HARLEY-DAVIDSON SOFTAIL (1988-on) Review

Published: 23 November 2006

"Classic 50s styling and the latest version of their much loved, air cooled engine"

Harley-Davidson FLST/I Heritage Softail motorcycle review - Riding

"Classic 50s styling and the latest version of their much loved, air cooled engine"

  • At a glance
  • 1449cc  -  67 bhp
  • 44 mpg  -  185 miles range
  • Low seat height (668mm)
  • £16,495

Overall Rating 4 out of 5

Big Harley-Davidson with classic 50s styling and the latest version of their much loved, air cooled engine. The defining feature of the Harley-Davidson Heritage Softail family is the hidden rear suspension so it looks like an unsprung ‘hardtail’. It’s a recently re-released and modernised family designed to appeal to Harley-Davidson’s traditional customer.

 

Ride Quality & Brakes 3 out of 5

Like all modern Harley-Davidsons, handling is surprisingly capable. Yes, it’s softly sprung and heavy but ground clearance is more of a limiting factor than anything else and you can whip along a twisty road at a more-than respectable pace. The Harley-Davidson Heritage Softail's brakes are poor – one front disc really isn’t enough.

Engine 4 out of 5

The Harley-Davidson Heritae Softail family got a new engine for 2006 – well ‘new’ isn’t strictly true – it’s heritage is 100 years old. But the ‘96B’ variant in the Harley-Davidson Heritage Softails uses balance shafts instead of rubber mounts like the rest of Harley’s range. It shakes like a fitting Hippo at tickover, produces excellent torque at low revs and runs out of puff at about 90mph.

Build Quality & Reliability 4 out of 5

Well built, like all modern Harley-Davidsons. Breakdowns are fairly rare as are major problems as long as the motorcycle is well cared for. Corrosion can be a problem with the Harley-Davidson Heritage Softail but few get used in winter – just as well as it slashes resale value.

 

Value & Running Costs 4 out of 5

Expensive when new, like all the large Harley-Davidsons. It’s far from the most expensive of the bunch though plus holds its value exceptionally well on the used market. Quality extras can even add to the value of a motorcycle – very rare as with most other machines standard motorcycles are the most desirable. Find a Harley-Davidson Softail for sale.

Insurance group: 15 of 17 – compare motorcycle insurance quotes now.

Equipment 4 out of 5

The standard Harley-Davidson Heritage Softail is not exactly loaded up with goodies. There’s little more than the bare minimum. Plenty of people find the rider seat comfy and the foot boards are novel but offer no real advantage over pegs. Pillion’s get a smaller seat and nothing to hold onto. Fortunately after-market extras are virtually limitless.

Owners' Reviews

No owners have yet reviewed the HARLEY-DAVIDSON SOFTAIL (1988-on).

We’re currently improving the way this section works, which means we’ve had to suspend the submission of new owners’ reviews for a short period. Please check back soon.

Facts & Figures

Model info
Year introduced 1988
Year discontinued -
New price £16,495
Warranty term Two year unlimited mileage
Running costs
Insurance group 15 of 17
Annual road tax £80
Annual service cost -
Performance
Max power 67 bhp
Max torque 81 ft-lb
Top speed 110 mph
1/4-mile acceleration 14.3 secs
Average fuel consumption 44 mpg
Tank range 185 miles
Specification
Engine size 1449cc
Engine type 4v V-twin, 5 gears
Frame type Steel cradle
Fuel capacity 19 litres
Seat height 668mm
Bike weight 305kg
Front suspension None
Rear suspension Preload
Front brake 292mm disc
Rear brake 292mm disc
Front tyre size MT90B16
Rear tyre size 150/80 x 16

History & Versions

Model history

2005: Harley-Davidson Heritage Softail launched – although an earlier Harley-Davidson Heritage Softail was sold from 1985-1990.

Other versions

Harley-Davidson Heritage Softail Classic: all out retro-tourer styling, chrome laced wheels, leather studded saddlebags and sweeping fenders. 
Harley-Davidson Heritage Softail Springer: takes the retro theme even further. Springer front suspension coupled with 1930s style olive pearl and black paintjob, tombstone tail lamp and full rear fender.
Harley-Davidson Heritage Softail Delux: more retro but in a different style. White wall tyres and tombstone tail light.  The Deluxe is also the lowest bike Harley-Davidson build, at 622mm

Photo Gallery

  • Harley-Davidson FLST/I Heritage Softail motorcycle review - Riding
  • Harley-Davidson FLST/I Heritage Softail motorcycle review - Side view
  • Harley-Davidson FLST/I Heritage Softail motorcycle review - Front view
  • Harley-Davidson FLST/I Heritage Softail motorcycle review - Side view
  • Harley-Davidson FLST/I Heritage Softail motorcycle review - Side view
  • Harley-Davidson FLST/I Heritage Softail motorcycle review - Riding
  • Harley-Davidson FLST/I Heritage Softail motorcycle review - Riding
  • Harley-Davidson FLST/I Heritage Softail motorcycle review - Side view
  • Harley-Davidson FLST/I Heritage Softail motorcycle review - Front view
  • Harley-Davidson FLST/I Heritage Softail motorcycle review - Front view
  • Harley-Davidson FLST/I Heritage Softail motorcycle review - Side view
  • HARLEY-DAVIDSON SOFTAIL  (1988-on)
  • HARLEY-DAVIDSON SOFTAIL  (1988-on)
  • Harley-Davidson FLST/I Heritage Softail motorcycle review - Side view
  • Harley-Davidson FLST/I Heritage Softail motorcycle review - Side view
  • Harley-Davidson FLST/I Heritage Softail motorcycle review - Riding
  • Harley-Davidson FLST/I Heritage Softail motorcycle review - Side view
  • Harley-Davidson FLST/I Heritage Softail motorcycle review - Front view
  • Harley-Davidson FLST/I Heritage Softail motorcycle review - Side view
  • Harley-Davidson FLST/I Heritage Softail motorcycle review - Side view
  • Harley-Davidson FLST/I Heritage Softail motorcycle review - Riding
  • Harley-Davidson FLST/I Heritage Softail motorcycle review - Riding
  • Harley-Davidson FLST/I Heritage Softail motorcycle review - Side view
  • Harley-Davidson FLST/I Heritage Softail motorcycle review - Front view
  • Harley-Davidson FLST/I Heritage Softail motorcycle review - Front view
  • Harley-Davidson FLST/I Heritage Softail motorcycle review - Side view
  • Harley-Davidson FLST/I Heritage Softail motorcycle review - Side view
  • Harley-Davidson FLST/I Heritage Softail motorcycle review - Side view
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