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Harley-Davidson adds new Custom to Softail lineup

March 23, 2007|by ARV VOSS / Motor Matters

Harley-Davidson now offers eight models in its Softail lineup - the newest bike to join the mix is the FXSTC Softail Custom.

All Softail models share several favorable features: a new rigid-mounted Twin Cam 96B (1584cc) V-Twin motor with internal counter-balance shafts for smoother operation (replaces the old 1450cc 88B); a six-speed Cruise Drive transmission; new electric sequential port fuel injection and a new final drive belt.

The new Softail Custom is aimed at pleasing the traditionalist. Up front, it comes from the factory with forward raked, fully chromed forks flanking a 21-inch Chrome Profile laced-spoke wheel shrouded by an abbreviated old-school style cycle fender. Steering is courtesy of factory ape hanger bars (modest and comfortable rather than radical, "reach-for-the-sky" types) with bare-knuckle risers and a new chrome bullet headlamp.

A curvaceous Fat Bob fuel tank is next, followed by a new, chrome, button-tufted King/Queen stepped seat with a kicked-up lumbar support for the rider and a one-piece chrome passenger backrest with a new integrated aluminum air foil. The 96B V-Twin motor is black powder-coated but comes with chrome covers, unlike its Night Train stable mate. Supporting the seat out back is a sculpted bobtail fender (my least favorite feature - I personally prefer the Deuce or Fat Boy-style rear fender) covering a 200mm rear tire, mounted on a chromed, slotted disc wheel.

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Overall, the new Softail Custom comes across as an early hard-tail chopper with a stretched rebel look, but offering a much higher level of reliability and comfort. The new motor and transmission combination provides a much more exhilarating ride than last year's Softails. The FXSTC generates a flashier appearance with its menu of chrome components and chopper attitude than the more sinister Night Train with its blacked-out treatment and drag-style bars.

The Softail Custom is available in several solid paint schemes as well as two-tone treatments. My test ride was finished in Vivid Black with just the right amount of chrome. The base price was set at $16,995 with the "out-the-door" sticker amounting to $19,155 after adding for dealer prep and handling along with a factory security alarm and engine immobilizer.

SUMMARY: Climbing onto the new FXSTC tends to transport one back in time, until you fire it up by simply pushing a button, engage first gear and then roll on the throttle. The familiar Harley "potato-potato-potato" exhaust note is still there to warm the cockles of one's heart as the exhaust exits the right-side staggered shorty pipes. The seat height is a mere 26.4 inches for a low, balanced feel at rest.

Acceleration is instant with plenty of low-end torque, and gear changes seem smoother and quieter. Handling at low speed offers surprising agility despite the large (200mm) rear donut. Halting the FXSTC is satisfactory even though the front brake functions via a single disc, as do all the other Softail bikes. The ride quality is comfortable, providing 5.6 inches of front travel from the chrome-covered forks and 4.3 inches of cushion from the swingarm with hidden coil-over horizontally mounted shocks aft.

Other bikes in the Softail stable include: the FLSTF Fat Boy; FLSTN Softail Deluxe; FLSTSC Softail Springer Classic; FLSTC Heritage Softail Classic; FXST Softail Standard; FXSTB Night Train; and FXSTD Softail Deuce. FL models come with forward controls and floorboards, while FX prefix bikes provide pegs in place of boards with their forward controls.

The new Softail Custom comes minus touring amenities such as saddle bags and windshield, but those may be added for longer hauls - in the meantime, tooling around on shorter treks without the extra touring baggage renders the intended renegade look and attitude. There are those who maintain that you are what you ride. If you question authority and tend to ride your own road at your own speed, the FXSTC may be just the image for you.

Copyright, Motor Matters 2007

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