NEWS

Harley-Davidson blitz range with fleet of Milwaukee-Eight Softails

The cat is out of the bag, dealers will be looking at remaining 2017 stocks on showroom floors and potential owners will face their usual dilemma of whether to buy now or wait.

There will be bargains to be had – although dealers have been winding down stocks of certain models for a couple of months now in anticipation of changes – but new models are always alluring.

It didn’t take a genius to know that the new Milwaukee Eight motor would be rolled out through the Harley-Davidson range for 2018, but how they would do it was unknown.

We’ve been hearing tales of using common parts between the FL and Dyna ranges for more than six months, but we had also heard that ‘Dyna’ is a name that won’t carry forwards, hinting at a new FXR – which is why we ran Second City Customs’ stunning Twin Cam FXR a few issues back as a teaser. More recently, however, that the Softail will be seriously reworked with a drive train shared with the Dyna – a long primary chaincase – and revised suspension using shocks in compression behind the powertrain in the space that use to hold the oil tank which would be under the transmission.

The last one, supported by a photograph, suggested that the Dyna and Softail families would become one with a Milwaukee Eight – the pic was of a Fat Bob in a Softail-style frame – but it would need to be a very different Softail frame to retain the ride dynamics of a Dyna …

And apparently it is, and it heralds the biggest update in Harley-Davidson’s history!

Welcome to the world of the new Softail: a modified version of the 107-inch Milwaukee-Eight designed for a cruiser role, with twin counterbalancers to remove all primary vibration, slotted into a wholly new chassis that is 91% stiffer than the Dyna chassis – mainly because the twin counterbalancers mean it is rigidly mounted in the new frame – and 65% stiffer than the Softail. The revised position of the shock removes the need for the swingarm to follow the lines of a rigid frame’s chain stays so it doesn’t, but that’s only really visible from the primary side where the exhausts don’t hide it.

The powertrain has its oil tank slung beneath the transmission, which means the shocks can’t go there, but that’s no bad thing. Instead, a single conventional shock absorber sits beneath the seat – Vincent style, and dare I say like the original Victory V92 – which is adjusted either by a mechanical preload beneath the seat or a hydraulic wheel that protrudes from what looks like an oil tank but obviously isn’t. And it has a much wider preload range than previously to accommodate a wider weight range.

And while the Dyna has gone, the names haven’t. The Street Bob, Low Rider and Fat Bob are now Softails and have a new designation, and they look very different to their 2017 namesakes. But then so do the 2018 Softails.

For the low-down on all of the detailed changes to Harley-Davidson’s 2018 range, check out the original article on American V’s website.

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