Harley Davidson is a cruiser motorcycle manufacturer headquartered in Miwaukee, Wisconsin, with over 115 years of History. Its inception dates back to 1903, when Harley S Harley & his childhood friend Arthur Davidson came together to work on their Motor-bicycle in North Side Miwaukee. H-D was one of the 2 American motorcycle manufacturers who could face & survive the Great Depression in the 1930s. This legendry manufacturer entered India back in 2009, when it came with all CBU models, all thanks to Alphanso mangoes. To those of you who don’t know, in 2007, the US Trade Representative Susan Schwab and Indian Minister of Commerce & Industry of India, Kamal Nath had agreed that HD motorcycles will be allowed to access the Indian market in exchange for the export of Indian Mangoes. Then was the time, when Indian government specified emission norms for bikes over 500cc effectively opening door to all other manufacturer along with Harley.
Harley Davidson India today offers total 15 different motorcycles under 4 different families called the Street, Sportster, Softtail and the Touring. We recently rode the Top Model Softtail from Harley Davidson, called the Heritage Classic, and we are simply mesmerized with the experience. So what is a softtail? Well, it refers to motorcycles that feature a Hidden Rear suspension system, to such an extent that its impossible to see it. Its designed to look like the rigid frame bikes of the past, giving it that classic era look. The 2018 line-up of H-D offers 6 different options in the SoftTail range, with the Street Bob being the cheapest Soft-tail range at Rs 12,59,000 and the Heritage Classic sitting right at the top of the Range at Rs.19,70,000. So simply put, we have ridden the best Soft-Tail money can buy today.
The Heritage Classic has been a Semi-Softtail Semi-Cruiser all its life, offering the looks of a Soft-Tail and experience of Cruiser with its Extended Windshield, Leather Saddle bads and Highway Lighting Setup. But the 2018 model is not similar to what it replaces. The 2018 Heritage Classic now comes with a All new Frame, New Milwaukee 8 107 engine, and a complete Revamp in terms of its looks. The earlier Chrome laden Cruiser now comes with a dash of Black color covering most of the motorcycle Engine & body parts now. Only the 2-into-2 Exhaust Mufflers now are chromed.
Harley rightly calls it the Dark Classic of Modern Era, with the Black replacing chrome, making the Heritage Classic more Stylish, Retro and Modern at the same time. This model has always been Harley’s homeage to the 50’s Chromed Hard-tailed cruiser nostalgia, but the 2018 model is everything of that, except the Chrome. It’s a pretty unconventional approach H-D has taken with the Heritage Classic, its largest selling motorcycle.
Harley has also upgraded the Basic Leather Saddle bags on the earlier Heritage models, with a Lockable & Weather-proof & saddlebags, allowing the rider to ride in all weathers & conditions without anything to worry about his luggage. The Signature Extended Mud-guard gets carried forward, not disturbing the Oringnal Design. The 19.1 Litres fuel tank with a mileage of around 25kmph too would give you a range of around 400-450kms easily, which the bike can cover in one stretch without any overheating issues. The Signature fuel tank carries the Harley Davison Chrome Logo on both the sides.
The front headlight too has been updated to a LED type, keeping the Vintage look intact. The Aux lamps too are LED type but are designed to look Retro. The overall setup guarantees a Darkness defying riding experience even on the darkest of nights. The Tall Dual-tone Wind-shield simply inspires you to keep cruising for long distances, with minimal wind-buffeting felt at the helmet, even by me, a 5ft 10inch rider. And if you don’t like it, you can unscrew it in seconds, and give your ride a completely New & macho look. The leather seats add to the vintage looks of the Heritage, and make the bike look complete. You can remove that Rear-Seat as well if wanted, and convert it into a single Saddle motorcycle.
Out on the Streets, the Heritage Classic is a complete head-turner and you will see people staring at you in Awe. Its vintage styling demands attention and makes you fall in love with it the moment you see it galloping on the roads.
The Heritage Classic comes equipped with the All New Milwaukee 8 1745cc Engine as on the Complete SoftTaill Range, offering around 144NM of Torque at just 3000RPM. This is the third Big Twin Harley has developed, and was introduced in its range in the 2017 only in its touring range. So the 2018 SoftTail models are equipped with a completely new heart than its preceding models. How is the New Engine better? Well, the Milwaukee 8 engines now come with total 8 valves, and a single camshaft and Engine counterbalancer configuration against the 6 valve, twin camshaft setup. The new setup now offers, 10 percent more Torque, 50% more intake & exhaust flow capacity, 10% better acceleration, 75% decrease in Engine Vibrations and also increased mileage.
The 2018 Range of Softails offer a completely Revamped riding experience. To tackle the Heat issues, the Heritage classic now comes with a Oil Cooler at the exhaust valves which managed to reduce reduced the Exhaust Gas temperature by around 100 Fahrenheits, making the ride much more comfortable for the rider and the pillion. Harley Davidson managed to rectify all complaints regarding Delayed Power, Engine Heat and Engine Vibrations which the earlier customers always complained off.
Riding the Heritage Classic is a complete Royal Experience, with Crisp power delivery and Torque on demand at any point of time. The engine starts delivering power from as low as 1,200RPM, and delivers the maximum output at just 3000RPM. Unlike my beliefs, the power delivery on the Heritage Classic was Crisp, with that trust felt as you open the throttle. The longer the stretch of Road you shall get, the wider shall be the Grin on your face. On Higways, it’s a mile-muncher, and can keep cruising at 140-150kmph with ease, without any stress felt thanks to the heighted Dual-Tone Wind-shield. The gear ratios are such that don’t demand much gear changing. To give you an idea, you can ride on the 6th gear right from as low as 60kmph to top end +190kmph without any engine knocking heard.
Harley Claims a mileage of 30kmpl on Highways for the Heritage, while we managed to extract around 25kmpl easily during our Pune-Kolhapur-Pune ride. The Heritage Classic is build for the highways, and you can enjoy it only there, which is evident since the Heritage is the only Softtail that comes equipped with a Wind-shield. Riding experience in City & broken tarmac roads isn’t the best, and controlling the 300kg motorcycle becomes difficult at time at slow speeds. To conclude, the Harley Davidson’s Heritage Classis gives you the Looks of a Legend, and performance of a Modern cruiser.
The 2018 Heritage Classic now comes equipped with a all new Frame, which is lighter and 34% stiffer than before, also making the motorcycle lighter by around 17kgs. This new Frame has altered the SoftTail handling DNA and has made it more Agile and Flick-able, putting lesser stress on the rider’s arms while maneuvering the Heritage. The Steering Rake is at 30 Degrees, keeping the Wheelbase restricted to 1630mm against the bike’s overall length of 2410mm. This Steering angle results in a comfortable Riding Triangle, with maximum agility and control over the bike. The Heritage Classic comes with a Ground Clearance of just 120mm, and you shall often scrape the side-stand and other lower body parts on Big Speed Breakers. The seat height is at just 685mm, and will allow people even with low height to experience the thrust of a Harley. Overall, the new frame makes the Soft-tail lineup more rider friendly in terms of controlling the 330kg bike.
To make the ride more comfortable and plush, H-D has used a High performance Cartridge type Front Suspension, which provides the performance of a Racing style motorcycle in terms of Linear Damping and reduce the weight on the front end. An added advantage of the Cartridge forks is that, the damping curve can be modified, in a much precise manner and the damping is less progressive as compared to Damping rod setup, which helps in creating damping even at very low velocities. On the Rear too, H-D uses a high performance Mono-Shock Absorber hidden under the body work, which gives the Heritage Classic a dynamic cornering ability, while maintaining its Hard-Tail look. To sum it up, the Frame and the Suspension setup make the Hertiage Classic very agile and nimble to maneuver, and perform excellently to deliver a plush comfortable & stress free ride. Cornering angles as deep as 28 degrees can be achieved on this Old school looking modern cruiser, which is a benchmark in its own category.
Well something that goes fast, should effectively stop faster which is the case with this 330kg Harley. The Classic Heritage comes equipped with a 4 piston fixed caliper on the front, and a 2 piston floating caliper on the Rear with ABS technology to grant the required Stopping Power. Coupled with the brakes are 130 section tyre on the front and a 150 section tyre on the rear. This setup performs amazingly well to my surprise, and grants more confidence to the rider to twist that throttle harder. Totally satisfied with the braking performance, which is the first time I have ever said for any motorcycle.
Even if the Heritage Classic looks vintage, in terms of features its completely modern. It is one of the very few motorcycles to feature a Cruise Control, where u can easily dail the speed with the switch and give your wrist a break. Niether is it difficult to cut it off, you just turn the switch off, and twist the throttle and the Cruise control switches itself off. It comes with Key-less Start feature, and one needs to keep the sensor in 5 meters range to operate the bike. The Heritage Classis also comes with a unique security system where it starts its alarms as soon as someone even touches it without the Sensor in its range, thus will keep those kids, bypassers and photo-opportunists 10 feet away.
The instrument cluster is placed on the Fuel tank, which houses a 5 inch analogue Speedo Meter fused to a digital Fuel gauge, Gear indicator, Odometer, Clock, Trip, Range and Tachometer indicator. The cluster also houses light indicators for High Beam, Turn Indicator, Low oil Preasure, engine diagontics, Aux lights, Cruise control, ABS, Security, a low battery and low fuel indicator. Overall, this Vintage Modern fusion of technology and design delivers a experience like no other motorcycle.
For those of you who have the money, love torque, high speed cruising and would want to invest in Vintage looking Highway cruiser, the Heritage Classic is certainly the way I would direct you to now, specifically due to its new frame, the new Engine and my riding experience. Priced at 19.70 Lakhs Ex-Factory, it is the best looking & performing Soft-tail money could by you today.
Review – Suraj Sawant
Photography – Smruti Gaimukhe