Community Classic and Custom Motorcycles 2015 Harley-Davidson Softail Deluxe Test

2015 Harley-Davidson Softail Deluxe Test

2015 Harley-Davidson Softail Deluxe Review

There are few motorcycles that define the term “cruiser” in a more authoritative way than the 2015 Harley-Davidson Softail Deluxe. With its low bucket seat, wide bars, deep fenders, wire wheels, and whitewall tires, the Softail Deluxe is what stylish cruising is all about.

Heavy on nostalgia, the Harley-Davidson Softail Deluxe has all the traditional visuals you expect from a classic cruiser, including a big-inch air-cooled motor, forward floorboards and just the right amount of chrome balancing a rich paint job.

Sitting on the bike is a pleasure. Your feet find the floorboards naturally and the bars come back to meet you at a pleasant point. It’s the kind of bike you want to ride along the beach all day, which is exactly what I did on more than one occasion.

The friendly attention the Softail Deluxe elicited was enjoyable and added to the rides. Of course, I always rode with all three headlights blazing, just to be safe.

Underneath the façade, you get a standard Harley-Davidson Softail chassis, which means the rear shocks are hidden to give the Deluxe a faux hardtail appearance. Rest assured, you get 3.6 inches of rear wheel travel, along with over five inches from the 41.3 mm forks (which are chrome sheathed).

The powerful Twin Cam 103B motor is mounted rigidly in the frame, and it cranks out just short of 100 ft/lbs of torque at 3000 rpm. Anytime you twist the throttle, the Softail Deluxe moves into action. You might be a gear or two high in 6-speed Cruise Drive transmission, but the Twin Cam 103B can cover a multitude of rider misjudgments of the gear position.

With the Softail Deluxe ready to hurl you down the road quickly, Harley-Davidson has upgraded the front braking system for 2015. The master cylinder and front caliper are new, with larger pistons that have a “premium piston coating,” according to Harley-Davidson. The new caliper is grabbing a larger 300mm rotor, for additional stopping power.

All combined, the new front brake of the Softail Deluxe is outstanding. Most of us rely on the rear brake for causal cruising in town, and the rear brake takes care of that duty the vast majority of the time. Certainly, when it’s crunch time, the front brake is there, and it works better than ever. ABS is there to bail you out from over-braking either wheel, so feel free to brake aggressively when you need to slow down quickly.

In-town is definitely where the 2015 Harley-Davidson Softail Deluxe is happiest. The wide bars give you great leverage when working through traffic, and the 726-pound bike (gassed-up, per H-D specs) is surprising agile.

The 16-inch Harley-branded Dunlop tires are nice and fat, which makes the steering sure, if not exactly light. As a bonus, the high-profile tires help out the suspension a bit, tackling potholes and irregularities with confidence.

This is definitely not a bike you will want for much freeway duty. After about 10 miles you’ll be tired of hanging on to the wide bars, which make you a sail hitting 65 mph headwinds. The bike is stable on smooth pavement, but if it’s grooved, the front end will hunt.

Rides through the canyons are fine, though you will want to take it easy. If you’re in a hurry, you can push the Softail Deluxe a bit and it handles quite well. However, the weight and ergonomics mean your upper body will get a workout and you’ll tire pretty quickly. The floorboards will rarely touch down in normal riding — push hard and they’ll drag frequently, thanks to the excellent traction of the Dunlops and the limited cornering clearance.

There is no question that the 2015 Harley-Davidson Softail Deluxe has plenty of gravitas. Even with the stock mufflers, the motor backs up the styling with an undeniable presence. There are few bikes that present themselves this well, and the 2015 Harley-Davidson FLSTN Softail Deluxe may be motorcycling’s most perfectly realized pure cruiser.

Action photography by Kelly Callan

Riding Style

Helmet: Bell Rogue

Eyewear: Wiley-X Jake

Jacket: River Road Roadster Vintage

Gloves: Harley-Davidson Valve Full-Finger

Jeans: Harley-Davidson Genuine Performance Riding

Boots: Harley-Davidson Tyson Performance

2015 Harley-Davidson FLSTN Softail Deluxe Specifications


Engine: Air-cooled, Twin Cam 103B

Valves: Pushrod-operated, overhead valves with hydraulic, self-adjusting lifters; two valves per cylinder

Bore x stroke: 3.87 inches x 4.374 inches

Displacement: 103.1 cubic inches

Compression ratio: 9.6:1

Fuel system: Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection

Air cleaner: Paper, washable

Lubrication system: Pressurized, dry-sump


Primary drive: Chain

Final drive: Belt

Clutch: Multi-plate, wet

Transmission: 6-Speed Cruise Drive


Torque: 97.4 ft/lbs @ 3000 rpm

Lean angle:

• Right: 25.8°

• Left: 26.7°

Fuel economy (EPA urban/highway test): 42 mpg


Frame: Mild steel tubular frame; rectangular section backbone; stamped, cast, and forged junctions; forged fender supports; MIG welded

Swingarm: Mild steel, round tube sections, forged junctions; MIG welded

Wheels (steel laced)

• Front: 16 inches x 3 inches (406 mm x 76 mm)

• Rear: 16 inches x 3 inches (406 mm x 76 mm)

Braking: ABS assisted

Brake rotors f/r: 300mm/292mm

Forks: 41.3 mm telescopic, “beer can” covers

Shocks: Hidden, horizontal-mounted, coil-over

Suspension travel:

• Front wheel: 5.1 inches

• Rear wheel: 3.6 inches


Battery: Sealed, maintenance-free, 12-volt, 19 amp/hour, 270 cold cranking amps

Charging: Three-phase, 38-amp system (439W @ 13V, 2000 RPM, 489W max power @ 13V)

Starting: 1.2 kW electric with solenoid shift starter motor engagement

Headlamp: 55-watt low beam, 60-watt high beam; quartz halogen

Dash readouts: High beam, neutral, low oil pressure, turn signals, engine diagnostics, security system (optional), 6-speed, low fuel warnings


Length: 94.5 inches

Overall Width: 38.6 inches

Overall height: 43.9 inches

Seat height: 26.4 inches

Ground Clearance: 4.5 inches

Rake (steering head): 32.1°

Fork angle: 32°

Trail: 5.8 inches (147 mm)

Wheelbase: 64.4 inches (1635 mm)

Tires: Dunlop Harley-Davidson Series, wide whitewall

Fuel capacity: 5 gallons (warning light at approximately 1.0 gallons)

Oil capacity (w/ filter): 3.5 quarts

Transmission capacity: 1 quart

Primary chain case capacity: 1 quart

Wet weight: 726 pounds


Warranty: 24 months (unlimited mileage)

Service Interval: First 1000 miles, every 5000 miles thereafter

2015 Harley-Davidson FLSTN Softail Deluxe MSRP: From $18,099 ($18,849, as tested)

Don Williams
Don Williams
With 50 years of riding experience, Don Williams is a fan of all kinds of motorcycles. He enjoys sport bikes, cruisers, dirt bikes, touring bikes, adventure bikes, dual sport bikes, and rideable customs. Ask Don what his favorite bike is and he will tell you, "Whatever bike I'm on."

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