Harley Softail Deluxe Test

Here are some extracts from the Heavy Duty test on a beautiful Softail Deluxe:

 Deluxe by Nature.

There aren’t many better-looking standard, off the showroom floor motorcycles than the 2015 Softail Deluxe. Its popularity explains why it has been a case of ‘refined’ rather than redeveloped since its initial release. You don’t airbrush a Mona Lisa.

The 2015 Press bike continues the trend. It’s finished in ‘Morocco Gold Pearl’ – or white - till you get it in the direct light and then it does indeed reflect a golden pearl aura. It’s quite beautiful and just one of the seven colour combinations available.

This unit is the second 2015 Softail I’ve been fortunate enough to spend a few weeks punting around Brisbane and northern NSW and both have been fitted with the new, larger diameter front disc brake and improved master cylinder. Those upgrades have turned bikes that previously had ‘pretty good’ brakes into ones that have REALLY good brakes.

They are now a genuine ‘one finger’ set (for mits like mine anyway) and the ABS is also noticeably smoother and less intrusive. Gone is the clunky on-off system that had me wondering WTF was going on when I first tried them out in an empty car park. Now it’s far less intrusive in an emergency ‘SMIDSY’ situation and will be much safer should the need arise.

The Go.

As has happened every year for the past fifteen that I’ve been testing new Harleys, they get that little bit better all-round with each new model year. A bit tighter, a bit smoother and a bit sweeter - as you would expect.

With yet another model year under its belt, the 103B, air-cooled, twin-cam engine also continues the trend. The solid mounted, counterbalanced power plant is smooth (for a big block) and has the kind of torque that makes for effortless and relaxed boulevard cruising. It’s a plush feeling engine, comfortable and perfectly tuned for easy enjoyment … Deluxe in fact.

Same for the six-speed gearbox. I remember back to the first Softails I rode and how clunky and agricultural they were by 2015 standards. Like they really were from another world. Remember when it was near impossible to select neutral when stationary? Ancient History. This one is sweet. You know when it’s hit the cog because the shifts are very sure and definite. I really liked the feel of it.

I also enjoyed the economy of the bike. I kept looking down at the fuel gauge and thinking ‘must be due for fuel soon’ - and was constantly surprised by the amount left in the 18.9ltr tank. Harley claims 5.6 litres per 100 kilometres combined city highway. I got close to that – even carrying my hefty payload and I was pretty heavy handed with the wrist work too. That counterbalance donk doesn’t mind a rev.

I actually found myself needing to back off the throttle quite often too. A glance down at the tank mounted speedo lead to more than one “Oh! Shit! 20kph over”. It’s no superbike, but it’s such an effortless engine and package that the speed can get away from you, particularly whilst you are still a bit green on the machine.

 The other pleasing aspect of the bike, economy-wise, is the servicing costs. As I was returning the bike I sought out Josh - the Service Manager at Morgan and Wacker and quizzed him about maintaining the 103B in optimum condition.

‘At M&W we include the labour on the first service so it’s only around $100’ he began. ‘And a typical 8,000km service – including the recommended annual flushing brake fluids should give you change from $550’.

Compared to some of the shim-adjustable-valve bikes I’ve owned that seems like a bargain.

Meanwhile on the road …

The bike’s road manners are refined. Up front, the 16" wheel is spoked and fitted with a wide profile Dunlop white-wall tyre that compliments the white pearl finish impeccably.  

Like all the Softail range, corning clearance before the folding footboards hit the deck is not their strong point, but cruising is  … well … Deluxe.

The 41.3mm forks are shrouded in classic Beer Can covers and offer 130mm of travel. With 32 degrees of rake it feels solid and planted on the road. It’s a firm ride over bad surfaces yet the steering is light - and it won't change directions unless you tell it to – particularly at freeway speeds.

At the back, the familiar Softail rear end features hidden, horizontal-mounted, coil-over suspension offering 91mm of travel.  The rear white-wall is also a 16".

It is what it is.

It's not the bike for carving up your favourite twisty bits - this is a glorious cruising machine for feeling like you are the King of the promenade and making for a pleasurable day ride.

The ‘retro tech’ is well integrated, the modern touches like the self-cancelling indicators and array of data available from the on board trip computer all add to the appeal.

It’s a feel-good machine, one that works right off the showroom floor, or can make a great starting point for the endless choices of OEM and aftermarket accessories and add-ons. The first for me would be to address the passenger seating and comfort – but there are literally dozens of options for that.

Then some Free flowing pipes and a heavy breather and it would be job done for me and the Co-pilot – or if you like, add some saddle bags and screen and it becomes an instant Heritage Classic.

Taller riders would also benefit from wider handlebars and taller risers. Shorter inseams will appreciate the narrow ‘collapsible’ saddle skirts and the 670mm saddle height combined with the standard pull-back bars.

From its integrated luggage rack and tombstone brake light to the beautiful chrome front wheel hub it’s a machine that is a joy - both to look at and to ride.

Deluxe by name and by nature.


Bike: 2015 Harley-Davidson Softail Deluxe                                  

Type: Engine Air-cooled, Twin Cam 103B™          
Carburetion: Fuel System Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI)   
Air Cleaner: H-D       
Exhaust: Exhaust Chrome, straight over/under shotgun exhaust with
dual tapered mufflers

Type: 6 Speed                      
Primary Drive: Chain                       
Rear Drive: Belt                    

Type: Tubular steel             
Seat: H-D                   

F Rim: 16” Chrome, Aluminium Profile Laced                  
R Rim: 16” Chrome, Aluminium Profile Laced      
F Tyre: MT90B16 72H                    
R Tyre: MU85B16 77H                              

Front: 41.3 mm telescopic, “beer can” covers                   
Rear: Hidden, horizontal-mounted, coil-over                    

Length 2,400 mm
Seat Height, Unladen 670 mm
Ground Clearance 113 mm
Rake (steering head) (deg) 32.1   
Trail 147 mm
Wheelbase 1,635 mm
Tyres, Front Specification MT90B16 72H
Tyres, Rear Specification MU85B16 77H
Fuel Capacity 18.9 l
Oil Capacity (w/filter) 3.3 l
Weight, As Shipped 313 kg
Weight, In Running Order 330 kg
Bore 98.4 mm
Stroke 111.1 mm
Displacement 1,690 cc
Compression Ratio 9.6:1
Primary Drive Chain, 34/46 ratio
Engine Torque Testing Method EEC/95/1
Engine Torque 134 Nm
Engine Torque (rpm) 3,250
Lean Angle, Right (deg.) 25.8
Lean Angle, Left (deg.) 26.7

Fuel Economy: Combined City/Hwy 5.6 l/100 km