2020 Harley-Davidson Softail Standard is a gateway drug for big American twins

The entry-level Softail provides huge style and a big motor for not too much money.

Seeing the Softail Standard on the street, many would be hard-pressed to tell that it's a brand-new bike.

Here at Roadshow, we tend to give Harley-Davidson its fair share of tough love. This is mostly down to the fact that we love the idea of well-built American motorcycles, but we kind of loathe the fact that, as a company, H-D has been slow to adapt to the changing motorcycle market. That's why we were totally floored when, on Monday, Harley announced its 2020 Softail Standard.

So, to those of you not fluent in H-D speak, the Softail line is a step up from the brand's entry-level American-made Sportster lineup. It's a step up both in terms of quality and performance, but also in cost. That's why we're stoked to see that the Softail Standard only costs $13,500. That's $1,000 less than the previous entry-level Softail -- the Street Bob. It's also around $2,000 more than the most expensive Sportster, with a much bigger engine.

Speaking of that engine, the Softails benefit from Harley's latest and greatest big-twin engine, the Milwaukee Eight. Now, when we say "latest and greatest," we're still speaking in relative terms because, folks, this is Harley-Davidson. The 107-cubic-inch (or 1,753-cc) version that's in the Standard is the smallest that the brand offers, but it still provides plentiful torque on what is a relatively small (for Harley, anyway) motorcycle.

The Softail Standard gets some other cool updates, too. It ditches the traditional dual-rear shocks that we see on many motos in this category and instead offers a rear monoshock. This aids in adjustability and should provide more modern damping should you decide to get a little silly on a curvy road. The front suspension may look old-timey with its right-side-up dampers, but it, too, is packing some tech -- namely that the fork is a cartridge-style unit that offers less weight and again, more competent damping.


Unlike some of the Harley touring bikes, the Softails are smaller and lighter -- ideal for smaller or less-experienced riders.


Other highlights on the Standard include the small, LED headlight and the totally trick integration of a gauge into the clamp that holds the chopper-lite handlebars. It's very slick and keeps the bike looking and feeling like your dad's old shovelhead, without making it ride like one.

One area where we'd like to see Harley get a little more with the program is rider aids. The Street Glide we tested recently had Harley's perfectly competent RDRS suite of rider aids, but the Softail Standard -- at half the cost of the Street Glide -- doesn't get the same tech. Even antilock brakes are optional, to the tune of $795, something that is totally unacceptable from any motorcycle company in 2020, though to be totally fair, Harley is far from the only company to go this route.

We're pretty excited about the Softail Standard here at Roadshow, and that's a good thing because we've already got one for review. You can expect that and lots more two-wheeled content very soon.

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