Custom – Contact with the 2018 Harley-Davidson Softail range – Page 1 – The 2018 Softail range contracts its muscles


Contact with the 2018 Harley-Davidson Softail range

Custom - Contact with the 2018 Harley-Davidson Softail range - Page 1 - The 2018 Softail range contracts its muscles

Site briefly tested four of the eight new Softail models in the 2018 Harley-Davidson lineup: Fat Bob, Fat Boy, Street Bob and Low Rider. This short contact reveals some real improvements on these bikes now powered by the new eight-valve twin, the Milwaukee-Eight.

In the saddle !

Page 1 – The 2018 Softail lineup contracts its muscles

When some motorcycle manufacturers wave the rag of novelty every year, sometimes upsetting their ranges with great reinforcements of "all new concepts" not so new as that, Harley-Davidson takes its time. Latest example to date? The renewal of its 2018 Softail range, the first "real" redesign since … 1984! 34 years between two generations of motorcycles: who says better ?!

  •  MNC of August 24, 2017 :
  • MNC file

And during this loooong period, the Motor Company was interested in the feedback of its customers concerning the evolutions awaited on the Softail, but also – in a very relevant way – in the opinion of the bikers "non-harleyists". History to identify the reasons for their lack of appetite for one of his motorcycles apparently devoid of rear suspension…

Without any real surprise, all have indicated the same paths to follow: that the Softails gain in lightness, dynamism and performance … but without sacrificing their characteristic look! Nothing really new, since anyone who has ever ridden a Softail has probably come to the same conclusions. But for the Milwaukee firm, it was a real revolution…

Custom - Contact with the 2018 Harley-Davidson Softail range - Page 1 - The 2018 Softail range contracts its muscles

So, bikers want motorcycles capable of performing in the virolos after showing off on the terrace? Customs more "fit" than "fat", more "European" in short? All in good time ! Harley therefore rolled up its sleeves to lighten them by 10 to 16 kg (!) Depending on the model, including between 6 and 8 kg just on the frame. This one makes a giant leap in terms of rigidity, with "+ 65%" compared to the previous generation. No more "wavy" frames !

The suspensions have also undergone a major overhaul with the discreet integration of a mono-shock absorber – two previously combined – which takes place in the backbone of the frame. The "rigid" appearance specific to Softail is cleverly preserved thanks to this element which can be adjusted in preload via a wheel offset under the saddle.

  • MNC test Breakout 2013: Softail Hardass

The footrests are redesigned to improve ground clearance, while LED lighting and new instrumentation are introduced. The engine speed, speed, total mileage, two trips, the hour, the gear engaged and a reserve trip are now informed – with scrolling from the left stalk switch. 

A USB socket hidden behind the left side of the steering column – not the easiest to access, but the intention is there! – and a keyless start via a transponder remote control complete these practical advances. 

More punch and less weight

Finally, this overhaul revolves around the transplant of the new Milwaukee-Eight engine on all Softails, one year after its introduction in the "Touring" range. This twin cylinder with four valves per cylinder (compared to two for the old Twin Cam 103) is only available in its "107 Ci" version (cubic inches) on four of the eight Softail models: Street Bob, Low Rider, Softail Slim and Deluxe. 

Custom - Contact with the Harley-Davidson Softail 2018 lineup - Page 1 - The 2018 Softail lineup contracts its muscles

The Heritage Classic, the Breakout, the Fat Boy and the Fat Bob can for their part receive the choice of the "107" (1745 cc) or the "114" (1868 cc). Between the two, a dozen horsepower and Newton-meters of torque: 86 hp at 5020 rpm and 145 Nm at 3500 rpm for the Milwaukee-Eight 107 against 94 hp at 5020 rpm and 155 Nm at 3000 rpm for the 114.

The most observant of MNC readers will have noted that some of the aforementioned models previously belonged to the "Dyna" range, such as the Fat Bob, the Street Bob or the Low Rider. "The qualities of the Softail and Dyna have been combined with each other for 2018, hence this transfer and the disappearance of the Dyna name", reveals Xavier Crépet, Harley-Davidson marketing and communication director for South-West Europe.

Last important detail: this 45 ° V-twin with double balance wheel is cooled by air and oil – via a radiator between the uprights of the steel frame -, and not partially cooled by water as is the Milwaukee-Eight of the "Touring". 

  • MNC test : Electra CVO 114, No limit ! 
  • MNC duel : Road Glide Special 107 Vs Chieftain Dark Horse
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  • MNC duel :

The reason is due to the size: impossible to hide on Softail a radiator and its fans, when the voluminous Electra, Road Glide Ultra and other CVOs – not to mention the Tri Glide trike – can integrate them into the fairings around the engine crash bars. ! Also at stake: substantial weight gain.

MNC therefore successively took control of, of, of and of 2018 during a small (!) Half-hour (!!) loop around the headquarters of the French subsidiary of Harley-Davidson, in Créteil (94 ). A route far too short and not varied enough to carry out our usual complete and detailed tests, but sufficient to report some sensations on the following pages.

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