2018 Harley-Davidson Heritage Classic | Road Test Review

2018 Harley Heritage Classic
Harley’s heritage is evolving with the times, and the new Heritage Classic reflects that. Its clean, blacked-out look is more than just a facelift; the new attitude is backed up by addictive power and—dare we say it?—sporty handling. You might even say this is Harley’s sport tourer…. Photos by Kevin Wing.

It’s fair to say that Harley-Davidson is one of those brands that leans heavily on its heritage, and perhaps no other model exemplifies that better than the aptly named Heritage Classic. Introduced by Harley in 1986 in an attempt to lure buyers away from cheaper Japanese offerings by tapping into its post-war glory years, the Heritage was a chrome-clad, white-walled monument to 1950s nostalgia, a reassuringly familiar island in a sea of change. And it sold like hot dogs at a baseball game.

2018 Harley Heritage Classic
For our road test of the 2018 Heritage Classic, we meandered up the coast to San Simeon, then turned inland and tackled some twisties as we made our way back home. Photo by Jenny Smith.

Fast-forward 32 years, and with its core market aging out, an industry slump and those confounding Millennials turning out to be a tough nut to crack, Harley dropped the bombshell news that the twin-shock Dyna line would be folded into a new Softail lineup of eight redesigned models—including an almost unrecognizable Heritage Classic. (Read our First Ride Review on all eight new Softails here.) Gone are the acres of chrome (with the notable exception of the exhaust), silver studs, buckles, sissy bar and rear rack, replaced with a darker, sleeker look that’s a little hard to pin down. The auxiliary driving lights resemble the shrouded headlights on WWII military vehicles…but the whole assembly is actually Harley’s modern Daymaker LED system. The redesigned “Heritage” logo on the front fender could’ve come off an early 1980s sports car…but just below it sits the chrome hub cover that evokes the drum brake of the 1949 Hydra-Glide. The mish-mash of old and new might be off-putting to traditionalists, but to this Gen Xer with little to no emotional attachment to ’50s nostalgia, it comes across as less of a “me-too” bike—something different that turns heads not because of what it is, but what it isn’t.

2018 Harley Heritage Classic
Coastal mountains and California oaks framed much of my ride.

Then there’s the fact that at 722 pounds wet, it’s the lightest touring bike Harley makes, and when coupled with a new lighter, stiffer frame, Showa cartridge-style fork and single rear shock, and of course 114 cubic inches of Milwaukee-Eight engine (with the numbers 114 “writ large,” as Clem would say, on the air cleaner and primary case covers)…well, let’s just say this was the first time I’ve been compelled to volunteer to review a Harley. Even better, I’d just finished a 5-day ride through Indiana on a 2017 Heritage Classic (which you can read about here), so a thorough “before” and “after” would be easy.

2018 Harley Heritage Classic
The Heritage Classic’s newly redesigned badge could’ve come off a 1980s sports car.

For my evaluation of the 2018 Heritage Classic, I decided to hit the road for a two-day, 525-mile overnight camping trip up the coast to Hearst San Simeon State Park, swinging inland and returning through the Paso Robles wine region, the rolling golden hills and oilfields of Taft, and finally up and over our favorite local slice of twisty heaven, State Route 33. My first challenge was attaching the Nelson-Rigg duffel to the back seat; with the sissy bar/back rest and rear luggage rack no longer standard equipment, lash points are minimal. I managed to loop my Rok Straps around the saddlebag and passenger peg mounts, but if you plan on touring it would be best to spring for the accessory rack, a roughly $300 addition. The upshot is that the new locking, water-resistant saddlebags are much more touring friendly than before, with tops that hinge on the outside edge, making it easier to access the contents even with a duffel strapped to the seat.

2018 Harley Heritage Classic
The new Heritage Classic’s luggage is more user-friendly than before, although interior space is compromised due to the mounting hardware.

On the road, it took all of about 30 seconds for the new Heritage Classic’s character to emerge. The previous model is like an immaculately restored ’53 Buick Super: smooth, plush and burbly, happiest when ridden at a sedate touring pace. This new version, however, is a Chevy Bel Air brought back to life with hot cams, tinted windows and modern suspension. Much of this hot rod attitude can be attributed to the new precision oil-cooled Milwaukee-Eight engine, which on the Heritage is available in both 107 and 114ci displacements. I say “new” because this is actually a second-gen M-8, designed specifically for the Softail line; unlike the 114 used in the Touring CVO line, precision oil cooling replaces liquid cooling, and both new engines now employ single camshafts for a slimmer bottom end. Finally, dual counterbalancers make it possible to hard-mount the engine in the frame—more on that in a moment.

2018 Harley Heritage Classic
The Heritage Classic’s small oil cooler is almost unnoticeable at the lower front of the frame…almost.

As I rolled along the shimmering pavement in the oil town of Taft, on the western edge of California’s baking Central Valley, excessive engine heat wasn’t an issue. Since this new Milwaukee-Eight is a wet sump design, there is no longer a hot oil reservoir directly under the Softail’s seat, and plenty of air flows past and through the engine. The small oil cooler at the front of the frame is unobtrusive, but to eagle-eyed diehards it’s borderline sacrilege. Pulling into a tiny Mexican place for lunch on my way back home from San Simeon, a crusty gent squinted sideways at me. “Is that a radiator you’ve got on that thing?” No, not quite, but that little oil cooler is what allows the engine to operate reliably at a higher compression ratio, and higher compression means higher torque, which is what riding a Harley is all about. Sometimes a little change is good.

2018 Harley Heritage Classic
The new 114ci Milwaukee-Eight is a very large step forward from the old Twin Cam 103.

Our test bike came equipped with the 114 (that’s 1,868cc for those of you keeping score), and it has a noticeably louder bark than the old Twin Cam 103—and a sharper bite to match. Torque is up considerably; when we last put a Twin Cam 103-powered bike on the Jett Tuning dyno it made 78.5 horsepower at 5,000 rpm and 98.4 lb-ft of torque at 3,800. The new 114, by comparison, is good for 85.2 horsepower at 4,800 rpm and a stump-pulling 107.7 lb-ft of torque at 3,100.

2018 Harley Heritage Classic
Handling is markedly improved over the previous model; there no longer seems to be a hinge in the middle of the chassis, and the suspension is firmly compliant rather than soft and springy.

But power is nothing without control. Previous Softails have not been known for their handling performance. The Dynas were marginally better, but with their twin rear shocks they didn’t have the classic look that Harley owners desired and their sales suffered for it. As I ventured off the freeway and onto twistier two-lane, it became immediately apparent that Harley’s efforts to improve handling while maintaining the all-important Softail look were successful.

If I said the 2018 Heritage Classic is Harley’s sport tourer, would you believe me?

For starters, the steel frame is all-new, with a steeper rake and tighter trail than before, and it is mostly responsible for the claimed 32-pound weight loss from 2017 to 2018. Harley also claims a 34-percent increase in chassis stiffness and a 60-percent increase in overall stiffness, all of which was backed up by my seat-of-the-pants impression. On a photo shoot on tight, technical Figueroa Mountain Road, I was flinging the new Heritage (which outweighs me 6-to-1) through transitions that would’ve had the ’17 model floundering and out of control. Hard-mounted to the frame, the dual-balanced Milwaukee-Eight now contributes to that increased overall stiffness, while magically transmitting satisfying vibes at idle and on acceleration, but once at cruising altitude (up to about 75 mph) it’s smooth and all-day comfortable.

2018 Harley Heritage Classic
Torque peaks early and stays readily available throughout most of the rev range, and there’s enough horsepower on tap to make freeway speed passing a breeze.

The other half of the handling equation is the new Showa suspension, which now features a cartridge-style Showa Dual Bending Valve (SDBV) fork with 5.1 inches of travel and a new rear single shock with a generous 4.5 inches. The new components offer a ride that’s less plush, but instead is firmly compliant and—there’s that word again—sporty. Damping is more linear and predictable, allowing me to take advantage of the newly increased lean angles—up about three degrees on each side—even on bumpy, uneven pavement. Unlike the other new Softails, neither the Heritage nor Deluxe models have visible remote rear spring preload adjusters, which Harley says would look too modern on such classically styled machines. On the Heritage preload is easily changed by putting a wrench on a hydraulic remote under the rider’s seat.

2018 Harley Heritage Classic
Snagging this sunset shot as the fog flowed up the mountain toward us was a must, and I was thankful for the Heritage Classic’s Daymaker LED auxiliary lights when it came time to head home in the pitch black.

Now, before the flaming letters of outrage are penned, I don’t mean to claim that the Heritage is an actual sport tourer, especially compared to today’s sophisticated, 160-horsepower, electronic suspension- and cornering ABS-equipped machines. It could use another front brake disc to help rein in all that Milwaukee metal, and even with the chassis improvements its lean angles are conservative compared to a true sport tourer. But if you want the Big Twin experience and you still like having a little fun in the twisties, the relatively lightweight and newly flickable Heritage might be a better option than Harley’s bigger Touring models.

2018 Harley Heritage Classic
One of my biggest gripes about the 2017 model was addressed, with the sit-back-and-beg seating position reconfigured to put the rider slightly forward, with lower bars and a more angled-back windshield.

To match this sportier character, the riding position on the new Heritage has been tweaked slightly. The plush saddle feels more dished (although seat height is roughly the same), with better lumbar support than before, and the handlebar is angled farther back and lower; I found the combination to be more comfortable than the 2017 model. The removable windshield is the same size, but is angled farther back so that the top no longer sits right in my line of sight, and the high-frequency thrum I experienced on my Indiana ride is gone, but it’s been replaced by some heavier buffeting that was enough to push my helmeted head around a bit. The controls will be familiar to any Harley owner, with the addition of a switch that toggles through the options on the new LCD display incorporated into the traditional tank-mounted analog speedometer, which now includes a digital fuel gauge. Cruise control and ABS are standard.

2018 Harley Heritage Classic
The auxiliary lights appear to be shrouded when they’re off, but it’s a clever ruse. When switched on, it’s the dark “shrouds” that light up, bathing the roadside in bright blue-white light.

Heading back down Figueroa Mountain in the dark (the price we pay for epic sunset shots), I got a chance to test the effectiveness of the Heritage’s new Daymaker LED lights. Those “shrouded” auxiliary lights are a clever ruse, by the way. A closer look reveals that what look like dark covers are actually curved reflectors, and when switched on it’s the shiny center strips that go dark. They bathed the sides of the road in bright white light, giving me some peace of mind as I carefully descended the tight switchbacks.

2018 Harley Heritage Classic
The redesigned dash now features a digital fuel gauge. The rider can choose between two tripmeters, an odometer, range to empty, a clock or engine RPM on the LCD display, while the speedometer is a good old-fashioned analog dial.

After spending some quality time with it, I came away impressed with this new Heritage. Its looks aren’t for everyone, but I think Harley is heading in the right direction as it attempts to navigate the changing whims of motorcycle buyers and entice the next generation into its dealerships. Now I’ve got my eye on the new Fat Bob, wondering how much luggage I can strap to it….

Jenny’s Gear
Helmet: Shoei Neotec
Jacket: Olympia Janis
Pants: Joe Rocket Alter Ego
Boots: Dainese Bahia

2018 Harley-Davidson Heritage Classic

Base Price: $18,999
Price as Tested: $21,049 (114ci engine, two-tone paint)
Warranty: 2 yrs., unltd. miles
Website: harley-davidson.com


Type: Air/oil-cooled, transverse 45-degree V-twin
Displacement: 1,868cc (114ci)
Bore x Stroke: 102.0 x 114.3mm
Compression Ratio: 10.5:1
Valve Train: OHV, 4 valves per cyl.
Valve Insp. Interval: NA
Fuel Delivery: Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection
Lubrication System: Wet sump, 5.0-qt. cap.
Transmission: 6-speed, cable-actuated assist clutch
Final Drive: Belt


Ignition: Electronic
Charging Output: 546 watts max.
Battery: 12V 17.5AH


Frame: Tubular-steel double cradle w/ rectangular backbone & triangulated steel swingarm
Wheelbase: 64.2 in.
Rake/Trail: 30 degrees/5.5 in.
Seat Height: 26.8 in.
Suspension, Front: 49mm stanchions, no adj., 5.1-in. travel
Rear: Single shock, adj. for spring preload, 4.5-in. travel
Brakes, Front: Single 300mm disc w/ opposed 4-piston caliper & ABS
Rear: Single 292mm disc w/ floating 2-piston caliper & ABS
Wheels, Front: Spoked, 3.0 x 16 in.
Rear: Spoked, 3.0 x 16 in.
Tires, Front: 130/90-B16
Rear: 150/80-B16
Wet Weight: 722 lbs. (as tested)
Load Capacity: 438 lbs. (as tested)
GVWR: 1,160 lbs.


Fuel Capacity: 5.0 gals., last 1.0 gal. warning light on
MPG: 91 PON min. (low/avg/high) 34.9/46.6/51.2
Estimated Range: 233 miles
Indicated RPM at 60 MPH: 2,200

**There have been some questions about the location of the USB port on this bike as well as all the 2018 Softails. Below is a picture of it on a 2018 Fat Bob. It is located on the left side of the frame neck just in front of the gas tank.






  1. Thanks, Jenny. I demoed the new Heritage last weekend and am thinking of trading in an Ultra Limited Low on one. The difference is weight made it so much maneuverable.

    • I did that, Steve! I traded my 2015 Limited Low on the 2018 Heritage. Other than the windshield, radio and tourpak – I haven’t looked back. I’m happy with my trade, for sure.

  2. Why does Harley get a pass on their saddlebags, when the accepted standard is big enough to hold a full face helmet? And sport tourer? Give us a break.

    • I’m no old man in a rocking chair and I love this bike. I traded my ’94 Fatboy and bought my ’18 because of the color (Red Iron Denim) and absolutely love it. It’s fast, it’s quick, it’s agile and it’s light. Who needs a frigging radio on a motorcycle anyway?

  3. Thanks for a great review. I hesitate test riding one of these since I’d probably want to trade in my HD Switchback for one. They seem to have addressed most of the criticisms I had of the FLD (suspension, lights, and power). Yes, it is not perfect, but what bike is? One thing though, would you mind verifying your HP/Ft lbs #’s for the TC 103? They look a lot more like the M8 107 #’s than the TC 103’s. Thanks again for the review.

    • We dyno tested our 2014 Street Glide Special with the High Output Twin Cooled 103 at 78.5 hp and 94.8 lb-ft of torque (the story was published in the February 2014 issue), but we also tested a 2015 Road Glide Special with the same engine at only 72.8 hp and 92 lb-ft. Then we tested a 2017 Street Glide Special with the Touring version of the Milwaukee-8 107 at 77.3 hp and 105.8 lb-ft. The thing about dyno numbers: they are highly dependent on variables like ambient temperature/humidity, how well an engine was broken in and even what tires are on the bike. The software on the dyno can also be a factor, which is why we use one tester only: Jett Tuning here in Camarillo, CA. I hope that helps! -Jenny

  4. Many purists will challenge my decision I’m sure, but I just traded my 2017 Dyna Low Rider S for the the new Heritage. I’m blown away with the new handling and power characteristics of this new bike… Honestly, there’s no comparison. The DLS, while fun is just no match (except for looks) with the new FLHC! I’m still shocked that I did the deal, but there is no denying the new M8 and the new Softtail chassish… HD has really nailed it!

  5. can someone please send me a pic or post it of the usb port that is supposedly on the heritage is it invisible because i don’t see ti anywhere in any pics of these bikes

  6. Traded a 2018 FLHXSANN in on a 2018 Anniversary Heritage Classic. Heritage is 100 pds lighter and much more nimble than The Special. Down graded to a bike 6k less..but glad I did.

  7. Thank you for this writ-up,,, I’m just got back to riding last year buying a 2000 lowrider which I rode for just over 2k miles till totaling it in a minor side ,,, the incident all due to a leaning mistake. I’ll be purchasing a new bike and going right back to that curve again. In reviewing Harleys 2018 lower-rider, Deluxe and Heritage. At 70yrs old I’m thinking the Deluxe and or Heritage would best fit my Pa back road and highway riding although highways minimum. Any comment would be appreciated..

  8. When the 2018 Heritage specs came out I was impressed . Your review has showed me that I was on the right track . It’s too bad I can’t afford one .S.S doesn’t cut it. If I had one I would ride it all over the country.

  9. I haven’t ridden in over twenty years or more got married a year or so ago my wife kept telling me she wish we had a bike so I surprised her bought a Suzuki C 50 T 2015 loved it smooth good power for 800 cc put over 15 k miles on it in ten months was cleaning it one morning before going riding and the chrome was rusting and flaking off went to Slidell Harley looking for a stereo for the Suzuki saw a 2010 used triumph thunderbird test drove it was nice but felt wrong so the salesman who I followed was on heritage softail so we switched bikes I owned a Harley in early eighties low rider I hated it heavy oil leaking but this new Harley its like Awsome brakes great smooth as glass torque for days been having for six days now almost time for break in service oh yes I got the 107 motor wow very fast will go on command in almost every gear torque for days thanks Harley I never thought I would buy another Harley but the ride and handling superb convinced me Bravo

  10. I’d like to add my comments If I may! I just purchased a 2018 heritage classic and this is my first bike ever. Been wanting to ride for a long time and just never made the move, but finally did. My only regret is I waited so long. I absolutely love the heritage classic 107. My son purchased a dyna and we are burning up the highway. I’m 59 and this was the perfect pic for me.

  11. I bought my 2018 Heritage 114 last summer. I have had problems with a rubbing noise since I got it. It has been in the shop 3 times and still not fixed. Evidently, it is a drive belt issue with the belt moving sideways a bit. This has been an unpleasant experience since it was an expensive bike and I don’t feel I have received my full value since this problem can not be fixed. Harley knows about this as has not come up with a good remedy. After owning a 2006 Heritage for 12 years with no problems, it has been disheartening and frustrating. Other than this constant problem, the handling is great, the look is really nice, and power super.

    • I have a 2108 ,107,heritage and have the same rubbing noise that comes and goes. more when we double up. Any new developments , Did any fix work . I also need help.

    • Your belt is to tight. At the 1000 mile the dealer is supposed to loosen it it. Mine was the same. They neglected to do it at the first service. Mine made a squealing noise as you were slowing down. Its on a service bulletin.

  12. Jefffromn.c. not everyone weighs 98lbs. Build a bike for the 300 or 400 lbs. Riders that yearn to ride.

  13. My Heritage is ungodly hot – both on the right side front near the calf of the leg and on the left side, beneath the seat – sort of where your keychain hangs out when you have your chain wallet in your left back jeans pocket. Any solutions?

  14. I Have burned my right leg pretty good. I’m 5’7″ and I have to kick both legs away from bike when stoped. When I forget about this the bike reminds me . going to get a exhaust guard . The Primary Ill have to accept as hot. thought of higher boots, but yes very hot.

  15. Jenny, how tall are you? Wondering how the ergonomics fit you, specifically the handlebars and foot controls? I’m 5’8″ and considering switching from my 17′ Road Glide Special to a 18′ or 19′ Heritage. I had a 13′ Switchback customized for me and it was amazing. Unfortunately, it got a major leak and need a ton of work so I stepped up to the RGS. But I’ve been wanting to get something more right sized for me. The Heritage reminds me so much of my Switchback, but newer and addressing the core challenges I had with the FLD.

    • Hi Jordan, I’m 5’9″ and was very comfortable on the Heritage. Not too big, not too small. 🙂 I’d say it would fit you quite nicely as well. -Jenny

  16. I own a 2014 flstc I’ve added progressive rear shocks with rap and progressive mono Tube cartridges on front. Made a world of difference in handling especially on twisties. I just finished a 5 day road trip and rode Tail of the Dragon, the snake , Back of the Dragon and a lot of country roads. My disappointment with my bike is the continual scraping of my floor boards. I was considering moving to a Road King but what’s holding me back is the size and weight of that bike. It definitely has a greater lean angle than my Heritage. After reading your article, I Checked into lean angle of the 2018 and newer and they have increased the lean angle. I’m 65 1/2 years old and I would prefer to stay with the Heritage instead of going to the Road King.
    Nice article Thank you

  17. My heritage is one of the best rides I’ve ever owned. A bit heavy for a 5’9” 150 lb rider but, once you get moving it’s a dream ride. As my first cruiser, I was quite surprised at how easy and comfortable it is for long rides. My last bike was a Fat Bob and I truly thought it was the best Harley ever built. Low vibration, great handling and tremendous power. But, the heritage rides so much smoother and is so comfortable for long rides, it’s like comparing a VW bug to a Cadillac. Best investment I’ve ever made in a bike. And, it’s worth more now, two years later, than it was when I bought it. Nobody builds a bike like Harley. I’m sixty one and my next bike will be a Harley too.

  18. I have a 2018 Heritage Classic with the 114
    My gas tank is only 3.5 gals ,was this a mistake on HD or what ,all specs I’ve looked into say it’s 5gal…
    Any advice on this and answers as well

  19. That was an enjoyable and pretty thorough review – thank you!
    And the marvelous scenery of the central California coast just adds to it. Also, as regards the ‘writ large’ commentary, I’m afraid both you and Clem are incorrect in utilizing it/thinking that that terminology refers to something that is written, it does not. Without looking it up in the dictionary I can tell you that it’s an impression or conclusion of a situation or circumstance, if you will, not the other. This is the peril we face when endeavoring to sorta’ being Uber intellectual, but maybe you guys’ use of the term when describing the script on the fender was more done with sarcasm, but it didn’t strike me as such. In any event…
    From southern California ~ Ride Forever!

  20. Your belt is to tight. At the 1000 mile the dealer is supposed to loosen it it. Mine was the same. They neglected to do it at the first service. Mine made a squealing noise as you were slowing down. Its on a service bulletin.

  21. A fellow has a 2-tone 2018 107 for sale with 6,700 miles for $11,700 I have loved my 2019 Gold Wing Tour manual but like changing things up every 4-5 years. My last HD was a 2008 ultra I loved. But, the GW is just a.comfortable cruise missile that does everything very-very well and handles its weight low – surprisingly easy to move around under leg power before you get underway. As much as I sort of miss the HD family, I love putting on miles in any weather above about 45 degrees. Heated grips, seat, radio/Bluetooth, 6 cylinders and a legendary reputation for high miles. 40k miles on an HD….I’ll pass. 40k on a Wing barely broken in. You almost had me back HD but you don’t have anything to get me back just quite yet.


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