When you hear the words Harley-Davidson, the images that go through your head are those of long, old-school cruiser motorcycles gliding down a road. The visions of these low-slung Harleys usually end with the massive old-school V-Twin engine’s thunderous exhaust note, echoing through our ears.
Harley-Davidson looks to recapture these memories from the past with its Softail lineup of motorcycles, which takes its design cues from the American motorcycling icon’s heritage.
We got to cruise around for a few a days on the Harley-Davidson Softail Deluxe, which is perhaps the best-looking looking bike in the lineup. We rode the massive American cruiser in the city and on the open highway, to find out how it performs on our roads. Here are our thoughts…
Design & Styling
The first thing you’ll notice about the Softail Deluxe is the massive size of this boulevard cruiser. The Softail Deluxe measures in at over 2.4-metres in length and everything about this retro cruiser is supersized. Add in the low-slung design, acres of chrome and the electric blue paint job of our test bike, and the Softail Deluxe ensured that eyeballs popped and jaws dropped wherever we took it.
The front end of the Harley-Davidson Softail Deluxe is dominated by the large headlamp which is flanked on either side by two auxiliary lights. These auxiliary lights are mounted on top of the turn indicators up front. The raked front forks flow down to the spoked front wheel.
When viewed from the sides, the first thing that catches your eye are the white-walled Dunlop tyres mounted on the 16-inch spoked wheels of the cruiser. These tyres really add to the old-school vibe that the Softail Deluxe exudes whenever you look at it.
The full-skirted steel front fender stretches out above the top section of the white-walled tyre and ends up quite close to the ground. The unit also feature the name badge of the bike, with the word ‘DELUXE’ held together by a strip of thin chrome.
Going past the front fender you’re greeted by the beating heart of the beast in the form of the massive Milwaukee-Eight 107 V-twin engine which is rigidly mounted to the 30-degree Softail frame of the bike. Above the engine sits the 19.1-litre teardrop-shaped fuel tank that flows down into the scooped out saddle.
The single seat on the Softail Deluxe (pillion seat is an optional extra) sits quite low to the ground at a height of just 675mm. The view from the seat is a shiny one (this bike has loads of chrome everywhere) while the semi-digital instrument cluster is mounted on the fuel tank. The swept-back handlebars play host to the rear view mirrors and allow for a comfy riding style on this big bruiser of a cruiser motorcycle.
The rear monoshock suspension is hidden under the seat (think Yamaha RD350 LC) and held in place by the rear swingarm section giving this bike the look of an old-school hardtail bike without all the butthurt associated with those models.
The dual exhausts are quite chunky and dominate the right side of the bike with the lower unit exiting near the front section of the rear wheel and the other extending past it. The rear fender plays host to the LED tail lights, above which sits the mount for the registration plate.
Like we’ve mentioned before, this bike has loads of chrome everywhere from the chunky front forks, fenders, engine, fuel tank, exhaust and almost everything else features the shiny stuff. If you’re looking for a bling attention magnet, the Harley-Davidson Softail Deluxe is your dream come true.
Engine & Performance
The Harley-Davidson Softail Deluxe is powered by the American motorcycle manufacturer’s Milwaukee-Eight 107 V-twin engine that displaces 1,745cc. The engine is cooled using a small oil cooler that is tucked away neatly between the twin front down tubes.
The fuel injected V-Twin engine cranks out 86bhp and a bonkers 145Nm of torque at just 3,000rpm, which is sent to the rear wheel via a 6-speed manual gearbox and chain drive. The throttle response of the Milwaukee-Eight engine is quite linear and the massive wave of torque is available at all times and across the revv range.
The Harley’s clutch is also slightly on the heavier side, so shifting through the gears does take a bit of work. However, once on the move, the Harley-Davidson Softail Classic can build up speed quite easily and if you let loose, even hit speeds of up to 190km/h.
The Softail Deluxe’s V-Twin engine features two counter balancers, which remove most of the vibration that emanates from the engine. However, not all the engine vibrations have been cancelled out and they can be felt at the handlebars. The vibrations act as a constant reminder that you’re riding a big American cruiser with a V-Twin engine.
Another reminder of the massive Milwaukee-Eight engine is the amount of heat it emits. The engine pushes the heat directly at your legs, and this can leave them feeling like they’ve been put over a hot grill.
Ride and Handling
The low centre of gravity means that the Harley Davidson Softail Deluxe is quite a manoeuvrable machine despite its 318-kilogramme weight, especially when moving along at normal speeds. The Showa Dual Bending Valve cartridge design front fork has linear damping characteristics, which makes the Softail Deluxe quite a fun-to-ride motorcycle especially when you push it at higher speeds.
However, the cruiser’s big weight does come into play in stop-and-go traffic, which can make it a real pain to negotiate through our choked city streets. This is also especially noticeable while making u-turns and any changes of directions that force you to bring the big cruiser to a complete stop.
Once you open the throttle and hit the highway though, the high-speed stability is extremely reassuring and makes you want to push the bike further. However, at these speeds, the total lack of a windscreen means that you hang onto the pull-back handlebars like a toddler clinging to its mother’s arm, as the windblast hits you like a tonne of bricks.
The seating position on the Softail thanks to the low seat height and front set brake pedals, shifter and footpegs is an extremely comfortable one. The suspension setup works quite well on bumpy Indian roads. The Showa front forks and cantilever monoshock absorb the bumps and cracks in our roads with ease and offer quite a plush ride without compromising the handling of the bike.
However, the Softail Deluxe’s low ride height of just 115mm makes traversing over speed humps excruciating especially for your eardrums. So unless you want to hear the migraine-inducing sounds of metal scraping tarmac, be cautious while negotiating the haphazard ones we see on our roads.
Braking duties on the Harley-Davidson Softail Deluxe are handled by drilled disc brakes on both the spoked wheels. The one up front features fixed four-piston callipers while the one at the rear gets floating two-piston callipers. The brakes are assisted by dual-channel ABS. The Harley-Davidson Softail Deluxe’s brakes work quite well and bring the heavy American cruiser to halt quickly, especially for a bike of its size.
One look at the Harley Davidson Softail Deluxe is enough to make any jaw drop in awe. The rumbling exhaust note along with that heritage design and the blingy chrome make the Softail Deluxe a poser’s dream. However, its powerful and rewarding powertrain ensures that those sitting on the saddle give it the respect it deserves.
The new Milwaukee Eight engine paired with the Softail frame and new Showa suspension setup (cartridge forks up front and monoshock rear) make this cruiser a proper bruiser at speed and over long sweeping bends. Despite this, the Softail Deluxe’s ride quality is not compromised which makes this one of the ultimate big-twin cruisers currently on Indian roads.
Despite its big price tag of Rs 18.74 lakhs (ex-showroom), the Softail Deluxe’s perfect blend of retro design and modern machinery, make it one of the most desirable big cruisers in the market today.
The Softail Deluxe sprinkles the ultimate ‘heritage cruiser magic dust’ onto Harley’s lineup in India and delivers a bruising uppercut to any rivals thinking of taking its throne and crowning themselves the King of the Cruisers (Cough, ‘Indian’, Cough). The mojo’s back with Harley and its throne is safe. For now.
Price As Tested: Rs 19.28 lakhs (ex-showroom)
|Suspension (front)||Showa Cartridge Forks|
|Suspension (rear)||Showa monoshock with cantilever swingarm|
|Tyre (Front)||Dunlop MT90B16 72H|
|Tyre (Rear)||Dunlop MU85B16 77H|
Did You Know?
What are Whitewall tyres?
Whitewall tyres were introduced in 1914 by Chicago-based Vogue Tyre and Rubber Company, which made wheels and tyres for horse and chauffeur-drawn carriages.
Tyres were first made with natural rubber with chemicals like zinc oxide added to the tread compounds to make them wear better. However, the white tyres did not provide enough endurance and tyre manufacturers started adding carbon black, which turned the tyres black.
However, in a bid to save money, Vogue Tyre and Rubber Company decided to only add carbon black to the tread pattern. This left leaving the sidewalls of the tyres white, leading to the creation of Whitewall tyres.
What is a Softail motorcycle?
A Softail is a motorcycle with its rear suspension springs or shock absorbers located out of direct view. Softails are designed to look like hardtail motorcycles, but its hidden rear suspension is soft on your tail, hence the name Softail.
Softails were invented by Harley enthusiast and engineer Bill Davis who created a cantilever design swingarm frame in his garage, a design he later patented. Harley bought the patents from him and trademarked the Softail name in 1984, later using it for the first time with the FXST Softail.
Earlier Softail motorcycles from Harley (1984-2017) had shock absorbers along the bike’s axis. From 2018 onwards, Harley shifted the shocks to underneath the seat.