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Harley-Davidson 2018 Softails: The Bike Exif Review



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.


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


Bike-Exif Logo
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 Kawasaki Ninja H2SX SE will have you planning an Autobahn or Nürburgring trip immediately!




What do a Suzuki Hayabusa, Yamaha VMax, Honda Fireblade and a Screamin’ Eagle Stage 3 tuned Harley-Davidson all have in common? They’re all now humbled at the lights by the touring Kawasaki H2SX!

SUPERCHARGER! It’s a word that belongs in the Fast & Furious movies, next to Turbo Boost, NOS Injection and Intercooler. But since the introduction of the bonkers Kawasaki H2R three years ago it’s a word that motorcyclists can no longer ignore. Now, in 2018 you can add a whole dollop of Supercharge juice to your vocabulary because the more ‘ordinary’ H2SX is here.

Let’s get real for a second, a supercharged engine sounds cool and impressive in promotional material, but at €25,000 the shine could quickly be lost towards what is essentially a motor that’s built to just go in a straight line.

Take the block out of the H2, bring in the knowledge gained from the competent and much praised ZZR1400 and the Z1000SX, throw in a couple of panniers and you’re onto a winner. Right?

Now that the hype has died down a little bit though – and with the introduction of the supercharged H2SX tourer – Kawasaki are hoping to profit from bringing the same engine to a wider market and with a reduced price. Could this be the sweet spot the big green machine?

We were invited over to Estoril in Portugal to find out.

At first glance, all of the necessary elements are there… Take the block out of the H2, bring in the knowledge gained from the competent and much praised ZZR1400 and the Z1000SX, throw in a couple of panniers and you’re onto a winner. Right?

It’s not so simple.

At a ‘performance workshop’ the project developer, Watanabe-San explains that Kawasaki have had to completely redesign the H2 block for the new H2SX; adding lower consumption and more torque to the low and mid-range areas.

We start the test in the usual, gung-ho way; full-power, giving it everything, and immediately discover that going from zero to full in freezing temperatures on wet asphalt is not the greatest of ideas.

And then there are the electronics.

From the moment you come face-to-face with the new H2SX, the LCD display strikes as something completely new for the famous green marque. The buttons on both left and right bars are extensive enough to feel initially overwhelming and the functions that they enable are extensive enough to put the most technologically advanced of all modern tourers to shame. There’s no electronic suspension but with multiple dashboard layouts, adjustable driving modes, three levels of traction control, switch-off’able quick-shifter, cruise control and launch control there’s enough to get to grips with.

We start the test in the usual, gung-ho way; full-power, giving it everything, and immediately discover that going from zero to full in freezing temperatures on wet asphalt is not the greatest of ideas. Couple this with fresh Bridgestone Hypersport S21s that have yet to be ‘scrubbed in’ and the drifting from both tyres and buttocks is enough to send a shiver of fear up the spine.

So traction control on medium and riding mode put back firmly into the ‘middle’ it is then.

It’s a motion that doesn’t take as long as I had first feared – the controls are intuitive enough to be done on the fly, and help to settle the nerves.

It’s really not the greatest of conditions in which to test the H2SX’s abilities to be honest and after 250kms of riding in ice cold wind and rain it’s all that we can do to keep going. Riding comfort wise everything is fine and with a nice, wide tank and spacious seating position there’s nothing to complain about. But that cold wind?!

The windshield is large enough to hide behind and take the edge off of most of the buffeting and heated grips coupled with electronic ‘castration’ tools mean that we make it to our destination as relaxed as possible.

But a sunny day at Estoril circuit the following day is all that we can think about to keep us going towards our destination.

Finally, we give it some gas.

It’s an early morning start, but we don’t truly wake up until we put the supercharged engine into the limiter at the beginning of the first, Estoril straight. Launch control for the win!

The electronics ensure that everything goes to plan and all you need to do is to find first gear and then open up the throttle.

‘Watatatatataaa!’ then the whistling of the wastegate before letting the clutch lever rise. Bam!

‘The braking point is just around the third bridge’, is the advice offered by the PR-man before we start. In truth that’s about one bridge too far for this rider and the double-disc brakes have trouble scrubbing the incredible speed from my H2SX and the gravel is just about avoided.

After a while of careful measuring and balancing, the potential of the engine is realised and it’s striking just how much more powerful the motor is at the bottom end when compared to the H2. It just doesn’t matter what gear you’re in or what speed the engine is running at; whatever power you need is available, seemingly on tap.

The brakes struggle a little on track after a while, but there is nothing to suggest that there won’t be more than enough stopping power for even the most spirited of rides on a public road.

‘Watatatatataaa!’ then the whistling of the wastegate before letting the clutch lever rise. Bam!

The suspension in this regard is excellent. At 256kgs the H2SX isn’t exactly svelte and in chicanes the fat rolls take some effort to tuck back in, but it’s smooth and managed. And there is always that throttle response to aid in allowing the extra gas needed to get you back onto the riding line.

It never ceases to be breathtaking ;the 200 horses coming out of that 998cc four-cylinder beast is something that will never get old.

And this is a tourer don’t forget. So once all of the modern touring equipment is back on the machine and the sporty underpinnings are still available, what’s not to get excited about?

So where exactly is the catch? It’s a question that is asked of us throughout our time with the machine. And the only real issue with the Kawasaki H2SX is one of compromise.

Do you want an super-comfortable Grand Tourer? Or do you want the world’s fastest sportsbike? The H2SX is not going to be the best in class when compared to pure machines in each of those segments. But if you want an engine that is at home on all roads, across all markets and is unbeatable in a straight line, then you can start planing your first Autobahn or Nürburgring trip now.


Kawasaki H2SX 
Engine: 998cc, 4 kl./cil., Liquid-cooled 4-in-line with compressor
Max. power: 200 hp / 11,000 rpm
Max. torque: 137.3 Nm / 9.500 rpm
Transmission: zesbak, chain
Frame: steel lattice frame
Front suspension: 43 mm UPSD, fully adjustable, suspension 120 mm
Rear suspension: monoshock, fully adjustable, suspension 139 mm
Front brake: 330 mm discs with 4 piston calipers
Rear brake: 250 mm disk with 2zuigerremklauw
Tires Front / rear: 120 / 70-17 / 190 / 55-17
Wet weight: 256 kg
Seat height: 835 mm
Tank capacity:19.0 l.
Colors: Emerald Blazed Green / Metallic Diablo Black (SE)

This review first appeared on MaxxMoto ; It’s translated and republished here with explicit permission.



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Ride Review: The Kawasaki Z900RS really does have it all




The Z900RS is a pretty amazing bike.

Literally, everyone that spoke about it to me on the launch was unanimous about the way it looked and how pretty it is when looked at up close. And then, after the ride, not a single person felt the need to nag about the lack of stereo-suspension in the back, spoke wheels being missing, or even grunt over the chrome bits and fenders. Why?

Because quite simply, the four pot engine is stunning – because of it’s massive torque down in the rev range – and it pulls through nicely to the limiter. Even though the RS feel heavier than the Z900, I’m pretty sure it accelerates faster. It’s a beauty.

After spending some time with the bike, it’s clear that Kawasaki have spent some serious effort on the design of this bike and even though you might be tempted to think that it’s just a reworked Z900, it’s not.

Frame, engine, suspension, brakes… Basically everything got a complete overhaul and the result is truly impressive.

I know that our friends here at Motofire have had reservations about the machine, but actually – in my opinion – it’s genuinely the very first bike that combines actual, real 1970s heritage (there are soooo many small hints of the original Z1) with modern day ride qualities.

Yes, there is the BMW RnineT,  the Yamaha XSR or the Honda CB1100, but the first two don’t really have a link with bikes from the seventies and the latter is overpriced, under-powered and not nearly as beautiful as the Z900RS.)

After spending some time with the bike, it’s clear that Kawasaki have spent some serious effort on the design

The Z900RS really does have it all… Radial four-pot brakes, adjustable suspension, adjustable levers, traction control (3- stage) and it’s quite clear that Kawasaki wants to present it as a premium bike. And here in Belgium where MaxxMoto are based, the pricing is competitive too, starting at €11.599 which is about €4k cheaper than the average BMW RnineT. So it’s fair to say that you get a lot of bike for the money.

Now, before I completely come away sounding like a Team Green press representative, there are a few, minor flaws.

First of all, the throttle response is quite ‘twitchy’ with an on/off feel that can initially seem disconcerting; possibly because of the transmission, the injection, or a combination of both. It’s not as bad as on a Suzuki GSX-S1000 or the first gen Yamaha MT-09, but even though the 4 cylinder engine is very smooth, the pick up of a closed throttle is rather abrupt.

Basically everything got a complete overhaul and the result is truly impressive.

The same thing goes when you close the throttle – for example when entering a hairpin corner. In that situation you get a bit too much off the engine brake delivered back at you, which can get the bike a bit off balance at times. This is a minor issue and it gets better when the bike warms up, but it never really disappears.

Speaking of things that get better after they’ve warmed up: let’s talk tyres.

On the cold Catalonian asphalt (7° and less) it took forever for the Dunlop Sportmax GPR 003 tires to warm up, and it was a good thing that the bike had traction control. It’s a rather typical Kawasaki thing to put cheap ass tires on a good bike here in Belgium – the Z1000SX, Ninja 300, Versys… All of these come on less than desirable rubber – and for a bike that feels so premium elsewhere, this is a bit of a shame.

Apart from that, it’s a struggle to come up with much more by way of criticism. I think the seat is quite high – if you are smaller that 1m 75 this might become an issue, especially if you’re a less experienced rider, and the transition from the seat to the polished, slippery tank is rather, too smooth. So when you brake hard during some spirited riding, you better squeeze your knees hard to help in holding on.

Oh, perhaps you could argue that despite the retro dials looking nice, the lettering on the analogue clocks (‘the same as on the Z1 in 19-seventies’ blah blah blah…) is just too small and hard to read. But now we’re literally nitpicking.

So the takeaway conclusion from our couple of days riding the Kawasaki Z900RS around the Catalonian roads?

The Z900RS has an excellent looks/performance/price-balance and really takes the whole neo-retro thing to a higher level than anything else before it.

For more photos from the launch – including lots of images of the details on the new Kawasaki Z900RS, visit MaxxMoto.

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