The 2018 Harley-Davidson model roll out began with the big news - sweeping changes to the Softail family. And that also meant the end of the Dyna family, though the Harley-Davidson motorcycles that were part of the family continue. We had reported earlier that the Milkwaukee 8, which debuted on the Touring range last year would also power the Harley-Davidson Softails and that has now happened. Also making news is the new frame, new design changes and more. Here is all the information neatly organised into the top ten things you need to know.
The merger of the Dyna line widens the Softail range to a total of eight motorcycles. There are no new names here. Softail stalwarts like the Fat Boy and the Heritage Classic rub shoulders with the Dyna stars like the Street Bob now. The full range is the Fat Boy, Fat Bob, Street Bob, Low Rider, Deluxe, Slim, Breakout and the Heritage Classic. That's three former Dynas and the five regular Softails to go. And remember the motorcycles headed for India, as of now, are the Fat Boy, Fat Bob and Street Bob. The Breakout had an innnings here - and it was lovely in a very specific way - but sales didn't work out as well as Harley-Davidson India had hoped.
107 engine Milwaukee Eight
The smaller Milwaukee 8 engine is the 107 (1,750cc) - 107 is the displacement in cubic inches. This will be the standard engine on all of the Softails for 2018 - that is all eight models. The more powerful engine is the Milwaukee 8 114 (1,870cc) which is available as an option on the three models coming to India and the Breakout. That is the Fat Bob, Fat Boy and the Heritage Classic. In India all the models from this family will feature the 107. The exception is the 115th Anniversary Fat Boy which will boast the 114.
The smooth and rumbling blackened 1753cc Milwaukee-8 engine produces 150Nm of torque. It comes with 4 valves per cylinder and employs dual counterbalancers to minimize vibrations.
The Milwaukee 8 motors are housed in a completely new frame. Harley-Davidson says the new frame is more rigid as well as substantially lighter - which usually means handling will improve. The company says a 34 per cent increase in stiffness has been achieved over last year. Weight has also been lost. Between 7 to 9kg approximately over just the two types of swingarms that the softails employ, in fact. Harley-Davidson also uses fewer welds and sub-components to make these frames which isn't of direct benefit to customers but it does mean the new frames are more cost effective for Harley-Davidson to make.
The Showa Dual Bending Valve fork reduces weight and provides more comfortable ride with improved handling. The rear unit offers increased wheel travel with larger range of preload adjustment.
The Touring models from last year brought with them the Showa SDBV or Showa Dual Bending Valve Fork which uses a set of plastic washers that can bend to offer more progressive damping character. Now, these forks - which we noted for improving the compliance and feel of the motorcycles like the Road Glide - are standard on the 2018 Softails, all eight of them. Accompanying the new forks is a new Showa monoshock at the rear with preload adjustment. Both the Fat Bs coming to India will have the possibility of tool-less preload change. Harley-Davidson says that the shock's tune is stiffer than last year and that improves feel and handling of the new models.
The all new Softail tubular frame is made of mild-steel which makes it lighter and 65% more stronger than that of the outgoing model.
All of the 2018 Harley-Davidson Softails will drop their weights. Some by as much as 15kg. That is not something that you will be able to dismiss - see point 8.
There are many details changes apart from the new suspension and frame that suggest that the new Softails will handle notably better than ever before. Some of the models see a modest rise in cornering clearance via relocated footpegs and new exhaust designs. Other models feature new tyre selections that are better able to deliver the new chassis and engine performance to the road.
Harley-Davidson says that all the Softail models will deliver better acceleration to 100kmph as well strong increases in roll-on acceleration that you would use to overtake vehicles on the highway. This has to be understood from the perspective of the move from the old High Output Twin Cam 103 to the Milwaukee 8, naturally. The weight loss, of course, only adds more zing to the new torque levels.
Most notably on the new Fat Bob, but the new Daymaker Signature LED head lamps, are literally the visual head line of the 2018 Softail range. They are standard on all the 2018 Harley-Davidson Softails. All themodels also get new fuel tanks, new instruments including a USB port and a keyless ignition system as standard equipment.
The Harley-Davidson Heritage Classic was always more than a pretty face. Harley-Davidson continues to enhance its abilities as a serious touring cruiser for 2018. The windscreen is detachable, the new hard bags are waterproof and lockable and most importantly, the suspension is bigger and has a higher load rating too!
Three models will feature exclusive paint schemes and graphics, seats and individual numbering as 115th Anniversary editions. These are the Breakout 114, Fat Boy 114 - coming to India in limited numbers - and the Heritage Classic 114. Harley India does point out of course that given the price jump to the 114 it doesn't make sense for them to launch the bigger models as a regular part of the range. The performance upgrades needed to match the 114's performance with a 107 might prove cost-effective in a high import duty market like ours.