We recently got a chance to sample the Harley-Davidson Softail line-up that’s all new for 2018. A total of eight bikes built on a common engine and chassis platform, of which four are coming to India – the Fat Boy, Fat Bob, Street Bob and Heritage Classic. Over some wonderful twisty roads outside Barcelona, we spent two days riding three of these (all except the Fat Boy) hard, and while each of these bikes impressed in their own way, it was the unassuming little (comparatively, of course) Street Bob that left us with the feeling of newfound love.
SPARTAN, BUT SEXY
A minimalist design philosophy has always been part of the Street Bob’s DNA, and this has made it a well-liked model from the Harley-Davidson stable. For 2018, it gets even better. It retains the 19/17-inch front/rear wheel sizes from the previous bike but that well- integrated monoshock rear suspension, blacked-out mechanicals and gaiters on the front suspension make it look even more like a proper old-school stripped-down bobber. Even the tank-mounted console of the earlier bike has been dropped in favour of a tiny, all-LCD instrument panel integrated into the handlebar mount, giving the tank a minimal look as well. There is, in fact, only a miniscule use of chrome on the motorcycle, and it looks all the better for it. The squat, round, single-pod headlight unit now gets the full LED treatment, just like all the other 2018 Softails, and the Street Bob’s LED daytime running light (DRL) ring around the main light is a very distinctive touch.
THE RIGHT STUFF
We spoke about the new Softail platform with its Milwaukee-Eight 107 motor integrated into the new frame and unique swingarm setup at the back when we reviewed the Fat Bob (you can read about it here). The basic hardware is the same on the Street Bob. The 1,745cc V-twin motor with its four-valve-per-cylinder head gets twin counter balancers for a massive reduction in vibrations. There’s also an oil-cooler neatly tucked away between the new frame’s downtubes for better heat management, and even the exhaust valves get oil-cooling. The end result is a higher compression motor that revs quickly and produces a healthy 144Nm of torque from as low as 3,000rpm. And it’s responsive too. While the acceleration isn’t scary by any means, the bike has enough grunt in pretty much any gear for quick overtakes. And even riding at low speeds in higher gears isn’t much of a challenge. The suspension has seen a massive update in the form of new Showa forks with dual-bending valve technology to provide significantly more sophisticated wheel control. At the back, Harley has switched to a preload-adjustable Showa monoshock that’s hidden under the seat to achieve that classic hard-tail look.
THE RIGHT ATTITUDE
The single-seat, rearward-set foot pegs and the tall, mini-ape-hanger handlebars, all ensure that the new Street Bob doesn’t lose any of its charm, and make for a ‘fists-in-the-wind’ attitude as Harley likes to call it. As compared to the other bikes in the new Softail line-up, the tighter foot peg position makes for a shorter linkage to the gearbox, which gives the Street Bob a really slick gear-shifting experience. The pegs also give the feeling of a higher degree of control on the motorcycle, while the wide handlebars provide lots of leverage to turn the bike quickly into corners. And boy does it turn quickly! This fast steering nature of can also be attributed to the slimmer 100-section front and 150-section rear tyres.
It corners so well that we grounded the pegs till the feelers fell out; the tarmac ate through the peg rubber and filed down the inner metal to a shiny point. And on right handers, the lower muffler cover scraped until a lot of its black powder coating was removed. While these might sound like negatives, they really aren’t, and the fact that the Street Bob never upset its course through any of this is a testament to just how brilliant a handler it is. The brakes are almost unchanged from the previous bike but provide much better stopping power and feel thanks to the weight reduction and improved suspension that better manages the tyres’ contact patches when dropping the anchors. Easily our favourite bike of the whole ride!
JUST AROUND THE CORNER
The new Street Bob will be launched in India in mid-October. Just like the updated Touring line-up launched last year saw a small price increase over their predecessors, we expect the same with this Softail. Since the current Street Bob comes in at Rs 11 lakh (ex-showroom India), our prediction for the new bike is somewhere around Rs 12 lakh. Now that’s over Rs 2.5 lakh more than its most direct competition (at least in our books), the Triumph Bonneville Bobber. While a full-blown comparison is needed between these two to really figure out where the Street Bob stands, our first impression is that this Harley-Davidson exudes a lot more attitude. Oh, and did we mention just how incredibly fun it is to ride?