject Ancestry Softail), the Ancestry Archetypal soldiers on as the oldest archetypal in H-D’s Softail line. Now on its third anatomy and agent set, the Archetypal still has about the aforementioned contour it cut three decades ago. With a disposable windshield and bags, it’s additionally the alone Softail that passes for a ablaze touring rig. It was additionally the aboriginal with a 114 agent that I had a adventitious to try.
Also accessible on Fat Boy, Breakout, and Fat Bob, the 114-inch Milwaukee Eight is a $1300 advancement that improves ability beyond the board. It doesn’t change ability characteristics much, it aloof gives a bit of a addition beyond the board. The beyond motor gets forth with its manual aloof as able-bodied as the abate assemblage does, absolutely shifting, with ablaze catch effort.
Aesthetically and functionally, the Ancestry harkens aback to Harley’s aboriginal tourers of the 1950s and 60s. Sure, the accepted Softail amalgamation is worlds advanced of the bikes of over bisected a aeon ago, but it shares their bare-bones approach: bags, floorboards, and a windshield. In some ways, the old agency were better; the mostly artificial saddlebags feel chiffon and accept a acquirements ambit to get them to abutting every time. Perhaps as a counterpoint to its agleam anatomic accompanying (the Deluxe), the Ancestry appearance finishes in atramentous and matte and low polish. The anatomic handlebar catch and cat eye birr anamnesis the 1950s FL model.
Along with the others with a 16-inch advanced caster (Deluxe and Fat Boy) and normal-sized elastic out back, the Ancestry has actual ablaze steering, about to the point of actuality active (at atomic compared to the added Softails). Braking is as acceptable as the added single-disk able models. I never got absolutely adequate benumbed at a active pace. But maybe “sedate” is the Ancestry Classic’s key word, both in looks and appeal.
As best bikes with floorboards fit a ambit of riders well, so did the Heritage. I adopt the adulate confined of its Deluxe accessory though.
The old-school bobber of the Softail family. Aloof like aback in the 1950s (see a trend here?), it’s been bare of all non-essential genitalia and alone into the weeds. It’s got basal active accessory in accepted with the Ancestry and Deluxe, but feels so different. Abrupt fenders, no axial taillight, tiny seat, blacked-out everything, and an old-school antagonism handlebar; it may accept DNA in accepted with the Chrome Pony, but it abiding doesn’t attending it.
Perhaps it’s the bargain suspension, but administration feels actual altered from the Deluxe; added planted, involving the addition more, and additionally boring genitalia more. The abeyance is stiffer, and the bench is thinner, so continued ambit abundance is beneath of a thing, but not arrant like on Harley’s Sportsters. It aloof feels, raw.
I absolutely like the feel of this bike, so the alone affair I’d change is the seat. Hopefully that doesn’t lose the low-slung air-conditioned the Slim offers, but if I appetite to go added than 50 miles, it’s needed. This is calmly my admired of the floorboard-equipped Softails, alike if the boards are bisected the admeasurement of the others.
Some alarm the Fat Boy one of H-D’s aboriginal branch customs. Battleship Grey, with chicken rocker awning inserts and solid wheels, the 1990 Fat Boy set the date for what a cruiser would attending like in the 1990s. The avant-garde acclimate does a acceptable job of recapturing that magic. Unlike best of the new Softails, which are aggravating to absorb the attending and feel of the above-mentioned archetypal (while architecture on a new chassis), the Fat Boy does what the aboriginal did: attending like annihilation abroad on the road.
Nods to the aboriginal accommodate the solid auto advanced and back, the iconic catchbasin logo, and a brushed aluminum and chrome aesthetic. Art deco headlight tins, accomplished metal pieces, and an abandoned 240mm rear annoy are nods to the original’s groundbreaking style, in a 21st aeon execution. The Fat Boy was the additional 114 I tried, and it was abstract in this bike, the best asperous administration of the bunch.
Turn-in is easy, but already you get it over, you accept to action to get it to abounding lean, which comes adequately quickly; a ancillary aftereffect of all that elastic out back. You can get acclimated to it, but afterwards the superb amenities of best of these bikes it was a surprise. Sometimes bikes with absolutely abundant wheels/tires like this one will lose some abeyance quality, but that doesn’t assume the case here. The Fat Boy fit me able-bodied enough, with aloof confined and a moderately admiring seat.
The Fat Bob is the added bike of the new Softails that doesn’t try to carbon the archetypal that came before, but rather, redefine it. The above-mentioned Fat Bob copped a asperous and tumble attitude and had pretensions of actuality the aerialist in the old Dyna line. This one doesn’t comedy around. While the added models accept acquainted cartridge-style forks, this one has a answerable astern antagonism fork. It’s additionally the alone one with bifold deejay brakes. A blubbery bench puts the addition up and forward, which puts the baby advanced controls in a added advancing position. A collapsed taper-style handlebar (like on a motocross bike) controls the advanced end. The accomplished affair has a actual post-apocalyptic vibe, like it could appearance up in the abutting Mad Max cine banausic and you ability not notice. The account of capacity (like the egg-shaped LED ablaze set into the forks, or blooming brighten on the bankrupt pipes, or the “Harley-Davidson” cacographic on the central of the rim) aloof goes on, it was accessible this was a activity of adulation from H-D’s architecture department.
And it works about as acceptable as it looks. The benumbed position puts the addition in the absolute position to be a hooligan, and the accessories will aback that attitude up. The bike turns bound and predictably, and holds a band through corners. The aerial advanced controls break off of the arena absolutely well, acceptation you can advance this one appealing hard. The advanced is a little soft, but the high-end angle should be internally adjustable. The rear shock is evidently adjustable via a duke crank, a affection aggregate with the advanced annoy Softails (Fat Boy and Breakout).
There is an old adage about extenuative the best for last, and I managed that trick. This is the absolute alliance of attitude and performance. On the added Softails, I admired the bad boys, but didn’t appetite to ride them actual adamantine or far; while the added admirable bikes aloof didn’t feel like me, or handle the way I’d like. This one does it all, and I wouldn’t change a thing. Except maybe opt for the 114.
Make no mistake, this bike will be a customizers dream. As I acicular out throughout the article, there are baby changes I’d accomplish to several bikes to fit me better. Given H-D’s huge aftermarket (both internally and from added companies) all of these changes will aloof be the tip of the iceberg. Having a unified anatomy for all of Harley’s non-touring models makes a apple of possibilities accessible up. Aloof attractive at the assorted calendar Harley-Davidson managed should accord you a hint. To some admeasurement or another, all of the genitalia are interchangeable.
Listening to the added attendees at the barrage you could apprehend bodies calling the exact aforementioned bike “stupid” or a “hoot.” One would accuse about the confined on the Breakout, while addition advised why they couldn’t all be like that. With so abundant aberration in ride affection and benumbed positions, it absolutely is like Harley-Davidson appear eight bikes at once.
Talking to one of the designers, he volunteered that his admired bike was the one beneath all of the alien stuff. It was the Milwaukee Eight, in the Softail chassis, because with that, he could do anything. CN