An­tic­i­pa­tion has mounted since

Cycle World - - Cw Test 2018 Harley-davidson Heritage Classic -

The Mo­tor Com­pany an­nounced its newly de­signed fam­ily of 2018 Mil­wau­kee-eight-pow­ered Sof­tail mod­els. Tech­ni­cal Edi­tor Kevin Cameron whet­ted our ap­petite with an in-depth anal­y­sis of what has been touted as “the largest prod­uct de­vel­op­ment project in com­pany his­tory.” In that very same Oc­to­ber 2017 Cy­cle World is­sue, Edi­torat-large Peter Egan pro­vided his take fol­low­ing a brief ride aboard each of the eight new Sof­tails.

Much like a year ago when I joined a se­lect hand­ful of mo­to­jour­nal­ists at Black­hawk Farms Race­way near Beloit, Illi­nois, to be the first to sam­ple the then-new eight-valve V-twins, Egan’s seat time at Black­hawk amounted to the same rapid-fire two-lap stints on the 2018 Sof­tails and their re­spec­tive 2017 pre­de­ces­sor. That’s a whole lot to di­gest in a sin­gle day—an in­tox­i­cat­ing tast­ing that would leave even the most dis­ci­plined con­nois­seur wob­bly with won­der.

While I can’t speak for Egan, I iden­tify as a beer man who prefers the full-body ex­pe­ri­ence of a large-dis­place­ment jug of Mil­wau­kee’s finest con­sumed on the home front. To this end we’ve wran­gled a 114ci Sof­tail Her­itage Clas­sic and took to some fa­vorite South­ern California roads to learn how this lat­est breed Har­ley-david­son Big Twin cruiser rides in the wild.

Our Vivid Black test unit (color and two-tone op­tions are also avail­able) projects a pur­pose­ful no-frills ap­pear­ance that for­goes shiny dis­trac­tions that can blind one’s mea­sure of a bike’s per­for­mance, han­dling, and func­tion­al­ity. Be­fore I had even thumbed the starter and brought the easy crank­ing air-/ oil-cooled twin to life, I noted a stand­out fea­ture that’s given the Sof­tail line a new leg to stand on: The newly de­signed side­stand is much eas­ier to de­ploy and re­tract. My boot lo­cated the tang with­out fail, and there’s more clear­ance swing­ing through its mo­tion when parked on an un­even sur­face.

Fob-sens­ing key­less ig­ni­tion is an­other new con­ve­nience, and the tra­di­tional bar­rel-key steer­ing-head lock has been re­placed by a quar­ter-turn con­ven­tional-style key. I like the new larger LCD multi-func­tion dis­play in­te­grated into the lower por­tion of the bold­face speedome­ter lo­cated on the fuel tank con­sole. The old dis­play was “har­ley” big­ger than a stick

AD­HER­ING TO SOF­TAIL DOC­TRINE, THE SOLID-MOUNT EN­GINE TRANS­MITS A PLEAS­ING LEVEL OF MASS-RICH VI­BRA­TION AT IDLE.

of gum, whereas one can now more eas­ily read en­gine rpm, trip­me­ter, or fuel range re­main­ing at a glance. The LCD fea­tures a fuel-level bar graph and gear po­si­tion in­di­ca­tor that both re­main per­sis­tent as you tog­gle through the other func­tions with the left thumb switch.

Ad­her­ing to Sof­tail doc­trine, the solid-mount en­gine trans­mits a pleas­ing level of mass-rich vi­bra­tion at idle. Its as­sist-style clutch re­quires only mod­er­ate ef­fort at the lever, and while en­gage­ment was a bit grabby ini­tially, it soon be­came more lin­ear as I rode. This and a bit of dif­fi­culty en­gag­ing neu­tral when at a com­plete stop was pos­si­bly due to dragstrip test­ing the pre­vi­ous day. While the new Her­itage lacks the heel-toe shifter of its pre­de­ces­sor, I didn’t mind, as the M-8 Cruise Drive six-speed box has very good shift action un­der way and there’s un­ob­structed aft foot place­ment on the floor­board to boot.

Short-shifts at low revs produced truly re­laxed chug­ging from one traf­fic sig­nal to the next. Even in top cog the en­gine pulls cleanly from low as 1,400 rpm equat­ing to 40 mph but feels hap­pi­est run­ning be­tween 2,000 and 4,000 rpm, pro­duc­ing more than 100 pound-feet of torque through­out this range and only be­gins to feel busy once revs sur­pass 4,000 and ap­proach the 5,500-rpm rev limit. A good twist of throt­tle in any gear un­leashes lin­ear ac­cel­er­a­tion and a very hearty ex­haust note ac­com­pa­nied by amaz­ingly lit­tle me­chan­i­cal clat­ter re­flect­ing off the wind­screen.

Cruis­ing the free­way en route to the desert com­mu­nity of Bor­rego Springs shed light on a num­ber of key ar­eas. Given its 114ci ca­pac­ity, the dual coun­ter­bal­anced M-8 runs re­mark­ably smooth at speeds be­yond 80 mph, the cruise con­trol is sim­ple to op­er­ate (tap it rather than hold it for smooth ac­cel­er­a­tion re­sponse), the mir­rors re­main

A DARKER HER­ITAGE The juke­box has left the build­ing. Pre­vi­ous Her­itage style was a bit more sparkle and a lot more candy. Coun­ter­bal­anced Mil­wau­kee-eight V-twin fea­tures twin spark­plugs, hence four plug wires from its coils.

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