Stately is the term that springs to mind when you think of the much-loved Harley-Davidson Heritage Softail Classic.
For 2016 the stately Heritage Classic is also stronger, smarter and prettier.
The Softail family now gets the big-cam updates that turned the 103 Twin Cam into the powerful and more refined High Output engine in the Rushmore models. (The Softail Fat Boy S and Slim S get a 110 Screamin’ Eagle Twin Cam.)
Not only does the 103 HO engine make it a meatier and more refined powerplant; it makes it smarter as the upgrade requires a fly-by wire throttle.
The electronic throttle allows Harley to fit cruise control standard to the Heritage as well as the Deluxe, Fat Boy S and Slim S. It can also now be retro-fitted to all other new Softails.
It’s one of the best cruise controls I’ve used with lag-free engagement and precise adjustment of speeds.
Fly-by-wire throttle also means Harley can fit its clever Engine Idle Temperature Management System which cuts the rear cylinder on demand when stationary.
Simply roll the throttle forward when you’re sitting still at the traffic lights and in three seconds the cruise control lamp flashes green to show it’s working.
That’s a cool treat for riders in hot climates! And you can’t feel the bike shudder when it’s idling on one cylinder because it’s cleverly balanced.
Interestingly, the HO engine doesn’t get the oil cooler which is standard in the Rushmore models.
Harley techs say it doesn’t need it because the Heritage is 24kg lighter than the Road King.
They also claim the Softails don’t need the extra cooling because the engine runs a lower compression ratio (9.6:1 compared with 9.7:1).
If you live in the Tropics and feel it needs an oil cooler, they are always available as an accessory.
The 2016 Heritage Classic also gets the slimline air filter off the Rushmore models which means you don’t have to ride with your legs akimbo and it comes with the Touring hydraulic clutch which won’t give you hand cramps in traffic.
That’s all the technical upgrades, but the old classic has also had a cosmetic facelift
It now has fewer studs, better internal supports so the capacious saddlebags don’t sag and there are little red accents on the bag studs which gleam in the sun to grab the public’s attention and envy.
There are now more colours available than ever before: Vivid Black, Superior Blue, Billet Silver and Olive Gold; two-tone Crushed Ice Pearl/Frosted Teal Pearl and Amber Whiskey/Vivi Black; plus custom Purple Fire/Blackberry Smoke and Cosmic Blue Pearl.
For all that tech and tuck, there is a $3000 premium this year and you can ride away on a new Heritage Classic for $32,250.
It’s still the elegant king of the road, plying the highways with its stately looks and ride.
The bike feels composed and plush over harsh bumps on country B roads. The deep cushion of the big-bowl saddle massages your backside while the gentle thrumming of the drivetrain urges you to press on and on and on.
Your pillion will also enjoy that fat and wide perch with a big sissy bar and cushy pad to add to the comfort levels.
No wonder it’s a favourite among riders who do big miles … usually two-up with plenty of luggage and a host of accessories from the 920-page genuine Harley parts catalogue.
I love the mini-ape handlebars which seem to make it more manoeuvrable at low speeds, as well as stable at high speeds.
They’re also very comfortable over long distances as your hands are below your heart so you don’t get pins and needles from a lack of circulation.
Of course the comfortable ride and big floorboards mean there is not a lot of lean angle for corners, but if you use the strong brakes to set up for the corner, take a wide arc and access that fat torque curve as you exit the corner, you can make hasty progress through the twisties.
Solids: Vivid Black; Superior Blue; NEW Billet Silver; NEW Olive Gold; Two-Tones: Crushed Ice Pearl/Frosted Teal Pearl; Amber Whiskey/Vivid Black; Custom: NEW Purple Fire/Blackberry Smoke; NEW Cosmic Blue Pearl