Review: 2020 Harley-Davidson Triple S media ride, Part 2 – Sport Glide and Heritage Classic, from RM113,100
So, Harley-Davidson (H-D) really wants you to buy a Harley and is using cross-platforming to do so. In Part 1 of this review on the H-D Triple S media ride in Antequera, Spain, H-D showed us a couple of street oriented Softails – the Street Bob and Fat Bob – giving us a day of riding around the mountains.
To show the varied facets of the Softail platform, we were then given a pair of touring setups, the FLHCS Heritage Classic (RM122,800 base price) and FLSB Sport Glide (RM113,100 base price). Compared to the Street Bob and Fat Bob, the Heritage Classic and Sport Glide follow a more traditional styling, right out of a 1950s motorcycle gang exploitation movie.
Image is what image image and if there is something H-D sells well, it is image. So, a pair of long-distance motorcycles, carrying the iconic V-twin in Milwaukee 8 configuration.
Don’t get us wrong, we really do like the Milwaukee 8 mill which H-D has done a lot of work on. The vibration which H-D used to call ‘character’ and part of its market spiel is gone and while there is a certain rumble in the seat of the pants, the annoyance factor is gone.
This is part of H-D’s efforts to reach a new market, leaving behind the traditionalists and purists who moan about “heritage” but unfortunately are not voting with their wallets and buying new Harleys, age and whatever else notwithstanding. Thus, part two of our Softail review, on the Heritage Classic and Sport Glide.
In terms of looks, the pair of touring Softails presented could not be more unalike. For the Heritage Classic, styling follows H-D’s 1950 design language, with lines and looks taken from the Flathead era. As for the Sport Glide, the long, low and sleek bagger lines are used to give the impression of a touring cruiser eat up the highway miles.
The Heritage Classic we rode was fitted with a tall state police style screen, straight upright. Fenders were full-dress style, covering a lot of the wheels and the bike was fitted with leather luggage held closed with a magnetic clasp.
On the day, we rode the Heritage Classic that came with a 114 Milwaukee 8 V-twin, which translates to 1,68 cc for those of you who think in metric. What this means is you get 95 PS of power at 5,020 rpm and 155 Nm of torque at 3,000 rpm.
All very traditional for a H-D V-twin, of course and you get all that stump pulling power with barely a crack of a the throttle. In the real world, on the roads we were riding, this meant leaving the bike in fifth out of the six gears available from the gearbox and gently rolling on an off the throttle.
It did become, on occasion, necessary to play catch up with some of the faster riders in the group because the older riders preferred to hang back. When it was necessary, a generous handful of throttle, a little waiting for the engine to get up to speed and the Heritage Classic would rapidly… well, not so much pin you back into the saddle but would definitely do enough to get you there quickly.
I would love to tell you what kind of top speed we managed to get out of the bike but conditions did not allow it. Plus I have a feeling the kind of person who buys a Heritage Classic Softail is not exactly a speed demon. Maybe.
But, once we got settled into the plush saddle – there is a standard equipment pillion seat, equally well upholstered – we sort of liked it. The wide angled bars placed your hands in a gentle sweep back and the foot forward controls with floorboards allowed for a variety of foot positions, including one my good buddies refer to as “The Duck”, in reference to how far my feet stick out while riding.
As we rode through a mix of country and mountain roads as well as highway cruising, we liked the Heritage Softail more and more for being something of a “general purpose” motorcycle. The low seat height does place more weight on your seat bones but there was just enough wiggle room to find a comfortable position.
Cockpit layout was traditional, with the large, 5-inch analogue speedometer with needle indicator mounted on the tank and a little LCD screen displaying range, gear and odometer along with range and fuel. All in, the Heritage Classic is a cruiser that ticks all the boxes for a motorcycle that would mind going on cross-border trips at a relaxed pace.
Coming to the Sport Glide, this is a bagger style take on the touring cruiser concept, with low slung bags fitted on a low slung bike. Seat height is 680 mm, identical to the Heritage Classic but the forward-mounted foot controls use foot pegs instead of floorboards.
Wind protection comes in the form of a short cowl over the LED headlight. H-D says the cowl is a quick detach unit, allowing the Sport Glide to be converted into a cruiser quickly.
While we did not have a chance to try this out, we will take their word for it. In real terms, riding around, we liked the tall screen on the Heritage Classic more than the short stubby screen on the Sport Glide.
Wind on the Sport Glide would take the rider around the head and shoulders while the Heritage left the rider inside a fairly quiet bubble. Protection is not up to a full touring motorcycle of course, but was adequate for riding duties on the highway.
Seating position on the Sport Glide is also different from the Heritage Classic, with flat bars putting the rider’s head and shoulders a little further forward. Between the two, we liked the flat bars better as it suited the author’s riding style more.
In terms of engine behaviour, there was little to choose between the two, the Milwaukee-Eight mill performing well throughout the rev range with almost, but not quite, linear fuelling. What we can say is, riding five different variants of the same Softail chassis over two days, is that stereotypical V-Twin vibration is… not gone… just different.
Certainly much easier to live with, especially with one hour-plus ride the group did. The vibration many rider have come to expect from a H-D motorcycle, raw and intrusive, is much mellower and pleasant, while still retaining that “rumble.”
Steps have also been taken to improve the handling of the Softail series and we were told, before we started the media ride, we would notice the changes made. This has taken the form of upside-down forks for the Sport Glide while the Heritage Classic uses conventional telescopic forks.
For the back, in keeping with the Softail look, the monoshock is hidden away under the seat but is adjustable for preload while the forks are non-adjustable. We did not get a chance to mess around with suspension settings as there was a lack of time to do so but with the standard settings provided, there was enough of a balance between comfort and sporty handling, provided the rider did not push things too hard.
Going into corners hard, the front tracked straight and there was just a bit of a hint of a wallow at the back but that that we would call worrisome in the least. For spirited riding, all the Softails we rode would do the job.
Bit for when things get closer to the edge, the first thing that will happen is stuff will start scraping the ground. Fair enough, a H-D is not a sports bike and is not meant to be ridden that way but let’s just say on the day of the media ride, all of us were riding that way.
This occurs every time assemble a bunch of international moto journalists together and tell them to have fun. The thing is, have fun we did, despite riding a bunch of cruisers that are essentially the same motorcycle dressed up differently.
All in all, the Softails did what H-D said they would do and there are noticeable improvements in handling and ride comfort. But, is image what sells? Does rehashing the same “heritage” formula work?
In this particular, while the recipe is much the same, there have been some tweaks to improve the taste, as it were. For the 2020 Softails, the handling is better, comparatively, and the Milwaukee-Eight V-twin is indeed a nice mill for its purpose.
So, who needs a Harley-Davidson Softail for 2020, of the four versions we rode? For the street rider with a slightly sporty inclination, the Fat Bob and Street Bob fit the bill, in slightly different costumes while the rider who wants something a little more laid back, the Heritage Classic and Sport Glide do the job.
The choice comes down to, old school style or slightly less old school style. For the author, when asked which he would pick out of the choice of four Softails – five if you include the Lowrider S which is not sold in Malaysia this year – it came down to the Fat Bob, which, while not likely to make it into the personal stable, was the most fun out of the lot.
GALLERY: 2020 Harley-Davidson Heritage Classic
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