The focus of the new Softail family is the all-new Softail frame (so-called as it hides the rear suspension giving a classic hardtail ‘look’) which now uses an inclined single shock, Yamaha LC style, in place of dual shorter units previously mounted beneath the transmission. The new tubular steel double cradle is also claimed to be substantially lighter, stiffer and comprise far fewer components. Three different head angles, two shock lengths and two widths of swing arm are also employed in a modular approach to create the eight different models.
The result of that added to the Slim’s continuing low-slung stance is probably the most nimble and easy of all the 2018 Softails to throw around. In short, if you want a light (ish), low, easy handling Harley Big Twin, the Slim, more than ever, is the one.
As with three other members of Harley’s new Softail family, the new Softail Slim now uses the four-valve, partially oil-cooled ‘Milwaukee Eight’ 107ci V-twin, as introduced in its 2017 touring range, and modified for Softail use via a new oil cooler subtly positioned between the downtubes. Plus, as they’re rigidly mounted in the new Softail frames (in the tourers they’re rubber mounted), they also come with two, not one, balancer shafts.
Along with the new frame, uprated engine and cycle parts and new equipment such as lights and clocks, the build quality of the new Softail Slim, and indeed all the 2018 Softail family, has been noticeably improved. The jury necessarily has to remain out on reliability as it’s simply too early to say as we write. However, with the powertrain being based on that of the proven ‘Project Rushmore’ touring family and quality seemingly raised throughout, we’ve little cause for concern.
Harley ownership never comes cheap and that’s certainly not changed with the updated and improved Softail Slim. That said, It’s also the one that also, arguably, has the most convincing, post-WW2 ‘bobber’ look, thanks to its unique combination of fat tyres and black wires, single seat, low bars and minimal chrome. It’s also a doddle to ride, thanks to its footboards is surprisingly comfortable over distance and, overall, if you want a big twin Harley bobber that’s an unthreatening, brilliant ride, this is the one.
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As with the Heritage Classic, Harley has totally revamped the Softail Slim’s styling for 2018 as well. It’s effectively a minimalist, fat-tyred Harley big twin that’s been give the blacked-out, ‘40s ‘bobber’ look reminiscent of the originals created by post-WW2 US soldiers from war-surplus Harleys. As such, don’t expect much in terms of frills and luxuries. That said, it has been thoroughly improved thanks to the new engine and chassis along with new LED headlights, stylish new clocks and more. OK, there’s still no electronics and little by way of luxury but it is a classy machine and Harley have noticeably raised their game.