Sometimes motorcycles get a bad rap for their lack of practicality. Not so with this one. Check out the comfiest and most practical Softail in Harley-Davidson’s 2018 model line-up: the (FLHCS) Heritage Classic (starting at $18,999).
Known for its big swooping lines that have stood the test of time, the new Heritage sticks to the script, with a twist. Modern but still forward-mounted triple beam LED lighting replaces the halogen bulb headlamps of yesteryear and are positioned ahead of the two-tone and still removable windscreen. This affords the best of both the boulevard bragging and freeway cruising V-Twin worlds.
Typically drenched in chrome, this next generation Heritage trades its mirrored finish for a darker and more contrasting finish giving a tougher SOA-style stance. Black wheels, black fork, black cylinder heads and air filter cover, shine is kept to a minimum. There’s also hidden details like the routing of the wiring harness inside the frame. This ain’t your old man’s Harley.
Beneath its metal fenders is a fully redesigned and vastly more capable chassis both in terms of interstate comfort and backyard twisty road performance. We outlined why in the 2018 Harley-Davidson Softail Model Line-Up Preview. Long story short, contrary to the past, these new Softails love to turn.
The new Dual-Bending Valve equipped fork is a revelation offering supreme control. It glides over beat up pavement yet still gives enough damping support for spirited riding. The solo gas-charged shock complements the front suspension and allows ride height adjustment via the manually adjustable preload collar under the rider’s seat. Cornering clearance is significantly improved with 27.3 degrees on the left, and 1.2 deg. more on the opposite side.
Sixteen-inch wire-spoke rims and Dunlop D401 F/T rubber give sure-footed grip and also facilitate a friendly 26.8 in. seat height. Both rider and passenger seats are generously sized and standard cruise control makes this Softail the choice for those looking to log serious mileage. Floorboards, forward foot controls and a tall swept back handlebar further complement touring ability. A simple and elegant instrument gauge is positioned atop the fuel tank including LCD readouts for trip info.
With the five-gallon capacity fuel tanked topped off this Heritage weighs 728 pounds. It’s no featherweight, yet you’d be surprised by how maneuverable this heavyweight is.
Disc brakes front and rear are capable and well-calibrated providing pleasing response and adequate stopping power. However we’d like to see a double disc setup up front—especially considering its hefty curb weight and price point. Good or bad, ABS mitigates skids and tire lock-up. But to be fair, the setup works well and will be appreciated by Harley’s intended audience.
The droopy soft luggage of old has been jettisoned and replaced by a pair of lockable hard cases, with smoked nickel studs that are designed to virtually never corrode. Since all the 2018 Softails are now equipped with key-less push-button start, a pair of conventional metal keys are included to operate the “old school” lock mechanism. There’s also a fork lock to help mitigate theft. The bags are longer than they are wide but won’t accept a full, nor open face, lid.
The Heritage Softail can be configured with either the standard 107 cubic-inch Milwaukee-Eight V-Twin or the bored and stroked 114 CI version, however it will set you back another $1300. Both engines offer plenty of ‘smooth easy ‘oomph, however the larger engine will get you up to speed quicker, with a throatier engine and exhaust note when the right grip is wrapped.
Smoother than ever, the eight-valve engines are a delight to ride offering the near perfect blend of classic, air-cooled V-Twin sound and feel. Aftermarket pipes and a tuner are always popular mods but the truth is that these engines run so crisply, and sound so punchy that an aftermarket setup seems overkill.
The powertrain is further complemented by a more responsive clutch and the transmission meshes between each of its six cogs with precision evident by the pleasing mechanical sound with each shift. At a highway pace, on a warm late summer afternoon, engine heat isn’t pervasive and engine vibration is muted, but not overly so. Simply put, these Twins love to romp.
The fairing does a fine job of shielding the rider from the ill-effects of the road. Plus, it can be removed, if you prefer running around town naked. Although we didn’t get a chance to ride after dark, based on our experience with other LED head lamps, the setup is sure to be an important feature for those that ride past sunset.
A clear winner in Harley’s 2018 Softail line-up the Heritage Classic is a substantial improvement— and one that will be appreciated by all riders regardless of age, riding preference, or experience. It’s also the go-to if you plan on logging serious mileage in comfort and style. In fact, it’s so much better than the bike it replaces Harley probably should have changed its name.