Without a proper suspension system, the tires of your motorcycle would easily lose traction, especially on uneven terrains. Not to mention, your ride would be jumpy and harsh. But are you aware that some bikes like the hardtail come with only the front suspension?
Softail motorcycles, on the other hand, incorporate both the rear and front suspension systems. As such, they tend to offer a more comfortable ride than hardtail bikes.
However, a Softail bike looks almost similar to a hardtail. Therefore, knowing how to differentiate them especially if you are a beginner can be challenging. So, to help you, below, we’ll look at some of the key Softail vs hardtail motorcycle differences.
What Is A Softail Motorcycle?
This is a type of bike with a rear suspension. At first glance, you might mistake it for a hardtail motorcycle. This is because its rear suspension springs are located out of direct view. So, until you take a closer look at a Softail bike, you might think that it does not have a rear suspension just like hardtail bikes.
Essentially, a Softail bike comes with shock absorbers and a swing-arm type of frame. However, you will find that the shock absorbers and springs are mounted underneath the bike’s frame rather than outside.
Typically, most bike manufacturers will only mimic the hardtail-type suspension. This is because it’s only the Harley-Davidson Motorcycle company that bears the patent on the terminology Softail. As such, you won’t find any other bike brand using this name in its product line.
What Is A Hardtail motorcycle?
Any motorcycle with no rear suspension is referred to as a hardtail. This type of a bike comes with its rear axle mounted directly onto the bobber frame just like a chopper motorcycle. However, it does come with a front suspension fork.
Also worth mentioning is that a hard-tail bike normally comes with only a single piece of frame as opposed to two. More so, it lacks a swingarm, unlike a Softail bike. Consequently, this gives Sportster hardtail bikes a unique and streamlined look.
Hardtail Vs Softail Motorcycle: Major Differences
Since Softail bikes are built to mimic hardtail motorcycles in terms of design, you might be wondering, what are their differences? Scroll down to find out more concerning hardtail vs Softail differences.
This is one of the major things that differentiate a hardtail from a Softail motorcycle. Generally, bikes with a hardtail frame don’t come with a rear suspension system. What they have is a telescopic or similar suspended front fork system.
How about your Softail bike? Well, it comes with a rear suspension that is housed in a mini frame towards the back of your motorcycle. Typically, your Softail bike could either have a dual suspension or just a mono-shock suspension concealed underneath its body panels.
Since a hardtail chopper motorcycle does not incorporate a suspension system on the rear, you might not find it as comfortable as a Softail bike. This is because the rear end tends to bounce around, especially if you’re riding your bike on a tough road. Therefore, you might find it uncomfortable to ride for long hours without resting in between. For this reason, it can make a good cafe racer.
As for Softail bikes, they come with an improved suspension system and modern technology. Their rear suspension system helps minimize road vibration and bounce. As such, you can ride them in comfort all day long without the need to take a rest.
Stability in bumps
When it comes to the stability of your hardtail bike, the front suspension plays a major role over the rear one. And since a hardtail motorcycle comes with a front suspension fork, you can expect its stability in bumps to be relatively good. However, compared to a Softail bike, you might not find it very stable since it does not come with a rear suspension.
While Harley Davidson Softail motorcycles are designed to look like a hardtail, you will find them more stable in bumps. Their added rear suspension helps reduce the chances of external forces affecting your ride. As a result, you end up having an easy time controlling them.
Although every motorcycle will have a slight vibration to it, a hardtail bike tends to vibrate more. Essentially, its rigid bobber frame and the lack of a rear suspension cause a lot of turbulence to be generated especially when riding on rough terrain. And because of these vibrations, you get to experience a more “road feel”.
As for Softail bikes, not only do they come with a rear-wheel suspension, but the wheel is also held in place by a swingarm. The suspension system simply helps to dampen vibrations and absorb shocks. This results in better handling of your motorcycle and reduced vibrations. And even at highway speeds, your Softail bike won’t buzz.
Another difference between hardtail and Softail bikes lies in their efficiency. Generally, you will find a hardtail motorcycle more efficient when riding on smooth terrain. And not just because of its lightweight design but also thanks to its rigid frame. The rigid frame helps to efficiently transfer power to the rear wheel for better performance.
However, you will probably find it less efficient on extremely rough or unpaved roads.
A Softail motorcycle, on the other hand, is efficient on both rough, unpaved, and smooth roads. Its suspension system ensures less bounce on the road. As a result, you can comfortably ride it at high speeds without issues. So, overall, a Softail bike seems to be more efficient than its hardtail counterpart.
Your hardtail motorcycle will come with a single-piece rigid frame. So, the rear wheel assembly is usually attached directly to the bobber frame. And because there is just one piece of the frame, a rear suspension is not included. The best thing about the rigid frame is that it can provide you with a slight advantage in cornering.
When it comes to a Softail chopper, it comes fitted with two pieces of frames as opposed to one. Some models, on the other hand, come with an A-frame and others a swingarm structure design. Essentially, a Softail frame usually includes a single rear shock absorber and a swingarm designed to provide you with a comfortable ride.
Another difference that you might not know about hardtail vs Softail bobber is their weight. Overall, a hardtail motorcycle weighs less than its Softail counterpart, thereby making it more agile. The reason for this is that it only comes with one bobber frame and no suspension system on its rear.
As for Harley Davidson Softail motorcycles, you can find different models that boast a lightweight design. Nonetheless, compared to hardtail bikes, they are relatively heavy since they come with two frames and a rear suspension system too.
Are Hardtail Motorcycles Dangerous?
Not really, so long as you know how to handle them in extreme bumping situations and avoid potholes. You must also know how to respond to gravel. However, because of their rigid frames, you might find them unforgiving to your back.
Are Hardtail Bobbers Uncomfortable?
Because of the lack of a rear suspension, you might not find a hardtail bike as comfortable as Softail choppers. Its rear end tends to bounce around causing so much discomfort. This means that if going on a long ride, you will need to take a rest after every hour to relieve pressure on your back.
What Does Soft Tail On A Harley Mean?
Softail is simply a registered trademark of Harley-Davidson. Basically, it used to refer to bikes with a rear suspension or shock absorbers hidden out of your view.
How To Identify My Harley Softail?
First, you should look out for two pieces of frames that are connected by a pivot joint. Then, under the engine of your bike, check if you can see two shock absorbers. This is because a hardtail motorcycle does not have any of these.
Both Softail and hardtail motorcycles have their own pros and cons. So, you will need to decide on which one to buy. And the best way to determine which of these bikes are best suited for your needs is to know their differences.
Generally, if you want to enjoy a smooth and comfortable ride, a Softail bike should be an excellent choice for you. Unlike a hardtail chopper motorcycle, it comes with a rear suspension and shock absorbers to minimize vibrations and also absorb shock.
However, if you’re interested in a lightweight bike that offers a more road feel experience, you should consider one with a hardtail frame. Because at the end of the day, both bike frames are great.