Harley-Davidson Softail Standard (2021) - Review

 

Back in February 2020, we reported that Harley-Davidson had reintroduced the Softail Standard after a gap of thirteen years since it was dropped back in 2007. Aimed as a starting point for the thriving customisation scene, the Standard is described as Harley as a "raw, stripped-down bobber style. A blank canvas for customisation".

What we didn’t realise at the time was that, following the later canning of the entire sportster range in December 2020, the Softail Standard would become the entry point to the world of Harley and their cheapest bike.

Fast-forward far too many lockdown months and we get a chance to take the Standard out on the roads and see how is stacks up against that stripped-down brief and against the rest of the range.

 

For and against
  • Massively flexible engine
  • Easy to ride and surprisingly nimble
  • Low slung classic Harley looks
  • Comfort is limited to 100ish miles
  • Gear change needs to be purposeful
  • A pricey entry to the world of HD

 

2021 Harley-Davidson Softail Standard Price

Despite the entry level positioning and 'blank canvas' intention, the Softail Standard has a very un-entry-level price tag of £12,995. This hasn't been helped by a significant price hike of £1,500 in January this year, when the Softail range got some updates.

As you would expect though in these days of quick and easy credit, you don't have to shell out too much of your hard-earned to get a nice shiny new Standard parked in your garage. A typical PCP Deal would see a £1500 deposit followed by 36 monthly payments of £171.34, leaving an optional final payment of £7,705. If that still seems a bit rich, then a Hire Purchase agreement could see you put down the same £1500 deposit and then 36 monthly payments of £358.24 before the bike is yours.

With used Harley values holding up well, you could move the bike on at the end of the three years and see a good proportion of your outlay back.

 

Power and torque

The trouble with bikers is that we all like to look at the bike's stats and play mental top-trumps with power and torque figures. Unfortunately for Harley, they always seem to lose out by having surprisingly low power outputs, considering the size of the engines, and the Softail Standard is no exception. Fitted with the 107cubic inch (1746cc) Milwaukee Eight engine, it puts out a scratch over 86bhp.

In today's world of 200bhp super-nakeds and 170bhp adventure bikes, this sounds pretty poor, but as anyone who has ridden a Harley will testify, the low power figure is just a direct result of the low revving engine and it’s the monumental torque figure that we should all be concentrating on.

Pumping out a mightily impressive 144Nm (107 ft/lb) at just 3250 revs, I defy anyone to honestly say that the Softail Standard feels underpowered.

Smooth and flexible, thanks to Euro 5 compliant fuel-ignition, the engine pulls cleanly from tick-over and just keeps pulling and pulling, and then pulling some more. It's addictive and exhilarating in equal measure.

 

 

Engine, gearbox and exhaust

The Softail Standard is only available from the factory with the 107ci 8-valve Milwaukee Eight engine and it's a choice that, in my mind, suits the bike well.

Right from the off, the bike feels strong without being intimidating – if anything it's quite forgiving as the engine is strong enough to cover even the basic errors, easily pulling from standstill in second gear.

If outright power is your aim though, the 'blank canvas' ethos comes into play with a number of approved Harley-Davidson upgrades that can take your mild-mannered 107 up to a flame spitting 128ci (2098cc) Screamin' Eagle stage IV kitted beast putting out up to 120bhp and upping the torque to a neck-snapping 170Nm (126ft-lbs) – all assuming you can stomach the £3.5k add on price.

The 6-speed gearbox takes some practice to perform at its best. I hold my hand up to being quite a lazy gear changer (most of my changes are unintentionally clutchless) and the Softail Standard soon highlights my faults. You need to be very pronounced in your actions to get the box to shift smoothly and effortlessly, particularly at lower speeds or higher loads, but once mastered, it performs well, and when cruising is quite happy with clutchless upshifts.

On UK roads, the sixth gear almost becomes superfluous with A-road speeds comfortably attainable in fifth.

Quiet enough at idle to keep the neighbours happy, the stock, chrome, twin pipes come to life on the road providing a baritone rumble to accompany your ride without becoming tiresome. If you are looking to make more impact, there are countless HD approved and aftermarket pipes to choose from.

 

2021 Harley-Davidson Softail Standard Economy

I have a set test route that I take all test bikes on – a selection of windy B-roads, dual-carriageway A-roads, some town, some congested city and total round trip of just under 130 miles.

I ride how I would normally and try to ignore any average or actual MPG figures displayed on the bike's dash when riding, as I find these can influence my riding.

After brimming the bike on departure and with a total ride distance of 128.7 miles (thanks in part to some road closured in Cambridge), I re-brimmed the bike with 12.79 litres (2.8134 gallons) of fuel giving an overall mpg of 45.75 mpg.

This compared surprisingly well against Harley's claimed average of 43mpg, and is mirrored on fuelly.com where a single 2020 Softail Standard owner reports 47.9mpg over 1700 miles.

With a 13.2 litre tank, this gives a realistic range of 130 miles which considering the onboard comfort is more than enough between breaks.

 

Handling, suspension, chassis and weight

There's no getting away from the fact that, fully fuelled, the bike weighs over 300Kg, and pushing it round the garage or carpark, it feels every kilo of it. On the road though, the bike carries its weight very well, and at A and B-road speeds, the handling is deceptively light.

The bumpy fenland roads of my test route overwhelmed the shocks at times though, resulting in a buckeroo ride and being unseated on a few occasions. Overall though, on slower and/or smoother sweeping roads, the ride is plush and smooth, and despite the lack of lean angle (HD quote 28.5 degrees), I never found myself scraping footpegs on roundabouts (not without some provocation anyway).

 

 

2021 Harley-Davidson Softail Standard Brakes

The sight of a single 300mm disc up front is a bit disconcerting on a 300+Kg bike, but the four-pot HD branded (Brembo) caliper does a great job of hauling the bike down to sensible speeds when needed and, when combined with oodles of engine braking, the bike never feels underbraked. A single twin-pot caliper does the business at the back, but this is less than confidence inspiring, lacking feel despite having sufficient force to provoke the ABS into action. Once provoked, the action is slower than expected with a defined pulse, rather than the hornets-nest buzz of some smaller systems, but no less reassuring.

Both brake and clutch levers are big and bulky, but in keeping with the style of the bike. However, a lack of any reach adjustment may make the smooth action more difficult if you are small of hand.

 

 

Comfort over distance and touring

After a 3-hour ride, I was glad of a break and it was clear that there are two areas that would need attention if this were my bike.

The low, low saddle height of just 680cm means that even for those of us of less than average height (I'm 5'6" with 30" inside leg) the riding position can be cramped with your knees higher than your hips. If you are over 6' you should definitely test ride before buying as this may prove a major sticking point.

Secondly, the mid mounted pegs, combined with that low saddle, make it difficult to take any weight through your legs, leaving you feeling like you need to push your feet down on the pegs just to stop your legs from being split apart and flailing in the wind.

All this resulted in tired legs, lower back pain and a very sore bum from the plush yet confined seat which doesn’t allow any shuffling or adjustment. It might just be me (lockdown has not been kind), but I would suggest a decent test ride if you feel this might be an issue.

Pillion provision is non-existent, so if you are planning on touring, you will be riding solo.

 

 

Rider aids and extra equipment / accessories

While the Softail Standard isn't bristling with Ducati or BMW levels of rider aids, there's enough to keep the bike relevant and modern feeling. Keyless ignition is a delight and should (in my utopian world) be standard on all bikes.

We get a mix of filament and LED lights with an excellent LED headlight which adds real presence to the bike, self-cancelling indicators (which work well, once you learn to trust them) and a small (by competitor's standards) LCD screen which shows all the relevant info you could need including the odometer, time, 2x trip counters, range and rpm – all toggled through via a button on the left switch gear. That’s it. No rider modes (you don't really need them as the engine is so flexible), no traction control, no cornering ABS, no radar assisted cruise control. Did I miss any of them though? No not at all. The beauty of a Harley, no matter what model, is the simplicity of the bike and the connection that is formed between bike and rider.

 

2021 Harley-Davidson Softail Standard Review Price Spec_023

 

2021 Harley-Davidson Softail Standard Verdict

In the absence of the Sportster range which, in my mind, provided the perfect entry to the Harley-Davidson brand, the Softail Standard does a good job of taking over the mantle of 'my first Harley'.

It's easy enough to ride to be unintimidating for beginners (it's even available in A2 form), the styling will offend no one while still delivering bags of Harley style. The low seat and mid-mounted pegs make it accessible to all, while the custom catalogue and easy-to-swap nature of much of the bike means that it can grow with you as you develop into the brand.

My only fear is that the entry price for the HD range is now at a point where you'll have to be pretty damn sure you want to join and this will inevitably make some look elsewhere.

 

2021 Harley-Davidson Softail Standard spec

New price

£12995 (as tested)

Capacity

1746cc

Bore x Stroke

100mm x 111mm

Engine layout

45° V-Twin

Engine details

Twin cylinder. 4 valves per cylinder, single camshaft

Power

86bhp (64kW) @ 5,020 rpm

Torque

107 lb-ft (144Nm) @ 3,250rpm

Top speed

110mph (ish)

Transmission

6 speed, belt drive

Average fuel consumption

43 mpg claimed / 45.75 tested

Tank size

13.2 litres

Max range to empty (theoretical)

miles

Reserve capacity

40 miles when low fuel light illuminates

Rider aids

ABS, 2.14" LCD Display, Keyless ignition

Frame

Steel cradle

Front suspension

50mm Telescopic forks

Front suspension adjustment

None

Rear suspension

Single hydraulic shock

Rear suspension adjustment

Preload only

Front brake

300mm single disc, HD branded 4-pot fixed caliper

Rear brake

300mm single disc, HD branded 2-pot floating caliper

Front tyre

100/90-19 57H Dunlop D401F

Rear tyre

150/80-16 77H Dunlop D401T

Rake/Trail

30°/157mm

Dimensions

2320mm x 953mm x 1280mm (LxWxH)

Wheelbase

1630mm

Ground clearance

125mm

Seat height

680mm

Kerb weight

297kg

Warranty

2 year factory Warranty/1 Year Harley | Assist

MCIA Secured rating

4/5 stars

Website

www.harley-davidson.com

 

Looking for motorcycle insurance? Get a quote for this motorbike with Bennetts bike insurance

 

2021 Harley-Davidson Softail Standard Review Price Spec_MCIA

 

What is MCIA Secured?

MCIA Secured gives bike buyers the chance to see just how much work a manufacturer has put into making their new investment as resistant to theft as possible.

As we all know, the more security you use, the less chance there is of your bike being stolen. In fact, based on research by Bennetts, using a disc lock makes your machine three times less likely to be stolen, while heavy duty kit can make it less likely to be stolen than a car. For reviews of the best security products, click here.

MCIA Secured gives motorcycles a rating out of five stars, based on the following being fitted to a new bike as standard:

  • A steering lock that meets the UNECE 62 standard
  • An ignition immobiliser system
  • A vehicle marking system
  • An alarm system
  • A vehicle tracking system with subscription

The higher the star rating, the better the security, so always ask your dealer what rating your bike has, and compare it to other machines on your shortlist.

 

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