Review: 2018 Harley-Davidson Softails

Comprehensive detailed review of each of the eight new models

By Tricia Szulewski, Editor

Kudos to the designers and engineers at Harley-Davidson who were given the challenging task of revamping some of the brand’s most iconic models from the ground up. Last month WRN reported the big news about the eight all-new 2018 Softails that merge the models previously known as Softails and Dynas, marking the Motor Company’s largest R&D project in the company’s history.

review 2018 harley-davidson softails line up
Powerful statement! A line-up of 2018 Harley-Davidsons awaits the motorcycle press at Lake Arrowhead Resort in California. Harley-Davidson’s new slogan is #FindYourFreedom.

I was the only full-time female moto-journalist invited to the two-day press introduction test ride of all eight models around beautiful Lake Arrowhead in California. Harley-Davidson organizers created an efficient system to ensure we all had enough seat time to evaluate each model, putting no less than 50 miles on each bike. It was scorching hot, reaching 104 degrees at times, but the weather did nothing to take away from the cool factor the new Softails received everywhere we rode.

review 2018 harley-davidson softails tricia low rider
I’m riding the 2018 Low Rider on one of the many great roads mapped out for us. This model comes in four colors, but this Electric Blue is my favorite. I’m wearing Harley-Davidson’s (H-D) Triple Vent System waterproof textile riding jacket ($295), H-D Reveau mesh gloves ($45), H-D Curbside Sun Shield X06 half helmet ($125), H-D Bradbrook performance boots ($180), and BMW City women’s pants in Anthrocite ($300).

All eight Softails—Street Bob, Low Rider, Slim, Fat Bob, Deluxe, Breakout, Fat Boy, and Heritage Classic—are powered by the dual-balanced, rigid-mounted Milwaukee-Eight 107 inch (1746cc) engine in a new frame and chassis that incorporates a redesigned rear mono-shock that improves ride quality, traction, and control. Hidden to create a hard tail look, the shock is easier to adjust than ever before.

review 2018 harley-davidson softails suspension knob
The Breakout, Fat Bob, and Fat Boy rear shock preload is adjusted by twisting the external remote knob.
review 2018 harley-davidson softails socket wrench
The other Softails come with a combination spanner/socket wrench to make under-seat shock preload adjustment easy.
review 2018 harley-davidson softails street bob riding right schuberth m1
The three models that derived from the Dyna line— Fat Bob, Street Bob, and Low Rider—maintain their signature looks even with a hidden rear shock. This is the lowest priced Softail, the Street Bob, which starts at $14,499.

Four Softails—the Fat Bob, Breakout, Fat Boy, and Heritage Classic—are also available with the Milwaukee-Eight 114 ci (1868cc) engine. A back-to-back comparison ride on the Heritage 107 versus the 114 reveals not only a more immediate torquey response, but less shifting and more relaxed revs at higher speeds. I definitely see the benefit of having the bigger engine for riders who will be loading up a long tour’s worth of gear.

review 2018 harley-davidson softails anniversary paint
Because 2018 marks Harley-Davidson’s 115-year anniversary three of the 114 models—Breakout, Fat Boy, and Heritage Classic—are available with special anniversary paint and badging (indicated with ANV and ANX in the model designation). Shown is the Heritage Classic 114 (FLHCSANV) in Legend Blue/Vivid Black.

The new Softail design results in lighter, stronger, more powerful motorcycles that are more fun to ride and easier to lift off sidestands—something all women will appreciate. Improved cornering clearance is well received by riders like me who regularly scrape footpegs in curves.

The new Softails’ power-to-weight ratio is vastly improved, and editor Genevieve Schmitt goes into more detail about specific technical changes and weight reductions in her article here. It’s also important to note that the new design drops the center of gravity lower, which directly attributes to having better control at low speeds, something women will definitely appreciate.

review 2018 harley-davidson softails modula platform
The new Softail’s modular platform includes three steering head angles, two fuel tanks (3.5 and 5 gallon), and two swingarms with different widths. Each model combines these elements differently creating a unique character that gives each bike its own look and feel.
review 2018 harley-davidson softails led lights
Each Softail gets LED headlights which offer not only the best way to see and be seen, but are uniquely designed for each model, forming their own signature style that you’ll learn to recognize in no time. Shown here is the Heritage Classic, which comes with LED driving lights and round halogen turn signals.

With regard to that all important seat height measurement, critical to a woman feeling comfortable and in control on a motorcycle, seat height gains were less than an inch, except for the Slim, Deluxe, and Fat Bob (The 2018 Slim seat height is 1.7 inches higher than its predecessor, the 2018 Deluxe is 1.4 inches higher, and the Fat Bob is 1.6 inches higher.)

Incorporating modern styling and technology without losing the iconic feel of the Harley brand was no easy task. While I personally think the styling department proved each model more than worthy of the Harley-Davidson badge, many of the initial comments I saw on Facebook when the motorcycles were first shown involved the loss of chrome for black. Black bikes and satin finishes have been trending for the last few years, so it’s no surprise to see more exhausts, forks, and air cleaners being treated to these finishes.

But remember, these are still Harley-Davidsons; they are supported by the best aftermarket offerings for customization available. I expect to see just as many bone-stock Softails cruising down the road in 2018 as I did in all the years prior (almost none). After all, making your bike your own is a huge part of what makes owning a Harley-Davidson so appealing. And the Motor Company is ready with a full line of all-new accessories to fit the 2018 Softails.

What I immediately noticed on each bike was how easy it is to use the new sidestands. I’m a fairly tall woman at 5 feet 7 inches and even I have struggled to reach a far-away Harley sidestand on previous years’ models to put it down. The company finally rectified this issue and all the stands are shorter, well-placed, and designed so it’s no longer a challenge to use them while seated on the bikes.

I was very impressed with the overall quality of every model. Harley’s engineers and stylists did a world-class job making sure each new Softail has its own look and ride character, making it distinctly unique from its siblings. Below, I call them the way I see them based on what I found to be each model’s special attributes.

Click the image to go to that model.

Softail Sportbike Wannabe – The Fat Bob

I love the Fat Bob. In fact, the only Harley-Davidson I ever owned was a 2009 Dyna Fat Bob. I loved its mean stance and I could ride it aggressively like a sportbike when I wanted to have fun in twisty corners. I loved the feeling so much that I sold the Dyna cruiser earlier this year and bought a real sportbike, a BMW R 1200 RS.

But the 2018 Fat Bob is pulling at my Harley-Davidson heartstrings again. I couldn’t wait to get seat time on the 2018, and I wasn’t alone. The Fat Bob was a clear favorite among many moto-journalists at the press launch, and I noticed Harley proudly features this bike front and center in a lot of its marketing materials.

2018 Harley-Davidson Softails Review. Mid-placed pegs on the new Fat 2018 harley-davidson softails fat bob pegs
I’m thankful Harley engineered mid-placed pegs back into Fat Bob, even though they aren’t back as far as the ones on my 2009. But they are easy to reach for my 5-foot 7-inch height, and offer a comfortable position for this Softail “sportbike.” I’m wearing a Schuberth M1 helmet in Madrid Metal ($499), Black BrandEternity Jacket ($300), and Harley-Davidson Newhall performance boots in brown ($170).
review 2018 harley-davidson softails fat bob new look
The 2018 Fat Bob’s fat 16-inch tires, chopped (bobbed) fenders, dark chiseled details, satin finishes, and performance-inspired 2-into-1-into-2 upswept exhaust give it a tough-guy hooligan look. The Fat Bob is offered with the 114 inch engine for an additional $1,700.
review 2018 harley-davidson softails fat bob led
The horizontal LED headlight replaces the former model’s dual round headlights and is unmistakable when you see it coming toward you.
review 2018 harley-davidson softails fat bob new seat
The Fat Bob’s seat height is 27.7 inches, which is 1.6 inches higher than its predecessor, but still super easy for my 5-foot-7-inch height. The lower center of gravity will make this “higher” height accessible to those shorter confident riders. The wide, flat bars look cool and are positioned perfectly for my reach.

Harley engineers tell me the decision to fit the smaller, 3.6 gallon tank on the Fat Bob was to offer a full view of the Milwaukee-Eight powerplant. This was the one disappointment to me and other die-hard Fat Bob fanatics. This bike is supposed to be fat and the slim tank just doesn’t work for me.

Fitting saddlebags to this bike is going to take a lot of innovation since there’s no Genuine Harley Accessory way to do so yet. But this bike isn’t set up for touring. The only Softail with an inverted front fork assembly, the Fat Bob was built for riders who want to ride hard and look cool doing it.

Specs at a Glance: Fat Bob FXFB/FXFBS
Engine size: 107 ci (1746cc); 114 ci (1868cc)
Seat height: 27.7 inches
Weight: 675 pounds
Fuel capacity: 3.6 gallons
Colors: 107 – Vivid Black, Black, Red Iron Denim, Bonneville Salt Denim; 114 – Vivid
Black, Black, Red Iron Denim, Industrial Gray Denim, Bonneville Salt Denim
Price: 107 – starts at $16,999 (ABS $795); 114 – starts at $18,699

Prettiest Softail – The Deluxe

The Softail Deluxe, one of the 10 most popular models women ride, is clearly meant to capture our hearts with its beauty. The Deluxe exudes classic Harley character and keeps all its best style attributes: wide pullback handlebar, floorboards, whitewall tires, chrome laced wheels and hub cover, chrome side cover, chrome fender trim, and vintage-style solo seat.

review 2018 harley-davidson softails deluxe floorboards
The rider ergonomics on the Deluxe is very comfortable. Floorboards allow you to move your foot position while the wide handlebar makes maneuvering easy. The Deluxe is my favorite Softail for cruising along at an easy pace.
review 2018 harley-davidson softails deluxe electric blue
The 2018 Deluxe is 33 pounds lighter than its predecessor, sporting the most chrome and most vibrant colors of all the new Softails. Shown is Electric Blue.
Reaching the ground is easy for my 5-foot 7-inch frame, but even shorter riders will appreciate the Deluxe’s very low 25.9-inch seat height. This bright color is called Wicked Red, and is complemented with Twisted Cherry along the top of the fenders and tank.
The wide one-piece seat is very comfortable. The stitched details look classy and updated, and an optional passenger pillion will attach easily to the mounts you see here.
The 2018 Deluxe has a 5-gallon tank and utilizes a tank-mounted dash with an analog speedometer, along with other digital readings. Every new Softail now gets a digital fuel gauge. Fuel mileage is a reported 47 mpg for all the new Softails which means about 235 miles between fill-ups for models with the 5-gallon tank.
Adding some of the Motor Company’s new accessories like this 18-inch king-size detachable windshield ($374.95) and rigid-mount saddlebags ($799.95) will undoubtedly be popular modifications owners will want to do to transform the Deluxe into a great touring bike.

The Deluxe’s LED headlight, lightbar, and turn signals are updated without losing the vintage flavor by using angular lines that remind me of 1950s hot rods and car hops.

review 2018 harley-davidson softails deluxe led
The Deluxe wins my vote for having the best lighting of all the new Softails with LED lighting all around. It is the only model besides the Heritage that comes with a light bar.
review 2018 harley-davidson softails deluxe led rear
The Deluxe sports the classic tombstone taillight shape and has unique signal stalks that blend modern technology into retro styling.
review 2018 harley-davidson softails deluxe floorboards rear
The Deluxe’s floorboards are positioned up high so you shouldn’t expect to scrape them easily during spirited riding.

I thoroughly enjoyed cruising on the Deluxe and would have been happy riding it a lot more. This bike will surely continue to be a popular model for women, and I’m excited to see all the innovative ways new owners will customize the “prettiest Softail.”

Specs at a Glance: Deluxe FLDE
Engine size: 107 ci (1746cc)
Seat height: 25.9 inches
Weight: 697 pounds
Fuel capacity: 5 gallons
Colors: Vivid Black, Electric Blue, Twisted Cherry, Silver Fortune/Sumatra Brown, Wicked Red/Twisted Cherry
Price: starts at $17,999

All-‘Rounder – The Heritage Classic

As the only new Softail to come with saddlebags, a windshield, and cruise control, the Heritage Classic will be the natural bike of choice for riders who plan to ride long distances in comfort. The Heritage is one of the four Softails available with a Milwaukee-Eight 107 and 114 engine.

review 2018 harley-davidson softails heritage test drive
I was fortunate enough to test both the Milwaukee-Eight 107 and 114 versions of the Heritage and really appreciated the extra pull of the 114. I noted the difference in a more relaxed rpm at higher speeds with the bigger engine.
review 2018 harley-davidson softails heritage cruise control
Cruise control is available as an accessory option for all the Softails but is standard equipment on the Heritage. The new turn signal switch reminds me of the buttons Harley used a few years ago. The feedback Harley received from riders about not being able to “feel” these buttons generated a redesign to a better switch with a curvature like the horn button you see here. Unfortunately, this turn signal button has no curvature and it’s difficult to feel the engagement.
review 2018 harley-davidson softails heritage saddlebags
The wide rider’s seat is very comfortable and passenger accommodations are decent. The hard-sided leather-covered saddlebags are mounted without quick-release hardware, so removing them will require tools. They’re lockable and use a one-touch keyed push-button on top of the bag lid.
review 2018 harley-davidson softails heritage saddlebag open
The bag lid pivots out away from the bike providing full access and a good view inside. The hinge and metal bracket that connects the lock seem flimsy though and you have to line the lid up just right or it may not close correctly.
review 2018 harley-davidson softails heritage no windshield
The Heritage Classic gets a more sinister, blacked-out look for 2018. The air cleaner, fork legs, tank dash panel, light buckets, and hardware details on the seat and bags are all black. Pictured is the Industrial Gray Denim/Black Denim-colored Heritage 107 with the quick-release windshield removed.
review 2018 harley-davidson softails heritage windshield
The riding position is relaxed with wide bars placed so they’re easily reached. Floorboards allow you to find a comfortable position for your feet. The windshield suited me well because I look over the shield with a couple inches to spare, and the air was directed up over my helmet.
review 2018 harley-davidson softails heritage seat
The Heritage Classic’s seat height of 26.3 inches is a little less than an inch higher than last year’s model. Still, for my 5-foot 7-inches, there’s no problem getting my flat feet on the ground.

I was pleasantly surprised at how much fun I could have on a bike that looks fairly generic to me. Maybe it’s the bland Red Iron Denim color that just doesn’t grab me, but I wasn’t expecting to enjoy this motorcycle as much as I did. Having wind protection, a 5-gallon fuel tank, and ergonomic comfort certainly plays into my favorable view of the Heritage, but riding through several series of tight twisties without dragging a floorboard and feeling very stable is what ultimately made me a true fan.

A motorcycle that can do-it-all very well, the Heritage Classic continues to be a great choice for women looking for a lightweight touring bike ready to go as is. However, the dark “muscle-y”styling of this particular motorcycle doesn’t seem to be calling to women. I appreciate the classic style in the wide bars and fenders, laced wheels, and chrome wheel hubs, but I don’t expect most lady riders to embrace all the black parts that used to be chrome.

Specs at a Glance: Heritage Classic FLHC/FLHCS/FLHCSANV
Engine size: 107 ci (1746cc); 114 ci (1868cc)
Seat height: 26.3 inches
Weight: 728 pounds
Fuel capacity: 5 gallons
Colors: 107 – Vivid Black, Twisted Cherry, Silver Fortune, Olive Gold/Black Tempest, Industrial Gray Denim/Black Denim; 114 – Vivid Black, Twisted Cherry, Silver Fortune, Olive Gold/Black Tempest, Industrial Gray Denim/Black Denim, Red Iron Denim; ANV – Legend Blue/Vivid Black
Price: 107 – starts at $18,999; 114 – starts at $20,299; ANV – $21,199

Barry White (Low and Mellow) – The Slim

Another very popular model that women enjoy, the Slim continues to boast the lowest seat height of all the Softails, and at 25.5 inches it shares the lowest seat height of all 2018 Harley-Davidsons with the Sportster SuperLow.

review 2018 harley-davidson softails slim seat height
At 25.5 inches, the 2018 is up 1.7 inches from last year’s Slim but remains the lowest Softail in Harley’s lineup. What Harley calls a “small straddle triangle”—meaning the space between your seat, arms, and legs when seated on the bike and reaching to the bars —will still allow short riders to fit this bike well.

The Slim seems to have changed the least stylistically, maintaining its blacked-out vintage bobber theme with fat spoked wheels, short fenders, Hollywood handlebars, solo seat, fat fuel tank, and floorboards. I’ve nicknamed the Slim the “Barry White” Softail because it looks so good just cruising mellowly down the boulevard.

More power, better lean angle, and improved suspension is the common theme with all the new Softails, but the Slim was probably in the most desperate need of the latter two since the earlier generation Slim’s suspension had a tendency to bottom out over mild bumps, and floorboards would grind easily during mild cornering.

review 2018 harley-davidson softails barry white
Improved cornering clearance, suspension, and a 35-pound weight reduction make the new Slim a better machine, but cruising at a slower pace is what this Barry White Softail is better at doing.
review 2018 harley-davidson softails slim seat
The low slung tuck-and-roll solo seat will fit smaller riders well, but is uncomfortable for my size 14 butt.
review 2018 harley-davidson softails slim wicked red
Harley mixes a good amount of gloss black with chrome on the Slim, which fits this model well. This beautiful color is Wicked Red.
review 2018 harley-davidson softails slim dash
The dash, a black version of the same one on the Deluxe, is mounted to the Slim’s 5-gallon fuel tank.
review 2018 harley-davidson softails slim led
The large, single Daymaker style LED headlight gets a chrome ring that sits in a black headlight shell. The black and chrome theme continues with the Hollywood handlebar, triple trees, and fork legs.
review 2018 harley-davidson softails slim front profile
I particularly like the front profile of this low, mellow Slim. If only there was a better place for that license plate bracket!
review 2018 harley-davidson softails slim side profile
The 2018 Slim Softail is a good-looking motorcycle. It feels small for me, but shorter riders who enjoy a more mellow ride will enjoy what the Slim has to offer.

Specs at a Glance: Softail Slim FLSL
Engine size: 107 ci (1746cc)
Seat height: 25.5 inches
Weight: 671 pounds
Fuel capacity: 5 gallons
Colors: Vivid Black, Black Denim, Industrial Gray Denim, Wicked Red, Bonneville Salt Denim
Price: starts at $15,899 (ABS $795)

Easy Rider – The Low Rider

Inspired by the custom chopper era of the ’70s and the iconic movie Easy Rider, the Low Rider is a good choice for women who ride a Sportster and are looking to graduate to the Softail line. Studying the new Low Rider, one might quickly forget this bike ever had exposed twin shocks, as its heritage is with the old Dyna family.

review 2018 harley-davidson softails low rider foot pegs
I may look a little cramped riding this bike, and, in fact, the tall guys were, but my 5 foot 7 inches fit very comfortably on the Low Rider. I like this footpeg position, which is somewhere between mid-pegs and forward pegs.

Once I got moving on the Low Rider, I very quickly learned its strengths. The light weight, easy turning, great lean angle, and of course, the Milwaukee-Eight power all comes together to deliver a very comfortable, fun, sporty ride.

review 2018 harley-davidson softails low rider handlebars
The curve of the pullback handlebars brings the grips right to me and creates a very comfortable riding position with no strain to reach.
review 2018 harley-davidson softails low rider new look
The 2018 Low Rider sports a moderate rake, dual tank-mounted gauges, headlight visor, cast wheels, and “throwback graphics.”
review 2018 harley-davidson softails low rider seat
The Low Rider’s one piece ribbed stepped seat is comfortable and reminds me of the “king and queen” seats many old chopper customizers used.
review 2018 harley-davidson softails low rider dash
The two-piece dash display includes a standalone analog rpm gauge, and is the only Softail with this setup. You have to move your eyes down away from the road to read it though.
review 2018 harley-davidson softails low rider led
The small LED headlight has a chrome visor which is an important style element for carrying forth the Low Rider heritage.
review 2018 harley-davidson softails low rider seat height
The Low Rider’s seat height of just 26.2 inches and small rider triangle makes it very user-friendly for shorter riders.

Lifting the Low Rider off its sidestand was super easy. At 661 pounds, it’s the second lightest Softail in the lineup (the Street Bob is the lightest). It’s easy to ride, but far from boring. The light, stiff frame coupled with the new suspension make this “easy rider” a fun motorcycle to push beyond your limitations or just relax and enjoy the wind in your hair.

Specs at a Glance: Low Rider FXLR
Engine size: 107 ci (1746cc)
Seat height: 26.2 inches
Weight: 661 pounds
Fuel capacity: 5 gallons
Colors: Vivid Black, Wicked Red, Electric Blue, Bonneville Salt Pearl
Price: starts at $14,999 (ABS $795)

Budget Bobber – The Street Bob

The lowest priced Softail in the lineup, the Street Bob is the bobber with attitude. Transformed from the Dyna line, the Street Bob retains its solo setup, mini-ape handlebars, wire wheels, bobbed fenders, and blacked-out matte finishes.

I always thought the Street Bob looked best in basic black. There’s very little chrome or aluminum showing, which adds to the apocalyptic look of this bike.
What you see is what you get with the Street Bob. The mini-apes bring the bars up to my shoulders, which I find quite comfortable.
The mirrors are mounted below the grips adding to the cool, bad-boy look. But the really cool thing is the all-new digital display incorporated into the riser clamp, keeping this minimalist bike as naked as possible.
Just like on all the other Softails, the Street Bob gets a digital fuel gauge that’s always displayed. Toggling through the other settings is done at the left handgrip. There’s no more need to reach up to any of the instrument displays.
The solo seat is ribbed and more roomy than the similar one on the Slim. I was comfortable enough during my short time on the Street Bob.
At 25.8 inches, the Street Bob has a nice easy reach to the ground for my 5 foot 7 inches. The footpeg position is similar to that of the Low Rider—easy to reach without being cramped.
The lightweight 656-pound Street Bob seems to call out to be ridden like a hooligan bike. Getting leaned over on this Softail is fun, and cornering clearance is more than decent.

As the lowest priced and lightest Softail, the Street Bob is a good choice for anyone on a tight budget and who likes a bobber with a tough stance.

Specs at a Glance: Street Bob FXBB
Engine size: 107 ci (1746cc)
Seat height: 25.8 inches
Weight: 656 pounds
Fuel capacity: 3.5 gallons
Colors: Vivid Black, Olive Gold, Red Iron Denim, Wicked Red/Twisted Cherry, Industrial Gray Denim/Black Denim
Price: starts at $14,499 (ABS $795)

Boundary Pusher – The Breakout

The Breakout breaks the mold with its low, mean, dragster profile. The giant 240mm rear tire and raked out front end looks intimidating, and dares you to push your own boundaries. The 66.7-inch wheelbase is the longest of the Softails, and the most challenging to ride.

Both the Breakout and the Fat Boy use the wider swingarm to accommodate their 240mm rear tires. They also both are available with the 114, Milwaukee-Eight, but the Breakout has a more extreme rake and forward pegs.

You may think it’s rather difficult to get a motorcycle with a wide 240mm rear tire like this to turn. That’s what I thought too, until I hopped on and tested it for myself. Taking corners and “turning” the motorcycle took a little getting used to, but the geometry engineered into this bike is impressive. Still, this motorcycle never stopped intimidating me, forcing me to break through some of my own boundaries.

The Breakout is the only Softail that feels like it was made for a big man to ride it. It takes some strength to initiate the lean, planning, and skill to get your line through a curve just right, and effort to move your weight forward and into the curves.
The Breakout is the most custom-looking of the Softails. Everything about it screams “power.” The small 3.5 gallon tank and optional 114-inch Milwaukee-Eight reinforce this idea.
Riding casually is hard to do on a bike that is so obviously all about showing off.
The Breakout’s light is uniquely shaped—oval with a very pronounced curve that you don’t see head-on. The vertical LED is a signature look.
Like the one on the Street Bob, the Breakout gets a riser-clamp display, only this one is chrome.
Like the one on the Street Bob, the Breakout gets a riser-clamp display, only this one is chrome.
At 25.6 inches, the Breakout is nice and low. Reaching the drag-style handlebar will be a stretch for smaller riders but felt comfortable for my 5 foot 7 inches.

The Breakout was my last Softail to test. Frankly, I was dreading it based on that big fat tire, long wheelbase, and menacing look. I’d watched many other riders before me struggle trying to keep the big bike in line through some very tight turns.

I surprised myself and impressed all the guys when I kept right up and held my lines when I took off on the Breakout. I might even say that I enjoyed myself in pushing those boundaries.

But I know that most women don’t ride hard like that, and it’s certainly not sustainable for long periods of time. I was happy to have had the opportunity to have fun on this monster, but happier to trade for the other big fat-tired bike, the Fat Boy, for the final trek to the hotel.

Specs at a Glance: Breakout FXBR/FXBRS/FXBRSANX
Engine size: 107 ci (1746cc); 114 ci (1868cc)
Seat height: 25.6 inches
Weight: 672 pounds
Fuel capacity: 3.5 gallons
Colors: 107 – Vivid Black, Black Tempest, Twisted Cherry, Silver Fortune; 114 – Vivid Black, Black Tempest, Twisted Cherry, Silver Fortune; ANX – Legend Blue Denim
Price: starts at $18,999; ANX starts at $21,199

Iconic Thoroughbred – The Fat Boy

If ever there was an iconic motorcycle, it is the Fat Boy. The challenge for designers to recreate such a well-known superhero had to have been the most daunting task of this project. Maintaining the epochal Fat Boy look was mandatory in order to keep the faithful captivated.

Solid fat wheels, big fat tank, solid headlight shroud, chunky fenders, floorboards, the new Softail has it all, but with updated details. You know when you gaze upon it that it’s a Fat Boy, but there’s something different. Something cool and captivating.
The Fat Boy’s 240mm rear tire is the same size as the Breakout, but a shorter wheelbase, different sized front tire, and a different riding position change the ride character between the two bikes drastically.
The wide bars and geometry of the rake make maneuvering the Fat Boy easy. This Softail surprised me the most, in a very good way. I was happy to test the extra grunt of the 114 on this model.
The satin chrome finish on the Fat Boy is a new process that isn’t found on any of the other bikes yet. I like how it is bright when it reflects light but without the mirror effect of chrome.
The dash is tank-mounted like the previous Fat Boy, but has the updated digital displays resting in a tank panel that’s dressed in that new satin chrome finish.
The seat is fairly wide and comfortable, and probably the most generic-looking seat of all the Softails.
The Fat Boy’s seat height is 25.9 inches, less than an inch taller than the previous model.

I hadn’t spent too much time on the previous version of the Fat Boy because there were many aspects of the motorcycle that didn’t appeal to me. The wide bars made me feel like a sail in the wind and I found the upright seat position uncomfortable. I didn’t particularly care for the styling either. But this new Softail really surprised me. While it’s still a sit-upright position, I feel less like I’m sitting “on” the bike, rather I’m a part of it.

Women who gravitate towards the Fat Boy will love the new power and suspension improvements. And they will certainly look super cool easily managing what looks like a beast of a bike that rides like a well-trained thoroughbred.

Specs at a Glance: Fat Boy FLFB/FLFBS/FLFBSANV
Engine size: 107 ci (746cc); 114 ci (1868cc)
Seat height: 25.9 inches
Weight: 699 pounds
Fuel capacity: 5 gallons
Colors: Vivid Black, Black Tempest, Industrial Gray, Bonneville Salt Pearl, Wicked Red/Twisted Cherry; ANV – Legend Blue Denim, Legend Blue/Vivid Black
Price: 107 starts at $18,999; 114 starts at $20,299; ANV starts at $21,199

12 thoughts on Review: 2018 Harley-Davidson Softails

  1. I rode a Harley-Davidson Deluxe in 2007. I loved the height, styling, etc., but it was a slug and I got tired of trying to keep up with my husband in our wonderful mountain roads. I traded it for a H-D Street Glide in 2008 and rode them for the next 12 years including three lengthy cross country trips. Street Glides are wonderful bikes. I never had a mishap with my riding skills, but as I got older I became more aware of the heaviness of the Street Glides (about 850 pounds). Just in conversation I asked what model is slightly smaller but still has bags so if I was really creative with packing, we could still go cross-country.I demo rode and fell in love with the 2020 Heritage Softail Classic. It’s got great power even with the 107 and easy to handle, I just missed having music. Plex Audio is an aftermarket company working on a bracket for mounting audio inside the Heritage windshield. I couldn’t wait and went with the H-D 30K Bluetooth headset. It does the trick. “Sweet Pea” is the Silver Pine/Spruce with my touches—chrome sliders, Vance & Hines shotgun mufflers, chrome hand controls, whitewall tires. She’s absolutely beautiful and I’m so glad I changed models. That’s motorcycling. Make your bike your own—style, model, make, and go ride!

  2. I love, love, love my new 2018 Harley-Davidson Heritage 114″. I am 5 feet 2 inches and test rode the bike on my tippy toes. I did change out the seat to the reach seat to be a bit more flat footed. I traded in my 2014 CVO Softail Deluxe, which I thought was my favorite bike until now. The Heritage has a much better lean angle and feels tons lighter. It’s extremely easy to ride. I have been riding for more than 9 years now so a newer rider being as short as I am might have a bit of trouble.

  3. I just traded my 2015 Harley-Davidson Limited Low for a 2018 H-D Heritage Softail. I’ve been riding for almost 30 years and the extra heavy Limited was getting a bit much for me to handle. I like the Heritage a lot, but the seat is higher and wider than my Limited. I am 5 feet 4 inches. The front end feels light compared to the Limited, but ladies who start with the Heritage may find it a bit heavy. If the Deluxe came with bags and a windshield, I would have opted for that—but the cost of outfitting the Deluxe to look like a Heritage was prohibitive to me. The blacked out Heritage is a bit sinister and I would have preferred more color choices, but the Milwaukee-Eight Engine (107 inches) was the deciding factor. Love the smooth engine and the power.

  4. How does Slim perform for long distance? I’m 5 feet 5 inches and am wondering if the Slim will feel too small? When the review reflects that it’s a good bike for short people I’m uncertain if my height falls into that and of course 5 feet 5 inches is without boots … with boots I’m 5 feet 6.5 inches.

    1. The reason why many shorter riders enjoy the Slim is the ease of putting their feet on the ground to hold the bike up. Don’t be fooled into thinking the Slim is a small motorcycle—it’s just must easier to handle than some of the other Softails.The Slim’s large floorboards allow the rider to easily reposition her feet to find a comfortable riding position. This is especially welcomed on long rides, so I would venture to say that the Slim makes a good long-distance motorcycle. Many riders add a windshield and saddlebags, turning the Softail into a more touring-friendly motorcycle.

  5. In your opinion, could a 5 foot 2 inch woman handle this frame?

    1. If she is a confident, experienced rider, yes. I would suggest testing out the lowest first, which is the Slim.

  6. I wanted to buy a 2018 Harley Deluxe until I found out it doesn’t have cruise control. Big mistake by Harley-Davidson—it’s a cruiser that should have cruise control for long trips.

  7. I love my current 2012 Slim and would love to test ride the newest model, but the seat height on the 2018 is now almost 2 inches higher than previous years’ models. As a shorter rider, that will probably be a deal-breaker for me. Bummer.

    1. I would bet that you’ll be surprised to find out that you actually can easily handle the new Slim. There’s a lot more to fitting a bike than seat height specifications, which don’t tell the whole picture. The shape of the seat, what’s under the seat, and what might get in your way when putting your feet down all make a huge difference.If you try one out and let us know how it goes! Best wishes.

  8. I have owned a Harley Low Rider and a Softail Deluxe. At 5 feet 6 inches with very long legs and arms, the Low Rider made me feel cramped. My knees were up into my chest on the pegs. The Deluxe was just right. I could put my feet flat on the ground while sitting. The floorboards were perfect and so were the stock handlebars. It handled way better than the Low Rider. Very well balanced for a bigger bike.

  9. Nice review.I haven’t tried any of them out myself (yet) but I’d fancy a test ride on the Fat Boy. I equally like this new model a lot better than the old icon and though the opinions differ greatly about the new look, I myself, love it.Thanks for the insight, Tricia.

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