Harley-Davidson reveal new 2018 eight-bike custom Softail line-up

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Harley-Davidson have been on a serious offensive in recent years to protect their position in the market – most notably from the aggressive growth of Indian. And as the firm enters its 115th Anniversary year, they’ve announced a glut of new custom models combining the Dyna and Softail families under the new Softail banner – all with massive weight reductions, an all-new chassis, new engines, and a leap in suspension spec.

“The new Softails are the result of the most extensive research and development program in the company’s history,” says Paul James, manager of Product Portfolio, and H-D. “Thousands of hours of research and testing were put into the complete ground-up design of these new cruisers. We focused on taking the total rider experience to a higher level, where authenticity, heritage and soul meet the modern edge of technology for a ride that must be felt to believe.”

Designed under the largest new bike development project in the company’s history, the new bikes benefit from a stiffer and significantly lighter chassis and the more powerful and refined Milwaukee-Eight 107 and 114 engines.

Keeping the new chassis and engines in check are the Dual-Bending Valve front suspension and an easily adjustable hidden rear monoshock.


All new Softail chassis

The big news is the all-new frame that is common to the new family of models. Lighter, and more rigid, it maintains the classic look of a hardtail but with a thoroughly modern ride. Benefits include increased lean angles for many models, sharper turn-in response, quicker acceleration, more nimble flickability, less mass and easier side-stand lift off than previous models.

A new high-stiffness carbon steel tubular frame is a claimed 65% stiffer than the outgoing Softail design, which leads to a 34% increase in overall chassis stiffness. There’s also half the number of component parts and 22% fewer welds.

There are two swingarms, one for narrow and one for wide rear tyres. The wide chassis is 5.89kg (15%) lighter, while the narrow chassis is an even more impressive 8.16kg (20%) lighter.

The Dual-Bending Valve front suspension – first introduced on 2017 Touring models – delivers damping performance that’s similar to a cartridge fork but with improved damping characteristics, and is optimised for comfortable cruising and spirited riding.

The new monoshock rear suspension preserves the classic hardtail look while revamped geometry improves ride quality, traction and control.

Overall, this translates to new models that are up to 17kg lighter than their forebears, giving improved power-to-weight ratios, and better – more engaging – road manners.

New Milwaukee-Eight 107 engines

All the new 2018 Softails benefit from the new Milwaukee-Eight 107 and 114 45-degree V-Twins, featuring dual internally counter-balancers that reduce engine vibration while maintaining the familiar Harley-Davidson feel.

There are two displacement options available, the Milwaukee-Eight 107 (1745cc) is standard on all models, with its 100mm bore and 111.1mm stroke, with 10.0:1 compression ratio. Harley claim 10% quicker acceleration than the High Output Twin Cam 103 over 0-60mph, and 16% faster acceleration from 60-80mph in 5th gear.

The optional powerplant is the Milwaukee-Eight 114 (1868cc), available on the Fat Bob, Fat Boy, Breakout, and Heritage Classic. It boasts a 102mm bore and 114.3mm stroke, with 10.5:1 compression ratio, and 9% faster acceleration than the 107 from 0-60, and 13% faster from 60-80mph in fifth.

And there’s more

All the new models will also get their own ‘Daymaker’ LED headlamps, improved electrical system charging that’s more than doubled at idle speeds, new fuel tanks, new instrumentation, steering head mounted USB charge port, keyless ignition and a security system as standard.

The 2018 Harley-Davidson Softail range

2018 Fat Bob

H-D say: “Tarmac-eating traction, pothole-devouring suspension, agile cornering and a blacked-out take-no-prisoners look make the Fat Bob a ground-breaking motorcycle.”

  • 2-1-2 upswept performance exhaust with a custom finish
  • Dual disc front brakes
  • 13.2 litre fuel tank
  • 15kg weight reduction to previous model
  • Inverted 43mm cartridge style front forks
  • Optional: Milwaukee-Eight 114 Engine
  • Prices start from £14,295

2018 Fat Boy

H-D say: “Ripped and refined satin-chrome finishes deliver a bold, muscular styling statement showing off its powerful engine and new and improved ride and handling.”

  • Aggressive, steamroller stance and front end design
  • A 160 front tyre (240 rear), the widest-ever on a production H-D
  • 16kg weight reduction over previous model
  • Optional: Milwaukee-Eight 114 Engine
  • Prices start from: £17,545

2018 Heritage Classic

H-D say: “Design cues evoke the blacked-out styling of vintage 1950s Harley-Davidson models, updated with a modern edge.”

  • New detachable windscreen and cruise control
  • New rigid, lockable, sealed, water-resistant saddlebags
  • 17kg weight reduction to previous model
  • Optional: Milwaukee-Eight 114 Engine
  • Prices start from £17,995

2018 Low Rider

H-D say: “Inspired by the individualism of the ’70s custom chopper era that birthed the original, it’s lighter and faster with handling unimaginable back in the day.”

  • Throwback-style dual tank-mount speedo and tachometer gauges, headlight visor and fuel tank graphics
  • 19-inch front and 16-inch rear Radiate cast wheels
  • 2-into-2 Shotgun exhaust
  • Prices start from £13,645

2018 Softail Slim

H-D say: “Stripped to its elements, the Slim pays homage to post-war custom bobbers with a narrow rear end, trimmed front fender, solo seat and minimal chrome.”

  • Dark finishes for wheels, Hollywood handlebar
  • Low-slung tuck and roll seat
  • Bold and smooth new front nacelle and fork cover
  • 17kg weight reduction to previous model
  • Prices start from £16,045

2018 Deluxe 

H-D say: “A classic hi-line showstopper that stands out on any street, the Deluxe glistens with bright chrome while delivering the ride of a seriously modern machine.”

  • Signature all-LED lighting from front to back
  • Tombstone taillight and blade-like turn signals
  • Signature pull-back handlebar
  • 17kg weight reduction to previous model
  • Prices start from £17,245

2018 Breakout 

H-D say: “With more lean angle than ever imagined in a bike carrying so much dragster attitude, the Breakout model takes long, lean muscle to a modern edge.”

  • New smooth-top 13.2 litre fuel tank
  • Low-profile riser-mounted digital instrument screen
  • 17kg weight reduction to previous model
  • Optional: Milwaukee-Eight 114 Engine
  • Prices start from £17,245

Full Harley-Davidson Breakout review on MCN.

2018 Street Bob

H-D say: “A bare-bones bike with go-anywhere DNA, the Street Bob motorcycle has a fists-in-the-wind attitude with nothing extra to weigh it down.”

  • Smooth-top 13.2 litre fuel tank
  • Black spoke wheels with chopped fenders
  • Low-profile riser-mounted digital instrument screen
  • 7kg weight reduction to previous model
  • Prices start from £12,295
Richard Newland

By Richard Newland