It’s easy for the 2021 Harley-Davidson Softail Slim to get a bit lost in the lineup. It doesn’t have a snazzy appellation—Fat, Low, Bob, or Glide are nowhere to be found. Softails aren’t exactly slim motorcycles, and the Slim features fat tires. However, the Softail Slim slots itself in as a motorcycle that does its own thing unobtrusively, while being a wholly satisfying ride.The Slim is something of an undercover version of the dearly departed Deluxe. It features high-profile Dunlops mounted on wire-spoked 16-inch wheels, a dished solo seat, swept-back handlebar, and floorboards. However, the Slim trades in chrome for black, and the triple headlights of the Deluxe are nowhere to be found on the Slim. The 2021 Softail Slim prefers to fly under the radar.
Harley-Davidson slipped a Milwaukee-Eight 107 into the Slim’s Softail chassis, and that works out quite nicely. With the upright solo seating position and arms out wide for the braced swept-back handlebar, the Slim is all about taking on urban settings. If you’re not riding two-up or putting long hours on the highway, the 107 is more than enough power to get you into (and out of) trouble on city streets. You don’t have to work hard to get 110 ft-lbs of torque out of the 107—just rev it up to 3000 rpm and enjoy the sound of the 2-into-2 shotgun exhaust system.The Softail Slim’s chassis is perfect for city riding. With a relatively narrow midsection—that’s how the Slim got its name—and 26-inch seat height, it’s always easy to touch your boots down to the pavement at stops. Sure, the Slim weighs in at 671 pounds, but the low center of gravity keeps it from feeling ponderous.The suspension travel is just over five inches from the Showa Dual Bending Valve fork and 3.4 inches from the shock. That’s enough to minimize the effects of the deterioration of Los Angeles city streets. What the suspension doesn’t take care of, the high-profile Dunlops smooth out. Although steering is a bit heavier, I prefer fat tires for crumbling streets—you want a big rubber footprint to muscle your way through the imperfections.I have nothing but praise for the ergonomics of the 2021 Harley-Davidson Softail Slim. I went out for a ride around the Los Angeles metropolitan area and, before I knew it, I had put in three hours of riding without lifting myself out of the nicely padded tuck-and-roll seat. I just kept riding because I was having so much fun that the time just flew by.I limit the freeway portion due to the seating position. It’s fine for short connecting spurts, and the 107 motor will take you up to extra-legal speeds without a thought. Just make sure you’re holding on against the windblast.Urban canyons—Chevy Chase and Mulholland Drives, for example—are pure pleasure. In many places, the pavement isn’t in great condition, so you rely on the Dunlops. Fortunately, the tires never disappoint, and you can take advantage of the available cornering clearance without any hair-raising moments. I touched down here and there, though not enough for it to be bothersome.Lane splitting is a bit of a challenge due to the wide handlebar. If you’re in a hurry, it will be annoying. If not, just hang back and relax whenever there isn’t plenty of room. The only fly in the urban ointment is the difficulty finding neutral at stoplights. Otherwise, the 6-Speed Cruise Drive transmission is flawless.Everything works as it should. The clutch isn’t unduly stiff, and the brakes are entirely predictable. Our test Slim had ABS—an overpriced $795 option—and it kicked in a few times. Mostly, I just use the highly effective rear brake and ample engine compression braking. That allows me to fully grasp the grips, and I still have the single 300mm front disc available when I need it for maximum deceleration.The speedometer on the 2021 Harley-Davidson Softail Slim is tank-mounted. I rarely looked at it. There’s also a crisp white-on-black LCD readout that you can scroll through to access various pieces of information, including range and rev count. There’s an always-on gear-position indicator, which can be helpful on roads with higher speeds—be sure to shift up to 6th. The fuel level is also always visible.If you’re looking for a motorcycle that will wow everyone who sees, look elsewhere. The compliments will be limited to those who appreciate its understated appeal—at least in the Rock River Gray Denim/Black Denim two-tone color combo that our Slim was sporting. The Billiard Red option might get a bit more attention, if that’s an integral part of your ownership experience. We all ride for our own reasons.The 2021 Harley-Davidson Softail Slim offers a pure and undiluted motorcycle riding experience. You feel the motor, the wind, and the road. The chassis gives you a quiet confidence, and its appearance dovetails with that perfectly. While it might not catch your eye on the showroom floor, the Slim might just be the ride you want.Photography by Kelly CallanRIDING STYLE
Hello everyone and welcome once again to Ultimate Motorcycling’s weekly Podcast—Motos and Friends.
My name is Arthur Coldwells.
This week’s Podcast is brought to you by Yamaha motorcycles. Discover how the YZF-R7 provides the perfect balance of rider comfort and true supersport performance by checking it out at YamahaMotorsports.com, or see it for yourself at your local dealer.
This week’s episode features Senior Editor Nic de Sena’s impressions of the beautiful new Harley-Davidson Low Rider ST that is loosely based around the original FXRT Sport Glide from the 1980s. Hailing from The Golden State, these cult-status performance machines became known as West Coast style, with sportier suspension, increased horsepower, and niceties including creature comforts such as a tidy fairing and sporty luggage.
In past episodes you might have heard us mention my best friend, Daniel Schoenewald, and in the second segment I chat with him about some of the really special machines in his 170 or so—and growing—motorcycle collection. He’s always said to me that he doesn’t consider himself the owner, merely the curator of the motorcycles for the next generation.
Yet Daniel is not just a collector, but I can attest a really skilled rider. His bikes are not trailer queens, they’re ridden, and they’re ridden pretty hard. Actually, we have had many, many memorable rides on pretty much all of the machines in the collection at one time or another.
From all of us here at Ultimate Motorcycling, we hope you enjoy this episode!