Harley-Davidson Heritage Softail Classic review

Posted: 21 Jun 2013

What sets Harley-Davidson apart from other manufacturers is their attitude, their promise and their demeanour - intangibles that arouse, invigorate and enliven far more than any cold performance figures or specifications. 

One of the best examples of this is provided by the £16,399 Heritage. In a style blazing from the past with the original 'dresser' spirit and yet with modern touring capabilities, the Heritage is a vintage looking bike with classic features that offer maximum comfort. 

What better choice than a Harley Heritage with its glitz and lots of character to hark back to an age of freedom: a bike in which the big air cooled 1690cc air cooled, twin-cam `V` Twin engine is dominant. Heavy metal bristling with macho appeal and a minimalist spirit embodying the original concept of motorcycling: an image of freedom and independence. Fat whitewall tyres, laced wheels, studded leather saddlebags, low saddle and feet forward controls give it great 'kerb' appeal. Indeed, how seductive are the sepia memories of times we never knew; of times we never lived through.

We all know that a Cherry Blossom V16 Kimono from Mount Fuji will blow any Harley into the weeds - but in the 'street cred' stakes it's nothing compared to the 'Big Iron' from Milwaukee. Rumble into town on a Heritage; check in yer 45 at the Marshall's Office and frighten the hell outta the guy with a bell on his hat driving a stupid car... even if you are pigeon chested and under five foot. By The bones of John Dillinger: a Harley-Davidson certainly puts hairs on your palms!

'But all that's piffle' I hear you say. I know that; but it does make you sit tall in that low saddle. What’s it really like then?  I'm pleased to report that here is a thoroughly good motorcycle that has retained a character set so deep that it can actually transport you back to those heady days when you could buy Marmite without a licence and nitro glycerine was a laxative not even on prescription. 

You can even personalise your Heritage with 'custom colour' or 'add-on-bits’ with a selection from the inspiration gallery suggesting extras from the bottomless parts bin. A Confederate flag, perhaps, or maybe a custom seat tailored to perfectly fit your posterior. And there are so many chrome appendages on offer that you'll surely need the custom Harley shades.    

Press the starter button, (No kick starters here - we're all wimps now.) and there's a whirr, a kerchuff, and lots of ground shaking as the big 1690cc V-twin fires up. Clunk it into first gear - no lightweight 'snicks' because this is proper solid, quality engineering just like Grandpa used to know - dump the clutch and you're away on a wave of generous torque from tickover with a yell from the rear tyre as it struggles for grip and the power envelopes the chassis. Bokka, bokka, bokka, rumble, rumble, rumble - and you're quickly up through the six-speed gearbox because you don't need to rev the nuts off it. If you do choose to explore the extremes of the rev range, a low frequency 'shake' rather than vibration is a delightful stimulant to the viscera. You don't buy a Harley to be smooth: you buy a living beast like this to be 'cool' and satisfy the James Dean lurking within.

You don’t buy a Heritage just to cruise the boulevard either. The tank holds a good amount of fuel that will give a decent range - so if you want to tour, this is for you. Its low saddle height, forward pegs and sensible bars make for a relaxed riding position. It's a very comfortable and easy bike to ride.

Handling is good, safe and secure and braking is good too - but don't get comparing it with your Ducati with Brembos. If you do, you've totally missed the point.