Harley-Davidson Softail Front Wheel Upgrade

I WAS planning on riding down to Melbourne to catch up with some mates but a major service was due and two new tyres were required on the Softail. I was also thinking about getting a wider rim on the front but still keeping it 21 inches. The major reason for the desire for extra width was that, I when I got a bit exuberant with my riding, I could feel the front wheel pushing out on downhill corners and so was hoping a larger contact patch may give me more handling.

Had been looking and thinking for a while, as you do, so I thought I’d better get off my arse and sort something out. I rang around a few Harley dealers to see what was available and ended up talking to Empire Harley-Davidson in Kangaroo Flat, Bendigo, Victoria. 

A bit of technical talk with John about what wheel would fit in my bike—an early Harley Softail Standard—due consideration being given to the wider rim width and whether the hub and axle spaces would suit; also what tyre size would fit under my front guard. As it was, they had just upgraded the wheels on a new Breakout and had a wheel in stock to try. I decided to give it a shot. 

I had to be at the workshop at sparrow’s fart so they had maximum time if things went pear-shaped so I stayed overnight in Bendigo and rocked up nice and early after a Macca’a breakfast. John had since talked to Jake, the mechanic, and they had a plan.

Nothing for me to do then but have a look around the shop, make a coffee and read the paper.

Harley-Davidson Softail

John comes out to keep me updated and we wander out back to see the progress. Jake has finished the servicing. I had hoped to reduce the idle speed a bit but since I didn’t have my module with me that will have to wait. However, Jake reckons the brake disc will line up okay with the new wheel and he can use the old hub bearing spacer with new bearings… fingers crossed.

A little while later another workshop conference about the front guard fitment and then, with a bit of tweaking, all is good. I am one happy camper as it looks tough. Jake heads out for a test ride to ensure all is well then it’s time to settle up. The boys organise to freight my old wheel back to Albury for me and I am on my way. Couldn’t ask for better service.  

I hit a hailstorm not far out of Bendigo and hid in a bus shelter; didn’t get real wet but afterwards I had to ride on melting hail for a while. The front-end felt very stable, more so than before, especially on bitumen cracks and joins. 

I have since done a trip to Tassie and I am very happy with the upgrade. The Softail Standard is a little slower to turn into corners with the wider tyre but I have adapted. It’s terrific with tram tracks and those wooden planked bridges. Hoping for a bit more mileage over the previous skinny front as well. I’ll keep you updated on that one.

Ride safe.

article submitted Stewie from Albury

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