My last tryst with a Milwaukee Eight engine involved its intricate dismantling to pistons and cylinders, at the launch of the Harley-Davidson University in Delhi earlier this year. This time around, the V-twin was between my legs, astride the 2018 iteration of the Softail Deluxe. But before diving into the bike’s specs and performance, a rundown from its past to the present is in order, to give you a better idea about the latest machine from this range. The new Softail Deluxe follows the American bikemaker’s unprecedented product revamp last year, which led to the Softail range enveloping the Dynas as one single line of bikes. To avoid a mixup and to also retain the traditions of its rich motoring heritage, Harley might have done just enough as a part of its latest strategy. On the one hand, you have models like the new Fat Bob and Fat Boy, with their contemporary takes on cruiser designs, while on the other there are the originals in their traditional elements, to keep the purists happy.
ENGINE 1745CC 2-CYLINDER PTROL; TORQUE 144NM AT 3000 RPM; ACCELERATION 4.5 SECONDS (APPROX) 0-100 KPH
“They knew that if they were able to modernise the more classically styled models, they could take some liberties with the bikes where they wanted to push the envelope,” said a Harley owner, whom I ran into just outside the Navi Mumbai outlet. And as you might have observed in the pictures by now, our big boy over here belongs to this category. First impressions speak of a stark resemblance to its predecessor, but a closer inspection reveals a different picture. With its lineage from the late ’40s – when HarleyDavidson first mounted hydraulic front forks to replace the springer front ends on their rigid FL frames, to beget the Hydra-Glide – the bike flaunts its original geometry from the steering stem to the rear axle.
FEATURES Wire-spoke wheels, Dunlop tyres, LED headlamp, single seat (with an optional pillion one), shiny instrument cluster, keyless ignition with integrated sensor on remote; PRICE Rupees 17.99 LAKH (ex-showroom, Mumbai)
The ‘Deluxe’ moniker is not restricted to the badging, but also shines bright with acres of chrome all over the body. Then there’s the 16-inch wirespoke wheels, the white walled Harley-Davidson branded tyres by Dunlop and the chunky LED headlamp, flanked by a couple of auxiliary LED lamps. Accompanying all that sparkle is a glittery electric blue paint job. There are as many as four other colour options, in case this is too blingy for you. But the bike is set to turn heads beyond the usual ‘Look, a Harley,’ reactions. We can vouch for at least a thumbs up from Porsche Cayenne owners (with a Delhi registration). For its commanding presence on the street, a lot of credit has to go to the mechanicals. The 2018 iteration of the Deluxe, as I mentioned earlier, received a heart transplant via the 107 Milwaukee Eight 1,745cc twin-cam engine that has earned plaudits on other Harleys. In its transition from the Harley touring line, the M-E gained a second counterbalancer and a wet sump. The latter allows for the engine to be solidly mounted to the Softail frame, for a more tightly packed engine bay and a stiffer chassis. The result is faster acceleration, relocation of the heat source away from the rider and a reduction in vibrations, which are felt at higher RPMs (not entirely objectionable). You can roll along, riding the torque curve, while equally feeling at home with a more sporting approach. Plus it doesn’t matter if you’re in third gear or fifth, since torque is available at a blip of the throttle. Even the transmission shifts smoothly, barring the usual big clunk as you slip into first gear from neutral. The ride quality is ensured by the now familiar frame, which neatly hides a monoshock and also allows the engine to be rigidmounted. The increased stiffness has helped with the handling, and the new Showa suspension, at the front and rear, is quite a game changer for roads like ours. Tackling pre-monsoon potholes is relatively easier now, but a ground clearance of 115mm doesn’t do enough to avoid the screeching sound of metal scratching the gravel on July roads. All in all, riding the Softail is far from the intimidating first impressions that bikes this size (this one weighs 318 kg) offer. For an amateur bike enthusiast like yours truly, riding big bikes through Mumbai’s traffic conditions has been a headache, to put it politely, but this one has inspired enough confidence to take that leap of faith. That’s exactly what the 2018 Softail achieves, by combining the old with the new. Carrying a `18.65 lakh (ex-showroom) price tag, it might be one of Harley’s most expensive offerings, but it’s pretty priceless once you get to know it better.