Nostalgia with the latest Softail Custom.
The first thing I noticed about the new Softail Standard is how much better it looks in real life than it did on screen or in the press release. Sitting on the dealer forecourt with 5km on the clock it absolutely gleamed with lustrous paint and polished finish.
It might be a ‘Plain Jane’ to some people, but for me it brought a wave of nostalgia and memories of simpler times. I like its look and the nod to some classic lines.
That’s partly because the styling reminded me of the first Harley I ever rode, my Pal Rusty’s Sportster 1200. Sure, the tank is a different shape, but the overall look and style of the new Softail had me peering back through the mists of time to somewhere late in the last millennium.
Then, when I sat on it for the first time it took me straight back to the huge feel-good grin I was wearing on the first Harley I tested, a 2001 Wide Glide.
Sure, the forks aren’t as wide and the front wheel is smaller than that old FXDWG, but the mini apes, laced wheels and whole look of its minimalist, polished and clear coated front end had me reminiscing about how fine I thought that Widey was back then.
When I clicked the 2020 gearbox into place, without a massive clunk or the cantankerousness shifting of yore, it really brought home that line about nostalgia not being what it used to be.
In hindsight, that Wide Glide was agricultural compared to the niceties of the latest tech. Its handling was vague and the suspension had a pogo stick feel. The brakes were a bit woody and it shook like a paint mixer at the traffic lights - and heaven help your wrist and fingers if you forgot to put it in neutral before coming to a halt.
It was nearly impossible to engage neutral when stationary and holding the heavy clutch lever in for extended periods became a test of fortitude. Of course, you could always hit the kill switch and find neutral, but that would have been admitting defeat and there was no guarantee it would boot up immediately if the lights did happen to turn green.
But as anyone who has ridden any new Harley of late knows, all those traits we used to describe as ‘character’ have long been consigned to history. Ancient history.
The new machine is tight and tidy. It has all the things that come with a modern motorcycle and the Milwaukee 8 Softail platform: ease of operation, handling, comfort, good brakes, effortless power, reliability and a smooth and willing powerplant.
A Sportster on Steroids?
That was the next thing that came to mind as I started riding the bike, “It’s a big Sporty?” Weighing in at 291 kg dry makes the Standard a manageable 36kgs heavier than a new Sportster Custom, but the 107cube does have an extra 544cc of displacement and pumps out 48Nm more torque. It feels much stronger and has an edge in refinement all over … but, Sporty the vibe is there – and I don’t mean vibration, just the feel of the bike. It had me back at the whole ‘essence’ thing and what I’ve always enjoyed about Sportsters, there’s nothing to get between you and the ride.
From the compact instruments set into the handlebar riser to the bobbed rear end and numerous bright steel finishes this bike gave me just what I need and nothing I didn’t.
I like the way the narrow waist of the 13.2ltr teardrop tank exposes the frame and the rear cylinder head.
Even the choice of ‘any colour paintwork you like as long as it’s vivid black’ worked for this bike. I was surprised that the unique dark grey logo on the tank is possibly the least obvious branding to grace any stock Harley but the quality of the paint, fit and finish are what we’ve come to expect from Milwaukee.
On the road the evolution of the Softail Chassis becomes even more apparent in this stripped-down version. The great looking chrome and laced wheels are 19” front and 16” rear. It has a 130 section on the front and a 150 on the back. Combined with its 1630mm wheelbase it all makes for a bike feels light and chuckable and easy to manoeuvre - without any compromise in roadholding or open road manners.
Add the 107 M8’s dual counter-balanced torque screw, cartridge forks, pre-load adjustable rear mono shock and it adds up to a really good fun package to be aboard. Nailing the throttle while cranked over on exits is joyous.
The forward controls and mini apes make for a relaxed ergonomic although it’s quite easy to get some bum off the saddle and weight off-board to enhance its 28.5-degree lean angles if you do find yourself on a twisty road.
The single 4-pot front and 2 pot rear brakes do a good job hauling it up and of course come with ABS.
The stock solo seat is typical modern Harley comfort-wise.
Have it your way
As you’ve probably surmised, I really enjoyed this motorcycle. It spoke loudly to me, even before I reached for the accessory catalogue, which brings us to the way Harley are pitching the Softail Standard to the marketplace: “A rider’s blank canvas.”
Around the Heavy Duty virtual editorial desk, we think it’s a bike that is more than that, we liked it a lot as is.
There are a few things we would look to upgrade. The centre-bolt cake tin air cleaner is purported to expose the black engine and its polished rocker, primary and timer covers, but a stage one conversion would see it replaced with something a little more sporty and a bit more noise encouraged from the stock 2-into-2 shotgun exhausts.
H-D have got the pricing pretty right at $21,495 AUD or $22,750 NZD. It’s touted as, “An attainable entry point to Harley-Davidson Big Twin ownership, ideal for customization.”
To that end I rang our friend Lee Negus, the Customer Service Manager at Morgan & Wacker Brisbane and asked him to price up some packages over and above the four ‘standard’ factory accessory offerings. See our Sidebar for the details.
Overall the Softail Standard makes sense. It has an attractive price point for a well performed M8 Softail and styling that will appeal to a lot of old-schoolers right off the Showroom floor.
It also makes sense if a longer-term project is the goal. Not having to pay twice for a lot of hardware, paint and chrome that will be upgraded or replaced in a custom build sounds like a good plan.
It’s not such a Plain Jane after all. It’s more like something ‘The Fonz’ would ride.
GUTS & BOLTS
Bike: Softail Standard
Type: Milwaukee-Eight 107
Carburetion: Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI)
Bore 100 mm
Stroke 111 mm
Displacement 1,746 cc
Compression Ratio 10.0:1
Exhaust 2-into-2 shotgun; catalyst in muffler
Type: 6 -Speed
Primary Drive: Chain
Rear Drive: Belt
Length: 2,320 mm
Seat Height, Unladen 680 mm
Rake 30 Deg
Trail 157 mm
Wheelbase 1,630 mm
Fuel Capacity 13.2ltr
Weight: As Shipped 291 kg
Weight: In Running Order 297 kg
WHEELS & TYRES
F Rim: Chrome, Steel Laced
R Rim: Chrome, Steel Laced
F Tyre: 100/90B19,57H,BW
R Tyre: 150/80B16,77H,BW
F Brake: Type 4-piston fixed
R Brake: 2-piston floating
Rear: Mono Shock
To paint on your ‘blank canvas’ here’s three Custom Designed M&W Accessory Packages, including labor.
Screamin’ Eagle Extreme Ventilator breather kit
Vance and Hines Short Shot exhausts
Sundowner touring Seat
Passenger backrest/sissy Bar
H-D Quarter fairing and mounts
Moto Handlebar with taller Riser
Bevel Two-up seat.
For the full factory line here’s the rundown on Harley’s four dedicated accessory packages.
(Capitalisation by H-D!!!!!!!!)
Day Tripper Custom Package:
Combines classic bobber style with next-level versatility by adding a pillion and a 21-inch detachable sissy bar with pad. This package also includes passenger foot pegs and mounts, forward foot controls, and a black leather Single-Sided Swingarm Bag designed to hold essentials.
Coast Custom Package:
Captures the elements of the performance-oriented, West Coast style. Components include a Softail Quarter Fairing, black anodized aluminium Moto Bar handlebar and matching 5.5-inch tall riser, a Bevel two-up seat and passenger foot pegs, and BMX-style foot pegs from the rugged 80GRIT Collection.
Touring Custom Package:
This package outfits the Softail Standard model for the long haul, with a comfortable Sundowner two-up seat and passenger foot pegs, a 14-inch-high light smoke quick-release windshield, classic black Detachable saddlebags, and a 14.5-inch detachable sissy bar and backrest pad.
Performance Custom Package:
Amplifies throttle response and mid-range acceleration with a Screamin’ Eagle Stage II Torque kit for the Milwaukee-Eight 107 engine and a Screamin’ Eagle Pro Street Tuner to dial it in. The package is completed with a free-flowing Screamin’ Eagle Heavy Breather Performance Air Cleaner and Screamin’ Eagle Street Cannon mufflers for a deep-bass exhaust note. It’s a factory-engineered performance upgrade that retains the original equipment factory warranty when installed by an authorised Harley-Davidson dealer.
H-D Softail Standard