Harley-Davidson The Softail Reinvented

Source: Harley-Davidson Owners Group                     Author: Charles Plueddeman

The all new 2018 Softails® models merge the hard-riding performance of the Dyna® family with the unparalleled custom look of the Softail

Harley-Davidson has unleashed the next generation of Big Twin cruiser motorcycles; a line up of all-new Softail® models that deliver exceptional performance and eye-popping style, and reinvent the cruiser category. Welcome to the revolution.

For 2018 Harley-Davidson break new ground with a Softail model line that embraces, both heritage and modernity, built on the foundation of an all new chassis and Milwaukee-Eight® V-Twin power. One twist of the throttle will reveal a revolutionary new cruising experience that only Harley Davidson can put on the street. “Our new Softail are the results of an intuitive research and development program, the biggest new product launch in the history of Harley-Davidson. Cruiser riders from around the world told us they value tradition, but they also want technology. And that’s what we have delivered with the new Softail platform.” said Product Planning Manager Paul James. “This single Big Twin cruiser platform replaces all previous Dyna® and Softail models and outperforms them in power handling and comfort.”

The All-New Softail® Chassis

The new Softail frame and suspension combine to form a chassis that’s stiff and lightweight for agility and performance that will exceed the expectations of the most demanding riders.

The centrepiece of the new Softail chassis is an all new mono-shock rear suspension with a coil over shock absorber located below the seat, where it is easy to reach for pre-loaded adjustment and placed at an optimal angle to achieve efficient control of wheel motion. Shock travel and performance are improved compared to the previous Softail design, for premium suspension performance – a smooth ride and outstanding handling. The range of preloaded adjustment is significantly increased on all new Softail models, and it is easily accomplished in one of the three convenient ways, depending upon the model: mechanically by turning a threaded collar on the shock with a spanner wrench, or hydraulically by turning a screw on the shock body or an external knob on the side cover. The mono shock rear suspension has the added benefit of preserving the signature “hardtail” lines the Softail chassis is known for.

“That look, the purity of the frame forming a single line from the steering neck to the rear axle, is part of Harley-Davidson’s DNA,” said Brad Richards, Harley Davidson’s Vice President of styling and design. “The Softail frame is a piece of artwork that contributes to the authentic style and design of each of these new models.”
Up front, the new Softail bikes feature forks with high-performance dual bending valve technology tuned to deliver precise handling, a controlled ride, and confident braking performance.

The new frame is 91 percent stiffer than the Dyna frame and 65 percent stiffer than the previous Softail frame, which contributes to improved handling, chassis dynamics and road feel. The box-section backbone is designed to house the portion of the wiring harness, which now includes a steering head-mounted USB charging port on every model.

Oil is now contained in a sump below the engine., and a cover shaped to resemble the classic Softail under-seat oil tank conceals the battery and vehicle electronics.

The use of more aluminium components, including alloy rear fender struts, triple clamps, foot control supports, and muffler brackets, contribute to overall weight reduction across the lineup – a complete chassis is 15-20 percent lighter than the current Softail chassis. That lower weight enhances every aspect of vehicle dynamics – ride, acceleration, handling, braking performance and even makes the new bikes easier to lift off the side stand and push into the garage.

Milwaukee-Eight® For Softail®

The most powerful engines to ever reside in a Softail chassis, the Milwaukee-Eight 107 and Milwaukee-Eight 114 engines bring a new level of performance and sophistication to the Harley-Davidson® Big Twin Cruisers. Both engines feature dual counterbalancers tuned to eliminate all primary vibration at idle speed, to enhance rider and passenger comfort, and to permit he engines to be rigid-mounted in the frame. Rigid mounting stiffens the overall chassis, and connects the rider more directly to the feeling of the engine and the road.

All Milwaukee-Eight engines for Softail models feature precision oil cooling around the hottest areas of the cylinder heads for improved thermal efficiency, and enhanced rider and passenger comfort. Electronic throttle control enables electronics cruise control as either standard equipment or an accessory on all models.

New Softail models powered by the Milwaukee-Eight 107 engine are 10 percent quicker from 0-60 mph than 2017 Softail models powered by the Twin Cam 103B engine and 16 percent quicker than those bikes in 60-80 mph roll-on acceleration tests.

The bored out Milwaukee-Eight 114 is the featured powertrain of the Heritage Classic 114, Fat Boy® 114, Fat Bob® 114 and Breakout® 114 models, which are also equipped with a Ventilator high-flow intake and standard Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS). The Milwaukee-Eight 114 engine delivers even stronger performance, taking those models equipped with it from 0-60 mph 7 percent quicker than the Twin Cam 110 and 17 percent quicker from 60-80 mph.

Signature Led Lighting

Every new Softail model features a bright, white DaymakerTM LED headlamp designed to blast a precisely shaped beam down the road for outstanding lighting performance. Each model’s headlight is framed with a halo of signature LED lighting elements for added style and to make riders more conspicuous in traffic. Keyless ignition and a security system are also standard on all 2018 Softail models.

The Bikes

“These Softail Motorcycles are rooted in Harley-Davidson Heritage that will appeal to riders who are attracted to classic lines and iconic style, riders who express freedom with undiluted Harley DNA.” Brad Richards

Softail Slim®

Great proportions never go out of style and neither does the lean bobber look of the Softail Slim. The Slim is inspired by the classic post-war bobber, a hot-rod created by stripping down to cut weight and gain performance. Because all you really need are an engine and two wheels. The new Slim is a faithful interpretation of the original.

“We made a radical change to the front end by removing all of the tin and blacking out the forks so the new aluminium triple clamps stand out,” said Richards. “The solo seat has a new tuck-and-roll cover and a much more comfortable shape.”

Authentic Bobber style is reinforced by the black rims and wire wheels , the bobbed fenders, and the Hollywood handlebar. Performance is stronger than ever thanks to the power of a Milwaukee-Eight 107 engine and a 35-pound weight reduction compared to the 2017 Softail Slim. To make the most of that performance, the new Slim offers more degrees of lean angle, which makes a huge difference on the road.

Heritage Classic and Heritage Classic 114

The all-new Heritage Classic model oozes pure American style. There’s a little outlaw to this bike and a little rock ‘n’ roll. “The style of the Heritage has always had a direct link back to the 1949 Hydra Glide model, a look that still defines Harley-Davidson for many riders,” said Richards. “The new Heritage is tougher and darker, more understated. We’ve stripped the Heritage back to offer a pure interpretation of that original Hydra Glide.”

The Heritage Classic will appeal to riders who want to tour in style. The new Softail platform makes this bike comfortable and dynamically capable. The new saddlebags are water-resistant, with keyed locks for security and have a rigid liner to hold their shape season after season. The windshield is detachable and has an old-school dark lower half. A five-gallon fuel tank gives this bike plenty of range, and with standard cruise control the miles will roll by with ease, and those who frequently ride two-up will appreciate the 50-percent increase in payload capacity.

Fat Bob® and Fat Bob® 114
The new Fat Bob charges fearlessly into a gritty future ready to tackle the zombie apocalypse.

“Every Fat Bob design element is rooted in the history of the company,”said Richards, “the V-twin engine, the fat front tire, the bobbed rear fender. The headlamp nacelle is inspired by the 1961 Duo-Glide. But we’ve given each of those elements a new contemporary aesthetic.”

The Fat Bob front end is technically advanced, with a stiff, inverted fork with cartridge damping; suspension geometry engineered for quick, responsive handling; dual disc brakes; and a massive tire. Combine this front end with the new mono-shock rear suspension with remote preload adjustment, a stiff and light frame, an aggressive riding position, and Milwaukee Eight power, and you’ve got a Big Twin cruiser with real dynamic capability. The Fat Bob also happens to be 33 pounds lighter in 2018. So hold on.

Street Bob®

The Street Bob is all attitude and motor. Light, fast and powerful, the Street Bob fits the gritty urban landscape. It’s also the most affordable Harley® Big Twin cruiser.

“The Street Bob represents the evolution of the bobber, from the 1950’s to the late 1960’s,” said Richards. “It’s got a lighter-looking front end than the Slim, but it’s still stripped down to the bare minimum.”

The new mini-ape handlebar meets the maximum height limits in every state. The trim 3.5-galon tank shows off the engine. And to stick with the bare-bones theme, the Street Bob also has an electronic Digital Riser Gauge that looks like the rider stripped off the speedo and tossed it on the work bench.

Fat Boy® and Fat Boy® 114

The all-new Fat Boy motorcycle redefines an icon, with more power and a bigger presence than ever. The 2018 model is new in every way, but it is also unmistakably a Fat Boy.

“We’ve tried a lot of ideas but found the design formula when we simply turned up the volume on that chiselled-from-billet look that defined the original Fat Boy,” said Richards. We gave the Lakester disc aluminium wheels more definition, and the headlamp gets a wild new shape. It’s Atomic-era design turned on its head, highlighted by the new signature LED lighting and a load of satin chrome.”

The Fat Boy front end is massive. Its 160 mm front tire, the largest ever on a Harley-Davidson model, is balanced by a huge 240 mm rear tire that looks like it’s spilling out of the rear fender. The new Fat Boy motorcycle is physically imposing, but it’s actually 31 pounds lighter than the previous Fat Boy and packs more power with either the Milwaukee-Eight 107 or 114 engine. Fat Boy models are equipped with the remote rear suspension preload knob to make the most of the new mono-shock rear suspension.

“We created two new Softail models that represent a modern, aggressive reignition of the most iconic Harley-Davidson style statements; each is unmistakably new and still unmistakably Harley-Davidson.” Brad Richards

Low Rider®

The Low Rider was your dad’s Harley …if he was a badass in the 70’s. The new Low Rider captures that attitude for a new generation, with details like the tank console with dual stacked gauges, the eyebrow headlamp visor, a one-piece seat that tapers out over the rear fender, cast wheels, and a throwback tank graphic.

“This is the most powerful, most dynamic Low rider model ever offered by Harley-Davidson,” said Paul James, Harley-Davidson product planning manager. “It’s light, quick, fun to ride and exciting to look at.”

The Low rider is ripe for customizing. With a balance of chrome and black components, it’s easy to go with a dark or bright custom vision. Mid-mount controls tighten the rider triangle for a aggressive riding, but the new Softail chassis is designed for easy conversion to forward foot controls.

“We all know some riders who are anxious to harness rebellious, restless energy and put it on two wheels. They ride a Harley-Davidson to experience freedom and earn respect through style, through performance, through an expression of pure individualism.” Brad Richards


The all-new Deluxe is a classic showstopper and the high-polish flagship of the new Softail family. It’s a motorcycle that celebrates chrome and mines yet another vein of Harley-Davidson heritage.

“We dropped the passenger pillion, seat rail, and luggage rack from the new Deluxe to unclutter the bike’s silhouette,” said Richards. “Now the full arc of both fenders is on display and also more of that gorgeous paint.”

The new blade shape of the front and rear turn signals is exclusive to the Deluxe. They look upscale and premium, but also fit the vintage vibe of this bike and give it a little extra presence. The Deluxe looks vintage, but the new Softail chassis and all-LED lighting make it look and feel modern. The new pullback bar and reshaped seat mean you’ll likely drain the fuel tank before you’ll want to get off.

Breakout® and Breakout® 114

Some riders have no time for nostalgia. They ride hard from stoplight to stoplight. The all-new Breakout model is longer, lower, and more powerful than the 2017 edition. Part drag bike and part chopper, the Breakout motorcycle looks “the business” with its massive 240mm rear tire, raked-out fork, drag bars, and new Gasser II cast wheels. And the new Breakout delivers the goods with the performance of the Milwaukee-Eight 107 or 114 V-Twin engines, and a weight reduction of 35 pounds compared to last years Breakout model.

“To highlight the Milwaukee-Eight, the new smooth-top 3.5-gallon fuel tank was shaped to expose as much of the engine as possible,” said Richards. The tank makes the engine look massive when you are sitting on the bike.”

To keep its profile racy, the Breakout model is equipped with a new Digital Riser Gauge, a low-profile LCD display with digital indicators that’s incorporated right into the handlebar riser. Dial in the ride with the external rear suspension preload adjuster knob. Then be ready for the next green light.

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