As I get older, I have realised that fewer things impress me.
Sure I have likes, but impress? Nah, not much!
So when the 2018 Harley Davidson models were released in late ’17 I liked them. Then back in January this year, I had the opportunity to test ride two of the brand new motorcycles. You can read about that test session here.
Following my report on the test, I found myself wondering how the other seven models in the 2018 Softail line compared from a riding point of view. I particularly had my eye on the new “Heritage Classic.”
It’s funny, but I’d always viewed the “Softail Heritage” as a bit of a caricature of a stereotypical Harley…dripping chrome, leather tassels, polished studs, white wall tyres and as big as a supertanker….yeck! Not my thing at all.
2015 Softail Heritage, all whitewall and chrome.
Photo: Harley Davidson
The new “Classic” though was different, very different, gone were most of the fripperies, instead here was a machine that really looked the business, was 30kg lighter and had a more powerful engine.
Yes there was a serious nod to the Heritage of Harley Davidson, but it was subtle and to my eye quite pleasing, but what did the thing ride like?
Waiting outside Plymouth Harley Davidson.
Fast forward to the last Sunday in March and I found myself outside Plymouth Harley Davidson looking around a new Heritage Classic 107.
With a squeeze of the starter switch the engine roared into life and throbbed away like only a V-twin engine can do. I checked around the bike as it warmed up and the engine management dropped the revs back to around 900rpm at idle. The familiar Harley “Potato-Potato” exhaust was not quite the same, partly tuned out by modern noise regulations and also affected by the eight valve engine, it still sounded nice and “grunty” though!
Two factory equipped panniers offer ample storage for day rides, as well as more adventurous stuff like I get up to
I swung my leg over the bike and settled in the seat. Oh this felt comfortable and very familiar, so like my beloved “Harls.”
The suspension on the new Softail’s is much easier to adjust than on the old twin-cam models, so I had checked that I was correctly factory set for a solo rider of my weight; that’s 86kg if you are interested! The suspension has a single mono-shock located under the riders seat and adjustment is simply made by screwing the pre-load in or out.
Under the seat, the spring like thing is the mono-shock. Pre-load adjuster to the right by the Datatag sticker.
Selecting first gear I eased the clutch out and we were away. Now bear in mind that this was a new bike, brand new, so there would be no crazy stuff.
Right from the off was smooth, so very smooth. Yes the engine was tight and the gearbox a bit stiff, though in a thoroughly understandable brand new way.
I chose a route that gave me a good mix of highway, urban and country riding. With a new engine it’s very important not to over-rev it and at the same time also not hold it at the same speed for too long; variety is the spice of engine life too you know!
OK Dookes, so what was it like?
Well, nice seems to understate it a bit…that’s like saying that Turner’s painting “The Fighting Temeraire” is a pretty picture of a couple of boats.
The Fighting Temeraire.
No, this bike wasn’t just nice; it was bloody gorgeous.
The ample and somewhat “Retro” touring screen gave good protection from the wind, even at 70mph. Handling was superb, miles better than the Fat-Bob and also a step up from the Sport Glide. I took it easy on the twisty bits as new tyres are not renowned for exemplary grip, but I could feel how crisply the new chassis turned into bends and how “planted” the bike felt on the road. I really made me feel very confident.
The brakes are fitted with ABS, but are not linked, come on H-D you can do better than that you link them on the Touring models! I thought initially that I would have liked to have two disks on the front wheel, but the four-pot Brembo calipers really do stop this baby quite well.
Even though I was keeping the revs below 3000 and not “lugging” the engine, there was power to spare; once this baby was run in it was going to be a beauty!
I paused to grab some photos and ponder what I had written previously about Harley Davidson and their apparent lack of innovative leaps forward.
Maybe the whole point is that sometimes you just don’t need to make big grandiose flourishes in one go? If however, you roll a few together subtly over a couple of years you may just have a quiet revolution. By putting the Milwaukee Eight engine in a totally new frame and making a few tweaks here and there I can honestly say that I believe Harley Davidson really have produced something really special and are onto a winner.
To say I was impressed is a bit of an understatement.
Yeah, the old geezer was impressed!
In fact I was so impressed, that I am now the proud owner of a gorgeous new Heritage Classic in metallic Olive Green and Black!!!!
“I bought a new machine and then they say it takes your breath away…”
Catch you soon.
With special thanks to all at Plymouth Harley Davidson for continuing to indulge Hogrider Dookes with support, encouragement and above all excellent customer service!
(Usual disclaimer applies)