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Harley-Davidson 2018 Softails: The Bike Exif Review

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When Harley-Davidson announced its new Softail range, Dyna fans wept and shook their fists.

Their beloved twin-shock platform was gone, with existing Dyna models absorbed into the eight-strong Softail model line-up.

It’s understandable—the Dyna was the go-to performance Harley for many riders. But if the new Softail rides better than the old Dyna, does it matter?

With its clothes off, the new Softail is a work of art.

It has the same faux hardtail layout as its predecessor, but with a conventional shock rather than the previous push/pull system. The geometry’s been revised too, but more importantly the frame is 65% stiffer than before, making the overall chassis 34% stiffer. Weight reductions vary, with some models shedding as much as 35 lbs.

Harley use two different swing arms—one for wide and one for narrower tires—and three different steering neck angles to tweak each model’s individual setup. The suspension is all-new too; the rear shock is adjustable for preload, and the front forks feature a ‘dual-bending’ valve system for a more responsive feel.

Jumping from the previous ‘high output’ 103 twin cam to the Milwaukee-Eight has also resulted in whopping torque gains. Harley claims that the 107 has 145 Nm and accelerates 10% quicker than the 103. The 114 has 155 Nm, and is 9% quicker still than the 107.

Other new features include Daymaker LED headlights all round, new instruments, and a wet sump that sits lower (the old oil tank had to make way for the under-seat shock). There are also some nice ‘shortcut’ features for customizers, like rear struts that can be unbolted, and a two-part clutch cable.

But how do they ride? Paul James, product portfolio manager for the Motor Co., told me he hoped people wouldn’t say that the Softail performs well “for a Harley,” but that its performance would truly impress them.

If I’m honest, percentages of rigidity and performance increases go over my head—I just want a bike that feels good. The old Softail felt vague and spongy in corners, and the Dyna would flex if you pushed it too hard. But the new Softail is surprisingly agile—able to pitch into a corner, hold its line and fire out the other side.

Yes, it’s still a cruiser, so ‘agile’ is relative. And even though each model has improved ground clearance, you’re still eventually going to scrape pegs, footboards and sometimes exhausts.

If you’re looking to get a knee down, you’re obviously barking up the wrong tree. But we were riding on tighter and curvier roads than most customers will, at a pace that most customers won’t. And we were all loving it.

FOR A FULL REVIEW OF EVERY MODEL IN THE NEW RANGE, HEAD ON OVER TO BIKE EXIF.

So why are we talking about Softails, when there are more custom Sportsters on these pages than Softails and Dynas combined? It’s pretty simple. Harley-Davidson have said that they’re releasing 100 new models in ten years.

That’s a bold statement, and judging by just how different these new bikes are to their predecessors, they’re taking it pretty seriously.

Words: Wesley Reyneke, Pics: Bike Exif

 

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For the full report, more details, individual reviews of each model, hi-res photos and technical information, read the original article on Bike-Exif; Excerpts republished here by permission.

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Ride Review: The Husqvarna Vitpilen 701 hits the bullseye!

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WE’VE WAITED SO LONG, and it’s finally here.

It was over three years ago, in November 2014, when Husqvarna revealed the Vitpilen 401 concept at the huge EICMA show in Italy. It marked Husqvarna’s return to the street motorcycle segment, and the attention it received was massive.

The angular, fresh design helped: for many, it was a welcome respite from the endless focus on the retro scene. Then a year later, the bigger 701 concept was unveiled: another clean and modern design, built around the 690 Duke engine from sister company KTM.

Husqvarna Vitpilen designer: ‘We want to offer an alternative to the motorcycle market’.

Fortunately, the production Vitpilen 701 is very close to the concept, and the design is stunning in the metal. The tank is a piece of modern art, and so is the tail unit. It’s all very clean and sleek—very Swedish, pure and simple.

This is the DNA of the bike, and its vision too. It was not developed for a specific target group, and there is no stereotype that matches its philosophy. The Vitpilen 701 defines its own segment.

The new Husqvarna is a serious and ‘grown up’ motorcycle, and not just a style item.

It’s tempting to underestimate single cylinder bikes, but one shouldn’t. Especially not when the engine is the most powerful street single you can get nowadays. It’s derived from the KTM Duke 690 and delivers 75 hp at 8,500 rpm from 693 cc. It’s also worth noting the Vitpilen’s wet weight of only 166 kilograms, which is easy meat for this engine.

It’s a good setup and it’ll put a bright smile on your face. In Swedish Vitpilen means “white arrow” and the moniker fits well.

The urban playgrounds of Barcelona and the Catalonian backcountry are a good area to test performance, in both city traffic and on twisty roads. The chassis is quite firm, but it’s a dynamic and precise riding experience.

It’s super easy to bank the bike quickly from one side to the other, from curve to curve. The 43mm USD forks and monoshock—both from sister company WP Performance Systems—deliver exact feedback. You know exactly what’s going on, but the setup is also stable at speeds of up 160 kph (100 mph) on the highway.

For a single, the sound through the standard exhaust system is pretty good, especially if you’re accelerating at full throttle. If it’s not loud enough for you, you can improve it with a stunning titanium/carbon muffler from Akrapovič—which adds to the looks of the bike and doesn’t require a remap.

The seating position is comfortable and feels ‘just right’—even though it’s higher than you’d expect at 830mm. Everything else is where it needs to be, and gives you a good feeling of control.

The headlight is well made and looks very sharp, but the dashboard could have been finished a little better. It’s also not always easy to read the key information fast.

To sum up: the Vitpilen 701 is a fun and easy bike to ride. It’s not cheap, but it’s not expensive either. For US$11,999 (or £8,899 or €10,195) you can get one of the most desirable and stylish motorcycles on the market.

It’s a progressive design that fits the modern zeitgeist, with state-of-the-art componentry and engineering—and a dynamic riding experience. Well done Husqvarna. Your white arrow has hit the bullseye.


The full version of this review first appeared on Bike Exif. It’s republished here with explicit permission.

For the full review by Christoph Blumberg of CRAFTRAD and more photographs head on over to BikeExif.com

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Ride Review: We’d buy a Triumph Tiger 800 XC in an instant – If we had the money!

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We often speak about riding into the ‘middle of nowhere’ – that place where we’ve lost GPS signal, there’s no bars on the mobile phone reception and there isn’t a petrol station for miles around – but it’s usually a metaphor and doesn’t really exist.

Yet somehow, Triumph found us that place for the Tiger 800 launch and we can”t wait to return.

Our ‘middle of nowhere’ for the Triumph Tiger 800 test is in and around the wasteland of lake Lalla Takerkoust in Morocco. It’s a fitting location for the smaller bike in the Tiger range that Triumph hope is to become synonymous with adventure.

What kind of adventure chosen is up to the individual of course and everyone has to decide for themselves – it could just be a ride through the centre of the city at rush hour, or a trip through the African savannah. Regardless of your pursuits, Triumph say that they now have a very clear Tiger 800 range that should offer something for everyone. But even after speaking with Triumph’s Chief Engineer Stuart Woods it took us longer than we would like to fully comprehend the difference between the Tiger XR, XRx, XRxlrh, XRt, XCx and XCA.

For those who are of a similar mindset, the closest we could come to was this… The XR is for asphalt use and is available in a basic version (XR), the same bike but slightly more richer equipped (XRx with LED daytime running lights, handle heating, TFT color dashboard, etc) or as a luxury model (XRt with heated seat, full LED, extra driving modes, fully adjustable Showa suspension, etc).

The lrh version, or Low Ride Height, is considered a completely separate model because the engine not only receives a lower saddle, but also a lower suspension. It’s nice that Triumph takes into account a slightly shorter riders!

This logic is then extended out from the XR series to the more off-road orientated XC range. However, there isn’t a ‘basic’ XC version, just the XCx which is already reasonably well equipped and then the XCa which has all of the bells and whistles thrown at it.

Anyway, enough letters and versioning, as motorcycle journalists we get to feed our egos with only the best models, so the XRt and XCa are presented to us and the heated seats are immediately welcomed as we set off towards the Atlas Mountains.

The addition of new toys and electronics make an already good ride even better

The first few kilometres are enough for us to determine the marked differences between this and the previous Tiger 800. Of course the most immediately visible from a rider’s view is the new colour TFT dashboard screen and handily adjustable windshield. From an aural perspective the new 800 has a narrower exhaust damper that sounds a lot deeper in low revs and roars louder as you open the throttle. It’s the perfect amplifier for that wonderful, triple engine.

The Triumph engineers will say that there are more than 200 improvements made to this new Tiger 800, but whilst the changes made may be many, the bike still feels comfortably familiar. This is no bad thing either, as the Tiger 800 was always a relatively light and fun bike that didn’t shy away from the task of tackling heavier roads.

Certainly during the first test drive on the road with the XRt it is noticeable how smoothly the three-cylinder picks up from the bottom and still pulls hard up to the red zone at 10,500 rpm. The sports mode with it’s 95hp isn’t the most potent of machines on the market, but this just means it’s a machine that we reckon everyone would be able to handle. In this respect the gearing has been tweaked too – enabling a shorter first gear that means that riders should now benefit from better control of immediate torque when compared to the previous version – especially when off-road.

Where the Tiger 800 really shines through is with it’s balance of components, comfort and riding characteristics. The wide handlebars offer a solid lever, the tank is well-formed and offers a lot of ‘grip’ and it’s interesting to note that the larger 21″ front wheel on the XCa is almost as neutral and familiar as the XR.

Who ever thinks that an 800cc three-cylinder is too heavy to play in loose sand, between the rocks or on jumps, must revise this opinion immediately

All of the Tiger 800s (with the exception of the base model XR) come with Brembo front brakes too, and these do a fantastic job of offering balanced bite in well-managed doses. And of course there is the adjustable ABS that really handles itself well in even the most treacherous of circumstances.

After a whole day of touring, we become convinced that the new Tiger 800 isn’t so much a revolution of the previous machine as opposed to a measured and balanced evolution of it. The engine was already great – it still is – and the addition of new toys and electronics make an already good ride even better.

The next day sees us on the XCa’s equipped with Pirelli Scorpion Rally studs and playing some more on the Moroccan trails.

Even more so than on the road, it strikes us just how well balanced the XCa is and how smoothly this engine comes out to play.

Who ever thinks that an 800cc three-cylinder is too heavy to play in loose sand, between the rocks or on jumps, must revise this opinion immediately. Admittedly, it doesn’t take long before the bottom plate has claps,the soil underneath, but that’s what it’s for!

We do wonder if the plastic hand caps and tank parts would survive a slight crash just as quickly though.

After just a short ride in the sand, it dawns on us that this is the real, natural habitat for for the Tiger 800. The XRt is undoubtedly the more thoughtful option for the busy road traffic, but given a choice we would buy an XC in an instant, slip on the off-road studs and drift, slip and jump my way along any dirt I could find, powered by that sumptuous three-cylinder soundtrack.

If we had the £12,500 to spend on such a machine that is! And that’s before we’ve even added the cost of the panniers.

The Tiger 800 is a beautiful machine and the equipment is as top-level as a rider can get, but secretly we dream of a Tiger 800 XC with as little bling and glamour as possible. Forget the iPad like dashboard, the 27 rider modes, electronic aids, heated grips or Brembo brakes and give us a basic XC package for around £9,500.

Sure the ride won’t be quite as pleasurable, but then the tent we would have strapped to the back wouldn’t come with air-conditioning either and we’d be ok with that!

Specifications

Triumph Tiger 800 XRt
Engine:
  800cc, 4 kl./cil., Water-cooled 3-in-line  
Max. power:
 95 hp / 9,500 rpm 
Max. torque:
    79 Nm / 8.050 rpm 
Transmission:
  zesbak, chain 
Frame:
  steel trellis frame 
Front suspension:
  43 mm Showa fully adjustable suspension 180 mm 
Rear suspension:
  Showa monoshock, fully adjustable, suspension 170 mm 
Front brake:
  305 mm discs with Brembo radially mounted four-piston calipers, ABS 
Rear brake :
  255 mm disc with Nissin twin piston caliper, ABS Front 
/ rear tires: 
 100 / 90-19 / 150 / 70-17  
Dry weight:
 199-208kg, depending on model 
Seat height:
  810 – 830 mm 
Tank capacity:
      19 l. 
Colours:
  Silver Ice, Crystal White, Matt Cobalt Blue

 

Triumph Tiger 800 XCa
Engine:
  800cc, 4 kl./cil., Water-cooled 3-in-line  
Max. power:
 95 hp / 9,500 rpm 
Max. torque:
    79 Nm / 8.050 rpm 
Transmission:
  zesbak, chain 
Frame:
  steel trellis frame 
Front suspension:
  43 mm WP fully adjustable travel 220 mm 
Rear suspension:
  WP monoshock, fully adjustable, travel 215 mm 
Front brake:
  305 mm discs with Brembo radially mounted four-piston calipers, ABS 
Rear brake :
  255 mm disc with Nissin twin piston caliper, ABS Front 
/ rear tires:
 90 / 90-21 / 150 / 70-17  
Dry weight:
  199-208kg, depending on model
Seat height:
  840 – 860 mm 
Tank capacity:
      19 l. 
Colours:
  Korosi Red, Crystal White, Marine


This review was first featured on MaxxMoto. It’s translated and republished here with permission.

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