Over in Milwaukee, things are starting to gain momentum at Harley-Davidson. It took H-D eighty years to get an engine with 4 valves per cylinder. However, the progress is not about to stop. The company has always relied on words like “heritage” and “soul” to justify their stubborn reluctance to embrace modern technology, and herein lies the problem Harley faces. The youth that bought into their products have now become too old to ride motorcycles, and Harley-Davidson had to act.
To celebrate their 115th anniversary they embarked on the largest-ever product development projects and launched eight new Softail models which they are calling a “big twin custom revolution”. This range will absorb the Dyna range which had been a very popular range for almost a quarter of a century. The demise of the Dyna ushers in a new frame to accommodate the powerful Milwaukee-Eight engine. There are two engine sizes, the 107 and 114. These are numbers in cubic inches, and the 114 translates to a staggering 1868cc.
To handle all this power, the frame is now 65% stiffer and incorporates an adjustable hidden monoshock design. The frame is lighter and far less complicated and the benefits include increased lean angle, sharper turn-in response, quicker acceleration and flickability.
Brad Richards, vice president of styling and design said: “The authenticity of Harley-Davidson design comes by sweating the details from start to finish. It’s ‘hard to do and hard to copy.’ Harley-Davidson motorcycles are not a commodity; they are handed down from generation to generation. We look at every nut and bolt on the bike, all the finishes, and every small detail. The new Softail frame is like a piece of art and the more you take
off the bike, the more beautiful it becomes. Its design speaks to the teamwork that our styling and engineering processes demand.”
One thing that remained was the authentic H-D look, harking back to the hardtail designs. The resultant weight saving is massive, and that in turn will make lifting the bike of the side-stand easier. The monoshock is adjustable for preload and the revamped geometry, along with new seat designs, will improve ride quality.
The eight Softail modes are: Fat Boy, Heritage Classic, Low Rider, Softail Slim, Deluxe, Breakout, Street Bob and the aggressive Fat Bob.
These models are being shown to the world press at the moment, and once I get to ride them, I will report if Harley-Davidson are, in fact, on the right track. – Brian Cheyne