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Friday, September 12, 2014

Harley-Davidson (FLSTC) Heritage Softail Classic - Ride Review

Oasis of the Seas, Palace on Wheels, travelling 1st class in an airline - get the picture? All names synonymous with lux travel and with you being chauffeured around. Let’s get a little more involved shall we? Try a few names from the 4 wheeler industry for overland or interstate travel from the likes of Aston Martin to the more affordable Tata Safari, all available to provide you comfort to travel great distances. Unfortunately, the Research and Development team at a two wheeler manufacturer have to work twice as hard on making sure your ride is comfortable since their instructions are to make sure they are able to fit someone (comfortably) between two wheels with no back or neck support – that should be simple! Motorcycle travel can take a toll on your body if you don’t pick the right kind for the journey planned and I am referring to extreme cases here (you may want to reconsider taking an R1 to the desert) I am just saying, it is possible but not smart. 

When it comes to travelling and when I know the roads are good long open stretches, there are a few manufacturers who catch my attention with some great bikes on offer. On this occasion I had the opportunity to travel in complete luxury, to a less travelled hill station closer to the National Capital Region – Lansdowne and the iron horse that was to take me there was none other than the Harley-Davidsons (FLSTC) Heritage Softail Classic.

A Bit of History
First manufactured in 1984, the motorcycle has undergone several modifications with the engine being one of the most critical components to be impacted. Our resources tell us that the first series when introduced came with a 1337cc engine which was further bored to displace 1449cc, 1584cc and eventually 1690cc which continues to the present day. FL designates the style of frame and ST stands for Softail, and the letter at the end designates which Softail you're looking at, in this case The Classic.

First Thoughts & Styling
As I stepped into Harley India’s corporate office, my eyes looked around for the Heritage that was to take me on my trip and yep, first glance confirmed I could definitely ride this one long distance. 

Iconic styling included a rigid-suspension look with hidden rear shocks (Softail), spoke wheels, whitewall tires and a studded leather front seat & saddlebags, all metal fenders with 3 chrome headlights with a 18 liter large fuel tank, front fairing and stretched out foot controls and footboard that would be extremely helpful on those highway runs. The engine itself comes with black powder coated head and cylinders that have machined finished cooling fins and chrome rocker covers.

The Engine
The Heritage Softail Classic is a Twin Cam 103ci 1690cc engine with 130 Nm of usable low end torque, all this mated to a 6 speed transmission. The Heritage produces enough of grunt to pull you up hills all packed with weight and maintains good highway cruising speeds. What I particularly liked on stretched highways is the exhaust note which can get annoying if you’re constantly accelerating but on the Heritage its fairly audible and not ear drum shattering. Of course one can change that by visiting the aftermarket parts shop, if ‘just’ looks were not enough.  On the out stretched highways I managed a good 170+ kmph with full saddlebags & pillion and the Heritage returned a decent 19 kmpl on fuel consumption. 

Ride & Handling
I am 5’10 and found the seating position extremely comfortable. A low slung seat with your legs placed on two spacious footboards and a tall handlebar that does not need to be reached out to, all make for a brilliant ride. The Lansdowne climb is not a huge challenge compared to some of the other hill stations in India but the roads are pretty narrow. 

As long as you don’t take a wrong route and have to turn around, you should be fine. I took a wrong turn and was left trying to push the Heritage backwards given the short turning radius and on a hill that’s a pretty daunting task with a packed 450 Kg motorcycle. 

On the move and on the straights the Heritage is Harley legacy at its best while on the hills, as long its moving you will not feel the weight. Even while leaning, it does not feel out of control. Lean a little too much on a climb and you will scrape the foot boards which are iron reinforced so should the Heritage tip over, these I am sure will work perfectly well as engine/leg guards. 

Front Tires are MT 90 B16 72H Dunlops while the rear rides on 150/80B16 71H spec Dunlops and YES these are tubeless since the spokes are steel laced aluminum. Brakes are ABS assisted with the front and rear disc at 292 mm with a 4-piston front and 2-piston rear set up, unfortunately these offer very little bite. I would have expected a bit more but then again I was on a 2012 edition which could have taken a couple of years of beating.

Electronics and Equipment
The Heritage came with no extra features that differentiated it from the rest of Harley’s line up. The tank mounted knob operated the ignition and accessories. A switch on the left hand control acted as a toggle for the digital read out on the tank that supported Trip A & B, ODO reading, fuel range, gear and rpm ratio and a digital clock. A simple on/off switch that operated the two smaller front headlights is located on the plating covering on the front yolk. The speedometer was analog. 

The Heritage comes equipped with a pillion seat, foot pegs, and a back rest for your pillion so really it was travel ready. 

The foot controls are well placed with the gear leaver that comes with a heel and toe shift, the footboards are rubber mounted to reduce vibration.  Tall handlebars offer excellent control and are designed keeping in mind classic styling and comfort. Not once did I experience any neck, shoulder or lower back pain.

Ownership Value
Notice in my article that nowhere I have referred to the Heritage Softail as a bike only because this one commands a certain amount of respect. On the move, you will turn around and notice the Heritage as without a doubt this motorcycle is pure Harley legacy pre/post war and bits and pieces from the ages that define Harley Heritage and styling.  

This is the bid daddy of affordable classic cruisers and at INR 16, 19,000 Ex-showroom, you’re not buying a ‘bike’ but a bit of Harley history that I think you should keep for generations to enjoy and cherish.

Oh yea, definitely visit Lansdowne!!

Text by: Sheldon D'Cruz
Image Courtesy: William Chang
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Item Reviewed: Harley-Davidson (FLSTC) Heritage Softail Classic - Ride Review Description: Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Unknown
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