Ride it again for the first time

LISTEN 11:22

With the Softail Deluxe, Harley-Davidson brings a strong dose of nostalgia and antique design and with it comes H-D’s Big-Twin powerplant — the Milwaukee-Eight 107 — and its 109 pound-feet of stump-pulling torque that turned in a stronger top-gear roll-on than any previous engine family before it with the same 45-degree V-Twin. The charm and engine lope that even the oldest fans of the brand would recognize wasn’t lost, and ABS, security and oodles of laid-back, classic vibes are included in the standard equipment package, so this is truly a melding of two technologically-distinct eras.

  • 2018 - 2020 Harley-Davidson Softail Deluxe
  • Year:
    2018- 2020
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    V-Twin
  • Displacement:
    107 cubic inches
  • Price:
    18049
  • Price:

Harley-Davidson Softail Deluxe Design

  • LED lighting
  • Pull-back handlebars
  • Windsock riding position
  • Vintage styling
2018 - 2020 Harley-Davidson Softail Deluxe
- image 737369
2018 - 2020 Harley-Davidson Softail Deluxe
- image 737371

Harley hit the bricks running with all sorts of changes to the Softail lineup in 2018. Not only did the range receive a bottom-to-top remodel, but it absorbed key players from the discontinued Dyna line to become The Motor Company’s sole cruiser family nestled in the midrange between the baggers, Sporties and Streets. Among the classic, long-running designs to make the jump is the Softail Deluxe.

The current Softail Deluxe traces its lineage back to 1949 when Harley-Davidson first mounted hydraulic front forks to replace the springer front ends on their rigid FL frames to beget the Hydra-Glide. Due to the nature of the faux-rigid Softail frames, the original geometry shines through in the upper lines that drop uninterrupted from steering stem to rear axle to culminate at the triangular swingarm. It mimics the looks of the old hardtails, but mercifully, not the ride.

Out front, the fender carries shades of the old FL with a chrome brow and piping. A minimal touch of chrome at the trailing edge suggests at the old-school fender skirts and the fender itself is cut high on the sides to leave plenty of visibility for the laced rim and gangster whitewall tire. A chrome cover masks the hub on the non-brake side, and that cleans up the pretty side (right side) of the bike quite nicely. Yeah I know, chrome may not get you home, but it might get you laid.

Standard forks sport classic chrome beer-can skirts and tripletree covers that not only add visual weight to the front end, but hide more of the ugly/mundane much like the hub cover. The factory passes on the full nacelle action for a simple and clean cyclops headlight can that houses super-bright LED bulbs to match those in the whisker-mount pimp lights and turn signals which are actually part of the whisker bar. Can’t say I’m wild about the blinkers, but it is cleaner than the old hangy-downy turn-signal housings. Harley doubles down on that with a rear whisker-signal that also tidies up the rear fender so as not to detract from that timeless tombstone taillight that makes yet another historical connection.

Low and wide pullback bars mount to risers that also create a bit of pullback as well to offer the rider plenty of room to assume an upright (more like slouched, let’s be honest) riding position, and forward footboards/controls pull the legs forward into the windsock position typical of American-style cruisers.

At 26.8-inches tall (unladen), the saddle falls within the manageable zone for all but the very shortest of riders, and though you can certainly throw a two-up seat on there, the stock solo seat gives it a nice, almost-historical look. The original seat was hinged in the front and sprung in the back, an arrangement that acted as the rear suspension for the rider’s butt if nothing else.

Harley-Davidson Softail Deluxe Chassis

  • Improved handling
  • Lighter, stiffer frame
  • ABS
  • Tracking stability
2018 - 2020 Harley-Davidson Softail Deluxe
- image 737382
2018 - 2020 Harley-Davidson Softail Deluxe
- image 737376
2018 - 2020 Harley-Davidson Softail Deluxe
- image 737373

Harley has produced Softails since 1984, but 2018 saw the biggest frame changes ever implemented in this range. Ever. The factory improved the handling of the not-particularly-performance-oriented Softail line by both lightening and stiffening the frame. As ever, the Softail Deluxe frame comes made up of welded sections of steel tubing, but the clever devils at the drawing board were able to pare off 50 percent of the total frame components and 22-percent of the welds to lighten the wide FL models by 13 pounds and the narrow FX models by 18 pounds. Couple that with a frame that is calculated to be 65 percent stiffer than the previous gen and you have a structure that delivers flickable handling (relatively speaking) with the stiffness to hold the line once you dive into a curve.

Gone is the long-entrenched, pure-vanilla front suspension in favor of a set of Showa’s Dual Bending Valve forks delivering a sort of self-adjusting damping feature that changes the damping values depending on fork speed. While this stops short of the manual (and automatic) adjustable forks, it does provide a superior ride to the previous gen, and hopefully is a signal that Harley is close to adopting some dial-in stems.

Out back, a coil-over monoshock buoys the special swingarm from its place hidden just beneath the seat, and it comes with the obligatory spring-preload adjustment that features a 240-pound range allowing you to adjust for passengers and cargo. Steering geometry leaves the Deluxe with front forks kicked out to 30-degrees of rake with a deep, 5.7-inch trail that helps the bike track in sidewinds and makes for a stable platform at speed.

A single four-pot caliper up front and twin-pot in back haul the thing down, but at 697-pounds wet, I think this sled should definitely have dual front anchors. Oh well, at least the ABS will allow you to use what you have to its utmost.

Frame: Mild steel, tubular frame; rectangular section backbone; stamped, cast, and forged junctions; MIG welded; aluminum forged fender supports
Swingarm: Mild steel, tubular sections, stamped x-member, forged axle junctions; MIG
welded; removable belt spacer
Front Forks: Dual Bending Valve 49 mm telescopic with aluminum fork triple clamps; dual rate spring; “beer can” covers
Rear Shocks: Hidden, free piston, coil-over monoshock; 43 mm stroke; hydraulic preload adjustment
Suspension Travel: Front Wheel: 5.1 in. (130 mm), Rear Wheel: 3.4 in. (86 mm)
Rake (steering head): 30°
Fork Angle: 30°
Trail: 5.7 in. (145 mm)
Lean Angle (per J1168) Right/Left: 28°/28°
Wheels: Chrome Steel Laced
Wheel, Front: 16 in. x 3 in. (406 mm x 76 mm)
Wheel, Rear: 16 in. x 3 in. (406 mm x 76 mm)
Tires: Dunlop® Harley-Davidson® Series, wide whitewall
Tire, Front: D402F MT90B16 72H
Tire, Rear: D402 MU85B16 77H
Brakes, Front: 300 mm solid, uniform expansion rotors; 4-piston fixed caliper
Brakes, Rear: 292 mm solid, uniform expansion rotors; 2-piston floating caliper
Anti-Lock Braking System: Standard

Harley-Davidson Softail Deluxe Drivetrain

  • Milwaukee-Eight 107 engine
  • 109 lb-ft @ 3,000 rpm
  • Awesome roll-on anywhere in the rev range
  • Reduced vibration
2018 - 2020 Harley-Davidson Softail Deluxe
- image 737376
2018 - 2020 Harley-Davidson Softail Deluxe
- image 737374
2018 - 2020 Harley-Davidson Softail Deluxe
- image 970809

So far, the Softail Deluxe has a lot of new goodies on board, but it’s the Milwaukee-Eight powerplant that steals the show. H-D stuck to the proven 45-degree Vee, and thankfully did away with the Twin-Cam foolishness in favor of a single-cam valvetrain that displays the proper pushrod geometry and returned the nosecone to something resembling its classic shape.

The Mil-8 runs an undersquare layout with a 3.937-inch bore and 4.374-inch stroke for a total displacement of 107 inches (1,746 cc) and a 10-to-1 compression ratio. Though the engine has the same loping offset to the firing order that we are accustomed to due to the conrods riding on a common throw, the engineers added a counterbalancer that tames much of the vibration associated with the brand for longer and more comfortable cruising.

The Mil-8 boasts a stronger roll-on than previous engines. It doesn’t matter if you’re in fifth or sixth gear when you grab a fistful and twist, this engine has something to give. In sixth gear, the Deluxe cruises effortlessly with reasonable rpms at interstate speeds, so while it lacks any sort of touring apparati I wouldn’t think twice about putting a few hundred miles behind me at a stretch on one of these.

Harley really put some mustard on the new mill. The 109 pounds of grunt pushes all of its cruisers, to include the Deluxe, into power-cruiser territory, and it comes on early at only 3,000 rpm so there’s no need to wind it to get to the good stuff. Still no sight of any sort of fandanglery like traction control or rider modes, but it’s in the touring bikes and trikes so here’s hoping it’ll trickle down. Wink-nudge, fellas.

Engine: Milwaukee-Eight® 107, Pushrod-operated, overhead valves with hydraulic, self-adjusting lifters; four valves per cylinder
Bore x Stroke: 3.937 in. x 4.374 in. (100 mm x 111.1 mm)
Displacement: 107 cu. in. (1,746 cc)
Compression Ratio: 10.0:1
Engine Torque (per J1349) ( North America): 109 lb-ft (148 Nm) @ 3,000 rpm
Fuel System: Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI)
Exhaust: 2-into-2 shorty dual; catalyst in muffler
Lubrication System: Pressurized, dry-sump with oil cooler
Primary Drive: Chain, 34/46 ratio
Final Drive: Belt, 32/66 ratio
Clutch: Mechanical, 10 plate wet, assist & conventional
Transmission: 6-Speed Cruise Drive®
Gear Ratios (overall)(U.S.): 1st: 9.311, 2nd: 6.454, 3rd: 4.793, 4th: 3.882, 5th: 3.307, 6th: 2.79

Harley-Davidson Softail Deluxe Price

2018 - 2020 Harley-Davidson Softail Deluxe
- image 800988
2018 - 2020 Harley-Davidson Softail Deluxe
- image 737375
2018 - 2020 Harley-Davidson Softail Deluxe
- image 800989

Like nearly every model Harley makes, the Deluxe comes with tiered pricing that varies depending on which paint package you choose. Vivid Black assumes its usual spot at the bottom rung with a $18,399 sticker. As you move up the price ladder, colors run $18,799, two-tones are $19,149, and custom two-tone colorways are $19,549.

Standard Equipped: ABS Option, Security System Option
Warranty: 24 months (unlimited mileage)
Colors:
└ 2018: Vivid Black, Twisted Cherry, Electric Blue, Silver Fortune/Sumatra Brown, Wicked Red/Twisted Cherry
└ 2019: Vivid Black, Rawhide, Wicked Red/Twisted Cherry, Midnight Blue/Barracuda Silver, Scorched Orange/Black Denim
└ 2020: Vivid Black, Midnight Blue, Stone-washed White Pearl, Billiard Red/Vivid Black, Scorched Orange/Silver Flux
Price:
└ 2018: Vivid Black: $17,999, Color: $18,399, Two-Tone: $18,749
└ 2019: Vivid Black: $18,049, Color: $18,449, Two-Tone: $18,799, Two-Tone Custom Color: $19,199
└ 2020: Vivid Black: $18,399, Color: $18,799, Two-Tone: $19,149, Two-Tone Custom Color: $19,549

Harley-Davidson Softail Deluxe Competitor

2016 - 2019 Suzuki Boulevard C90 B.O.S.S.
- image 763408
2018 - 2020 Harley-Davidson Softail Deluxe
- image 800993

It’s tough to find a straight-up competitor for this ride, but Suzuki seems to have hit fairly close to the mark with its Boulevard C90 B.O.S.S.

Suzuki Boulevard C90 B.O.S.S.

2016 - 2019 Suzuki Boulevard C90 B.O.S.S.
- image 801160

The “Blacked-Out Special Suzuki” sports a fake-rigid rear end with a look that was clearly inspired by an earlier FLST and an additional little taste of Americana in the custom blackout touches. Due to the dark nature of the C90, I reckon it’s natural that the whitewalls went to the inside, and the factory uses cast blackout rims to mount the fat 17-inch front hoop and 16-inch rear.

Suspension is very similar across the board, at least in shape. The C90 features the same fat forks, skirts, and tripleclamp cover, but in an achromatic finish rather than chromed like the Deluxe. Both carry a tank-mount instrument console and a deep-scoop seat over upper frame members that help sell the illusion of the hardtail by mimicking the lines of the old rides. Rear suspension comes with naught but a preload adjustment across the board, but Suzuki’s stems fall a bit short of the ride provided by the DBV forks on the Softail.

Likewise, the C90 falls short in the cubeage as well with only 1,462 cc tucked away in its water-cooled, 54-degree V-twin mill against Harley’s 1,746 cc monster. Both mills are similarly simple in that neither run any sort of fancy engine modes and such like, but Suzuki takes a beating with only 84.8 pound-feet of torque against 109 pounds from the Deluxe. The tables turn at checkout with a $12,399 sticker on the Boulevard that leaves Harley in another income bracket entirely. I guess it comes down to whether you want the look and how much you’re willing to pay for it.

Read our full review of the Suzuki Boulevard C90 B.O.S.S..

He Said

“I love what they’ve done with the Softail line. The frame rework fixes the lacklustre handling previously associated with the family, and the Mil-8 engine just sweetens the deal even more. I would like to see some better suspension and maybe a rider mode function at some point, but for now, the Deluxe seems to be a winner, though I expect the edgier “Bobs” in the lineup might perform a bit better in the market. As for me, I love that classic look.”

She Said

My wife and fellow motorcycle writer, Allyn Hinton, says, "I don’t know what to add. The new Mil-8 engines are awesome and the changes to the chassis fix the problems that plagued the old line: handling is better, performance is better, and much less vibration than was typical in the past. Honestly, if you rode a Softail before and didn’t like it, try it again. It’s a different bike."

Harley-Davidson Softail Deluxe Specifications

Engine & Drivetrain:
Engine: Milwaukee-Eight® 107, Pushrod-operated, overhead valves with hydraulic, self-adjusting lifters; four valves per cylinder
Bore x Stroke: 3.937 in. x 4.374 in. (100 mm x 111.1 mm)
Displacement: 107 cu. in. (1,746 cc)
Compression Ratio: 10.0:1
Engine Torque (per J1349) ( North America): 109 lb-ft (148 Nm) @ 3,000 rpm
Fuel System: Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI)
Air Cleaner: 8.5 in. round, center bolt cover with washable fiberglass filter media
Exhaust: 2-into-2 shorty dual; catalyst in muffler
Lubrication System: Pressurized, dry-sump with oil cooler
Primary Drive: Chain, 34/46 ratio
Final Drive: Belt, 32/66 ratio
Clutch: Mechanical, 10 plate wet, assist & conventional
Transmission: 6-Speed Cruise Drive®
Gear Ratios (overall)(U.S.): 1st: 9.311, 2nd: 6.454, 3rd: 4.793, 4th: 3.882, 5th: 3.307, 6th: 2.79
Chassis:
Frame: Mild steel, tubular frame; rectangular section backbone; stamped, cast, and forged junctions;
MIG welded; aluminum forged fender supports
Swingarm: Mild steel, tubular sections, stamped x-member, forged axle junctions; MIG
welded; removable belt spacer
Front Forks: Dual Bending Valve 49 mm telescopic with aluminum fork triple clamps; dual rate spring; “beer can” covers
Rear Shocks: Hidden, free piston, coil-over monoshock; 43 mm stroke; hydraulic preload adjustment
Suspension Travel: Front Wheel: 5.1 in. (130 mm), Rear Wheel: 3.4 in. (86 mm)
Rake (steering head): 30°
Fork Angle: 30°
Trail: 5.7 in. (145 mm)
Lean Angle (per J1168) Right/Left: 28°/28°
Wheels: Chrome Steel Laced
Wheel, Front: 16 in. x 3 in. (406 mm x 76 mm)
Wheel, Rear: 16 in. x 3 in. (406 mm x 76 mm)
Tires: Dunlop® Harley-Davidson® Series, wide whitewall
Tire, Front: D402F MT90B16 72H
Tire, Rear: D402 MU85B16 77H
Brakes, Front: 300 mm solid, uniform expansion rotors; 4-piston fixed caliper
Brakes, Rear: 292 mm solid, uniform expansion rotors; 2-piston floating caliper
Anti-Lock Braking System: Standard
Dimensions & Capacities:
Length: 95.1 in. (2,415 mm)
Overall Width: 37.6 in. (955 mm)
Overall Height: 44.3 in. (1,125 mm)
Seat Height: Laden: 25.9 in. (658 mm), Unladen: 26.8 in. (680 mm)
Ground Clearance: 4.5 in. (115 mm)
Wheelbase: 64.2 in. (1,630 mm)
Fuel Capacity: 5 gal. (18.9 l) (warning light at approximately 1 gal.)
Fuel Economy (Estimated City/Hwy): 47 mpg (5 l/100 km)
Oil Capacity (w/filter): 5 qt. (4.7 l)
Transmission Capacity: 1 qt. (.95 l)
Primary Chain Case Capacity: 1.25 qt. (1.18 l)
Weight As Shipped: 668 lb. (303 kg)
Weight In Running Order: 697 lb. (316 kg)
Gross Vehicle Weight Rating: 1,160 lb. (526 kg)
Gross Axle Weight Rating: Front: 450 lb. (204 kg), Rear: 730 lb. (331 kg)
Electricals:
Battery (per Battery Council International Rating): Sealed, maintenance-free, absorbed glass mat
(AGM) battery, 12V, 17.5Ah, 310 cca at 0°F
Charging: Three-phase, 42 amp system (390W @ 13V, 1000 rpm, 546W max power @ 13V, 2000 rpm)
Starting: 1.6 kW electric with solenoid shift starter motor engagement
Lights (as per country regulation):
• Headlamp: All LED, low beam, high beam and signature position lamp
• Tail/Stop: LED tombstone tail lamp
• Front Signal Lights: Integrated LED
• Indicator Lamps: High beam, turn signals, neutral, low oil pressure, engine diagnostics, auxiliary lighting, ABS, security system7, low battery voltage, low fuel
Gauges: 5-inch analog speedometer with digital gear, odometer, fuel level, clock, trip, range and
tachometer indication
Auxiliary Lamps: LED fog
Electric Power Outlet: USB A-type; output 5V at 2.4A
Details:
Model ID:
Standard Equipped: ABS Option, Security System Option
Warranty: 24 months (unlimited mileage)
Colors:
└ 2018: Vivid Black, Twisted Cherry, Electric Blue, Silver Fortune/Sumatra Brown, Wicked Red/Twisted Cherry
└ 2019: Vivid Black, Rawhide, Wicked Red/Twisted Cherry, Midnight Blue/Barracuda Silver, Scorched Orange/Black Denim
└ 2020: Vivid Black, Midnight Blue, Stone-washed White Pearl, Billiard Red/Vivid Black, Scorched Orange/Silver Flux
Price:
└ 2018: Vivid Black: $17,999, Color: $18,399, Two-Tone: $18,749
└ 2019: Vivid Black: $18,049, Color: $18,449, Two-Tone: $18,799, Two-Tone Custom Color: $19,199
└ 2020: Vivid Black: $18,399, Color: $18,799, Two-Tone: $19,149, Two-Tone Custom Color: $19,549

Further Reading

Harley-Davidson

50 New Harley-Davidson Models In Five Years?
- image 788828

Read more Harley-Davidson news.

TJ Hinton
TJ Hinton
T.J got an early start from his father and other family members who owned and rode motorcycles, and by helping with various mechanical repairs throughout childhood. That planted a seed that grew into a well-rounded appreciation of all things mechanical, and eventually, into a formal education of same. Though primarily a Harley rider, he has an appreciation for all sorts of bikes and doesn't discriminate against any particular brand or region of origin. He currently holds an Associate's degree in applied mechanical science from his time at the M.M.I.  Read full bio
About the author

All images featured on this website are copyrighted to their respective rightful owners. No infringement is intended. Image Source: harley-davidson.com, suzukicycles.com

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