Teramuto

83 months ago

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Harley-Davidson Kills it With the New Softail Lineup - And Kills the Dyna

Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Harley's Largest Ever Product Launch

A little over a week ago Harley-Davidson launched their 2018 lineup and with it came quite a shake up. Harley's largest ever Product Development Project moves the motor company into their 115<sup>th</sup> Anniversary Year. H-D announced eight models: the all new Fat Boy, Heritage Classic, Low Rider, Softail Slim, Deluxe, Breakout, Fat Bob and Street Bob motorcycles.

New 2018 Softail Models

New 2018 Softail Models

RIP Dyna

What appears to be revolutionary for Harley, and what is also causing quite the upheaval in the Harley enthusiast community, is the decision to kill off the Dyna lineup altogether. While formerly Dyna models such as the Fat Bob, Street Bob and Low Rider are still available, they are now based on the newly designed Softail Frame.

In 1991 the FXDB Sturgis launched the Dyna platform as the first Harley to be designed completely with Computer Aided Design. Produced continuously since that time, the Dyna lineup embodied the “heritage” and “character” that the Harley-Davidson brand is both praised and panned for, continuing into the present day. At the time, Dynas were new bikes that looked and felt an awful lot like the Super Glides of the 1970s and 1980s (which were considered retro even back then)—and that was exactly how a lot of people liked their Harleys. When you see a high-performance build of a big Harley, it’s usually based on the Dyna. It is because of this yearning for nostalgia, it seems, that this change by Harley is seen by some as a tragedy... RIP Dyna.

1991 FXDB Sturgis

1991 FXDB Sturgis

But let’s move on and see what this new Product Development Project has to offer.

The New Line-Up

Eight new Softail models have been released and they can be loosely broken down into three different categories; Heritage Standards, Modernized Classics, and Revolutionary New Designs.

In the Heritage Standards category, there are the Heritage Classic, which has a 114 option, the Deluxe, and the Slim. At first glance, these models aren’t too different from the current Softail lineup, and they are most likely intended to appeal to Harley’s base.

Heritage Deluxe

Heritage Deluxe

Softail Slim

Softail Slim

Softail Heritage Classic

Softail Heritage Classic

In the Modernized Classics category, there is the Low Rider, the Street Bob, and the Breakout, which offers a 114 option. These motorcycles are more modern-looking, could be aimed a younger crowd and can be considered “muscle bikes”. Two of them - the Lowrider and the Street Bob are former Dyna models.

Breakout

Breakout

Lowrider

Lowrider

Street Bob

Street Bob

Last but not least, and most exciting (at least for me), are the Revolutionary New Design models - Fat Boy, and the all-new Fat Bob - both of which are available with a 114. The Fat Boy sports somewhat of a new face with a new satin chrome headlight housing, but the rest of the bike looks pretty familiar. The Fat Bob is the most radically styled of the new Softail models. It has a horizontal oval headlight, bronze-colored pipes, a blacked out frame and wheels, and a straight handlebar. To me it looks like the perfect base for a spectacular Hooligan bike.

Fat Bob

Fat Bob

Fat Boy

Fat Boy

New Chassis and Suspension, Greater Lean Angles, More Flickable

Though I haven't had a chance to ride any of these new models yet, Harley is declaring that the handling of the new Softail is greatly improved by a lighter, more rigid frame “that elevates form and function to a higher plane, while maintaining the classic look of a hardtail and delivering a thoroughly modern ride.” Benefits of the new chassis include increased lean angles, sharper turn-in response, quicker acceleration, nimble flickability, lighter weight and easier side-stand lift off than previous models. I will have to wait and see whether this is true when I ride these bikes myself.

A new high stiffness carbon steel tubular frame forms the core of the 2018 Softail chassis and combined with the swingarm increases the rigidity of the chassis. The frame is 65 per cent stiffer than the outgoing Softail design, which leads to a 34 per cent increase in overall chassis stiffness. The swingarm transfers rear wheel movement to the under-seat monoshock while maintaining the pure, classic lines of a hardtail frame.

Monoshock

Monoshock

This new monoshock design appears very close to the design originally developed and later sold to Harley-Davidson by Bill Davis, an avid Harley rider and engineer from St. Louis, Mo. in the mid-1970s. His first design, which he worked on in 1974 and 1975, had a cantilever swingarm pivoted at the bottom and sprung at the top with the springs and shock absorber hidden under the seat. While later designs, and the Softail first introduced as the 1984 Harley-Davidson FXST Softail, featured shocks under the frame and a pivot point at the top of the triangular swingarm, Harley engineers seem to have revisited Davis’ original design.

Bill Davis Original Design

Bill Davis Original Design

Brand new high-performance dual-bending valve front suspension – first introduced on 2017 Touring models – delivers damping performance that’s similar to a cartridge fork but with improved, more responsive damping characteristics. The forks are optimized for both comfortable cruising and spirited riding with 130mm of travel. Revised rake and trail also enhance handling ability.

Faster

All 2018 Softail models get the most powerful engines ever offered in Harley-Davidson Big Twin cruisers, the new Milwaukee-Eight:tm: 107 and 114 V-Twins. Milwaukee-Eight engines retain the 45-degree V-Twin cylinder angle with a broad-shouldered top end accentuated by a single camshaft design that tapers to a slim bottom end for a muscular contour.

The new Softail frame’s rigid mounting points are engineered to tightly package the engine and reinforce chassis stiffness. Milwaukee-Eight engines for Softail models also feature a refined, dual internally counter-balanced system that reduces engine vibration while maintaining the familiar Harley-Davidson feel. Harley-Davidson’s trademark ‘potato-potato-potato’ sound comes through strong with less intake and mechanical noise.

The two displacement options available:

Milwaukee-Eight 107

(107 CID; 1745cc). Standard on all models and purported to offer 10 -15 per cent quicker acceleration than the High Output Twin Cam 103

107

107

And Milwaukee-Eight 114

(114 CID; 1868cc) Optional. Available on four models: Fat Bob 114, Fat Boy 114, Breakout 114, Heritage Classic 114 offering 9-13 per cent faster acceleration than the Milwaukee-Eight 107

The Upshot

I think that Harley Davidson is moving in the right direction. While there is great consternation and gnashing of teeth from the Harley purists and others married to the “heritage”, (and I say this as a guy who loves a carbureted Evo or shovel) it is imperative that Harley continue to modernize in order to stay relevant and maintain market share.

While their base is very loyal and would continue to support the “traditional” look and feel of a Harley, that base is slowly dying off. New markets must be found, especially now that Indian is killing it with the new Scout, despite the fact it that looks markedly different and more modern than what Indian was producing 40 years ago.

What is becoming apparent is that most Millennials (and I’m generalizing to a great degree here) don’t really care about “heritage”. They want an affordable motorcycle that does not put heritage before innovation. In short, “bang for the buck” is important and Harley can’t sit around and wait for Millennials to get older hoping that they will suddenly like Harley's when they hit 50 years-old. If they don’t like them now they probably won’t like them when they are old, unless innovation starts to take priority. With the changes in the 2018 lineup and the evolving Street based models the company seems to be making the necessary investments in innovation to continue to be a powerful force in he motorcycling world.

Bravo Harley!

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Savoy

82 months ago

Love the handling and especially the suspension - worth your time for test rides

Cycleguider

82 months ago

This is good news all around. With almost 30 years of production, Dynas aren't going away, the used market will keep them around for many decades to come AND their value just went up. Plus, putting the big vtwins in cruisers with a light, stiff frames gives the Harley single seat rider the bite to back the growl. Just my opinion on reality, not an angry wish for what won't be.

lazyb8s

82 months ago

As a "newer" HD fan I'm excited.

UTBanditrider

82 months ago

Boo! on Harley, first the FXCR, then the XR1200, then the FXDX, now the Lowrider S? Boo! Hiss! Lost a customer Harley.

SuperchargeR

82 months ago

@teramuto RIP Dyna... and what a huge upshot it is. Good read.