ROAD TEST: 2018 Harley-Davidson Softail Deluxe Review

By Koz Mraz. Photos by Brian Nelson

Yea, you’ve heard all about the brand new Harley-Davidson Softail line, lighter weight, bigger motors, and better suspension all married to brand new frames.  It’s all true and don’t get me wrong, that’s great but really, I just wanted a cool vintage looking motorcycle.  With all H-D’s newfangled technology they must know that nostalgia and antique design also caters to the young buyer demographic…vintage is hip.

Bingo!  The 2018 Softail Deluxe and Heritage Classic.  The Motor Company delivers classic good looks with modern technology.  The current Softail Deluxe traces its lineage back to 1949 when Harley-Davidson first mounted hydraulic front forks to replace the springer front ends on their rigid FL frames to beget the Hydra-Glide. It’s no coincidence that the faux-rigid Softail frames allow the original geometry to shine through in the upper lines that drop uninterrupted from steering stem to rear axle.  A design that truly mimics the look of these old hardtails, but hard ride it’s not. I can personally vouch that the Softail Deluxe offers one of the smoothest rides available.  The adjustable mono shock was simply amazing. I intentionally looked for pot holes and because I couldn’t believe my ass.

The retro front fender continues the old FL look with a chrome brow and piping and a minimal touch of chrome at the trailing edge of the old-school fender skirts.  The fender itself is cut high on the sides to leave plenty of visibility for the laced rim and whitewall tire. A chrome cover on the right side mimics the look of  vintage drum brakes onf a 50’s Harley, while the stock solo seat is most definitely a ‘“Wild Ones’ look. From the Tombstone taillight to the whitewalls and wire- spoke rims, the untrained eye could easily call this motorcycle ‘vintage.’

Vintage it is not. The Milwaukee-Eight 107 boasts 109 lbs. of torque. It doesn’t matter if you’re in fifth or sixth gear, twist the throttle and there’s get-up-and-go. The Mil-8 runs an undersquare layout with a 3.937-inch bore and 4.374-inch stroke for a total displacement of 107 inches (1,746 cc) and a 10-to-1 compression ratio. Though the engine has the same loping offset to the firing order that Harley enthusiasts expect, a counterbalancer tames much of the vibration for longer, more comfortable cruising.

The mild-steel tubular frame has also been redesigned and is 65 percent stiffer than the outgoing Softail frame. This new frame also has 50 percent fewer component parts, 22 percent fewer welds and, with the solid-mount engine, makes for an overall 34 percent more rigid chassis. These and other changes help reduce the weight of the Softail Deluxe by 33 pounds for 2018. Increased lean angle and more precise steering are also benefits of the new chassis.

The modern Daymaker signature LED headlamp and “winged” LED turn signals light up the night. The 26.8-inche saddle height fits a wide range of riders and a five-5 gallon tank allows for some serious touring. Toss on a few accessories like a windshield and saddlebags and you’re good to go. Or, get on a 2018 Heritage Classic that includes both. The Heritage name is self-evident, and with saddlebags and removable windscreen also keeps the classic look alive. Both the Deluxe and the 2018 Heritage Softail come with the Milwaukee 8 107 ci standard and the 114 ci is optional.

2018 Harley-Davidson Heritage Softail

What’s not to love here? Classic good looks with modern flair. Whether hitting the local haunts or it’s a 500- mile day, the Deluxe or the Heritage take you there in comfort and style.


2018 Softail Deluxe specs

Lean Angle, Right (deg.): 28

Lean Angle, Left (deg.): 28

Wheels, Front Type: Chrome Steel Laced

Wheels, Rear Type: Chrome Steel Laced

Brakes, Caliper Type: 4-piston fixed front and 2-piston floating rear

Tires, Front Specification: MT90B16 72H

Tires, Rear Specification: MU85B16 77H


Engine: Milwaukee-Eight® 107

Bore x Stroke: 3.937 in. x 4.374 in.

Displacement: 107 cu in

Compression Ratio: 10.0:1

Engine Torque: 109 ft-lb @ 3,000 rpm

Fuel System: Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI)

Exhaust: 2-into-2 shorty dual; catalyst in muffler