What Is a Softail Motorcycle?

2022 Harley-Davidson Softail Standard

What is a softail motorcycle, and how does it differ from a hardtail? The vast majority of new bikes are softails, which use a two-part frame and a separate rear suspension to deliver a smoother ride. Hardtails have a one-piece frame, which some riders prefer because it offers a more direct connection with the road. If you’re interested in learning more, read on! Below, Ted's Motorcycle World dives into some Harley history with a brief breakdown of hardtail vs. softail motorcycles.

Hardtail vs. Softail Motorcycle Design & Ride Quality

What is a softail motorcycle able to do that a hardtail can’t? Plenty—and it’s for good reason that Harley softail models are the most popular choice nowadays: their two-part frames separate the rear suspension from the front, and use a pair of shocks that extend and compress to absorb bumps in the road. This makes them much more comfortable on long rides in Granite City and beyond.

The softail is actually an evolution of the hardtail, which ruled the roads until the late 70s. However, it’s harder than you might think for an untrained eye to spot the difference between a hardtail vs. softail motorcycle. Softails were designed to retain the stripped-down look of the hardtail—to the point that their ride-enhancing shock absorbers are often hidden behind the transmission for a sleeker look.

What Harley Softail Models Are Available?

Harley softail models comprise the entire new bike lineup—from Sportsters to touring bikes to cruisers—so you can’t buy a new hardtail off the lot. That said, there are no limits when it comes to customizing or building a bike from the ground up. You can find a wide array of custom hardtail frames from aftermarket suppliers that are compatible with Harley models. Finding a vintage hardtail model and repurposing its frame is another option you may want to consider. 

Edwardsville and St Charles, MO riders can shop a lineup of Harley softail models that currently includes:

  • Softail Standard
  • Street Bob 114
  • Low Rider S
  • Low Rider ST
  • Fat Boy 114
  • Fat Bob 114

Explore Harley Softail Models at Ted's Motorcycle World

Our team of longtime H-D enthusiasts is here to help you get in the saddle of the bike that’s right for you. Feel free to contact us with any questions you may still have about hardtail vs. softail motorcycle comfort, performance, and features—or head out to our dealership in Alton for a test ride today!


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