Harley-Davidson celebrates its 115th anniversary by reinventing its Softail motorcycle lineup. Eight individual motorcycles are offered (Street Bob, Fat Boy, Heritage Classic, Low Rider, Softail Slim, Deluxe, Breakout, and Fat Bob)— all benefiting from the Bar & Shield brand’s latest engineering effort including an all-new chassis, styling, and a choice between the recently introduced Milwaukee-Eight 107 cubic-inch (1746cc) and 114 cubic-inch (1868cc) V-Twin engines. The new breed of Softails effectively merge with the Dyna family of yesteryear — a change that will certainly ruffle some feathers.
Harley-Davidson’s recently introduced ninth generation Milwaukee-Eight V-Twin powers each machine with a true-to-form air/oil-cooled design (learn more in the Harley-Davidson New Milwaukee-Eight Engines article). The 45-degree Twin features an improved counter-balancer to reduce unwanted vibration while maintaining Harley’s classic feel and sound.
The American brand claims that its 107 CI motor is 10% quicker in zero to 60 mph testing (approximately three bike lengths ahead) and 16% faster in fifth gear from 60 to 80 mph compared to the old High Output Twin Cam 103 engine. The bored and stroked 114 CI version further elevates performance with its broader spread of tire smearing torque.
As before the engine transfer muscle back to the rear wheel via a six-speed transmission, manual, hand-operated clutch and belt final drive.
Harley retains the signature lines of its Softail outside a new chassis that is both lighter and stronger. Superior handling, including deeper bank angles, and faster steering response were principal goals. All eight bikes shed up to 35 pounds of heft.
Rolling on a tubular frame fabricated from carbon steel that’s 65% stiffer than the previous design, the frame is stamped from fewer components, which in turn reduces the number of welds. Two swingarms are offered to accommodate both wide and narrow rear wheel sizes.
Suspension is sourced from Showa using its new Dual-Bending valve-equipped fork (5.1-in. travel) that feature shims above and below the damping piston that bend allowing for more optimum fluid flow during compression and rebound stroke. This changed allowed H-D to tune the action for large and small bumps—offering the best of both worlds in terms of ride quality. A hidden gas-charged shock absorber replaces the Dyna’s twin-shock setup with remote preload adjustability (to alter ride height based on load or preference) standard.
Renowned for its signature look, the new breed of Softails feature subtle modern styling touches that strike a nice balance between old and new. Although the lines remain the same, LED lighting is standard as well as an elegant mix of digital and analog instrumentation.
Like you, we still have a lot of questions in regard to the new Softail line. We’re also curious on why Harley merged it with the Dyna line. Luckily, we’re swinging a leg over the 2018 bikes next week during Harley-Davidson’s official media launch taking place on the mountainous Pine tree lined roads of Lake Arrowhead, California. Stay tuned.
Editor’s Note: Read and watch the 2018 Harley-Davidson Softail Street Bob First Test Review