2012 Harley FLSTC Heritage Softail Classic Review

Here’s a surefire way to stir up the troops at the local biker watering hole: after grabbing a handful of beer nuts and repositioning your frosty mug in front of you, casually mention to those gathered round how you think that the Heritage Softail Classic — one of the long-standing models in Harley-Davidson’s vaunted lineup — makes such a fine bagger. Or calmly suggest that this Softail is a suitable everyday rider, a hog that you can rely on for work or play. Or if you really want to shake up the beer nuts, you can quote from Harley’s own propaganda sheet, citing that the FLSTC is a “custom-touring bike” like no other in the American V-twin market. Having done so, sit back to watch and listen as everyone gathered will assuredly voice his opinion on the matter, because the Heritage Softail Classic is a bike that is viewed differently by different people. More beer nuts, anyone?

No doubt, anybody who has spent time on a Heritage Softail’s two-piece saddle will have something notable to add to this debate. That’s because the FLSTC is a bike with a loyal following that dates back to 1986 when Harley-Davidson launched the Evo-powered FLST Softail Classic. That model paid homage to the original Hydra Glide of 1949, and almost overnight a classic was born. The following year, saddlebags and a windscreen found their way onto the Softail Classic, creating the FLSTC Heritage Softail Classic, and Harley has been making that model ever since. A low center of gravity, coupled with an equally low seat height (claimed 25-1/2″ off the deck), translates into an easy-to-manage ride for practically anybody to straddle the saddle. Well-placed footboards and a high-rise handlebar lends to ergonomics that, to this day, are unsurpassed in terms of riding comfort and control for the rider. If there’s a downside to the comfort factor, it’s the current passenger pillion’s configuration that digs into the small of the rider’s back. Otherwise, it’s pretty much the same seating position today as in past model years.

That first-ever Heritage Softail Classic pretty much nailed it in terms of styling, too. Even though 1980s technology prevailed — like today, the early FLSTC used disc brakes and was powered by Harley’s latest-at-the-time Evolution V2 engine — the Classic lived up to its name thanks in large part to its timeless styling. And if you park today’s Heritage Softail Classic beside one of the original Evo-powered editions, at a glance you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference between the two.

But in terms of performance, a lot has changed to make today’s FLSTC Heritage Softail the top of its class. The current Twin Cam engine displaces 103″, making it the most powerful Big Twin yet to reside in the Softail frame. Harley claims 96.9 ft-lbs. of torque (at 3000 rpm), which is over
4.5 ft-lbs. more than the 96″ engine that it replaces, while the single-cam Evo engine usually generated about 80 ft-lbs. at 4000 rpm (claimed).

But beyond improved specification figures on the printed page, today’s 103″ engine feels peppier in its all-around performance. Shifting through the Cruise Drive transmission’s six gears, you get the feeling that this engine likes to rev, which it does. Our acceleration figures revealed that the 96.9 ft-lbs. of torque propel the 730-pound (claimed dry weight) FLSTC from 20 mph to 50 mph in second gear in 3.4 seconds. A similar roll-on test in fifth gear paced the FLSTC from 60 to 80 mph in 4.7 seconds. Cruising in top gear at 70 mph, the engine churns out a lazy 2600 rpm (indicated on the digital readout), so there’s still torque to be found if you want to casually accelerate without downshifting to pass a vehicle ahead of you. In that context, the FLSTC shines as a daily rider because you can expect good performance when riding from Point A to Point B. The FLSTC stops equally well, and our ABS-equipped (optional package) test bike took 24′ to brake from 30 mph to a standing stop.

That same performance applies when taking a road trip on the Heritage Softail, too, but there’s even more good news to consider: Harley-Davidson claims a combined fuel consumption rate of 42 miles per gallon, and with a five-gallon capacity in those Fat Bob tanks, that gives a range of about 200 miles. Our best mileage figure yielded 45 mpg (admittedly, unusual for our heavy-handed riding techniques!), giving an effective range of about 225 miles.

Generally, though, we averaged about 40 mpg with our bike. But long-distance riding is more than simply going the distance in between fuel stops. You need cargo capacity, too, and again, the FLSTC shines because those two leather non-locking saddlebags can stow away more gear than you might think. You can also strap a buddy-bar bag to the backrest for additional gear, should you need additional space.

After reaching your destination, you might want to cruise the boulevard at night, so the detachable windscreen can be removed in seconds. No tools required, either. Just place the screen in your motel room and go prowl the night.

You won’t be embarrassed by the FLSTC’s looks, either. Our bike’s optional two-tone paint scheme (for an MSRP of $18,054; the Vivid Black base model retails for $17,349) drew plenty of comments whenever we stopped for fuel or food, and the Heritage Softail is proof that you can never have too much chrome on a Harley.

The 2012 model is the first Heritage Softail Classic to utilize Harley-Davidson’s new tubeless, chromed aluminum, lace-spoke wheels, and the wide whitewall tires certainly help bring attention to those hoops. At 16″ diameter, tire sizes remain pretty much in check, too. No fat tires here, folks.

There you have it — timeless styling mixed with Harley’s most current technology, and a heritage that dates back to 1986. Today’s Heritage Softail Classic is truly a classic example of Harley-Davidson’s time-honored heritage. AIM

NEW BIKE REVIEW: By Dain Gingerelli

As published in the September 2012 issue of American Iron Magazine.

Comments

  1. I’ve always loved the look and style of this bike but would never spend the money, finally gave in when I saw a 2012 in Midnight Blue and Silver Pearl. We are macth made in heaven and will never part. I picked her up on June 29th and today she has over 15,000 miles on her.

  2. Marlene Miciunas says:

    Always wanted one but knew they were pricey so instead bought new 2001 HD ElectraGlide. Recently sold Electraglide (nice too) and bought 2012 Heritage. Absolutely love it. Love the ride, handles bars, floorboards, bags, and the classic look is priceless. Will be my forever bike.

  3. A higher steering torque will in particular improve control properties and ballencepunkt into something more comfortable and controlled driving in small curves

  4. I bought my 2012 Heritage on August 30, 2011. It now has 17,000 trouble free miles on it. This past August I rode it from central North Carolina to Sturgis! It was a great trip and look forward to many more years of riding my Big Blue Pearl baby.

  5. michael gilling says:

    I bought mine back in March, right at the beginning of the “hot season” and put about 5,000 miles on it when temperatures were around 115 – 120 deg F. Stopping in traffic and at red lights was, “Sauna City”.

    Right now it’s a more comfortable 85 deg F and time for some real miles on a bike that’s perfect for a country with straight roads and the occasional roundabout. Cornering is not its strongpoint as it’s too easy to grind a footboard but give it some countersteer and it power steers through corners with no other effort on the riders part.

    The anti-vibration do-hickey works and lets you ride as far as you can go between gas stops without shedding parts or liquidising the blood in your fingers and ass. Power and torque are matched for the size of the bike if you remember it’s not a pocket rocket, it’s a poseur’s cruiser and you can carry far more on your travels in those capacious saddle bags than a can of coke and a cellphone like on an R1 Yamaha.

    Security is good, it’s a tremendous step up from the Sportster I had for twelve years but already the finish is beginning to deteriorate – and here, where it rains for one day in January is no laughing matter if you live in the UK where it constantly rains and the roads are heavily salted. The pot metal they use for the spokes is fading, the hand controls are showing signs of varnish spidering and the chrome is starting to pit otherwise it still looks showroom condition after six months in the sun and dust.

    To ride here you need something with presence and bulk or you’ll be a target for every 4×4 camel jockey on the road; speed limits are meant as a challenge, double white lines regularly crossed and tailgating is a way of life. Mirrors and indicators? Neglected. So any big Harley site planted and well visible in the road but you’re still riding in Gillette country.

    I paid a premium for mine, a little over $26,000. I guess the biggest difference is the shipping and insurance cost of bringing it from Milwaukee to the Middle East and dealer overhead but it was immedaitely available the service shop is professional and the HOG lot are strong and well organised even if I don’t join in. In fact, this little corner of the world is a biker’s paradise (except in summer) and even the daily commute, about fifteen miles each way is an absolute pleasure.

    I would warmly recommend the HSTC. It’s a living throwback to the VL’s

    .

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