First ride: Harley-Davidson's FLDE Deluxe

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While Harley’s most brashly styled newcomers such as the Fat Bob and Breakout might be the headline bikes from the all-new 2018 Softail line- up, more traditional cruiser buyers haven’t been forgotten – as the new FLDE Deluxe proves.

Harley have brought their twin shock Dyna and (hidden shock) Softail families together for 2018 and, by using an all-new, lighter, stronger and now monoshock frame, not to mention updated engines, styling, cycle parts and more, they’ve come up with a new, eight-strong cruiser family for 2018. They sit alongside the big tourers, Sportsters and entry-level Street range.

The roll-call for these new Softails is as follows: hot rod Fat Bob, monster-wheeled Fat Boy, ’70s-style Low Rider, bare bones Street Bob bobber, drag-bike Breakout, ’40s-style screen-and-bagged Heritage Classic, plus the Softail Slim and, Deluxe. But with the Slim and Heritage now going for a more post-WWII bobber look, that leaves the Deluxe as now the only ’50s-inspired cruiser in Harley’s range.

Reassuringly, though, the Deluxe does it better than ever. The whitewall tyres, wire wheels and lashings of chrome look is retained but with new tank, oil tank and striking new LED lights, is even stronger. The uprated, 107ci, four-valve ‘Milwaukee Eight’ version of the classic 45-degree V-twin now has oil-cooled exhaust valves for the first time (hence the neatly hidden oil-cooler between the front downtubes) and is a noticeable 10bhp punchier. While, best of all, the stronger, lighter frame (overall weight saving is an impressive 15kg) means the handling is notably more taut and lithe than before.

Harleys of yore were often criticised for feeling as if they were hewn from cast iron. No more. And with this new Deluxe, they’re shinier and slicker than ever, too. 

Harley's FLDE Deluxe facts

Price: From £17,245

Engine: ‘Milwaukee-Eight 107’ 1745cc air/oil-cooled, 4-valve V-twin

Power: 86bhp @ 5020rpm

Torque: 106.9ftlb @ 3500rpm

Frame: Steel double cradle

Seat height: 680mm

Suspension: Showa forks; mono- shock, adjustable spring preload

Brakes: 275mm disc, four- piston caliper; 275mm two-piston caliper

Weight: 303kg (dry)

Tank capacity: 18.9 litres

Colours: Gloss black (£17,245), red or blue £350 extra, 2-tone silver/brown or red/burgundy £750 extra

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Phil West

By Phil West

MCN Contributor and bike tester.