Harley certainly loves historical references, and that comes naturally since they helped to define those eras. The factory picked the 1950s as the targeted period for the FLS Softail Slim, specifically the minimalist “bobber” niche known for trimming off anything that didn’t directly contribute to performance.

Bobber enthusiasts back in the day were fixated on one thing only — the need for speed — and Harley was not remiss in this regard. The factory keeps sticking more powerful engines into each successive model, so this ride is not meant for the all-show/no-go category. Let’s take a look and see how the details pan out.

Continue reading for my review of the Harley-Davidson Softail Slim and Softail Slim S.

  • 2015 - 2017 Harley-Davidson Softail Slim/Softail Slim S
  • Year:
    2015- 2017
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    Air-cooled, Twin Cam 103B
  • Displacement:
    1690 cc
  • Top Speed:
    112 mph (Est.)
  • Price:
    15099
  • Price:

Design

2015 - 2017 Harley-Davidson Softail Slim/Softail Slim S
- image 692041

Nothing screams old school quite like a Softail. The frame geometry, faux-rigid swingarm and hidden shock really create the illusion of an old, hardtail frame, so it makes a natural platform for historical-reference pieces like this. Hollywood handlebars and chopped-down fenders contribute to the bobber vibe, as do the 16-inch tires and laced, blackout rims. An easy-reach sidestand came as one of the new-for-2015 design features to make it easier to find your jiffystand without looking, a bonus for full-face bucket wearers.

The tuck-and-roll, FLS saddle is almost as low as it gets in the cruiser category at around 24-inches laden seat height. Coupled with the forward foot controls, this leaves the rider in a relaxed, upright position that’s great for cruising, but may become tiresome on long trips at highway speeds, and is not ideal for attacking corners, either.

Overall, the design is on-target. The lines flow much like the old rigid-style frames did, and little touches like the shotgun pipes and cat’s-eye speedometer round out the look nicely. Say what you will about side-mount license-plate holders, they certainly keep the chopped-down rear fender clean.

Chassis

2015 - 2017 Harley-Davidson Softail Slim/Softail Slim S Exterior
- image 575241

A forged and welded, mild-steel tubular frame forms a double cradle under the lump, and sets the overall fork angle at 31 degrees with 5.8 inches of trail. The swingarm is likewise made from mild steel, and it is sprung on 3.4 inches of wheel travel by the hidden rear monoshock. A “beer can” nacelle encompasses the tripletree and the 41.3 mm upper fork tubes with their 5.1 inches of travel, keeping it nice and clean while enforcing the dated panache.

The 2015 FLS saw a revamped front master cylinder and the front brake disc diameter increased to 300 mm with a four-pot caliper to bind it. A 292 mm rear disc gets pinched by a twin-pot caliper, and though ABS is optional equipment for the base Slim models from ’15 through ’17, the ’16 and ’17 Slim “S” comes with it as standard equipment.

Drivetrain

2015 - 2017 Harley-Davidson Softail Slim/Softail Slim S
- image 662363

Now we get to the main difference between the ’15 Slim, the ’16 Slim and the ’16 Slim S — the beating heart. All three models come with Harley’s distinctive V-Twin motor, but with some differences in the power numbers. In 2015, the FLS came with the 103-inch (1,690 cc), Twin Cam 103B that cranked out 97.4 pound-feet of torque at 3,000 rpm, and the factory looked to improve on that on the ’16 Slim with its High-Output Twin Cam 103B that bumps the torque on up to 100.3 pound-feet at three grand.

The new-for-2016 Slim S takes the cake as the cock-of-the-walk with the massive, 110-inch (1,802 cc) Twin-Cam 110B that comes already stuffed with Screamin’ Eagle yumminess. This monster cranks out 109 pound-feet at 3,500 rpm, placing it squarely within the power-cruiser category, and leaving it capable of laying some serious smoke. The Slim S also comes with cruise control as standard equipment.

All three models come with Harley’s Cruise Drive, six-speed transmission with a hydraulically actuated clutch, and a fiber-reinforced belt drive for quiet and low-maintenance riding. In addition, they come with an Automatic Compression Release (ACR) that bleeds off air at startup to help the starter motor spool up against all that mass and combustion-chamber pressure.

Sequential-port fuel injection manages the engine through a digital processor, and delivers around 42 mpg. This means the five-gallon tank will certainly last longer than your butt can before stopping, I guarantee.

Price

2015 - 2017 Harley-Davidson Softail Slim/Softail Slim S
- image 662358

Depending on your color selections, you can score a ’15 Slim for between $15,899 and $16,849, plus the optional security and ABS modules, and maybe the not-so-optional $200 California emissions package for the riders on the West Coast. The factory dropped the price a bit in 2016, and offers the Slim for $14,899 in Vivid Black, and up to $15,649 for the most expensive paint options. Predictably, the ’16 Slim S commands the relative top dollar here, and it rolls for $18,499 in Vivid Black, or for $18,899 in a fabulous, blackout and olive finish with U.S. Army-type graphics. Security, cruise control and ABS comes standard.

For 2017, we see another price increase. The Slim hits the wallet for 15,099 and the Slim S for $18,999. Both get the battery tender harness as standard equipment for 2017. The Slim S didn’t see any new paint colors this model year, but the Slim can be had in Vivid Black, Black Denim, Iron Red Denim, Olive Gold, or Charcoal Denim/Black Denim.

Competitor

2015 - 2017 Harley-Davidson Softail Slim/Softail Slim S
- image 662623
2016 Star Motorcycles Raider
- image 651929

The American power-cruiser market is relatively niche right now, so worthy competitors are few and far between. I can’t help but think of Yamaha when I think of Star Motorcycles, so I call that close enough to an import to do the trick. The Star Raider falls neatly within the American power-cruiser mold, and comes with a bad-to-the-bone engine to boot.

Overall looks are very similar, and even though the Raider mimics the old rigid lines, it stops short of actually camouflaging the swingarm to look like a hardtail. While the Raider keeps the feet-forward, windsock position rider triangle, it pushes the rake out to 39 degrees for a more chopper-esque look. This is a bit more than the 31-degree angle on the Slim family, but it fits the style of the Raider, and would not go with the bobber motif at all. You will have to decide which style appeals to you.

The Raider comes with what I believe is the largest production American-made V-twin available today — the 113 cubic-inch (1,854 cc), air-cooled lump. (Of course, since this writing, we have the Milwaukee-Eight 114 from Harley.) It cranks out a crushing 123 pound-feet of torque at 2,500 rpm, even more than the Slim S 110B at 109 pound-feet. Anything over 100 pounds of grunt is plenty in my book; but if I’m honest, that 123 pounds is looking pretty good right now.

Normally I expect Harley’s competitors to be, shall we say, a little more economically priced. The Raider rolls for $14,990 in Candy Red, or you can get it in Candy Red if you prefer. Not exactly an entry-level price, but still a little kinder than the Slim S at 18k-plus. If you downgrade to a base Slim model, you give up a few pounds of grunt, but can roll off the lot for a few bucks less than the Raider. Did you hear that? Harley has a bike that’s cheaper than a close competitor, and I don’t get to say that very often.

He Said

“Bobbers are cool, sort of the old-school, American version of the naked bike concept, and the Slim family does a good job in capturing the look and feel of the iconic class. I really like the big 110B mill, it shows that the bike is capable, and that Harley is responding to its performance-minded clientele with showroom versions that include popular modifications, saving buyers the hassle of punching the bore out, etc. The Slim range is a good marriage between old-school looks and modern performance.”

She Said

My wife and fellow writer, Allyn Hinton, says, "Thanks to Bill Davis, who designed the original Softail and sold it to Harley-Davidson in 1982, we have an awesome lineup of Softail bikes available to us. I really like the tuck-and-roll saddle and the combination stop/turn/tail lights with the side-mounted license plate to keep the rear of the Slim clean. The tank graphics on the Slim S are reminiscent of Harley’s WLA military models during World War II."

2017 Specifications

Model: Softail Slim Softail Slim S
Engine:
Engine: Air-cooled, High Output Twin Cam 103B™ Screamin’ Eagle® Air-cooled, Twin Cam 110B™
Bore: 3.87 in. 4 in.
Stroke: 4.374 in. 4.374 in.
Displacement: 103.1 cu in 110 cu in
Compression Ratio: 9.6:1 9.5:1
Fuel System: Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI) Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI)
Chassis:
Exhaust: Chrome, over/under shotgun exhaust with dual mufflers Black over/under shotgun exhaust with slash-cut muffler
Wheels, Optional Style Type: N/A N/A
Wheels, Front Type: Black Steel Laced Black Steel Laced
Wheels, Rear Type: Black Steel Laced Black Steel Laced
Brakes, Caliper Type 4-piston front and 2-piston rear 4-piston front and 2-piston rear
Performance:
Fuel Economy: Combined City/Hwy: 42 mpg 43 mpg
Engine Torque (rpm): 3,000 3,500
Engine Torque: 102.5 ft-lb 109 ft-lb
Lean Angle, Right (deg.): 24 24
Lean Angle, Left (deg.): 24.9 24.9
Engine Torque Testing Method: J1349 J1349
Drivetrain:
Primary Drive: Chain, 34/46 ratio Chain, 34/46 ratio
Gear Ratios (overall) 1st: 9.311 9.311
Gear Ratios (overall) 2nd: 6.454 6.454
Gear Ratios (overall) 3rd: 4.793 4.793
Gear Ratios (overall) 4th: 3.882 3.882
Gear Ratios (overall) 5th: 3.307 3.307
Gear Ratios (overall) 6th: 2.79 2.79
Dimensions:
Length: 92.3 in. 92.3 in.
Seat Height, Laden: 23.8 in. 23.8 in.
Seat Height, Unladen: 28.2 in. 26.2 in.
Ground Clearance: 4.9 in. 4.9 in.
Rake (steering head) (deg): 32.1 32.1
Trail: 5.8 in. 5.8 in.
Wheelbase: 64.4 in. 64.4 in.
Tires, Front Specification: MT90B16 72H MT90B16 72H
Tires, Rear Specification: MU85B16 77H MU85B16 77H
Fuel Capacity: 5 gal. 5 gal.
Oil Capacity (w/filter): 3.5 qt. 3.5 qt.
Weight, As Shipped: 677 lb. 682 lb.
Weight, In Running Order: 706 lb. 712 lb.
Luggage Capacity -Volume: N/A N/A
Luggage Capacity -Weight: N/A N/A
Electric:
Lights (as per country regulation), Indicator Lamps: High beam, neutral, low oil pressure, turn signals, engine diagnostics, security system (optional), 6-speed, low fuel warnings, ABS (optional) High beam, neutral, low oil pressure, turn signals, engine diagnostics, security system, 6-speed, low fuel warning, low battery, ABS
Gauges: Tank-mounted electronic speedometer with odometer, time-of-day clock on odometer, dual tripmeter, RPM/gear display, fuel gauge with low fuel warning light and countdown feature, low oil pressure indicator light, engine diagnostics readout, LED indicator lights, 6-speed indicator light Tank-mounted electronic speedometer with odometer, time-of-day clock on odometer, dual tripmeter, RPM/gear display, fuel gauge with low fuel warning light and countdown feature, low oil pressure indicator light, engine diagnostics readout, LED indicator lights, 6-speed indicator light
Pricing:
Vivid Black: $15,099 $18,999
Color: $15,499 $19,399
Two-Tone: $15,849 N/A
Security Option: $395 Standard
Wheel Option: N/A N/A
ABS Option: $795 Standard
Premium Radio Option: N/A N/A
California Emissions: $200 $200
Freight: $390 $390

All images featured on this website are copyrighted to their respective rightful owners. No infringement is intended.

Image Source: harley-davidson.com, yamaha-motor.com

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