In June of 1997, when we first sampled Harley's Heritage Softail Springer, , it left us unimpressed. Though comfortable in many aspects, it vibrated too hard and responded too lethargically to throttle to make us want to ride it far. Retro styling was really all that carried it -- or at least carried a conversation.
After Harley's broad upgrade to the Softail platform for 2000, however, we thought it was time to revisit the most nostalgic of Milwaukee's cruisers. So I borrowed a 2000 model from the factory in York, Pennsylvania, and spent a week cruising around the Northeast in search of dry
All of these cues come from...
All of these cues come from the original panhead model: high-mounted headlight, big upfront horn with a chrome cover and dual spotlights.
The long, wide rider saddle of the Heritage Springer was a comfortable perch, but it was easy to forget after you had been savaged for a while by the vibration of the previous Evolution-powered model. The "authentic World War II-era vibration" alone was enough to keep us from regarding the Evolution-powered FLSTS as anything more than a casual boulevard troller. With the advent of the counterbalanced engine, significant vibration is a bad memory. Having committed myself to living with this machine for a while, I was pleased that the new engine did indeed transform the comfort of the bike.
Besides the commodious saddle, which kept me happy through some non-stop rides that exploited the bike's 200-mile range, the Heritage Springer coddles you with a riding position that pleased me even though it (unlike our photo bike) lacked a windshield. The grips were almost exactly where I wanted them, and the headlight, which rides up high, provides a modicum of wind deflection. When my legs tired on the floorboards, the passenger pegs provided a comfortable alternative.
The brake pedal position was slightly awkward for me, and both handlebar levers are about as far from the grips as I can comfortably reach. The front brake is still an old single-piston caliper type, since the new brakes have not been adapted to the Springer's front suspension yet. This is not as powerful as the new calipers used on tele-forked models.
With their basket-weave finish,...
With their basket-weave finish, conchos, fringe, reflectors and studs, the bags carry you back to the 1950s. Unfortunately, you can't take a lot of gear with you.
Though the new frame provides a more stable platform, the FLSTS still is not among the most corner-happy cruisers. The suspension is a bit slushy, and there is not a lot of travel or bump absorption at either end. Lumps in the road surface came through clearly. You can't bend very deep into a corner before the floorboards begin to grind loudly, and more solid components touch down when you lean a mite further.
The new engine also remedies the Evo's power deficiency, another shortcoming of the old model. Twisting the throttle now brings more substantial results, and this heavy motorcycle no longer feels underpowered out on an interstate highway. Despite its considerable weight, the FLSTS now runs with other strong big twins. We suspect that the exhaust system, which interconnects the two big fishtail mufflers, one on each side of the bike, is less restrictive than the staggered dual pipes found on most H-Ds. This bike started with a minimum of choke and was ready to pull away within a few seconds, even after sitting in the rain all night.
As with other Harleys, the clutch demands a strong pull, which gets old when riding in extended stop-and-go traffic. It engages progressively and predictably. Shifting has improved since our last FLSTS experience, changing cogs more smoothly and certainly, though still somewhat noisily. A lock screw allows you to lodge the throttle in position as a sort of low-tech cruise control to allow you to relax your grip on a long ride.
The most obvious and beneficial...
The most obvious and beneficial change in the 2000 model is the Softail's new counterbalanced engine, which is significantly more powerful and smoother than the old Evo. Also, that broad skirted seat feels as good as it looks, and conveys the style of a 1950 saddle quite effectively. Taller riders bump into the rail behind the rider's section, though.
The most obvious and beneficial change in the 2000 model is the Softail's new counterbalanced engine, which is significantly more powerful and smoother than the old Evo. Also, that broad skirted seat feels as good as it looks, and conveys the style of a 1950 saddle quite effectively. Taller riders bump into the rail behind the rider's section, though.The most obvious and beneficial change in the 2000 model is the Softail's new counterbalanced engine, which is significantly more powerful and smoother than the old Evo. Also, that broad skirted seat feels as good as it looks, and conveys the style of a 1950 saddle quite effectively. Taller riders bump into the rail behind the rider's section, though.
The saddlebags (which, like the seat, will lose their fringe next year) look much bigger than they are inside. I found the easiest way to exploit the entire, somewhat uneven interior of each bag was to place my gear in several small bags and squash them into the nooks and corners. That also overcomes the problems created by the undersized openings in the tops of the bags. Zipping up two zippers and buckling three straps each time we packed became tedious. We understand that the 2001 model will have a quick-release system for the straps. Because the bags zip up under the buckle-down flaps, they do a surprisingly effective job of keeping out the rain I usually seem to be riding in. The rail around the back of the rider's seat makes it easy to strap gear on the passenger seat, or in my case, on the quick-detach Harley accessory rack fitted in place of the pillion.
Of course, the many retro touches will attract buyers to the Heritage Springer, which is unique even within Harley's line. From the Springer style front suspension to the tombstone taillight, the FLSTS is easy to identify and conveys the fun that is attached to retro-style vehicles these days. The best part is that you no longer have to put up with much of the same unpleasantness that riders accepted as an unavoidable evil back in 1948 when the original prototype for this bike was introduced. Unless you plan to do a lot of miles on twisting roads, the Heritage Springer is now a pleasant motorcycle to ride as well as look at.
You better like the retro style, because you will pay for it. The 2001 model's suggested price of $17,545 makes the Heritage Springer the most expensive straight cruiser in Harley's line and second only to the maximum Electra Glide. On top of that, you can add $800 for the new Delphi fuel-injection system and $250 for the optional security system -- plus whatever the dealer tacks on for the privilege of allowing you to be a customer. It is enough to make you long for the good old days.
The fork isn't particularly...
The fork isn't particularly well controlled and lacks the travel of a telescopic, but it offers some anti-dive bias under braking.
Harley-Davidson FLSTS Heritage Springer
Suggested base price: $17,370
Warranty: 12 months, unlimited miles
ENGINE & DRIVETRAIN
Type: Air-cooled OHV, 4-valve 45-degree V-twin
Displacement, bore x stroke: 1450cc, 95.3 x 101mm
Transmission: 5 speeds, wet clutch
Final drive: Belt
Rake/trail: 31.0 degrees / 6.3 in.
Front tire: MT90B16 Dunlop tube-type
Rear tire: MT90B16 Dunlop tube-type
Front suspension: Harley Springer, dual dampers, 4.2-in. travel
Rear suspension: Harley Softail, dual dampers, 4.1-in travel
Seat height: 25.9 in.
Wheelbase: 64.2 in.
Fuel capacity: 5.0 gal.
Wet weight: 746 lb.
Fuel mileage: 47.1 mpg avg.
Quarter-mile acceleration: 14.21 sec., 92.4 mph
The Heritage Springer was...
The Heritage Springer was last produced in 2003, in this and the two paint schemes shown below.