Har­ley-david­son Sof­tails

Har­ley-david­son’s 2018 Sof­tails get more power, bet­ter han­dling and less weight. Non­harley fans may now ap­ply

RiDE (UK) - - Contents - Words Si­mon Har­g­reaves Pic­tures Ste­fano Gada

PROGRESS WAITS FOR no-one, not even Har­ley-david­son. So, cit­ing ‘cus­tomer feed­back’ rather than stalling sales and emis­sions regs, for 2018 Har­ley has stream­lined and up­dated the twin-shock cus­tom Dyna and hard­tail-styled Sof­tail line-ups into one fam­ily of Sof­tail mod­els. The changes are meant to bring new lev­els of ci­vil­ity and nor­mal­ity to the bikes, and broaden their ap­peal — even if they have fa­mil­iar names: tour­ing-style Her­itage Classic, low, drag-in­spired Break­out, chop­per-es­que Street Bob and the mus­cu­lar Fat Bob, all rid­den here (the oth­ers are Fat Boy, Deluxe, Slim and Low Rider).

The new bikes are based around two new, more pow­er­ful, torquier and civilised ver­sions of the Mil­wau­kee 8 45° V-twin, in 1745cc or 1868cc air-cooled ver­sions (the first four mod­els above can come with ei­ther engine; the last four only in 1745cc). And all also use vari­a­tions of a lighter, stiffer and more com­pact steel spine frame, with up­rated Showa sus­pen­sion — set-up de­pends on model type. But, says Har­ley, th­ese are all Sof­tails that weigh less, go faster and han­dle bet­ter. And cost more.

Each of the new Sof­tails steers with a nat­u­ral, easy and con­ven­tional chas­sis dy­namic (a claim Har­ley couldn’t al­ways make) to the point they run out of ground clear­ance — de­spite some mod­els get­ting more ride height. They’re still long, weighty and a unique rid­ing ex­pe­ri­ence – but even so, it’s clear the Sof­tails have in­deed, er, turned a cor­ner when it comes to han­dling.

The new en­gines are no­tice­ably more civilised than pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tions; me­chan­i­cally quiet, de­cep­tively rapid and well-bal­anced with the right amount of vi­bra­tion. Har­ley quotes 85bhp for the 107 and 93bhp for the 114, with — bizarrely — 107lb·ft for the 107 and 114lb·ft for the 114.

The new Sof­tail range is avail­able now and, per­haps for the first time, you don’t have to specif­i­cally want a Har­ley to buy a Har­ley; they’ll suit any­one.

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