Harley-Davidson offers new frame, new language and two new motors for 2018 Softails

CAPTION: Harley-Davidson has unveiled its 2018 Softail cruisers, with new frames and suspension and two engines; both eight valve push-rod technology, one 107 cubic inch (1745cc) and the other 114ci (1868cc). This is the new Breakout, which offers either engine. Nice, eh?

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IT’S the sort of language you expect to hear from Japan or Italy, on the launch of a new sports bike.

Improved lean angles. Better power-to-weight ratio. 16% quicker. 17kg lighter.

High-performance dual-bending valve front suspension.

Adjustable rear monoshock.

But no, it’s not a CBR or a YZF or a Panigale. It’s Harley Davidson.

About as sporty as the fat kid in Year 3

Yep, this is Milwaukee talking — and talking about its 2018 lineup of Softails; a series of cruisers that each weigh 300kg or more, and are about as sporty as the fat kid in Year 3.

But the language is telling. And so is the engineering effort behind the words.

Truth is, riders nowadays expect to see regular performance evolution. Even in their cruisers. Sure, no-one expects a bike with a name like Fat Bob to float like a butterfly and sting like a bee, but we do expect technological advances to flow through. And that means lighter and faster, which in turn requires better handling and better suspension to keep things safe and fun.

Especially fun.

Bye bye Dyna, hello 114ci

Next year’s Softail range spans eight models and bids farewell to the Dyna. The eight models are Fat Boy, Heritage Classic, Low Rider, Softail Slim, Deluxe, Breakout, Fat Bob and Street Bob. All come standard with the new dual-counterbalanced eight-valve push-rod Milwaukee-Eight 1745cc (107 cubic inch) engine, with H-D’s biggest-ever 1868cc (114ci) donk available as an option on the Fat Bob, Fat Boy, Breakout, and Heritage Classic.

As always, H-D is coy about horsepower figures but proud of torque. The numbers vary slightly from model to model, but the little (?) motor gives us around 145 Newton-metres while the big one offers about 160. That should be plenty. On the dyno, you can expect something north of 90hp from the 107 and just north of 100hp from the 114.

(The 1811cc Indian Chief Dark Horse we rode a few weeks ago was good for 161Nm and a little over 100 horses, and was freight-train powerful off the mark. Read our road test here.)

Here’s how the new bikes shape up (click on the pics for a better look):

Fat Boy

 

Harley says: The legendary Fat Boy motorcycle that defined contemporary custom style for decades has outdone itself. Ripped and refined satin-chrome finishes deliver a bold, muscular styling statement showing off its powerful engine and new and improved ride and handling.

    • Aggressive, steamroller stance and front end design
    • Modern-day interpretation of the classic headlight nacelle
    • A 160mm front tyre, the widest-ever on a Harley-Davidson production model, wraps the solid Lakester front wheel
    • 16kg weight reduction to previous model
    • Standard ABS
    • 240mm rear tyre with solid Lakester rear wheel
    • Optional: Milwaukee-Eight 114 Engine
    • Price: $30,995 (107ci) $33,995 (114ci)

Heritage Classic

Harley says: Design cues evoke the blacked-out styling of vintage 1950s Harley-Davidson models, updated with a modern edge.

    • New detachable windscreen
    • New rigid, lockable, sealed, water-resistant saddlebags
    • Taller suspension with increased passenger and cargo payload capacity
    • 17kg weight reduction to previous model
    • Optional: Milwaukee-Eight 114 Engine
    • Standard cruise control and ABS
    • Price: $31,750 (107ci), $33,995 (114ci)

Low Rider

Harley says: Inspired by the individualism of the ’70s custom chopper era that birthed the original, the new Low Rider is lighter and faster with corner-carving handling unimaginable back in the day.

    • Throwback-style dual tank-mount speedo and tachometer gauges, headlight visor and fuel tank graphics
    • 19-inch front and 16-inch rear Radiate cast wheels
    • 2-into-2 Shotgun exhaust
    • Price: $24,250

Softail Slim

Harley says: Stripped to its essential elements, the Slim pays homage to post-war custom bobbers with a narrow rear end, trimmed front fender, solo seat and minimal chrome.

    • Dark finishes adorn the laced wheels, Hollywood handlebar, and all-new front-end design
    • Low-slung tuck and roll seat
    • Bold and smooth new front nacelle and fork cover styling
    • 17kg weight reduction to previous model
    • Price: $26,250.

Deluxe

Harley says:  A classic hi-line showstopper that stands out on any street, the Deluxe glistens with bright chrome while delivering the ride of a seriously modern machine.

    • Signature all-LED lighting from front to back: headlight, Tombstone taillight and blade-like turn signals
    • Signature pull-back handlebar
    • 17kg weight reduction to previous model
    • Price: $29,495.

Breakout

Harley says: With more lean angle and agility than ever imagined in a bike carrying so much dragster attitude and style, the Breakout model takes long, lean muscle to a modern edge.

    • New smooth-top 13.2 litre fuel tank
    • Long and wide with low-slung raked out 49mm front forks
    • 18-inch rear (240mm tyre) and 21-inch front (130mm tyre) Gasser-style gloss-black powder coated cast aluminium wheels
    • Distinctive Daymaker Signature LED headlamp
    • Low-profile riser-mounted digital instrument screen
    • 17kg weight reduction to previous model
    • Optional: Milwaukee-Eight 114 Engine
    • Price: $31,250 (107ci), $33,995 (114ci), $34,495 (114ci Anniversary model).

Fat Bob

Harley says: Tarmac-eating traction, pothole-devouring suspension, agile cornering and a blacked-out take-no-prisoners look make the Fat Bob a groundbreaking motorcycle that could only come from Harley-Davidson.

    • 2-1-2 upswept performance exhaust with a custom finish
    • Largest aggressively treaded tyres from the Motor Company: 150 mm front and 180 mm rear
    • Dual disc front brakes
    • 13.2 litre fuel tank
    • 15kg weight reduction to previous model
    • Inverted 43mm cartridge style front forks
    • Optional: Milwaukee-Eight 114 Engine
    • Price: $27,495 (107ci), $30,250 (114ci).

Street Bob

Harley says: A bare-bones bike with go-anywhere DNA, the Street Bob motorcycle has a fists-in-the-wind attitude with nothing extra to weigh it down.

    • Smooth-top 13.2 litre fuel tank
    • Black spoke wheels with chopped fenders
    • Low-profile riser-mounted digital instrument screen
    • 7kg weight reduction to previous model
    • Lowest rideaway RRP in Softail range
    • Price: $23,495

Also see:

Indian Chief Dark Horse 

The Harley Road King  

Harley Electra Glide 

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