CALL ME BOB, BUT DON’T CALL ME DYNA
Among the letters that came in following the October 2017 “Softail Supreme” issue, there were those essentially saying, “Yay, Harley!” and, “Boo! Harley,” in roughly equal measure. Some folks were comparing the new Softail frame with single shock to that of the first Yamaha Virago and saying, “Welcome to 1982.” Others were very interested in what sounded like the best-performing Harley-davidson cruisers ever.
But a few were confused. “What’s a Dyna? Why do I care? Why does Harley put so many letters and stuff in their model names?”
Yep, it’s been somewhat impenetrable, all the nomenclature and two different cruiser lines, Dyna (FX) and Softail (FLS), alongside Sportsters (XL), Touring (FLH), Street (XG), and V-rod (VRSC). Honestly, I’m not even sure I have it right.
What I do know is that I was a fan of the Dyna with its twin exposed shocks and rubber-engine mounting (not unlike that used on Norton Commandos, by the way). They were sporty for a big cruiser, and the 2017 Low Rider S (Best Cruiser last year) expressed the bike beautifully. It smoked anything with Softail in its name, thanks in part to having much more cornering clearance.
one What of the we bikes wanted formerly to know known was how as Dyna, such as the 2018 Street Bob shown here, is expressed as a Softail. Like, does it feel legit? Is it better than the Dyna?
It doesn’t feel the same, but it feels good. Our Street Bob with its Milwaukee-eight 107 is super quick, thanks to how comparatively light it is. It isn’t, of course, as burly at the Heritage 114, which produces 81 hp and 108 pound-feet of torque on the CW dyno, versus the 107’s 77 hp and 101 pound-feet. The 2017 Street Bob 103 we dyno tested recently made 65 hp and 88 pound-feed, by comparison. A useful increase, and combined with the reduced weight, makes for spirited blasting around on Mr. 2018 Bob.
Chassis feedback, damping, and steering feel are all superior to that of previous Dynas. This is quality damping at work, and the first time I felt the “squish” of rebound-damping control at play I was pleasantly surprised. Turn-in is crisp, steering is far more neutral, and the bike held its line well. It’s still a cruiser in terms of cornering clearance, but in a cruiser state of mind, you can ride hard. The profile is similar to that of the previous bike, and it’s pretty stripped down in terms of styling and presence. This is reflected in its $14,499 base price. This bike is now lettered up as FXBB, and, at least, you won’t have any trouble wondering by its code name if it’s a Dyna. Because this is definitely not a Dyna, and there’s nothing wrong with that at all.
clear, the mid-height ape bars are comfortably positioned and angled, the saddle is oh-so plush, and the floorboards rock.
I soon achieved a good sense of what the Heritage Classic offers over its Softail stablemates. All-day ergonomics, storage, and wind protection top the list. Its new hard-formed “sagless” leather saddlebags provide a deep rectangular cavity that appears capable of consuming a 12-can case of PBR (not that I tried) and has a locking flip lid for blue-ribbon security. I did fill one bag with a change of clothes, quilted hipster jacket, beanie cap, and toiletry bag, while the other swallowed my backpack containing a laptop.
While tall enough to keep bug splat from soiling my jacket, the top edge of the Pd-style windscreen sat just below my line of sight. While I appreciated the coverage (doubly so had it rained) I have to report that helmet buffet proved tiresome at sustained speed above 75 mph. The screen can be removed in mere seconds without tools, so I logged some miles without it, to air out the pits and take in the unobstructed view of the headlamp nacelle while enjoying clean airflow at helmet height.
Speaking of headlights, a moonless desert night provided a good test of the new LED Daymaker lamp’s excellent side coverage and illumination.
Leaving the desert floor the following morning and heading up Montezuma Grade, a serpentine ribbon composed of tight hairpin, medium and fast sweeping corners put the all-new Softail chassis through its paces. Manhandling the bike produced rider-induced wiggles and wobbles. Steering is light effort and rewards a gentle touch. Give the Heritage its head, bank smoothly into corners and it tracks sweet and true. Despite being sprung and damped foremost for comfort, the Showa bending valve fork and single shock also proved up for a spirited pace. Aside from the hinged floorboards grounding, ridden in a swift-yet-sensible manner the frame and lower muffler were spared from contact when exploring the claims of improved cornering clearance. The fork felt supportive under hard braking, and the rear resisted bottoming in all but the most extreme hits. It took some extensive searching for my 180-pound weight to find a G-out bump that used all available rear travel, and even then, after repeated passes I remained impressed with the chassis composure and improved ability to take a sharp blow.
If the 114ci Heritage Classic is any indicator, Harley-davidson has brought the Softail family in line with the times, delivering the most refined powertrain and chassis The Motor Company has brewed to date.
WE ALL HAVE BAGGAGE But Harley-davidson's comment regarding the hard-formed leather bags on the Heritage Softail this year was, "No more saggy bags." They are lockable, easy to use, and carry enough for a solo weekend trip. If it's a weekend at the beach, maybe you can bring a friend.