Among the letters that came in following the October 2017 “Softail Supreme” issue, there were those essentially saying, “Yay, Harley!” and, “Boo! Harley,” in roughly equal measure. Some folks were comparing the new Softail frame with single shock to that of the first Yamaha Virago and saying, “Welcome to 1982.” Others were very interested in what sounded like the best-performing Harley-Davidson cruisers ever.
But a few were confused. “What’s a Dyna? Why do I care? Why does Harley put so many letters and stuff in their model names?”
Yep, it’s been somewhat impenetrable, all the nomenclature and two different cruiser lines, Dyna (FX) and Softail (FLS), alongside Sportsters (XL), Touring (FLH), Street (XG), and V-Rod (VRSC). Honestly, I’m not even sure I have it right.
What I do know is that I was a fan of the Dyna with its twin exposed shocks and rubber-engine mounting (not unlike that used on Norton Commandos, by the way). They were sporty for a big cruiser, and the 2017 Low Rider S (Best Cruiser last year) expressed the bike beautifully. It smoked anything with Softail in its name, thanks in part to having much more cornering clearance.
What we wanted to know was how one of the bikes formerly known as Dyna, such as the 2018 Street Bob shown here, is expressed as a Softail. Like, does it feel legit? Is it better than the Dyna?
It doesn’t feel the same, but it feels good. Our Street Bob with its Milwaukee-Eight 107 is super quick, thanks to how comparatively light it is. It isn’t, of course, as burly at the Heritage 114, which produces 81 hp and 108 pound-feet of torque on the CW dyno, versus the 107’s 77 hp and 101 pound-feet. The 2017 Street Bob 103 we dyno tested recently made 65 hp and 88 pound-feed, by comparison. A useful increase, and combined with the reduced weight, makes for spirited blasting around on Mr. 2018 Bob.
Chassis feedback, damping, and steering feel are all superior to that of previous Dynas. This is quality damping at work, and the first time I felt the “squish” of rebound-damping control at play I was pleasantly surprised. Turn-in is crisp, steering is far more neutral, and the bike held its line well. It’s still a cruiser in terms of cornering clearance, but in a cruiser state of mind, you can ride hard. The profile is similar to that of the previous bike, and it’s pretty stripped down in terms of styling and presence. This is reflected in its $14,499 base price.
This bike is now lettered up as FXBB, and, at least, you won’t have any trouble wondering by its code name if it’s a Dyna. Because this is definitely not a Dyna, and there’s nothing wrong with that at all.