Bike Specification

11 November 2017

Riden: Harley-Davidson 2018 Softail range

We sample the 2018 H-D Softail range

Agasti Kaulgi
Car image



Overview


This is truly a proper leap from Harley Davidson, it was a new motor last year and now they have made it even better. Moreover, they have brought into being a brand new frame – something they had last done in 1984. Throw in some modern bits of suspension to go with it and what you have is a brand new range of Harley Davidson motorcycles. In case you are wondering, what has become of the beloved Dyna range, well, it has been integrated into the Softail range. That is how much the folks at H-D like this new frame. And, to sample it they invited us to ride with them through some excellent backroads in Catalunya.

What is it?

Lined up for us were four of these examples; the FatBob, StreetBob, Heritage and the Breakout – all belonging to the Softail line now. The final one is unlikely to make it to India though, but no harm in riding an extra motorcycle. All four motorcycles have very distinct styling, despite sharing a common chassis, engine and gearbox. They are all set up differently as far as the suspension goes and run completely different tyre sizes. Not to forget, the ergonomics are also very different to match the characteristics of each of these motorcycles. They have even made changes to the 107 motor and added a counterbalance to make it smoother. This results in a slight loss in power, compared to touring version, but it no longer needs rubber mounts and promises an even stiffer chassis to benefit handling. That’s enough talk, let’s see how they fared in the challenging twisties of the Catalunya hills.


FatBob

First things first, yes, it looks every bit as good on the road as it did in the pictures. It presents itself rather well and the styling works wonderfully with the entire matte finish. The hacked off fenders sure adds to the scheme of things as does the horizontal LED headlamp. It even gets upside down front forks and an adjustable monoshock at the rear. Although there is an option of getting this entire range of motorcycles with either the 107 motor or the 114, we will receive the 107 for India from the Milwaukee Eight family. There is a definite bulk about the FatBob, despite the ‘Bobber’ bits; a thick handlebar, massive tyres at the front and rear and a big tank with a solo dial sitting on it to read out all the important information. Dual discs up front and a single disc at the rear to haul in the momentum too.

On the excellent Spanish country roads the set up felt firm but not harsh, however on our surfaces it is likely to feel different. The massive 150-section front tyre makes the FatBob hard work as you try to push it through corners and attempt to change direction quickly through a series of corners. However, you can do so and the chassis is more than capable of holding a clean line through a corner. Brakes felt better than some of the older ones given the fact that it still weighs roughly 300-kilograms without me on it. With the tweaks to the motor, it feels quite refined with a buzz coming through the handlebars just before you hit the redline. For a big V-twin, all of 1745 cee cees, it revs pretty quick and doesn’t mind being revved high up in the power band. Moving through the gearbox is pretty easy too with a light clutch action, there weren’t any bumper-to-bumper situations, with the cogs falling into place easily. As capable as the chassis is, the FatBob deserves to be ridden at slightly relaxed pace through sweeping corners to be enjoyed properly, while the style statement it makes will catch eyeballs everywhere you go.

StreetBob

I am sure you’ve noticed the ‘Bob’ in this name as well and yes, it does mean that it belongs to the same ‘Bobber’ family as the FatBob. However, the diet that this one has been put on is a bit more severe, which accounts for a 10-kilogram advantage over the FatBob. It may not read like a whole lot, but you sure do notice it while riding. Ape hangers aren’t my preferred style, but this one fits in surprisingly well. The low seat height and lower clearance gives it lower c of g and the single seat centres all the bulk toward the centre of the motorcycle. There is also the rather cool addition of a tiny digital meter that has been built into the handlebar clamp to read out the essential information.

On the road, the StreetBob feels decidedly different. Narrower 19-inch front wheel with a 100 section tyre and 16-inch rear with a 150 section tyre makes it far easier to throw into corners. However, the low ride height does mean that you lean angles are very limited. It is a bit of a shame because the StreetBob feels particularly agile despite the ape bars. In fact, once you have ground your way through the feelers on the footpegs you are likely to scrape your exhaust can heat shield as well, every time you dive into a right hander. Thanks to its slight weight advantage, it does feel more responsive as well and is a lot easier around tight, twisty sections. However, the StreetBob gets a single side disc brake at the front, misses out on the upside down front forks and needs a bit more fiddling to adjust the monoshock at the rear. It is possibly the liveliest one of the lot, but it could be down to the remarkably easy-to-grind pegs. With absolute stock fitments, my legs felt a bit cramped, but that is an easy fix with a different set of pegs.


Heritage

This is a proper classic styled Harley Davidson. At the risk of being called old, I would like to point out the fact that I quite like it. Quintessential cruiser styling, big screen, redesigned panniers a massive chrome ornament on the front wheel hub with a load of chrome splashed across. Apart from all the neat touches, the Heritage also has the largest tank at 19-litres to enable long distance cruising. There are classic tank filler caps (one is a dummy) too that sit alongside the analogue speedometer. Even the fenders have retained their classic sweeping form. Moreover, in an attempt to stick to the theme, H-D decided it was best to hide the monoshock adjustment, which means you need to undo a couple of seat bolts and find a special tool to adjust it – not the simplest thing to do.

On the road, this motorcycle feels incredibly nimble. Despite being the heaviest one of the lot the Heritage flows from corner to corner with little effort. Of course, the massive foot rests up front scrape the tarmac with a fair amount of force which makes you try and be more gentle through the next set of corners. However, the 16-inch wheels at the front and back wrapped with 130 and 150 section tyres coax you to lean it in all over again. The added weight does come into play though with the rear wheel moving about every now and then as you try to power out of a corner. Add to that, the fact that the extra weight makes it feel a little slower too. However, if it is classic styling you are after this surely ticks all the boxes with the bonus of great handling thrown in. The massive screen, however, remains devoid of any adjustment and now has a blacked out lower half as well. Not a problem on the highway, but it could prove challenging dodging potholes in our road conditions.

Breakout

It is a bit of a shame that Harley decided to pull the plug on this one, as far as India is concerned, but it sure is a cool looking motorcycle. Designed to be a dragster, the Breakout is all about its low stance and long wheelbase. The flat handlebar, low seating and the stretched out footpegs gives it an interesting riding position, one that remindshit the gym more often and try and be become fitter. This one gets the digital gauge built into the handlebar clamp as well to make it look rather minimalistic.

It takes a bit of getting used to, the riding position, but it does offer a custom motorcycle sort of feel about it and catches second glances almost everywhere it goes. For a motorcycle that sits on a 240 section rear tyre wrapped around an 18-inch rim with 130-section rubber mounted on a 21-inch front wheel the Breakout works surprisingly well. You can wring your right wrist to break traction at the rear wheel and throw up some gravel every time you take off and lean it over at appreciable angles to go around corners as well. It take a bit of effort to change directions given the size of the rear tyre, but it manages to do so. Not bad at all for something that has been designed to essentially smoke its tyre out in a straight line.

Verdict
It is quite clear that there has been a marked improvement in handling characteristics across the new Softail range. The stiffer frame, smoother revving engine and slightly lighter motorcycles make for great riding. While the tweaked 107 motor is happy to be revved with less internal resistance. It would’ve been great to have brakes which were sharper still to deal with the gain in momentum. Also the monoshock, while easy to adjust on a couple of motorcycles is slightly tedious to deal with on a couple of others. Added stiffness and firm suspension felt great in the tight, twisty, perfectly surfaces backroads of Spain, however it will be interesting to see how it copes with Indian road conditions. Expected to retail in India in November, the new Softail line sure is promising and is likely to cost roughly an additional lakh of rupees (model for model).

Specs:
FatBob:
Engine: 1745cc, V-Twin, oil cooled
Torque: 145Nm@3250rpm
Transmission: 6M
Length: 2345mm
Seat height: 720mm
Ground clearance: 120mm
Tyres: 150/80 R16 (fr); 180/70 R16 (rr)
Fuel tank: 14 litres
Weight: 296kg

StreetBob:
Engine: 1745cc, V-Twin, oil cooled
Torque: 144Nm@3000rpm
Transmission: 6M
Length: 2320mm
Seat height: 675mm
Ground clearance: 125mm
Tyres: 100/90 R19 (fr); 150/80 R16 (rr)
Fuel tank: 14 litres
Weight: 286kg

Heritage Classic:
Engine: 1745cc, V-Twin, oil cooled
Torque: 144Nm@3000rpm
Transmission: 6M
Length: 2410mm
Seat height: 685mm
Ground clearance: 120mm
Tyres: 130/90 R16 (fr); 150/80 R16 (rr)
Fuel tank: 19 litres
Weight: 316kg

Breakout
Not for sale in India

Tags: harley davidson, harley, softail, h d, cruiser, new bike, harley davidson softail, h d softail, 2018 range

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