Harley-Davidson softail line enters a new era with 2018 Harley-Davidson Heritage Classic
The new Harley-Davidson Heritage Classic adds a fresh edge to chromed '50s nostalgia. The history is still there, but it's done with a dark style and modern edge, creating a totally reinvigorated ride.
At the heart of it all is a blacked-out Milwaukee-Eight V-twin engine. It has reduced weight and strong acceleration to power the smooth ride of this all-new softail motorcycle. The bike features a removable windshield and hard saddlebags for light touring. It's available in 107-cubic-inch and 114 c.i. engine displacements.
I asked my friends at McHenry Harley-Davidson to roll out the 114, which is 9 percent quicker from zero to 60, and the 60-to-80 mph roll-on in fifth gear is 13 percent faster than the standard, yet potent, 107 engine.
Authentic innovation meets true Harley-Davidson soul in its entirely reinvented softail family. The most powerful, agile and responsive cruisers in Harley-Davidson history feature a lighter and stiffer frame, high-performance suspension and the smooth, unrelenting torque of a fully counterbalanced Milwaukee-Eight V-twin.
The 114 engine offers plenty of power and torque in every gear, and it starts down low in the rev range. The power comes on smoothly, with no hiccups, as you gently or violently twist the throttle. And with 119 foot-pounds of torque at 3,000 rpm, two-lane passes happen quickly, and usually without needing a downshift.
Harley didn't skimp on the music from the dual, two-into-two, shorty right side pipes, either. You'll hear a low, mellow sound at cruising speed, and a thrilling roar upon acceleration. You can expect zero to 60 in less than 5 seconds, which is excellent considering the wet weight (fully fueled) on the Heritage is 728 pounds.
Single brake discs front and rear are quite effective with good feel and moderate lever effort. Anti-lock brakes (ABS) are standard, which gives the rider peace of mind should an emergency stop be required. And easy-to-operate cruise control is also standard.
The new chassis of the Heritage is a huge improvement as the softail line enters a new era. The lighter, more rigid frame is 65 percent stiffer than previous models, according to Harley. That elevates form and function to a higher plane, yet maintains the classic look of a hardtail (no rear suspension). It delivers a thoroughly modern ride.
Benefits of the new chassis include increased lean angles (although still not very generous), lighter weight and easier side-stand liftoff than previous Heritage models. You also experience sharper turn-in response, quicker acceleration and nimble flick-ability. This is a stiff, firm foundation redesigned from the ground up, and it feels like it on the road.
The all-new front and rear suspension components are calibrated to match the dynamics of the new chassis, wheels and tires, enhancing the comfort, control and performance of the Heritage Classic. The new Showa high-performance dual-bending valve front suspension, first introduced on 2017 Touring models, offers damping performance that is similar to a cartridge fork but with better, more responsive damping characteristics. The new, easily adjustable rear mono-shock enables a 240-pound range of carrying capacity. It will keep a smile on the face of your "two-up" companion. And loaded up, you'll get better handling than before.
The suspension is optimized for both comfortable highway cruising and spirited riding with 130 millimeters of bump-devouring travel. Retuned rake and trail specs also improve the motorcycles' handling performance. So whether you're gliding along on a super-slab, or enjoying some twisty roads, the suspension won't let you down. And with our pockmarked roads, you won't bruise your kidneys, either.
The Heritage is a comfortable motorcycle for a wide range of riders, from short folks like me to long-legged, tall riders. Seat height is 26.8 inches, and the floorboards are just ahead of the rider's hips. Oddly, there's no heal shifter. The seat is quite comfortable with some lower back support, and the passenger pillion is large and thick.
The reach to the mini-ape bars is easy, and the grips are still below shoulder level so they're comfortable and offer good leverage to steer into a turn.
The tank-mounted gauge is a large 5-inch round dial for the speedo, and an LED screen for all the computer info, including a tachometer, gear indicator, odometer, fuel gauge and clock. Leave the key fob in your pocket and just push the starter button to light her up.
There are two gas caps on the tank, one for show and the other to pump in five gallons of 92-octane fuel. You can expect around 47 mile per gallon, so cruising range is plentiful.
One complaint I've always had with the Heritage was the saggy leather saddlebags with the warped-looking lids. Those have been replaced by larger, hard, leather-covered locking bags with handsome neo-retro studs to match those on the seat trim. They're easy to operate and look great. SOO much better.
The only thing I didn't like about my test bike was the drab, matte-finish brown paint. As I was taking the photos, a female customer at McHenry Harley walked by and said, "Oh I LOVE that color, don't you?" Oh well, there's no accounting for taste.
The new Heritage Classic is a com- fortable and fun Sunday day-tripper, with a quick release windshield, or an effective long-distance touring bike.
The Heritage Classic starts at $18,299 with the 107 engine, and for only $1,300 more you can get the 114 engine. Hey, you only live once so might as well opt for the 114. With either engine, this is a fine motorcycle.
• Email Glassman at KGHawkeye650@aol.com.