What Is A Harley Softail? The Ultimate Guide

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What is a Harley Softail? It’s the epitome of balance between classic design and modern technology. A motorcycle that seamlessly marries the nostalgia of vintage Harley-Davidson designs with cutting-edge technology. Its iconic hidden rear suspension system, coupled with a traditional hardtail-styled design, makes the Softail a definitive choice for enthusiasts looking to ride in style and luxury. This magnificent motorcycle does not just cruise; it rules the road, imprinting a lasting memory of a thrilling adventure in the hearts of riders.

Celebrating the allure of Harley-Davidson motorcycles, High Country Harley-Davidson® brings you a diverse array of bikes that encapsulate the brand's unrivaled commitment to quality and innovation. With each growl of the engine and every mile conquered, these motorcycles encapsulate the pride and freedom that come with owning a Harley-Davidson.

Our lineup of new Harley-Davidson® models continues to pay homage to the brand's rich heritage while integrating the latest advancements. Whether you're a fan, a novice, or someone in between, your ride awaits here. Each motorcycle we offer is a testament to the brand's ongoing commitment to delivering an exquisite riding experience with every revolution of the engine.

Origins and History of the Softail Model

The name Softail refers to the design and technology that Harley-Davidson developed to meet a specific demand - riders wanted a motorcycle that kept the classic, clean lines of a hardtail frame (where the rear wheel's axle is directly mounted to the frame) but offered the comfort of rear suspension. Bill Davis, an enthusiastic Harley rider and engineer from St. Louis, Missouri., conceived and designed a prototype of the Softail frame in the mid-1970s. He patented the design and sold it to Harley-Davidson in 1982.

Upon its release in 1984, the bike immediately gained popularity partly due to its distinct design, which played a big part in solidifying the brand’s legacy. The hidden or 'softail' suspension allowed Harley-Davidson to retain the classic hardtail silhouette yet with the comfort of a modern suspension. Over the years, Harley has produced numerous models under the Softail range, each model providing a unique interpretation of the original design.

Distinguishing Features of the Softail Model

Notable elements of the Softail are rooted in its frame and suspension system. A swingarm styled to look like a rigid or hardtail frame (hence the name 'softail') characterizes the rear end. Underneath the frame, two shock absorbers provide the 'spring' to accommodate bumps and uneven terrain, effectively offering a smooth ride but out of sight to maintain the design aesthetic.

The Softail family also features a lower seat height, which works in tandem with the lower center of gravity for the motorcycle, making it easier to balance and maneuver. Riders of shorter stature often appreciate this aspect. The Softail's design appeal lies in its austerity, its lines tracing a direct, unobstructed path from front to back.

Overview of the Softail’s Performance

The Softail offers a unique performance characteristic that is shaped by its marriage of design elements and engine builds. This motorcycle line employs the Harley-Davidson V-twin engines – the Softail has a counterbalanced version. The counterbalancing technique helps to reduce engine vibration, which contributes to a smoother ride – a quality that is particularly endearing to those planning for long rides.

Despite a larger build than some models, Softails offers solid maneuverability. Their design provides a low-center-of-gravity feel, giving riders more control and definite handling, especially at slower speeds. These cycles are perfect for long, relaxed rides where comfort and cruising style are paramount.

Unique Aesthetic of the Softail Series

The Harley Softail series captures a timeless aesthetic appeal that is equal parts robust functionality and clean design. Its distinctive look traces back to the stripped-down custom frame reminiscent of early motorcycles. There’s no mistaking the profile of a Softail with its low-slung design, which speaks to enthusiasts seeking a vintage appearance with modern technology. The visual pleasure of a Softail motorcycle, whether parked or on the move, is marked by the signature hardtail look combined with the sleek lines that seem to stretch from the headlamp to the tailpipe in uninterrupted grace.

This series maintains its unique aesthetic through a dedication to certain design principles: simplicity of silhouette and a visual commitment to showcasing the engine and wheels. The exposed engine, a Harley trademark, is the heart of Softail’s aesthetic, displayed prominently beneath the classic "peanut" fuel tank. This design philosophy extends to the minimal bodywork and chromework, which highlight functional components over decorative excess. A Softail doesn't just ride on the road; it exhibits a rolling exhibition of motorcycling heritage.

Major Models in the Softail Line

The Softail line spans a variety of models that stand out for their individuality while sharing the signature Softail chassis. The Heritage Classic, adorned with leather saddlebags and a windscreen, throws back to the grand American touring tradition. The Fat Boy, on the other hand, with its solid-cast wheels, beefy front end, and unmistakable presence, has become an icon of modern motorcycle design. Whether one appreciates a bike for its function or its form, there's a model engineered to resonate with their style.

The Softail Deluxe, inspired by the post-war era, offers chrome splendor and whitewall tires, while the Street Bob represents an urban insurgent attitude with its bobber style – minimal and raw. Recent models, including the Low Rider S and the Sport Glide, have expanded the Softail’s genre crossover capabilities, taking the line into performance-orientated and touring-centered directions, respectively. Across all these models, Harley-Davidson ensures each Softail machine embodies a certain distinct character, yet unmistakably maintaining the family lineage.

Comfort and Handling of the Softail Design

Harley-Davidson’s Softail models are engineered with a focus on achieving a smooth ride without compromising the classic look. The critical component of this comfort is the suspension system, artfully hidden underneath the chassis, offering the look of an old-school hardtail motorcycle, with the ride quality of one possessing a full rear suspension. The frame's design keeps road imperfections from unsettling the rider, making long distances less of a strain and more of a pleasurable cruising experience. This distinctive suspension system also contributes less to the motorcycle's overall visual weight, keeping the iconic profile intact.

Handling, too, is one of Softail’s domains. With the lower seat height and center of gravity, these motorbikes afford riders more confidence in their control over the bike, particularly in stop-and-go urban environments or while cornering on winding roads. The improved frame rigidity and lighter weight compared to previous generations make the latest Softail lines surprisingly agile. While they may have the look of a vintage cruiser, their handling is adept, with responsive steering and an eagerness in corners that can take one by surprise. It is this marriage of nostalgic aesthetics to contemporary ride dynamics that the Softail range embodies – a classic look with a ride that stands up to modern expectations.

Start Your Harley-Davidson Softail Adventure with High Country Harley-Davidson®

If you’re wondering how a Harley Softail mirrors the perfect balance of old and new, it's time to witness it first-hand. High Country Harley-Davidson® invites you to explore our softail models. Start your journey today with us and etch unforgettable stories of freedom and adventure on the open road.