I’VE lost count of how many times I’ve been told not to judge a book by its cover – yet I still do.
My first impression of Harley-Davidson’s Heritage Classic 114 was that of a large, ungainly tourer, and certainly not one capable of providing any sort of engaging ride.
One hundred miles later and I’ll gladly hold my hands up and admit I was wrong. While it retains some of the classic looks of its forbearers, the ride has evolved tenfold – even since its last incarnation, I’m told.
A redesigned version of Harley’s Milwaukee-Eight engine – first seen in the 2017 tourer range – sits under the tank, producing 114 lbft of torque. This unit’s namesake capacity is also, coincidentally, 114 cubic inches – that’s 1868cc on this side of the pond.
The 92.7hp engine is unmistakeably Harley, despite the solid mounting to minimalise vibrations. Peak torque is reached at 3,000 revs, while the engine tops out just shy of 6,000.
Power is plentiful, and you can leave the bike in third or fourth as you throw it around bends, happy in the knowledge that you’ll be able to accelerate out the other side.
Harley’s Heritage Classic features the same new frame as the rest of the 2018 Softail range, which is lighter and stiffer than previously. However, the bike is still heavy, at 330kg wet.
For a heavyweight tourer, the Heritage Classic is surprisingly agile, and thanks to raised footboards has a 1% increase in maximum lean angle on its predecessor. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but it makes a significant difference on tighter turns. Nonetheless, the boards still scrape easily.
Back at a standstill and the bike feels far heavier than it did on the move. The mid-height bars require a decent shove to stand the bike upright, and wheeling it around could soon become exhausting.
The new dual-bending valve fork up front is more than adequate and a new monoshock at the rear features preload adjustment – which will prove invaluable to owners who ride two up with luggage.
The Heritage Classic falls short on stopping power. The rear brake is useful and progressive, but ultimately not that powerful, while the front could be a lot sharper. With 330kg of bike, plus potentially another 250kg of rider, pillion and luggage, another disc wouldn’t go amiss.
ABS is standard, although traction control isn’t an option. Harley said the bikes wouldn’t require it due to their low centre-of-gravity and large contact area with the ground but we rode this bike in torrential rain, and the lack of TC was painfully obvious.
The Heritage Classic is not cheap – the 114 costs from £19,195 in black – or £750 more for the two-tone model we tested.
But, you get a lot of bike for your buck. In fact, you get two bikes. Whip that huge screen and the solid, lockable panniers off and you’ve got an entirely different beast.
A large 18.9-litre fuel tank and fuel economy of 42mpg give the bike a decent range, and the comfortable seat won’t leave you gagging to get off. In fact, the rider ergonomics are pretty good in most respects, but at 5ft8 I found the gear shift and rear brake a bit too far away.
Harley-Davidson has accounted for this and among the 300-plus additional options for the new Softail range are a number of seats, pegs and bars designed for shorter riders.
Standard equipment across the Softail range includes a USB port on the steering head, keyless ignition and a security system.
This bike is great fun to ride, and embodies the classic spirit of Harley-Davidson, in an updated, darker package. You get a lot of bike for your money and there are tons of additional options available.
The trio of new LED lights up-front are a nice touch, and help to bring the bike into the 21st century.
The Heritage Classic’s adaptability is also something to praise. It’s easy to remove the screen – you don’t need tools, and taking off the panniers is similarly hassle-free.
We don't like:
Harley is targeting a younger demographic with the 2018 Softail range, but I can’t help but feel that the all-American manufacturer has gone well far of the mark here.
While the stripped back chrome gives it a more badass personality, the huge screen and studded panniers aren’t particularly appealing.
However, this bike is the one to appease long-time Harley riders, out of a range that’s not at all traditional HD.
The lack of traction control is annoying, but not necessarily a deal breaker.
CLICK NEXT FOR VERDICT AND SPECS.