Harley Davidson Softail Heritage Classic Review: Ameliorated Antiquity

Price starts from Rs 19.01 lakh, ex-showroom.

Talk about cruisers and the Milwaukee based manufacturer has a legacy of churning out iconic cruisers off its assembly line. Though earlier styling and road presence would take centre-stage, but off late there has been a strong focus on R&D and it was well reflected in our earlier review of the Roadking. It was one of the best Harley ride experiences we’ve had with the 107 series motor exhibiting improved levels of refinement and the new Showa suspension offering enhanced road holding manners. This time it was for another long rendezvous with a different gleaming set of wheels with essentially a similar rumbling motor at the helm.

With the Roadking experience still afresh, we couldn’t help but evaluate our new encounter- the Harley Davidson Softail Heritage Classic against the benchmarks set earlier by its stable-mate. A stint of over 600 kilometres that comprised of wading through Mumbai’s awful traffic snarls, breezy highway runs on NH48 and later snaking on the bends of Pasarni Ghat for Mapro Garden’s fresh strawberry treat- the motorcycle was put through a comprehensive run. And we’ve ensured that we put down every bit of the experience in our Harley Davidson Softail Heritage Classic Review.

ENGINE & GEARBOX

Vitals on the new Milwaukee Eight 107 cubic inches motor read an eight valve v-twin displacing a colossal 1745 cubic centimeters producing 144 nm of twisting force at a mere 3000 rpm. For comparison sake the torque figures are identical to the 2018 Honda City iVTEC. The big bore motor can pull cleanly from as low as 1400 rpm (roughly 65 kph) with the authority of a locomotive. And then that thrust of torque from 2500 rpm onwards- the Heritage Classic pulls harder as the needle inches towards the 200 kph mark. With 100 kph showing up at a measly 2250 rpm and 150 kph at a mere 3100 revs- the brawny cruiser still has ample grunt in its guts to go faster. We managed to hit a top whack of 180 kph on a clean stretch with ample juice in reserve to slam past the 200 mark. Fueling process is near impeccable and trundling around in traffic isn’t a tedious task with the Heritage Classic lugging around at relative ease in crawling conditions even in third gear. But the big block motor shows its hate for traffic nearly roasting up your right leg if not for any air diverting its searing temper. A wide open highway is where the Heritage Classic belongs and its best that the motorcycle spends most of the time there.

Though the 107 series motor on the Heritage is down 6 nm on torque compared to the Roadking, but the vibrations and metal clatter is slightly on the higher side when pushed. Even while cruising at 150 kph, there’s ample range still available to hit the rev limiter at 5500 rpm- but the vibes scale up when the motor spins beyond 4000 revs.

The six speed gearbox isn’t exactly smooth and there is an audible clunk on every shift- but the cogs slot in place. Getting into neutral still needs some shuffling games- but the clunkiness is less pronounced as compared to the Roadking, where every shift could be felt on the clutch lever. Also thanks to the assist clutch- one doesn’t need that extra effort from the wrist or the ankle`. The sixth gear seems widely spaced out and facilitates lazy cruising ability over triple digit speeds.

RIDE COMFORT, HANDLING AND BRAKING

We rather not focus too much on the ride comfort as the Heritage Classic retains the inherent plush comfort it’s known for. The wide luxurious saddle with the handlebars set just right and the footboards to alter your riding positing on long hauls- you wouldn’t be wanting to get off the motorcycle. The cruise control is another effort saving feature- extremely easy to operate and takes the load of your right wrist on prolonged cruising stints. But the windscreen occasionally plays spoilsport to the cruising pleasure in case you choose to cruise past the 120 kph mark. Though it does keep you well guarded from the wind drag and cold during winters- the height seems to be an issue here. There is ample buffeting that hits right into your face….. the helmet rather, resulting in quivering vision of the road. Hence in case you decide to have a high speed burst- its best that you duck behind the screen- or since it’s detachable, you have the option of taking if off for that wind in the hair feeling. But on the positive part- it does keep you guarded against the chill during night rides.

When it comes to handling- the Heritage Classic ensures that the intimidation caused by its dimensions isn’t reflected in its road manners. Straight-line hold is immaculate and the Heritage sprints like a train on rails. Switching lanes in a whizzy is a no brainer and considering the proportions it surprisingly does counter well to steering inputs. It feels eager to lean into corners, though the fun is somewhat negated by the low placed footboards which grind at the slight behest of your cornering fervour. Wish the footboards were vertically adjustable so as to have fun on the Harley cutting down further on lean angles. There is so much drive available while diving in and out of corners in every gear- one would simply want to go faster than the motorcycle would actually permit you to.

On the braking part, we expected the Heritage Classic to have more bite than the Roadking- unfortunately there wasn’t much difference between the two. The front brake lacked the anchoring force on a machine that weighs over 300 kilograms- particularly during high speed cruising. But thankfully the rear brakes makes up for the front end braking deficit. Slam the rear brake hard and Heritage Classic sheds enough speed- the ABS senses the lockup and intrudes to restrain any rear end slide. ABS at the front wheel feels nearly non-existent as it takes considerable effort to get anywhere close to a locked situation. The ABS at the rear feels very mechanical, rather crude at times- one can actually hear a metal clatter when the system kicks in. But on the practical side- it does work and the front adds up as an ancillary braking unit. The Dunlop rubber at both ends offer ample grip- particularly the rear that demonstrates decent composure when we were repeatedly trying to lock the rear.

FEATURES

Milwaukee Eight Series V-twin provides oodles of torque for effortless all day cruising

An oil cooler to shave off a few degrees from engine fluids

New front suspension with Showa Dual Bending Valve tech is light weight and provides for linear damping offering a more comfortable ride.

A single Showa adjustable rear monoshock aptly complements the front suspension for a cosy ride and at the same time preserving that hard tail look on the motorcycle.

300 mm single disc with 4 piston caliper (ABS equipped) offers for progressive braking- but lacks the bite to shed speeds in hurried situations. 

Thankfully the 292mm single disc/ twin pot rear brakes plugs the front braking deficit 

Dunlop 130/90 section at the front and 150/80 at the rear offer good tarmac hold.

The belt drive offers a smooth and maintenance free ride experience.

Signature LED Forward lighting system- adequate illumination on dark stretches until oncoming traffic hits you with high beams

Cruise control comes standard and offers comfort to the right wrist on prolonged riding stints.

5 inch analog speedometer with digital gear, odometer, fuel level, clock, trip, range and tachometer indication. Other tell-tale signs include High beam, turn signals, neutral, low oil pressure, engine diagnostics, auxilary lighting, cruise, ABS, security, low battery voltage and low fuel.

The seats are plush for both rider and pillion- though we wish the backrest for the pillion was slightly taller.

The lockable saddlebags offer enough space for essentials on a weekend trip. 

Footboards offer generous resting space to move your feet around during long rides.

Fuel tank with 19.1 litres capacity should see you through for close to 300 kms before running dry

Easy to operate switchgear- but getting used to the control takes time.

CONCLUSION & TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS

With memories of riding the pre-gen Heritage Classic still afresh in mind- the new Harley Davidson Heritage Classic feels a much improved product than its predecessor. The improved build quality is evident right from the paint which now seems more lustrous and the chrome high on glisten. A bigger motor, a lighter yet stiffer frame, new age LED lighting and uprated suspension- these upgrades have upped the overall delight quotient. The incredible ride comfort along with excellent road balance would put a wide smile on your face. The braking did fall short of our expectations and the vibes at higher revs got us somewhat displeased- but that was owing to the fact that it delighted us on the rest.

The motorcycle is a visual charm and blends antiquity with modern underpinnings with great aplomb. So if you’re on a lookout for a great looking cruiser offering great comfort while effortlessly chugging you towards your rendezvous with the horizon- we’d recommend a test ride of the Harley Davidson Softail Heritage Classic before you make a choice.

2018 Harley Davidson Softail Heritage Classic Technical Specifications