CALL ME BOB, BUT DON’T CALL ME DYNA

Cycle World - - Cw Test 2018 Harley-davidson Heritage Classic - By Mark Hoyer Pho­tog­ra­phy by Jeff Allen

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?

Yes.

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.

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