HARLEY-DAVIDSON SPRINGER SOFTAIL (1988-2003) Review

Published: 23 November 2006

"'Springer' front Forks are based on the 1948 model"

Harley-Davidson FXSTS Softail Springer motorcycle review - Riding

"'Springer' front Forks are based on the 1948 model"

  • At a glance
  • 1340cc  -  55 bhp
  • 42 mpg  -  175 miles range
  • Low seat height (685mm)

Overall Rating 3 out of 5

The Harley-Davidson Softail Springer is an ultra retro Harley based on the FXST Softail. Minimal but charming cruiser which harks back to the post war years when Harley-Davidson motorcycles were popular and their identity was really cemented. ‘Springer’ front Forks are based on the 1948 model but the rest of the Harley-Davidson Softail Springer is relatively modern – well as modern as air cooled Harleys ever were.

Ride Quality & Brakes 2 out of 5

Those springer forks may look cool – but they’re old technology with precious little updating them. TheHarley-Davidson Softail Springer is a bouncy ride with just the rider and gets more so if you add a pillion. Ground clearance is limited like all Harleys and the Harley-Davidson Softail Springer's brakes are mediocre at best.

 

Engine 2 out of 5

Unlike the newer Softail Springer, the Springer Softail is an older model and is fitted with the older 1340cc engine. It’s got less power and torque and is even cruder than the later model. The gearbox is equally primitive. But in such a nostalgic package, it all somehow works even if it’s slower than a diesel Ford Focus.

Build Quality & Reliability 3 out of 5

The Harley-Davidson Softail Springer is an older model and not quite as trouble free as the latest machines Harley have to offer. Electrical problems are not uncommon, corrosion can rear its ugly head, while gearbox and engine problems are less frequent but not unheard of with the Harley-Davidson Softail Springer.

Value & Running Costs 4 out of 5

Buy an older Harley-Davidson Softail Springer for a good price, keep it garaged, don’t use it in winter, don’t do a huge mileage and you could just hit that biking jackpot – the depreciation free motorcycle. If you buy from a dealer it’s unlikely though. And prices are high considering it’s an older, slower motorcycle. Find a Harley-Davidson Softail for sale.

 

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

Equipment 2 out of 5

It’s that same Harley story here – the standard Harley-Davidson Softail Springer is a blank canvas for most people. There’s an enormous range of extras and alternative parts to personalize the bike and tailor it to your needs. Comfortable for some as standard but the Harley-Davidson Softail Springer's arse-low, feet forward riding position doesn’t suit everyone.

 

Owners' Reviews

2 owners have reviewed their HARLEY-DAVIDSON SPRINGER SOFTAIL (1988-2003) and rated it in a number of areas. Read what they have to say and what they like and dislike about the bike below.

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.

Summary of Owners' Reviews
Overall Rating 3 out of 5
Ride Quality & Brakes 3 out of 5
Engine 4 out of 5
Build Quality & Reliability 4 out of 5
Value & Running Costs 3 out of 5
Equipment 3 out of 5
3 out of 5

my springer

07 May 2012 by Anonymous

anyone who buys a harley and thinks they are the ultimate in motorcycling will be sadly dissapointed . i have owned harleys for over 25 years and they cannot compare with jap reliabilty in anyway , but having said that they have something that a jap... Read more could never have and that is true soul. the bike i ride at present is a 1997 springer softail with the evo motor. this bike has toured some 17 countries and all over the uk , had a bottom end rebuild at 55000 and now getting a top end rebuild at 100000 miles . you really do have to keep on top of them making sure that after every ride they are cleaned otherwise they will soon start to look shabby. the motors are good for around 70000 miles then they need work but a harley will go on for ever so long as they are given fresh oil evey 4000 miles . the belt drive is good and needs changing at 60000 miles having said that i have never had one break on me in over 200000 miles . the brakes are woeful with only a single front disc stopping over 600 lbs of motorcycle, but as will all harleys they can be upgraded (at a cost).the ride i would describe as interesting if ridden hard and things will touch down with ease, the front end takes a little getting used. the rear suspenion is fine and i am still running the original shocks. gearbox is best described as clunky but i have never had any problems with it. to sum up there is a lot of bull written about harleys my view would be if you like retro dont mind working on the bike and cleaning then a harley is fine ,they look good they hold thier price as long as the miles are kept down (but if you dont ride them i dont see the point). a harley is unlike any other motorcycle ,the japs will never be able to produce what harleys have and even for all thier faults i would never sell my springer .so find a nice one clean and cherish it and keep it for ever just dont get sucked into the harley bull

Overall Rating 3 out of 5
Ride Quality & Brakes 3 out of 5
Engine 4 out of 5
Build Quality & Reliability 4 out of 5
Value & Running Costs 3 out of 5
Equipment 3 out of 5
3 out of 5

my springer

07 May 2012 by Anonymous

anyone who buys a harley and thinks they are the ultimate in motorcycling will be sadly dissapointed . i have owned harleys for over 25 years and they cannot compare with jap reliabilty in anyway , but having said that they have something that a jap... Read more could never have and that is true soul. the bike i ride at present is a 1997 springer softail with the evo motor. this bike has toured some 17 countries and all over the uk , had a bottom end rebuild at 55000 and now getting a top end rebuild at 100000 miles . you really do have to keep on top of them making sure that after every ride they are cleaned otherwise they will soon start to look shabby. the motors are good for around 70000 miles then they need work but a harley will go on for ever so long as they are given fresh oil evey 4000 miles . the belt drive is good and needs changing at 60000 miles having said that i have never had one break on me in over 200000 miles . the brakes are woeful with only a single front disc stopping over 600 lbs of motorcycle, but as will all harleys they can be upgraded (at a cost).the ride i would describe as interesting if ridden hard and things will touch down with ease, the front end takes a little getting used. the rear suspenion is fine and i am still running the original shocks. gearbox is best described as clunky but i have never had any problems with it. to sum up there is a lot of bull written about harleys my view would be if you like retro dont mind working on the bike and cleaning then a harley is fine ,they look good they hold thier price as long as the miles are kept down (but if you dont ride them i dont see the point). a harley is unlike any other motorcycle ,the japs will never be able to produce what harleys have and even for all thier faults i would never sell my springer .so find a nice one clean and cherish it and keep it for ever just dont get sucked into the harley bull

Overall Rating 3 out of 5
Ride Quality & Brakes 3 out of 5
Engine 4 out of 5
Build Quality & Reliability 4 out of 5
Value & Running Costs 3 out of 5
Equipment 3 out of 5
Read all 2 owners' reviews in full

Facts & Figures

Model info
Year introduced 1988
Year discontinued 2003
Original price -
Warranty term (when new) Two year unlimited mileage
Running costs
Insurance group 15 of 17
Annual road tax £80
Annual service cost -
Performance
Max power 55 bhp
Max torque 53 ft-lb
Top speed 110 mph
1/4-mile acceleration 15.1 secs
Average fuel consumption 42 mpg
Tank range 175 miles
Specification
Engine size 1340cc
Engine type 4v V-twin, 5 gears
Frame type Steel spine
Fuel capacity 19 litres
Seat height 685mm
Bike weight 285kg
Front suspension None
Rear suspension Preload
Front brake 292mm disc
Rear brake 292mm disc
Front tyre size 80/90 x 19
Rear tyre size 130/90 x 16

History & Versions

Model history

1988: Harley-Davidson Softail Springer launched.
1993: Gearbox and belt drive updated.
1995: Vacuum fuel tap and smooth exhaust added.
1997: Rear wheel hub now aluminium.
1998: Clutch gets nine plates for better operation and longevity.
2002: Immobiliser/alarm added and bullet shaped indicators.

Other versions

None

Photo Gallery

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  • Harley-Davidson FXSTS Softail Springer motorcycle review - Side view
  • Harley-Davidson FXSTS Softail Springer motorcycle review - Riding
  • Harley-Davidson FXSTS Softail Springer motorcycle review - Riding
  • Harley-Davidson FXSTS Softail Springer motorcycle review - Side view
  • Harley-Davidson FXSTS Softail Springer motorcycle review - Rear view
  • Harley-Davidson FXSTS Softail Springer motorcycle review
  • Harley-Davidson FXSTS Softail Springer motorcycle review
  • Harley-Davidson FXSTS Softail Springer motorcycle review - Side view
  • Harley-Davidson FXSTS Softail Springer motorcycle review - Front view
  • Harley-Davidson FXSTS Softail Springer motorcycle review - Top view
  • Harley-Davidson FXSTS Softail Springer motorcycle review - Riding
  • Harley-Davidson FXSTS Softail Springer motorcycle review - Riding
  • Harley-Davidson FXSTS Softail Springer motorcycle review - Riding
  • Harley-Davidson FXSTS Softail Springer motorcycle review - Side view
  • Harley-Davidson FXSTS Softail Springer motorcycle review - Front view
  • Harley-Davidson FXSTS Softail Springer motorcycle review - Side view
  • Harley-Davidson FXSTS Softail Springer motorcycle review - Riding
  • Harley-Davidson FXSTS Softail Springer motorcycle review - Riding
  • Harley-Davidson FXSTS Softail Springer motorcycle review - Side view
  • Harley-Davidson FXSTS Softail Springer motorcycle review - Rear view
  • Harley-Davidson FXSTS Softail Springer motorcycle review
  • Harley-Davidson FXSTS Softail Springer motorcycle review
  • Harley-Davidson FXSTS Softail Springer motorcycle review - Side view
  • Harley-Davidson FXSTS Softail Springer motorcycle review - Front view
  • Harley-Davidson FXSTS Softail Springer motorcycle review - Top view
  • Harley-Davidson FXSTS Softail Springer motorcycle review - Riding
  • Harley-Davidson FXSTS Softail Springer motorcycle review - Riding