Review: 2016 Harley-Davidson Heritage Softail Classic

This smaller touring motorcycle gets more power

By Pamela Collins, Photos by Pam and Tim Collins

Touring bikes—often referred to as baggers—may be the trendy models among motorcycle manufacturers now, but Harley-Davidson’s Heritage Softail Classic, last reviewed here in 2011, has filled that role for 30 years.

Not much has changed on this motorcycle in three decades with this Softail offering amenities like leather saddlebags, a windshield, and a sissy bar so its ready for touring right from the showroom floor. Along with rider-friendly ergonomics, the Heritage Softail Classic has been the go-to motorcycle for motorcyclists looking to trade up to a touring motorcycle that doesnt have all the bulk.

review 2016 harley davidson heritage softail classic beauty
Harley-Davidson’s FLSTC Heritage Softail Classic retro-styled tourer has been in The Motor Company’s line-up since 1986. Long beloved by women and men riders, the model received some upgrades this year to make the Classic a thoroughly modern tourer.

For 2016 the bags, windshield, and sissy bar are still standard equipment, but Harley-Davidson went one step further making the motorcycle more touring-capable by upgrading the engine to its High Output Twin Cam 103B with sixth gear overdrive, the same engine introduced in 2014s Project RUSHMOREmotorcycles, and now found on all Harley-Davidson FL touring bikes, Softails, and most Dynas.

The High Output Twin Cam 103B is tuned to deliver strong acceleration and passing power with a new high-flow airbox and camshaft that optimizes torque at lower rpm. And with cruise control as standard equipment, long highway jaunts are more relaxed than ever.

review 2016 harley davidson heritage softail classic woman riding
Pam enjoys the smooth, surefootedness of the Heritage Softail Classic. At 755 pounds, the Classic rides and feels like a smaller bike thanks to its low center of gravity. Its 5 gallon tank holds plenty of fuel for touring, and fuel mileage averages about 42 mpg.

My husband, Tim, has owned three Heritage Softail Classics over the years, so he and I took turns swapping between the 2016 Heritage and Harley’s Sportster SuperLow 1200T on a trip from Los Angeles to Death Valley. We both immediately noticed an increase in power over the Heritage’s previous generation motor without increased vibration. The motorcycle pulled smoothly, quickly, and easily from first gear. No matter what the speed, the mirrors remained clear and the ride comfortable.

review 2016 harley davidson heritage softail classic air cleaner
The Twin Cam 103B engine has been in other Harley-Davidson motorcycles, but this is the first year for the Heritage Softail Classic. The motor and new-for-2016 electronic throttle control system work together to propel the Heritage Softail Classic down the highway smoother and quicker than before. Also new on the Classic this year is the air cleaner cover with its special “High Output 103” badge.
review 2016 harley davidson heritage softail classic right
Studs and conchos on the bags and seat, laced wheels, whitewall tires, and lots of chrome are the DNA of the Heritage Softail Classic. The Crushed Ice Pearl/Frosted Teal Pearl paint option shown here reflects pure vintage style, but it’s an additional $750 over the base price of $17,349.
review 2016 harley davidson heritage softail classic man riding
The now-standard anti-lock brakes help the bike to avoid skidding should you need to stop quickly. The heel/toe shifter on the Heritage Softail Classic is a nice feature commonly found on big touring bikes. It takes some getting used to using, but it allows you to upshift by pressing down on the shifter with your heel or by lifting up on the front lever with your toe. Either way, shifting through all six gears is met with Harley’s traditional, positive “clunk.”
review 2016 harley davidson heritage softail classic man riding in leathers
The classic touring handlebar reaches up and back to the rider, and at 5 feet 8 inches tall, Tim is comfortable and relaxed on the Heritage Classic.

The Heritage Softail Classic is perfect for full days in the saddle. Handling is nimble and compliant. The Softail’s hidden rear shocks, important to complement the styling, work well at minimizing bumps and jars from the road.

review 2016 harley davidson heritage softail classic seat height woman
At 5 feet 2.5 inches tall with a 29-inch inseam, Pams feet comfortably touch the ground with some bend in her knees on the Heritage’s 25.5-inch seat height. However, her shorter legs cannot reach and retract the sidestand without help. She also needs to scoot to the front of the saddle to reach the touring handlebars, especially while turning.
review 2016 harley davidson heritage softail classic seat height man
At 5 feet 8 inches tall with a 30-inch inseam, Tim feels right at home on the Heritage Softail Classic, saying the bike fits him “just right.”

Touring has been the Heritage Softail Classic’s purpose since its beginning, and over the years Harley has upgraded a lot of the touring goodies on the bike. The king-sized windshield is detachable for days when youre just rolling through town, as is the two-piece, two-up seat pillion for when you just want a solo seat.

For 2016, the saddlebags are redesigned with a new mounting system and internal rigid structure to prevent the sagging that plagued previous models. The bags now retain their shape making it easy to fill them.

review 2016 harley davidson heritage softail classic saddlebag
The Classic’s saddlebags feature new hidden quick-detach buckles. The bags offer 1.27 cubic feet of storage, plenty of space for a multi-day touring trip. The bagger has a nice wide rider and passenger seat, but its width interferes with opening the saddlebag lids all the way.
review 2016 harley davidson heritage softail classic fuel tank
Harley-Davidson subtly updated the look of the Heritage Softail Classic for 2016 without losing its distinct vintage style. The nostalgic vibe remains, but fewer studs, red glass inlayed “cat-eye” inserts in the conchos on the seat and saddlebags, and a new leather tank panel and 3-D tank medallion update the look.
review 2016 harley davidson heritage softail classic fuel tank dash
The tank-mounted dash is retro-styled and includes an electronic speedometer with odometer, clock, dual tripmeter, RPM/gear display, fuel gauge with low-fuel warning light and miles-to-empty feature, low-oil pressure indicator light, engine diagnostics readout, LED indicator lights, and a 6-speed indicator light.
review 2016 harley davidson heritage softail classic floorboards
The classic styling wouldn’t be complete without full-length, rubber vibration-isolating floorboards and a wide brake pedal. Harley-Davidson’s Genuine Accessory catalog includes vintage add-ons to customize the look, such as white floorboards and pedals, seen here on WRN.

review 2016 harley davidson heritage softail classic wheel
The 2016 Heritage retains the bikes signature full-coverage steel fenders, steel laced wheels, front and rear 16 inch Dunlop tires (whitewalls are optional), and lots of chrome.

Cruise control is a welcome amenity on touring motorcycles and this year Harley-Davidson added it as a standard feature on the Heritage Softail Classic. The button to activate it resides under the left handlebar control cluster. You set the speed by pressing a small plastic lever with your thumb, and you can increase and decrease your speed using the lever.

review 2016 harley davidson heritage softail classic cruise control
Cruise control is now standard on the Heritage Classic. It takes a little practice to use the far-reaching controller, but once it is set, it holds the bike at the set speed well. The cruise control will disengage by activating either brake, pulling in the clutch lever, or by turning off the cruise control.
review 2016 harley davidson heritage softail classic woman riding full face helmet
Ample storage space, comfortable ergonomics, and now more power make Harley-Davidson’s Heritage Softail Classic stronger on the highway. Now with Harleys most powerful engine, the bike can keep up with the big baggers easily.

Specs At A Glance: Harley-Davidson Heritage Softail Classic
Engine Size: 1690cc
Seat Height: 25.5 inches
Weight: 755 pounds
Fuel Capacity: 5 gallons
2016 Colors: Vivid Black, Superior Blue, Billet Silver, Olive Gold, Crushed Ice Pearl/Frosted Teal Pearl, Amber Whiskey/Vivid Black, Purple Fire/Blackberry Smoke, Cosmic Blue Pearl
Price: Starts at $17,349

WRN Recommendation
A long-time favorite of ours, the Heritage Softail Classic is a comfortable mid-sized touring bike that handles long days in the saddle even better than ever, thanks to the addition of cruise-control and more powerful engine. For riders with some experience looking for a tour-worthy motorcycle they can handle easily that comes with a low seat height, the Heritage Softail Classic is an excellent choice. We love that you can roll right out the dealership with a windshield and saddlebags so its ready for your first road trip.

Related Articles
Harley-Davidson Softail Slim
2011 Harley-Davidons Heritage Softail Classic
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15 thoughts on Review: 2016 Harley-Davidson Heritage Softail Classic

  1. I just bought my first Harley and decided to go for the Heritage Softail Classic. I will be picking up this bike in four weeks and cannot wait. I have read all the reviews on this bike and just read this review and I am sure that I’ve made the right choice. The only thing extra that I have done is that I test-rode one with a set of Vance and Hines 3-inch slash slip-ons and it sounded great, so I decided to go straight ahead and put them on the bike. I will be riding this bike from the UK to Spain, then Corsica, Sardinia, Italy and then finally Greece, so here’s to some happy riding.

  2. Am anxiously awaiting picking up my new Heritage! Starting riding in 1971 and then quit to have kids and grandkids and now I’m back. Two years ago, I bought a used ’09 1200 Sportster to get my feet wet again, then last year I bought a used ’13 1200 Sportster because I wanted the confidence that you get with the big fat front tire. My hubby kept trying to talk me into a Softail, but I wouldn’t listen, until I went to Daytona two weeks ago for Bike Week, and took demo rides at the Harley exhibit. Came home and bought a brand new Heritage with the new paint colors. My only question (at least for right now) is… do I have to have highway bars that jut out past the floorboards, or has anyone made standard engine guards work?

    1. Congratulations on getting the new motorcycle Donna! Good question. We will post this here with the hopes someone will comment on the engine guard question. The only experience I have is with the ones that jut out past the footboard as the whole point of the engine guard is to guard the engine and other components of the bike, like the floorboards, should the bike tip over. Perhaps someone has experience with ones that don’t stick out as far.

  3. My daughter and I both upgraded to Heritage Classics in July 2009 after we made an 800-mile family trip in central Texas. I was on an 883 Sportster ad my daughter was on a Sportster Custom. I traded two days after the ride and she traded a week after I did. I have an ’08 and she has an ’09. She’s taller than me, but we both are able to reach the ground easily. We also put on different seats, more for comfort than lowering us. I have short arms and have carpal tunnel in both wrists so I got different handlebars that reach back & up, which really helps my wrists ad hands stay comfortable for longer periods.I’ve ridden mine to Yellowstone twice, Canada once, and just returned from a trip to Florida and my bike was very comfortable on all of these solo rides. I find it easier to turn than my Sporty due to the lower center of gravity. It doesn’t feel like it weighs 200 pounds more than the 883 even with almost two more gallons of gas in the tank. If (when) I trade this one in (more than 50,000 miles on it now) I’ll get another Heritage. You just can’t beat the smooth ride and carrying capacity!

  4. Just when I thought my motorcycling couldn’t get any more enjoyable, along comes the Softail Heritage Classic. This beautiful specimen of a bike is my third. I learned how to ride in 2012. My husband bought me a used Sportster with only 92 miles on it on the day before I attended my second day of the MSF course. I had no prior experience handling a motorcycle, much less starting one. At the end of the first riding day, I was so sure I wouldn’t pass the next day that I was contemplating not showing up. But I did show up, and passed and voila, my riding days began.After riding the Sportster for less than a year, my husband suggested I look at the Softail Slim for its low center of gravity and a few other pluses. I really loved the way it felt on my test ride so I traded my beloved Sportster for the Softail Slim. The Softail gave me confidence riding on bigger roads and open highways, and just when I thought I had found my one true love of a motorcycle, last year my husband again suggested I check out the Heritage Softail Classic. I had mixed feelings about trading and bidding farewell to my “Slim.” And I didn’t think there was any way I would be able to ride this Heritage. For one, it is way heavier than the Softail. Well, not really that any heavier, but heavier still, nonetheless. But I did get to test-ride it, and I was smitten, again! The Heritage Softail Classic was very comfortable to ride. I get to sit a little higher than on the Slim yet I get the certainty of flat-footing it during stops. I am 5 feet 8 inches tall, weigh about 145 pounds and I was able to ride it as is, straight from the production line. I added grip warmers and a few things to give it an even more vintage look. I love the cruise control feature although I was very hesitant to even try it, but I did after my first 1,000 miles and it was easy as pie.I am not really that knowledgeable on the intricacies and mechanics of motorcycles but I do know that I can’t wait to ride more miles and go on more adventures with my new motorcycle! I even got the sought-after teal/white two-tone!

  5. I have the 2016 Heritage. Traded in an 883 Sportster for her. Handles beautifully. Love the cruise control to give my hand a rest. I am 5 foot 3 inches and, like others, have to put up the floorboard to put up the kickstand. I bought a super reduced reach seat before I left the dealership with her and it’s a perfect fit for me. Handles beautifully, and although so much bigger than the 883, seems easier to handle.

  6. Hello. I do love all of your articles and information that you pass on to earth vertically challenged women. Seems that the Heritage is the choice that seems to be evaluated frequently. Was wondering if you have ever reviewed the Fat Boy Lo. Is it possible you can give me your pros and cons? Does the center of gravity feel as comfortable as the Heritage. With the seat height being lower on the Fat Boy Lo does that mean the floorboards seem to get scraped more turns. Thank you so much.

    1. Louise,We did review the Fat Boy Lo here on WRN. In the future you, can do a search for this an any other articles in the search field at the top of our website. The review is from 2010, but other than the engine, the size and weight of the motorcycle are the same. Read through that and if you have an additional questions, email me personally through our Contact Us page. Thanks for your great question!

  7. I upgraded to a Heritage in 2013. I am 5 feet 1 inches. It took me about a year of adjustments to get the bike to where I felt like it fit me perfectly. I had it lowered, put risers and Reduced Reach handlebars on. I had it lowered and also changed my seat to a signature seat to put me closer to the ground (that seat is awesome and totally worth the money and even comes studded to match the look of the bike). All these changes were worth it. I love this bike. I usually kick up the floor boards with my left foot to put up the stand more easily and flip the boards back down before taking off. No problem putting it down. When you are short you almost have to expect to make some adjustments to get the bike to fit you perfectly. Unfortunately bikes are not mass produced for those of us that are vertically challenged.

  8. My first bike was a Heritage and I loved it! I know there is a lot of debate about which bikes to start out on and when to upgrade to larger bikes and so forth, but for me the Heritage was a perfect bike right out of the gate. It had everything I needed and easily took me from a few weekends of parking lot practice when I brought her home, to riding a 2,000-mile round trip vacation with my other lady riders. It really is a great bike, very comfortable. I felt confident in my abilities very early on, and although I had some fear initially, riding came very naturally to me right away. The Heritage is easy to handle and a good transition bike all around. I recently upgrade to a H-D Street Glide, but I loved that bike dearly, it brought me to where I am today!

  9. Thanks for this review! A couple things, I work at a HD dealership, and I can attest that the jiffy stands on the Softails are a pain if you’ve got shorter legs, like myself. They’re way up under the boards and can make for a dangerous reach while trying to balance a 700-plus pound bike. But what I find interesting is the Deluxe is much easier to touch down on, as the Heritage has a wider seat. I agree with the comment stating, if you’re having to scootch forward, that could be dangerous. The Reduced Reach and Super Reduced Reach seats can fix that, or a handlebar adjustment, or both. I am widely against taking unnecessary risks simply because you love a bike. There’s ways to make it safer for you, or other bikes. This certainly affects my sales, but I see people getting on the wrong bike, everyday, because they “love it” and aren’t thinking critically. Please don’t ever take a risk for a beautiful bike. If you can’t afford the upgrades to make it safe, or they’re not possible, there are so, so many bikes put there, you’ll find one you love, and can safely ride. I deal with it myself, many bikes I adore, but can’t quite this, or that, making them an unsafe pursuit as a stock bike.In conclusion, the Heritage is a fantastic bike and has almost endless options for customization, and all the Softail and Dyna models got a lot of love for 2016. Ride safe!

  10. I love my 2012 Heritage! Being 5 feet 2 inches I use a Super Reduced Reach seat and added a lowering kit that lets me now stop flat-footed and secure. About Pam’s not being able to reach the sidestand — that was my problem too. I ended up flipping up the floorboard when I need to reach the sidestand. Problem solved. (I didn’t like the looks of sidestand extenders.) I also had a windshield repair friend shave off 3 inches on the windshield, as I would rather look over the windshield instead of through it. Glad to see the 2016s have bag stiffeners and cruise control as standard. I was surprised to see that no one commented on how hot the oil reservoir gets. I blistered my leg a few times in stop-and-go traffic before I found a leather “crotch cooler.” I have since tweaked my baby further with hard bags (I needed them to lock) and a fairing. This bike fits me perfectly with all the modifications, but the basic ride is still one only the Heritage can provide!

  11. I appreciate the review of the Heritage Softail, but if Pam or any rider “cannot reach and retract the sidestand without help and also needs to scoot to the front of the saddle to reach the touring handlebars, especially while turning” I wouldn’t recommend this bike for her or anyone. I suppose it’s something she’s adjusted to but it wouldn’t be something I’d try. I ride a CVO Deluxe which sits a bit lower than the standard Softail Deluxe and it’s a perfect fit for my 5-foot 5-inch height but with short legs.

  12. Beautiful bike but like the author found out they need to rethink where they put the sidestand on these low-seated Softails. There are two bolt holes through the lower frame right below the seat where you can attach one. I struggled with the one on my Slim for several months. Almost dropping it a few times. I finally had my friendly HD parts guy find an aftermarket stand that fit. I have to reach back a bit to put it down but it’s really easy to put up now. Perhaps they need a woman design consultant!

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