Harley-Davidson's Softail Tour is touring Australia, giving riders the opportunity to test the Softail range at the track in a truly unique VIP experience... Words: BikeReview Images by Lyndon Marceau, marceauphotography
I was recently invited along to the Harley-Davidson Softail Tour, which gives riders the opportunity to test out the Harley Softail range in a controlled environment, in this case at the Southern Circuit at Sydney Motorsport Park.
Having ridden the Harley FXDR 114 at the end of 2018, I’d already been impressed by one Softail model, with the Tour providing the chance to do a number of laps on each of the bikes present. This is a pretty cool opportunity really, because I was able to sample the whole range, while also doing something a bit special – riding these Harleys at the track, without the pressure of dealing with all the people there to get a knee down. In fact there was almost as much time on track as you’d expect at a regular track day.
With Stay Upright running the on track activities, and a lead rider keeping the pace at a more reasonable level, you sample the various bikes, some of which are more suited to the track than others, do some laps, enjoy the Harley-Davidson hospitality – which includes some very cool displays, and just generally have a great time.
There’s a bit of history on display of course, plus you get the opportunity to take a look at a modern Softail with cut-outs to get a real inside look at exactly what’s going on, and the technology in use.
Overall if the opportunity to take part in the Softail Tour presents itself, I highly recommend taking part if you’re interested in upgrading or any of these models. It’s hands down the best way to check out a variety of these machines and would be invaluable in focusing in on your personal favourite, for further consideration.
Here’s a bit of background on the Harley-Davidson Softail range however, as well as some quick thoughts on the bikes ridden:
The Harley-Davidson Softail Range
As a quick recap, the Softail range was heavily updated in 2018 and actually subsumed the Dyna range in doing so, featuring a new frame shared across the entire range and powered by Milwaukee-Eight powerplants – either the 107 or 114 iterations.
For the new rigid mount frame the Milwaukee-Eight also received an addition balancer shaft to keep vibes down, and weight savings in the 15-20+kg range. Torque is 145Nm at just 3000rpm on the 107, while 155Nm is available at 3000rpm on the 114.
A defining feature on some models is also that 240-section rear tyre, with a 180-section found otherwise, offering a huge variation in handling, alongside the ground clearance limitations of the floorboard equipped models.
Suspension duties are taken care of by a Showa monoshock – with an external preload adjuster on some models, as well as Showa bending valve front forks, with Harley boasting considerably improved performance as a result.
Going into too much more detail really requires going model by model, but according to Harley-Davidson the reception to the Softail range has been very positive and successful, with the Softail Tour aimed at enticing a wider range of riders into trying the new models to see what’s on offer for new riders, and what’s been improved for existing riders.
The Softail Tour
Naturally that’s the age old problem, with riders happy with their existing machines less likely to sample new offerings, especially if they aren’t tempted to head to their local dealer and go for a test ride. The Softail Tour aims to counter that by offering a pretty unique opportunity to spend a couple of hours having a proper ride on a variety of these machines.
Of course the track is a pretty extreme application for these models, even at a controlled pace, with floorboards and footpegs quickly proving a limiting factor as the speeds and lean angles rise, however it’s also an exceptional way to test the Softail models, and really does in many ways highlight the differences, and general competence of this model range.
With the FXDR 114 for instance, which I’d spent a fair bit of time on – on the road – I noticed that at the track that wide 240-rear required a bit more muscle to get out to the edges of the tyre, but with decent ground clearance, awesome torque and impressive brakes it’s hard to complain too much. A true hyper-cruiser the FXDR 114 really represents the go big or go home mantra, with a more futuristic lean to that styling, alongside that real muscle-bike feel.
In comparison the Softail Street Bob which I started the day on offered a look at the Milwaukee-Eight 107 powerplant, the 180-section rear and a sportier overall feel, with plenty more room to push the speeds a bit at the track.
The Street Bob struck me as the smallest feeling of the machines on offer, as well as the no-nonsense option that’ll do everything, without adding on luggage or a screen, and with that real traditional feel. The Street Bob is also one of the lighter offerings weighing in around the 300kg mark on the road, while seat heights across the range are low and accessible, with forward controls throughout.
The Sport Glide was likewise a surprise, as despite the panniers and headlight mounted fairing, the 180 rear wheel combined with comfortable ergonomics offering an easy ride with good ground clearance and plenty of performance. Especially in the orange this bike’s a head turner, while the low swept back ‘bars make for a relaxed ergo.
The Sport Glide also well represents the various rims available across these models, featuring black machined contrast-cut Mantis cast-aluminium rims.
On the Deluxe and Heritage Classic 114 models the more standard rear tyre sizes ensured easy handling however the floorboards were noticeable, especially through the really tight hairpin section of the track, where running out of ground clearance had you running wide with no more turning potential available. While something far less likely to be experienced on the road unless you’re really over-cooking your corners and not paying enough attention to the road, it was still a great point of comparison.
There’s some real distinctions between these models as well, with unique feels to each of the machines, despite sharing many features, as well as the two engine variants, both of which offer strong accessible V-twin power. Brakes were also well up to the job when it came to washing off speed at the end of the hill into the esses across all models, with the FXDR the standout in this regard, while obviously boasting the most impressive system.
Suspension and general ride were all great too, but with that said testing on the track does remove many of the inconsistencies you’ll experience on the road.
Harley-Davidson and the Softail Tour are traveling Australia, and will be announcing future events, so keep an eye on Harley-Davidson Australia/New Zealand and their social media channels for updates.