“The Dyna handles way better but the Softail has that old school look.” Is exactly how those models were described to me when I started looking into buying my first Harley years ago. More simply put: your choices were form or function, not both.
The Softail has always been so good looking and just a little customization sets them off, but the lackluster suspension left riders wanting. While Dynas handle very well, riders have complained about the appearance of the shocks and big exposed battery box. For 2018, Harley-Davidson had pulled out the big guns, combining the Dyna and Softail lines into twelve familiar new models that combine the benefits of each, while surpassing previous performance across the board.
They’ve developed an all-new stiffer chassis with the look of the Softail frame, but new monoshock suspension that connects the swingarm to the frame beneath the seat. From Breakout to Low Rider, these twelve models share the same new chassis, as well as a laundry list of other upgraded and updated performance components. The Softail was designed in ‘84 and the Dyna in ‘91; Harley may have taken their sweet-ass time, but at least they made it worth the wait.
While they were always an aesthetic strong point in Harley's cruiser lineup, Softails have been known for their poor performing pull-shock system that sits hidden beneath the transmission towards the back of the frame. This has always been a battle for people that want that old-school hard-tailed look provided by these models, but also something that they can throw into the turns without getting squirrelly and scraping pegs or pipe.
Until now, those more performance-minded individuals have turned to H-D's Dyna or older FXR models, but 2018 marks the death of the Dyna line (though your favorite Dynas aren’t exactly gone). From the whispers we've heard about performance in the new chassis, and what we know from our tests of the Milwaukee-Eight, both riders looking for serious performance and those in love with the classic Softail look will be impressed by the new line.
Stylistically, it seems they've checked all the boxes here, and they better have with a model range 12 bikes deep. While the modern, aggressive look of the Fat Bob has me thinking dirty thoughts, more traditional cruiser riders will be happy to see that they've brought back models like the Fat Boy and the Heritage Classic, both of which are offered with the 107 or 114 Milwaukee-Eight for those that want a bit more juice. The 114 gives you 9% more power from 0-60mph and a 13% increase in 5th gear from 60-80 mph over the current gen 107, right where you want it for highway cruising which is worth the extra $1300 if you ask me.
It’s hard to say without having actually ridden it, but it looks like Harley just came out with a lighter, better handling, more powerful, better-looking bike than any of the big twins out on the market right now. What can compete with these?
Indian’s baggers are awesome but their cruiser line is lacking. I like Indian's Thunder Stroke 111 way more than the Twin Cam, but the Milwaukee Eight can hold its own. While Triumph's 900 and 1200cc engines that debuted with the updated Bonneville line in 2017 are absolutely incredible, their only cruiser model that has one- the Bobber, is a solo niche bike that just lacks the versatility that these bikes have.
Harley’s strongest suit has always been the emotional response and the feeling you get when riding one, but their tech has been a little behind the times. This new line should have the competition shaking in their boots, but it has me more excited than I have been about a new bike in ages. Why? Because for the first time since the Scout, something really new is happening with American cruisers, and it’s BIG. Let’s hope that this will get the competition to put their foot to the floor; I’d love to live in a world where other companies are fighting to keep up with H-D.
We couldn’t be more excited for this shift in Milwaukee and the fact that we get to throw a leg over these new bikes next week. Our friends at Cycle World were lucky enough to get an early look at the bikes, and they’ve shared model overviews of each bike. Check the links below to
All-New Softail Frame
• Stiffer and stronger, for improved handling and weight capacity
• 13 pounds lighter, for improved performance
• Engine is rigid-mounted in frame, for further stiffness
All-New Monoshock Rear Suspension
• Retains classic “hardtail” styling of the Softail platform
• Single coil-over shock links swingarm to frame and is hidden under the seat
• Improved damping performance, increased travel, more pre-load range improve comfort
• Easy pre-load adjustment on all models optimizes ride and handling
• External pre-load adjustment knob(on some models)
Showa Dual-Bending Valve (SDBV) Front Suspension
The damping performance of a racing-style cartridge fork
• Linear damping characteristics and reduced weight enhance comfort and handling performance
Counter-Balanced and Rigid Mounted Milwaukee Eight
Dual counter-balancers cancel primary vibration so the Milwaukee-Eight engine can be rigid-mounted in the frame.
• Allows the rider to feel more connected to the powertrain
• Enables a tight, clean engine installation in the frame for iconic style
• The rigid-mounted engine contributes to overall chassis stiffness for enhanced handling performance
Our friends at Cycle World were lucky enough to get an early look at the bikes, and they’ve shared model overviews of each bike below, and you can also check out some initial riding impressions by Hot Bike’s Ed Subias, Cycle World’s Peter Egan, and Motorcyclist’s Brian Hatano. You should also check out Cycle World Technical Editor Kevin Cameron’s explanation of the whole shift from Harley, as well as Editor-in-Chief Mark Hoyer’s essay on The Death Of The Dyna.