Email Print Harley-Davidson Softail

Harley-Davidson represents tradition and sells nostalgia, but it also balances those qualities with progress and modernity. So when H-D saw an opportunity to combine the comfort and performance of modern suspension with the profile of antiquated simplicity, The Motor Company jumped at the opportunity. The result was the Harley-Davidson Softail.

Up until the introduction of the 1952 K model, all Harley-Davidson motorcycles were without any type of rear suspension. The bikes were hard-tail designs, where the rear wheel was mounted directly to the motorcycle’s frame (the only rear suspension came in the form of springs beneath the rider’s seat). Harley’s association with tradition strengthened as the years progressed and in the early 1980s H-D purchased the soft-tail patent from an independent designer and in 1984 launched the FXST Softail.

The Harley-Davidson Softail’s engine was solidly mounted to the bike’s frame (in traditional Harley fashion) but the rigid-style frame was an illusion. The rear portion of the frame was actually a swingarm attached to shock absorbers hidden beneath the transmission. This simple yet ingenious design is a hallmark in the progression of using contemporary technology to create a modern throwback to a past era.

Harley Davidson Cross Bones

Harley-Davidson also used the launch of the Softail model to introduce the company’s new Evolution engine. The Evolution was the first all-new engine for Harley-Davidson in 50 years. Like the Harley-Davidson Softail, the new engine was modern in function, with aluminum replacing iron as the metal for constructing the heads and cylinders, but it purposely retained all the visual elements of the preceding Shovelhead engine such as air-cooling and pushrod valve actuation.

Following the original Harley-Davidson Softail came the Heritage Softail in 1986 which recalled the Harley-Davidson Hydra-Glide of the 1950s using styling touches such as aluminum fork covers, chrome headlight nacelle and chrome front wheel hubcap. Single disc brakes gave away the bike’s true age but were necessary for slowing the 650-pound motorcycle in a safe distance.

In 1988 the Harley-Davidson FXSTS Springer Softail, with its obviously old-fashioned front suspension architecture and spoked wheels, took the modern nostalgia theme full-circle. A couple years later in 1990, the Harley-Davidson FLSTF Fat Boy using the Softail design became an instant success. Over the decades Harley-Davidson has used the Softail frame in a number of models including the Harley-Davidson Softail Custom, Harley-Davidson Night Train, Harley-Davidson Deluxe, Harley-Davidson Deuce, Harley-Davidson Dark Custom Crossbones and, in 2011, the Harley-Davidson Dark Custom Blackline.

There are no less than eight Harley-Davidson Softail models in H-D’s 2011 model line-up, and all are powered by Harley’s air-cooled, Twin Cam 96B engine. The Harley-Davidson Softail Rocker C model features the latest Softail design with a rigid looking rear but with hidden horizontally mounted coil-over-shock suspension. Harley-Davidson says the Rocker C mimics the design of a vintage hardtail frame but offers the comfort of modern suspension. When it comes to Harley, some things never change.

Harley-Davidson Softail Reviews

2013 Harley-Davidson FXSB Breakout Review

With a long, low stance and styling that puts the emphasis on its major components, the new Harley-Davison FXSB Breakout is a no-nonsense power cruiser that embodies the spirit of motorcycling while eschewing the trappings of trendiness.

2012 Harley-Davidson CVO Softail Convertible Review

During my first day with the CVO Softail Convertible more than one casual passerby admired this top-shelf Harley. And a couple folks even verbalized how impressed they were with the bike’s attractiveness and features.

2011 Harley-Davidson Blackline Softail

Harley-Davidson’s Softail family grows a little bigger and a little badder with the introduction of the new 2011 Blackline, the latest addition to the Motor Company’s successful Dark Custom line. The stripped and lean Blackline retails from $15,499.

2010 Harley-Davidson Dyna Wide Glide Review

Despite a slumping market, The Motor Company introduced four new/revised models for 2010 this week. Unveiled to the press in Denver, Colorado, we saw the return of the Wide Glide to the Dyna family and a slick update to the Softail Fat Boy, the Fat Boy Lo

2008 Harley-Davidson FLSTSB Cross Bones Review

Harley-Davidson has added yet another bike to its impressive line-up, but this bike has a dark side. The Softail family grows by one and the Cross Bones is its name.

2008 Harley Davidson Cross Bones

Harley-Davidson unveiled its latest bobber-style Softail this past weekend in Hollywood at a nightclub on the Sunset Strip. Motorcycle.com was there to get the dish on this new retro cruiser called the Cross Bones.

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Harley-Davidson Softail Comparisons

Mainstream Choppers Shootout

We gathered up three production choppers with lots o’ chrome, custom style and power and cruised right into the heart of SoCal’s glitz and glamor. The stars of this show? The Yamaha Star Raider S, Victory Vegas Jackpot and the Harley-Davidson Rocker C.

Godzilla Cruisers Shootout

Is bigger better? Of course it is. Especially when it comes to cruisers. MO takes a look at the biggest, baddest, nastiest jumbo cruisers on the market with the Harley-Davidson CVO Springer, Honda VTX1800C, Kawasaki Vulcan 2000 and Yamaha Star Roadliner.

Road Star vs. Fat Boy Comparo

For many years, if you wanted to ride a big-bore, nasty-boy cruiser to play the part of neighborhood hoodlum, you had only one choice: Harley-Davidson. But now a number of Japanese manufacturers have stepped to the plate and are firing right and left at..

2014 Harley-Davidson Softail

2013 Harley-Davidson Softail

2012 Harley-Davidson Softail

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