Review: Harley-Davidson Softail

Review: Harley-Davidson Softail

The Harley-Davidson Softail, a venerable member of the Harley-Davidson family, represents the epitome of classic American cruiser motorcycles. Known for its distinctive design, timeless appearance, and that iconic V-twin rumble, the Softail has captured the hearts of motorcycle enthusiasts for decades. In this comprehensive review, we’ll explore the design and appearance, engine and performance, chassis and handling, electronics and technology, comfort and ergonomics, detailed specifications, the riding experience aboard the Harley-Davidson Softail, and conclude with a verdict on this legendary cruiser.

Design and Appearance

The design and appearance of the Harley-Davidson Softail are unmistakable. This motorcycle is a testament to the brand’s commitment to preserving its heritage and creating an iconic silhouette that is instantly recognizable. The Softail’s design blends classic cruiser elements with modern touches, resulting in a timeless and elegant look.

One of the most striking design features of the Softail is its unique suspension setup. The rear suspension is cleverly hidden beneath the motorcycle, creating the illusion of a “hardtail” frame while providing the comfort and handling benefits of a modern suspension system. This design pays homage to Harley-Davidson’s early motorcycles, which had rigid frames, while delivering a more comfortable and controlled ride.

The chrome accents, sleek lines, and rich paint options contribute to the Softail’s visual appeal. Its teardrop-shaped gas tank, chrome exhaust pipes, and classic Harley-Davidson logo on the tank create a sense of nostalgia for the brand’s history.

Harley-Davidson offers a range of models within the Softail family, each with its own unique design and character. From the low and minimalist Softail Slim to the elegant Heritage Classic, riders can choose a model that suits their individual style and preferences.

In terms of appearance, the Softail is a harmonious blend of old-school charm and modern craftsmanship, making it a head-turner on the road.

Engine and Performance

The heart of the Harley-Davidson Softail is its air-cooled, V-twin engine, which varies in displacement depending on the model. Engine options typically range from 107 cubic inches (1753cc) to 114 cubic inches (1868cc), producing ample power and torque. The engines are designed to provide strong low-end and mid-range torque, allowing for spirited acceleration and effortless cruising at highway speeds.

The performance of the Softail is characterized by its strong and steady power delivery. These engines are tuned to provide a hearty and satisfying rumble, accompanied by a distinctive V-twin pulse. While they may not be the most powerful in the motorcycle world, the engines are well-suited to the cruiser category, delivering a smooth and predictable performance that matches the Softail’s character.

Harley-Davidson offers various exhaust options, allowing riders to customize the sound to their liking. The exhaust systems often come with performance enhancements that offer improved throttle response and an extra punch of power.

The Softail’s performance is tailored to the cruiser riding experience, where comfort and control are paramount. The low-end torque, combined with a relaxed riding position, makes it well-suited for leisurely journeys and highway cruising.

Chassis and Handling

The chassis and handling of the Harley-Davidson Softail are designed for a comfortable and controlled ride. The Softail family features a rigid-looking frame that cleverly conceals the rear suspension beneath the motorcycle. This design not only provides a classic appearance but also offers a more comfortable and stable ride compared to a true hardtail frame.

The front suspension typically consists of a traditional telescopic fork, providing a smooth and controlled ride over various road surfaces. The rear suspension, while hidden from view, is a modern monoshock design that delivers impressive comfort and absorbs road imperfections.

The Softail’s frame and suspension tuning result in a relaxed and composed handling experience. While it may not be a nimble sportbike, the Softail offers predictable and stable handling. It’s designed for comfortable long-distance cruising and is well-suited for riders who prefer a laid-back approach to their journey.

The braking system on the Softail typically includes dual front disc brakes and a single rear disc brake, often equipped with advanced ABS for enhanced safety. These brakes provide ample stopping power, ensuring that the Softail can come to a halt confidently.

While the Softail’s handling may not be sporty, it excels in offering a comfortable and composed ride, ideal for those who prioritize relaxed touring and highway cruising.

Electronics and Technology

Harley-Davidson has introduced modern technology into the Softail lineup in recent years. While the Softail retains its classic design and heritage, it now incorporates electronics and technology to enhance the riding experience. Some of the key features include:

  • LED Lighting: Many Softail models come equipped with LED headlights and taillights, improving visibility and safety.
  • Keyless Ignition: Some models offer keyless ignition, making it convenient to start the motorcycle.
  • Infotainment System: The Softail family can be equipped with the Harley-Davidson Infotainment System, featuring touchscreen displays, navigation, music, and smartphone connectivity.
  • Cruise Control: Cruise control is available on select Softail models, allowing for relaxed highway cruising.
  • Security System: Some models come with a factory-installed security system, providing an extra layer of protection for the motorcycle.

These technology additions add convenience and safety to the Softail without compromising its classic appearance.

Comfort and Ergonomics

The Harley-Davidson Softail prioritizes rider and passenger comfort. The seating position is relaxed, with a low-slung saddle that allows riders to place their feet firmly on the ground at stops. The handlebars are typically wide and well-placed, providing a comfortable and upright riding posture.

The Softail’s footpegs are positioned forward, allowing riders to stretch their legs and enjoy a more laid-back position during long rides. Passengers also benefit from spacious and comfortable seating.

The Softail’s seats are well-padded, making it possible to spend extended hours in the saddle without discomfort. Harley-Davidson offers various seat options and accessories for riders to fine-tune their comfort preferences.


Engine Air-cooled V-twin with displacements
Displacement 1868cc
Power Approx. 90-100 lb-ft
Torque 8 lb-ft
Transmission 6-speed manual or optional automatic (Softail Standard)
Frame Steel tubular frame
Suspension Telescopic fork (front), Hidden monoshock (rear)
Brakes Dual disc brakes (front), disc brake with optional ABS (rear)
Wheels 16-inch front and rear
Seat Height Varies depending on model
Weight Approx. 650-720 lbs

How does the Harley-Davidson Softail Ride?

Riding a Harley-Davidson Softail is an experience deeply rooted in tradition. The moment you fire up the engine, the distinctive V-twin rumble fills the air, and you’re transported to a world of classic Americana. The Softail’s torquey engine provides strong acceleration, and its low-end power delivery ensures that you’re never left wanting for more.

The seating position is comfortable, with wide handlebars that offer excellent control and a commanding view of the road ahead. The wide and cushioned saddle provides plush support for both the rider and passenger.

As you roll down the highway, the Softail’s suspension absorbs imperfections in the road, delivering a smooth and comfortable ride. The cruiser’s hidden rear suspension provides the appearance of a hardtail while delivering the comfort of a modern cruiser.

Handling is steady and predictable, ideal for leisurely rides and highway cruising. The Softail excels in straight-line stability and cornering at moderate speeds, making it well-suited for relaxed touring.

The Softail’s brakes offer reliable stopping power, and the inclusion of ABS on many models enhances safety. The cruiser can come to a controlled stop without any surprises, adding to the overall sense of confidence and security.


The Harley-Davidson Softail is a motorcycle that bridges the gap between tradition and modernity. Its iconic design, V-twin rumble, and classic appearance pay homage to Harley-Davidson’s rich history, while its incorporation of modern technology and comfort features caters to the demands of contemporary riders.

The Softail family offers a range of models, each with its own character and style. Whether you prefer the minimalist appeal of the Softail Slim or the classic look of the Heritage Classic, there’s a Softail model that can cater to your individual tastes.

While the Softail may not be a sporty or aggressive cruiser, it excels at providing a comfortable and composed ride, perfect for long-distance touring and highway cruising. Its performance, while not the most powerful, is well-suited to the cruiser category, offering robust torque and a distinctive V-twin soundtrack.

Ultimately, the Harley-Davidson Softail is a cruiser that thrives on tradition and captures the essence of the open road. It’s a motorcycle that carries the legacy of the brand while embracing the future with modern amenities and technology. If you’re drawn to the allure of classic American cruisers and the spirit of the open highway, the Softail family is worth serious consideration.

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