2015 H-D Heritage Softail Classic Review & Ratings

TRUE CONFESSION: I BECOME FIDGETY, EVEN A little anxious, every summer because this is the time of year when The Harley-Davidson Motor Company announces its next-year models. Although I’m anxious to see what’s new on the docket for the upcoming 12 months, I’m like a nervous Nellie until I know for certain that the FLSTC Heritage Softail Classic has also made the cut. After all, this vintage-looking bike has been a player since 1987, and you have to wonder just how many more years are left in the old gal.

This summer, my money says the FLSTC continues to wear the Bar & Shield badge for 2016 because this bike embodies the essence of Harley’s heritage, the motivational force behind practically every sale of a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. You want to slip into the boots of the quintessential American biker? Then buy a Harley-Davidson. And if you really want to look the part of a mid-20th-century rider, then buy yourself a Heritage Softail Classic, a bike that was made to look like it rolled off the 1949 assembly line in 1987 … and 1988 and 1989 and right up through today.

But we know that looks and nostalgic appeal alone can’t sustain a place in Harley’s vaunted lineup for 28 years and counting. A bike also must perform, and to that end, the 2015 FLSTC checks in, as it has since 1987, with all of the right moves. Its 25-1/2″ seat height and conservatively positioned foot controls and handlebar, backed by a detachable windshield, allow for all-day comfort. The Twin Cam 103″ engine generates a peak torque of 95.2 ft-lbs. at a moderate 3000 rpm while delivering around 40 mpg (Harley and the EPA settled on 42 mpg for sales propaganda), and internal counterbalancers mean a smooth ride at any speed. And new for 2015 — and as found on the other Softails in this year’s lineup — the FLSTC has a few improvements to the braking system that help deliver even better performance when slowing and stopping the 730-pound (claimed dry weight) motorcycle.

In fact, let’s stop right here to address that new braking system. Atop the semi-apehanger stainless steel handlebar sits a re-engineered master cylinder that feeds fluid to a new front caliper with four larger coated pistons for easier brake/lever modulation. The four pucks bite down on a slightly larger-diameter front rotor, too — 300mm compared to 292mm of old — and the sum total is intended to reduce brake lever pressure, especially at full lock under panic-stop situations. Under normal riding situations, you might not notice the reduced lever action; it’s so subtle. And the new front brake continues to deliver pretty much the same progressive feedback that Heritage riders have enjoyed for years. Slowing down the bike requires only a smooth, gentle tug on the right lever, with similar pressure from your right foot to modulate the rear brake pedal. ABS assures that the retro-looking bike remains upright under panic-stop conditions, and for the record, our 2015 Heritage took 31′ to completely stop from 30 mph.

By comparison, the 2015 Slim that we tested earlier this year stopped in 27′ from an observed 30 mph. The big tires on both bikes help transfer much of the braking force to the pavement, and, no doubt, the Slim’s shorter stopping distance is attributable to its lighter overall weight — 672 pounds to the Classic’s 730.
BACK ON THE ROAD, the Heritage Softail Classic remains the same no-nonsense motorcycle that has kept it in the lineup all these years. A detachable windshield means you can enjoy the ride behind the cone of silence or, in a matter of seconds, strip the bike of its ungainly piece of Lexan for in-your-face riding fun. The leather-like soft saddlebags offer adequate storage space, although they’re not quick-detachable, weatherproof, or lockable. Riding two-up? Then your passenger will enjoy the padded backrest whether it’s for a jaunt across town or an all-day ride to the state line. I myself am partial to the FLSTC’s seating position up front.

Over the years, Harley has fine-tuned the Classic’s rider triangle; today’s handlebar positions your hands at about chest level. The half-moon footboards lend to the bike’s nostalgic appeal, and the twopiece saddle offers the right combination of padding and full support so you never really tire yourself while the fuel tank drains its 5-gallon contents into the electronic fuel injection. I’ve often said that this is a motorcycle I could, at a moment’s notice, hop on and ride coast to coast. I still sit behind those words, which is one major reason why I worry that Harley might one day drop this model from the lineup.

REGARDLESS OF WHAT’S IN STORE FOR THE FLSTC, there’s no question that its styling addresses the past. Gobs of chrome-plated parts, enhanced with classy traditional colors and subtle pinstripes, underscore the Heritage Softail Classic’s goal of bringing yesteryear to the present. And just to remind you how far the motorcycle industry has come since 1949, you can order your FLSTC with stylish chromed aluminum wheels that are wrapped with tubeless widewhitewall tires. And don’t worry about having to share legroom with a kickstart lever; this bike has electric start, something practically unheard of 60-some years ago. If you’re looking for a basic, straightforward motorcycle that can grind out the miles over long stretches of highway and back roads or if you’re in search of a do-everything bike for putting around town, the FLSTC might be for you. Now for the enthusiasts who hold the Heritage Softail Classic close to their hearts, let’s hold our collective breath while Harley-Davidson unveils the lineup for 2016.

2015 H-D Heritage Softail Classic Gallery

2015 H-D Heritage Softail Classic
2015 H-D Heritage Softail Classic
2015 H-D Heritage Softail Classic
2015 H-D Heritage Softail Classic
2015 H-D Heritage Softail Classic
2015 H-D Heritage Softail Classic
2015 H-D Heritage Softail Classic
2015 H-D Heritage Softail Classic
2015 H-D Heritage Softail Classic
2015 H-D Heritage Softail Classic
2015 H-D Heritage Softail Classic
2015 H-D Heritage Softail Classic
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