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
  • Insurance group: 15 of 17
    Compare insurance quotes now
  • 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.

Insurance, running costs & value 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

4 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.

Review your HARLEY-DAVIDSON SPRINGER SOFTAIL (1988-2003)
Summary of Owners' Reviews
Overall Rating 3.8 out of 5
Ride Quality & Brakes 3.5 out of 5
Engine 4.5 out of 5
Build Quality & Reliability 4 out of 5
Value & Running Costs 3.8 out of 5
Equipment 3.5 out of 5
5 out of 5

Springer's Rock

22 January 2016 by Steeley

A bit old-school, if something goes wrong you can fix it, no need for computers, specialised equipment. And unexpected stuff just doesn't go wrong. Easy to service.. I don't spend a lot of time washing and waxing (bikini washes my preference), if the... Read more weather is nice enough to wash the bike, it's nice enough to ride, and I bought it to ride, not to clean and/or show.

Ride Quality & Brakes
4 out of 5
What's this dissin springers ride? It's far more stable than my Glide Classic, only marginally less comfortable (mama will disagree, OK, but I'm talking me..). Did a 55 mph collision in SD coming down from Rushmore into a flat slate bolder that broke loose from a cliff that landed in the middle of the road right in front of me, bent the front rim, launched the scooter and I about 3 ft into the air, came down square and rode it another 1/4 mile to a turn out so I could check to see if anything had been damaged. Brakes? I can lock 'em up - or not if I don't want to - not grabby. (Note - I'm 6'6 and 260 lbs.. only complaint with ride it that it's too small.. but then, everything is too small). Most notable was balance.. I could lock the throttle and run hands free literally for miles with just slight body-shifts for sweeping curves or lane changes on the open road. Better than any other bike I've ever owned..
Engine
5 out of 5
Normal aspiration, single cam gear (no chain - see reliability again) EV27 Cam with Factory Screaming Eagle pipes. 5-speed transmission (false neutral between 4 and 5 if you hold your tongue right). Won't keep up with the 96's and up, but anything over 90mph is stupid on the street anyway, and this bike gets there quick enough to stay with the group.
Build Quality & Reliability
4 out of 5
The bike is as close to Bomb-proof as you can expect. Yes, lost a stator, yes, broke a drive belt. Starter has been flaky for 30K miles. Full charge on the battery will get you going. Harley dealer has replaced the starter switch (twice, once under warranty), at some point I'll pull the solenoid and fix it - dealer swears that's not the problem. (Dude, it's the problem, just not enough to make me tear it down yet..)
Value & Running Costs
4 out of 5
Average - most recurring cost is tires (AVON COBRAs) every year and a half or so, Oil and filter (twice a year), drive belt (twice... once it broke, otherwise every 2nd or 3rd rear change
Equipment
4 out of 5
I like Avon tires, the saddle-bags are a bit small for a two-up road trip of more than a couple days but a heritage-type wide pillion and a high-back sissy-bar to strap a good side pack off the back, 30 days run to Texas (every state west of longitude 100) and back from the Pacific Northwest worked well. Small tool-bag between front pegs and another on top of the forks between the handlebar risers completed the rig. Crash-bars ..er.. case guards.. were on it when purchased. good place to mount highway pegs for stretching out.
Buying experience

Dealer purchase - used in 2007 with 12K miles on it.. less than a $ per mile. I do like you trophy hunters.. keep 'em garaged and shiny, trade 'em cheap 15 years later for another trophy garage-queen.

4 out of 5

1998 Softail Springer

28 November 2015 by Mitch

I've been on my 1998 Springer for 17 years now. Ride is smooth as glass under 65 MPH. Gets a little buzzy at 75 or so on the highway. Solid in the turns and NOT bouncy at all. Plenty enough power to pass trucks at 75. How much power do you need? At... Read more about 60 HP weight to power ratio is good. You want a speedster get a crotch rocket. Never had a major problem mechanically. These engines are bullet proof. Many mechanics have told me the newer models are not as reliable as more Chinese enter the parts department. Good old carburator with no fancy electronic fuel injection. Easy to ride 600 miles a day (with a replacement Corbin saddle). MPG runs about 47 on the road at 75MPH. Good news is each year value rises. I'm sure as she turns 20 she'll just keep getting better. No corrosion anywhere (of course well cared for). Just recently voltage regulator crapped out. Back in action for about 200 bucks installed. Keep these old evos oiled and you can expect 200K out of them.

Ride Quality & Brakes
4 out of 5
Ride is smooth. NO bouncing. With a Corbin touring seat 600-700 miles in a day is not a task. BRAKES: Front brake leaves a lot to be desired. Changed to a PM 4 piston brake. This brake will definitely lock up the wheel. The stock rear will also lockup the wheel. This bike is nimble and easy to control.
Engine
5 out of 5
This engine is bullet proof. Keep oil in it and she will out live the bike. Too bad its not a tad more powerful. Personally I love to feel the engine under me. Some of the other engines may be smoother. I hear you get a table and lamp with those. So for me its a real motorcycle you can feel.
Build Quality & Reliability
4 out of 5
Just haven't had anything to complain about. The aforementioned voltage regulator. Of course tires as needed and batteries. After 17 yeqrs paint is flawless. Many comment that they thought it had been re-painted.
Value & Running Costs
5 out of 5
Just nothing to fix.
Equipment
4 out of 5
Standard bike is pretty sparse regarding accessories. Detachable windshield is a must for the road and front brake upgrade. Stock seat is no good. Adjustable handlebars make a huge difference as do Vibranators installed to reduce vibration. Helibars are exceptional.
Buying experience

At the time the waiting list was six months or more for the Springer. $15,500.

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

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

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 4 owners' reviews in full

Facts & Figures

Model info
Year introduced 1988
Year discontinued 2003
Original price -
Used price -
Warranty term (when new) Two year unlimited mileage
Running costs
Insurance group 15 of 17
Annual road tax £82
Annual service cost £200
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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