It was 40 years ago when Harley-Davidson introduced the Softail platform, using a clever swingarm design with a hidden rear shock to give the frame the uncluttered profile of a vintage motorcycle with no rear suspension, like a hardtail. The 1984 FXST with the new Evolution V-Twin proved to be successful, spawning several other Softail models.

In the early 1980s, Harley-Davidson acquired a concept motorcycle from independent design engineer Bill Davis, who experimented with suspension supported by hidden rear shock absorbers on a Big Twin frame. The placement of horizontal shock absorbers beneath the transmission also allowed for a lower seating position.

1984 Harley-Davidson Softail FXST
1984 Harley-Davidson Softail FXST

“When I think back on the timing of the FXST Softail model and its impact on the market – we were struggling new owners – I realize how critical this great new engine and chassis were to our survival,” wrote former chief styling officer Willie G. Davidson in his 100 years of Harley-Davidson book. “The Softail line has been a perennial best-seller and a favorite among motorcyclists. It successfully blends the past with current technology and appeals to Harley riders everywhere.”

Related: Harley-Davidson Softail Tales: The History of the Hidden-shock Harleys

The versatility of the Softail platform would enable the introduction of subsequent new motorcycle models in a wide range of styles. Some highlights include:

1986 Heritage Softail: The FL front end, full skirted front fender, laced wheels, and prominent headlamp reflect styling elements of the 1949 FL Hydra-Glide models. It’s a classic look that says “Harley-Davidson” to riders and non-riders alike.

1988 Springer Softail: The resurrection of the visual excitement of a Springer front suspension – discontinued by Harley-Davidson after 1952 in favor of hydraulic forks – was a bold styling move.

1990 Fat Boy: One of the most iconic models in Harley-Davidson history, distinguished by its solid cast aluminum wheels and massive presence, remains in the Cruiser portfolio today.

1999 Softail Deuce: Perhaps the most radical of the Softail factory customs, the Deuce introduced a new stretched gas tank, sleek chrome fork sliders, all-new rear fender, and the new Twin Cam 88B engine.

2008 Cross Bones: This exercise in pure vintage bobber styling featured a Springer front end framing a wide tire, laced wheels with black rims, a sprung solo seat, half-moon footboards, and the introduction of flat Denim paint.

A Family of Cruisers

2024 Harley-Davidson Low Rider ST
2024 Harley-Davidson Low Rider ST

The current Softail chassis introduced in 2018 is the foundation of nine models in the 2024 collection of Harley-Davidson Cruiser motorcycles. The centerpiece of the Softail chassis is a rear monoshock designed for smooth suspension performance and good handling. The coil-over shock absorber is located below the seat, where it’s easy to reach for preload adjustment and placed at the optimal angle to achieve efficient control of wheel motion.

Each current Cruiser model is powered by the proven Milwaukee-Eight V-Twin engine featuring dual counter-balancers tuned to eliminate primary vibration at idle speed, to enhance rider and passenger comfort, and to permit the engines to be rigid-mounted in the frame. Rigid mounting stiffens the overall chassis and connects the rider more directly to the powertrain.

The 2024 Cruiser lineup is the most diverse in the Harley-Davidson motorcycle portfolio, featuring models from nostalgic to modern. The 2024 Cruiser models include:

Softail Standard: This is the essential Harley-Davidson cruiser experience with a lean, lightweight frame, classic chrome, and polished finishes at a price that leaves budget headroom for customization.

Street Bob 114: No-nonsense raw bobber attitude from the mini ape handlebar to the chopped rear fender is coupled with modern tech like the digital riser gauge and signature LED forward lighting. The ideal ride for customers that want equal parts style, performance, and rideability.

Harley-Davidson Street Bob 114 Review

Low Rider S: Straight from the factory, this bike bundles the big attitude of West Coast style and unrelenting performance previously only attainable with significant investment in accessories.

Harley-Davidson Low Rider S Review

Low Rider ST: Detachable hard saddlebags and an aerodynamic fairing create a weekend escape machine for the rider who digs pure clean-and-lean West Coast style and craves outrageous performance.

Harley-Davidson Low Rider ST Review

Breakout: With long and lean chopper styling, the Breakout model flexes more muscle than any other bike out there. The unrelenting power of a Milwaukee-Eight 117 engine is delivered to a fat 240mm rear tire exposed by the arrogant flip of a bobtail fender.

Harley-Davidson Breakout First Look

Heritage Classic 114: The quintessential American cruiser with show-stopping vintage details and pure rock-and-roll style drapes the Softail platform in pure nostalgia inspired by Harley-Davidson models from the 1950s.

Fat Boy 114: The original fat-custom icon commands the road with a steamroller stance, cast aluminum Lakester wheels and a unique headlamp nacelle.

Fat Bob 114: Built to conquer city streets with power and agility with a full arsenal of high-performance technology – dual front disc brakes, an inverted race-style front fork, and 2-1-2 custom styled exhaust.

Sport Glide: Detachable bags and fairing make this bike a true convertible in style and attitude – a great solution for the rider that craves versatility.

Harley-Davidson Sport Glide Review


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