The Softail Springer Classic is no boat anchor, it's one of four new Harley-Davidsons introduced in San Diego.
Harley-Davidson announced the addition of four new models during their 2005 dealer show in San Diego. Sure, they're not exactly all-new, but they do fill several new sub-niches in the American cruiser marketplace.
"I am excited about things," said Bill Davidson, Harley-Davidson director of marketing, motorcycle product development, at H-D's annual dealer show. "I'm thrilled to tell you the response from dealers (to the new models) has been excellent. We're in a very exciting time."
Across the Board
All 2005 Harleys receive new clear-lens reflector optic headlights that are said to put more light on a broader area while reducing glare for oncoming traffic. Eleven models get new tank badges or decals, and there are several new colors for most of its lineup. Also new this year is the arrival of the Aluminum Profile Laced wheel, featuring a pretty, chrome-plated aluminum rim and chrome spokes and nipples. This wheel is optional on the Dyna Wide Glide, Sportster Custom models and most Softail and Touring models. The latter receives a revised lower fairing that is adjustable for the amount of venting delivered and offers greater foot clearance. It is retrofittable back to the 1989 model year.
The Softail series, now in its 21st year of production, has eight models to choose from in the family, including two new additions: the new retro Softail Springer Classic and the beautiful Softail Deluxe.
The Softail Deluxe, with what Harley calls "contemporary nostalgic styling," features whitewalls, the new laced wheels, an FL-style front fender, a luggage rack, and a new headlight nacelle with driving lamps. The Deluxe's floorboards are new to the Softail, and Harley claims the same 28- to 29-degree available lean angle as the peg-equipped versions. A new seat results in the $16,995 Deluxe having the lowest seat height, 24.5 inches, of any Harley. As with most of The Motor Company's 1450cc Big Twins, the Deluxe is available with or without EFI, an upgrade that now costs just $400 instead of the previous $600 price tag.
The prettiest of six available paint schemes on the Deluxe is the Glacier White/Chopper Blue two-tone version I had a chance to ride on some of San Diego's winding backroads. The wide seat of the $17,580 bike feels as if it was gently cradling my posterior as the counterbalanced Twin Cam 88B loped along effortlessly through the countryside. The handlebar is pulled back but not uncomfortably so, and the 700-plus pound Deluxe feels better balanced than the Softail Deuce we compared with Victory's Vegas Model
. The passenger seat is easily removed for a more stripped-down look, while the chrome luggage rack adds some versatility.
Harking back to an earlier era, the new Softail Deluxe just looks right.
We also had a chance to put some miles on the Softail Springer Classic. Like the name implies, the Springer has a springer-type front end (with a springs and shock mounted in front of the steering head) instead of a conventional fork. Harley says this new $16,995 bike was inspired by the 1948 Panhead. The fork and frame are powder-coated black, accented nicely by the suspension's chrome shocks and springs, and the Twin Cam 88B motor also receives the powder-coating treatment. The two-tone version we tested retails for $17,420.
The Springer's crossover dual exhaust runs a chrome muffler low to each side of the bike, allowing room for fitment of saddlebags. Stamped-metal trim that wraps around the fuel tank is a sweet touch, complimented by a retro aluminum tank badge logo. A running light on the front fender is another nostalgic stroke. The easily removable pillion pad and Tombstone taillight are shared with the Softail Deluxe.
In purely functional terms, the Springer isn't the equal of the Deluxe. Front suspension action from its archaic springer architecture is harsher and less composed compared to the 41mm fork on the Deluxe. Also, I found that its beach-style handlebar isn't as manageable as the component on the Deluxe, and its floorboards offered less lean angle. It's a cool ride, but not a fully modern one.
The new FXDC Super Glide Custom is born into the Dyna Glide family for 2005. This entry-level Softail ($13,695) gets a new low seat and a tank console that is color matched instead of chromed. A bit of brightwork is added in the form of a chrome fuel tank lid ring.
Both the VRSCA (silver frame and accents) and VRSCB (black frame and accents; and up) get new paint schemes. The $17,695 VRSCA now has nine paint choices, including four new two-tone paint combos for $300 extra. The $16,895 VRSCB also gets two new colors in addition to the new clear-lens headlight fitted to both.
The latest addition to the newly revamped Sportster
line with sales up 25% since their 2004 introduction is the 883L. Priced from just $6895, the L's 26.0-inch seat height is even lower than the old Hugger model previously sold. Its handlebar is further pulled back and wider. As with all 2005 Sportsters, the 883L has a new swingarm and a beefier 1-inch axle instead of the 0.75-incher used last year that results in a chassis 5% stiffer.
The Softail Deluxe we rode was painted two-tone glacier white pearl and vivid black. Note the driving lights and luggage rack.
Harley claims the low bike is 40% easier to lift off its sidestand, and it certainly feels easy enough in practice. I was pleased at the performance of the revised 883cc engine, but didn't like how hard parts would drag at a relatively low pace. Keep this one in the city, shorties.
We also got a chance to put 100-plus miles on the XL1200R Sportster
Roadster and came away impressed. No longer is the rider sitting on a paint mixer, no excuses or apologies are needed to justify a Sportster purchase. The big Sportster proves to have more power and acceleration than expected, and the dual-disc front brakes do a decent job of slowing the 577-lb bike. There is enough cornering clearance to have some fun and scare a few sportbikes, and the Sporty remains stable even when the muffler is sparking up the road behind you. The only gripe I had from my experience is that its peanut tank is worth only about 100 miles before forcing a fuel stop.
There you have it; nothing extraordinary or mind-blowing, especially after the innovative and shocking years in recent past that saw the introduction of the liquid-cooled V-Rod and the complete revamping of the Sportster series.
But after speaking with several Harley dealers at the convention, there doesn't seem to be any end to the incredible wave H-D has been surfing over the past decade. One California dealer I spoke with told me that his Harley franchise has easily been the most successful of the 30 dealerships (mostly cars) that he's been involved in. Just as telling was his response to what else he'd like to see Harley come up with in terms of product. He had no answer.
Surf's up, Butch.