2018 Harley-Davidson Street Bob ReviewOf all the Harley-Davidson Dyna motorcycles making the transition to the Softail platform, the biggest improvement of all could be the 2018 Harley-Davidson Street Bob.Now, you could argue that it’s simply a different motorcycle, as it has an all-new chassis and motor, and you wouldn’t be far from right.
Let’s look at why the 2018 Harley-Davidson Street Bob is such a successful Softail.1. The Street Bob has gone from being a fashion statement to a seriously fun-to-ride motorcycle. While I didn’t mind being seen on the Dyna version of the Street Bob, it wasn’t a particularly great ride. The suspension was so-so, the handling a bit uncertain, and Harley-Davidson typically give it a lower-spec Twin Cam motor and offered it as a budget big-inch H-D. All of these problems are solved with the Softail-based 2018 Harley-Davidson Street Bob.2. Magic is provided by the new chassis. Though we will get into the Milwaukee-Eight motor soon enough, the Softail chassis is what makes the 2018 Harley-Davidson Street Bob work. The new frame is stiffer and the suspension seriously upgraded. These differences don’t amount to a minor improvement—it creates an all-new motorcycle, and a great one.3. The pegs/grips/seat triangle on the 2018 Harley-Davidson Street Bob is a bit compressed, yet it gives the rider a great level of control. The Street Bob feels the smallest of the new generation of Softails. In many ways, it reminds me of the now-discontinued Sportster Seventy-Two. Even though the Street Bob weighs in at 653 pounds, it has the feel of a classic Schwinn Sting-Ray bicycle. The high-and-wide bars are in tight, giving the rider easy leverage over the excellent chassis.4. Urban twisties such as Mulholland Drive are a pleasure. On the old Street Bob, straight streets with good pavement were the best places to go for a spin. Mulholland Drive, which borders the Los Angeles basin and San Fernando Valley, is a rollicking ride, with pavement ranging from track-like to cratered. The properly paved portions persuaded me to make the most of the Harley-Davidson Dunlops, while the suspension sucked up the ragged portions enough to keep the tough spots enjoyable.5. The 2018 Harley-Davidson Street Bob loves to corner. Turn-in is unbelievably easy, and you can even change your line by using the mini-apes to your advantage. The Dunlops are nearly a half-inch narrower, front and back, than last year, so resistance to direction changes is almost non-existent. As amazing as it may seem, the 2018 Street Bob is a canyon carver.6. No matter where you ride, the improved suspension makes a huge difference. On the previous Street Bob, you’d steel yourself for a hit anytime a road imperfection came your way—it was just part of riding the bike. I still find myself tensing up a bit, but the jolt is gone. Sure, you feel whatever pothole or dip you rode through, but the edge is completely taken off. The new Showa Dual Bending Valve fork (with stylish gaiters) does its job as effectively as the new under-seat single shock. It is a true revelation that completely changes the nature of the Street Bob.7. The Milwaukee-Eight 107 engine is simply outstanding. Absolutely everything about the Milwaukee-Eight 107 makes the 2018 Harley-Davidson Street Bob a better motorcycle. There is power everywhere, and it winds up higher than the old Twin Cam 103. Maximum torque is a claimed 17.5 percent higher, and it feels it—plus the torque peak comes in 250 rpm sooner. If that’s not enough, the counterbalanced 107 also has a superior feel relative to the rubber-mounted 103. Harley-Davidson also notes a fuel efficiency increase of over 10 percent.8. The 6-Speed Cruise Drive transmission is superb. Shifting with your feet on the pegs is a pleasure, with no missed shifts or excessive foot movement needed. No surprise, the ratios are perfectly selected, with sixth being a full overdrive. Neutral is easily found at stoplights.9. Even with the mini-apes, the 2018 Harley-Davidson Street Bob is freeway competent. If you don’t mind tickets, the Street Bob is happy to ignore speed limits. You might expect the mini-apes to turn you into a sail at speed, but that does not happen. Leaning forward a tad helps, though you don’t even need to do that. The suspension and frame are flawless on the freeway, and the Dunlops track well through rain grooves. Put a short windshield and saddlebags on the Street Bob and it’s a credible weekend solo tourer.10. Braking is mixed, and you better like using the front disc. The front brake is strong and easily modulated. However, the rear brake isn’t much better at slowing you down than dragging your feet would be. The leverage for your foot makes it difficult to put effective pressure on the pedal, so unless you’re ready for on-bike gymnastics, forget the rear brake is even there. Other Softails don’t have this problem, so it’s all about the actuation, not the braking system.11. The dashboard is tiny, yet useful. Placed between the handlebar clamps, it’s easy to miss the dashboard. While the digital readout is at odds styling-wise with the rest of the bike, it’s so small that it blends in nicely. The best part is, your speed is easily legible, and that’s all you really need to know. For those who require more info, a button on the left handlebar allows you to scroll through a variety of readouts at will.12. With the small dash and under-bar mirrors, you have an undistracted view of the road. The experience is very much like riding a truly vintage bike. There are no mirrors in your typical line of sight, and very little in the way of instrument readout. It’s just you, the motorcycle and the road. I love it!13. The gas tank shrunk this year, which is fine. Even though the saddle is comfortable, it’s not quite friendly enough for 200-mile non-stop jaunts. The range of the 3.5-gallon tank is about 150 miles or so, and that’s more than enough. If you are over six-foot, you’ll want to pull over more often. Under that, and you’re likely to enjoy the compact ergos. The cool solo seat is less than 26 inches off the pavement, so most riders will easily flat-foot it at red lights.14. The 2018 Harley-Davidson Street Bob is a huge improvement over other Street Bobs. Harley-Davidson took a cool-looking bike and gave it the chassis and motor it deserved. Rather than just basking in the glory of riding a tough-guy bobber, you can now ride the Street Bob like a real motorcycle. The Dyna is dead, long live the Softail.Photography by Brian J. Nelson, Tom Riles, and Kevin WingRIDING STYLE
- Helmet: Shoei RF-1200
- Jacket: Pando Moto M65
- Gloves: Racer Mickey
- Jeans: Pando Moto Karl
- Boots: TCX X-Blend Waterproof