Pros: Beautiful, Sturdy, Strong running, Comfortable
2000 Harley-Davidson Heritage Springer Softail
This is one of the bikes that has become a classic in its own time. The Harley Softail is a line of bikes that was introduced in 1984 and has been continuously upgraded since with several models like the Fat Boy, the Custom, and the Heritage Softail Classic. The Softail recaptures the sleek look of the old rigid frame Harleys from 1957 and before but adds hidden shock absorbers to tame the ride. This style has been very successful and has been copied by the Japanese but the feel and sound of the old H-D motor is still outside their capability.
The Springer was also re-introduced on the Softail, a retro touch that dated back to the early years of Harley-Davidson and had spanned the first half century when the original Springer fork was finally discontinued in 1952.
The Harley Springer fork is a front end that mates two parallel forks; the fixed fork attached to the steering head and the movable fork attached to the wheel via a link that spans between the fixed fork and the wheel axle with shock absorbing springs at the top that the movable fork works against. There is also a small shock absorber that damps the springs. This is known as a leading link suspension and reminds you of the old bicycle forks that had a somewhat similar arrangement, but not near so cool looking. This fork has been used on several Softail models but the most luxurious one is the Heritage Springer like this one.
Where most Springer forks are found on fairly stripped Softails, the Heritage model adds footboards and saddlebags, running lights, a big comfortable seat, and windshield; many of the features offer much comfort to the rider above and beyond the simple sound of the parts. The bike also has a chrome Springer horn modeled after the old ones from the 40's.
The Heritage Springer has a large seat, footboards, and a windshield which makes the creature comfort a lot better than bikes without the amenities. The saddlebags are a throwback to the 50s with flaps and zippers that need to be undone to get inside. It does keep the rainwater out but it makes you think twice before you go into the insides unless you really need to. The later bikes have quick disconnects on the saddlebags but these have all the real fasteners to do and undo. The seat is tooled like the saddlebags with leather skirts, basket weave tooling, fringe, and silver conchos to give a real retro appearance. There are a few reflectors on the bike leather to aid visibility as well.
The 2000 Heritage Springer is equipped with the Twin Cam B engine which is an upgrade from the Evolution engine that powered the older models. The Twin Cam B is redesigned from the ground up and has internal balancers to tame the vibration that was a feature of the older Harleys and one that many remembered as a detriment. The Twin Cam B also is more powerful than the 80 cubic inch (1340 cc) Evolution, which is a welcome addition. The Twin Cam B displaces 88 cubic inches or 1450 cc. You can feel the extra horses and they are welcome on the large ~ 800 lb bike.
The engine on this 2000 model has a carburetor so that means choke the cold bike and crank it up but let it warm up a few minutes before you take off so you can turn off the choke. The newer bikes have fuel injection and that gives you a little more flexibility but you want to have all your handling available when you navigate through the parking area as once the engine warms up it speeds up quite a bit and releasing the throttle twist grip doesn't allow the motor to go back to idle with the choke engaged. This unexpectedly high rpm behavior can introduce you to some interesting handling problems that are better left unexplored. Just remember, let a bike with a choke warm up so you can push in the choke. That will give you the best low speed maneuverability where you can really exert control using the engine, clutch, and rear brake.
The transmission is five speeds with the top gear best used at 50 MPH and above on open stretches to avoid lugging the engine if you have to slow down. The power of the bike is very good and driving it around the town is quite comfortable. Acceleration is brisk but this is no crotch rocket so it is great for cruising but will not necessarily beat any other bike you meet in speed.
The bike rides well with the windshield and the headlights and running lights give you a lot of presence for other drivers to see. The tombstone taillight is not so visible from the back and I would look at adding some light there for safety - mine, not somebody else's. On bikes you need to keep them from hitting you! Being seen is one strategy. Another is keeping your eyes moving and staying out of compromising situations if at all possible.
The Springer fork is very comfortable and solid feeling and it rides better due to its stiffness in terms of general handling and braking than the available hydraulic front ends but it does not have the lengthy up and down travel of the hydraulic for running over huge pot holes. Riding over pot hole infested roads therefore will be better left to a Glide (hydraulic shock absorber) front end. I usually avoid rough roads if I can so the Springer is very good and the handling is far better than most riders would imagine. When you put on the brakes hard you don't get the nose dive like you do with the hydraulic units, so to my perceptions the handling is better with the Springer in most cases.
My analysis of the front ends, having owned both a Springer and a Hydraglide equipped Harley is that the Springer is more expensive to produce and that is probably the reason Harley went to the hydraulic telescoping forks because it made it cheaper to produce the motorcycle. True that the old Springers from the 40s and back maybe did not handle as well but through examining the mechanism and riding the bike I believe that the Harley-Davidson company as it currently exists has spent a lot of hours perfecting the engineering on their Springer fork. Even though the modern one looks like the old ones it has handling that beats a hydraulic front end on the same type of bike. That tells me the new H-D company is willing to walk the walk and make their old fashioned technology work - not just appeal to nostalgia fans. With this Harley Heritage you get all the appearance of the classic cruiser with up to date handling and a more powerful engine than the old bikes had. This Springer is fully show chromed, also, and looks better than the antique painted ones.
The controls are like all bikes today, with clutch and foot shifter on the left and brakes on the right. The headlight dimmer and horn is on the left hand grip and the kill button and starter button is on the right with turn signal buttons on either side. The main switch is mounted on the tank console where the speedometer is. The key switch is under a flip top cover and once unlocked you can put the key in your pocket and turn the knob itself.
In closing, riders like me who like Harleys know that the appearance is a big part of the equation. We know we are not going to be the fastest bike on the street but we will get there in style and people will notice our Milwaukee Iron. If you keep Harleys in nice condition they will be worth pretty much what you paid for them so that is attractive, too. How many vehicles can you say that about - not many. This 2000 Heritage Springer is a great looking cruiser for anybody who wants to ride a Hog, be comfortable, and look good doing it.