Nostalgia That Works
I can admit it without apology–I love the look of the Harley-Davidson springer front suspension. When it comes to establishing a retro styling for a motorcycle, a pair of external springs in the vicinity of the steering stem is tough to beat. Never mind that Harley rediscovered the springer in 1988 after a 40-year hiatus; the exploitatively mechanical front suspension has tremendous nostalgia-invoking power.
The Harley-Davidson Softail Springer Classic puts the springer front end to good use. In the back, the Softail suspension has the same sort of nostalgic look, though it’s a ruse–what looks like a hardtail is, in reality, a reasonably well-suspended rear end. Harley continues the theme with the deeply valanced fenders, long mufflers, wide bars, an accent light on the front fender, floorboards, and heel-toe shifting. Put it all together and riders with a non-absolutist sense of history are quite satisfied, even as we’re willing to overlook the modern disc brakes and belt drive. (Click image to enlarge)
So, I’ve surrendered to the styling of the Springer Classic. None of that really matters to me, however, if I don’t want to ride the bike. I already have one vintage motorcycle hanging from the ceiling of my front room–motorcycles are art, after all–and I don’t need another.
As it turns out, the Springer Classic is a great ride. The new 96 cu in Twin Cam motor dispenses an endless supply of torquey goodness, and is mated to a fantastic 6-speed transmission that makes it possible to find exactly the right gear for whatever kind of riding you’re doing. It may seem counterintuitive, but I ended up shifting the H-D 6-speed far less frequently than I do its 5-speed counterparts. It all has to do with being able to select the perfect ratio and having the motor to allow me to stick with it. (Click image to enlarge)
On the freeway, the overdrive 6th gear is a superb feature. It allows the Springer Classic to just idle along, with just enough distinctive V-twin burble to remind you that you’re on a Harley. Everywhere else, it’s just a matter of selecting the proper gear and letting the throttle do the talking. Both the clutch and front brake levers require a strong grip, so utilizing the powerband and compression braking can prolong the ride.
Finally, there’s the action of the spring front end. As good as it looks, I like its action even better. The pivoting motion naturally smoothes out spike-inducing bumps in the road. While the bike may change its wheelbase a bit as it goes through the well-damped travel (I do wish H-D could find a less conspicuous spot for the damper), it still handles easily on everything from wide-open highways to tight canyon roads. On the tightest roads, the Springer Classic touches down fairly quickly, but that’s just a reminder to slow down, and smell the flora and observe the fauna. Some of that fauna may be women who appreciate the classic look of your ride. Without a doubt, the Springer Classic turns its share of heads of both sexes. It may not have the exhibitionist sex appeal of radical customs, but the appeal of the Springer Classic is more along the lines of Sean Connery, Clint Eastwood, and Harrison Ford, which isn’t bad company. (Click image to enlarge)
Helmet: Bell R/T
Eyewear: Mercedes-Benz Aviator
Jacket: Harley-Davidson FXRG Midweight Leather
Gloves: Harley-Davidson Highway full-finger
Pants: Shift Lodown Street Jean
Boots: Harley-Davidson Huston