Harley Hardtail Vs. Softail Which One You Should Choose?

As many Harley-Davidson customers research their motorcycle options, they become curious about the difference between Hardtails and Softails. In the motorcycle industry as a whole, Harley-Davidson has made significant progress since it began production many years ago.

If you’ve been riding for a long time (especially Harley riders), you probably know what “Soft-tail” and “Hard-tail” refer to. However, as a new rider, you might find them confusing.

Exactly what are “soft-tail” motorcycles? Similarly, what are “hard-tail” motorcycles?

As the differences between Harley Hardtail Vs. Softail frames are intended to be so subtle; they can hardly be detected just by their aesthetics. On the roads, however, you can readily see the difference. Scroll down to find out more…

Harley Hardtail vs. Softail: A Quick Comparison Chart

You may be quizzed frequently about the difference between Softail and hardtail frames. The following comparison explains the primary differences between the two and presents a reference chart for quick comparison.

Harley HardtailHarley Softail
Maintainable and easier to assembleLess vibration on the road
Frame includes two piecesSingle piece
No rear suspensionHave a rear suspension
Weighs less than SoftailHeavier and slower than Hardtail
30% cheaper than comparable softailsMore comfortable for passengers
May trouble rough or unpaved roadsEasy to handle rough or unpaved roads
Hard to find out replacement partsAvailable

Harley Hardtail vs. Softail: In-Depth Discussion:

Apart from classification, another distinguishing characteristic is the type of frame that a motorcycle uses. Motorcycle frames fall into two basic categories: Softail and Hardtail. Read on for a complete overview.

What is Actually Hardtail & Softail?

Hardtail: No rear suspension and a rigid frame make these motorcycles challenging to ride! The hardtail frame is rigid and without suspension, usually involving a springer seat to preserve the rider’s spine. The frame of a hardtail bicycle is generally solid, and the front suspension fork is usually mounted to the frame.

Softail: A Softail motorcycle is a cruiser, chopper, or bagger based on long wheels. Harley-Davidson owns the term ‘Softail.’ A swingarm holds the wheel in place on these motorcycles with rear-wheel suspension. Sometimes, the suspension is concealed beneath the body panels. A soft-tail frame typically has either dual suspension or mono-shock suspension.

Body Type

As of 1984, Harley-Davidson introduced the first Softail body type. Since then, Softail and Hardtail bikes have dominated the motorcycle industry. Hardtails are constructed from a single piece, while Softails are designed from two parts.

Manufacturing Softail bodies are slightly more expensive than those of Harley-Davidsons due to their more intricate designs. However, the difference in costs appears not to be affecting consumer interest, and Softail motorcycles have proven to be the more popular of the two body shapes.


Hard-tails have a simple construction that gives them a unique character. For starters, there is no rear suspension. Consequently, the rider feels more “road feel.” While some riders appreciate these features, others enjoy a smooth ride. Since the suspension isn’t required, the upfront price will also be reduced. Additionally, installation and maintenance costs will be reduced.

Shock absorbers dampen Softail’s active suspension. Various configurations of shock absorbers are available, including horizontal and vertical mounting. For example, hydraulic shocks, air shocks, and coil-over shocks as well. Soft-tails use active suspension, which enhances a chopper’s overall handling. Riders will also feel less vibration on these bikes.

Stylish and Comfortable

A hardtail bike is constructed of simple parts and has no movable parts. They are easy to build, which is why novices are attracted to them. Compared with Softails, hardtails cost up to 30 percent cheaper to produce. Furthermore, they are less convenient and can’t be used for longer than an hour without a break.

Softails provide a better highway ride than hardtails. It’s a pleasure to ride on a Softail’s seat for an extended period. The suspension prevents highway vibration and bounce. Unfortunately, it is more costly, and more parts are required. The Softail is more prone to structural integrity problems compared to the Hardtail due to its more movable parts.


There is no rear suspension on Hardtail motorcycles because they are made with old-school rigid frames. In the early 20th century, most motorcycles were Hardtails. For long-distance riding, Hardtails are unsuitable due to their lack of suspension.

A swingarm with an “A-frame design” is used on Softail bikes to provide active suspension. In an effort to appeal to a broader consumer base, Harley-Davidson introduced the “Softail” term in 1984.

Rides Smoothly

In some ways, hardtails can be rough to ride. Although it has a telescopic or similarly suspended front fork, it does not have a rear suspension system. Only the tires, fork, and single seat with springs provide suspension. Seats for two were padded but without springs to cushion the trip. In terms of direct road feel, hardtails provided the same sensation.

Harley-Davidson’s Softail motorcycles were designed for riders who wanted more comfort while riding. A suspension system on Softail consists of horizontally mounted shock absorbers that are mounted underneath the frame. With its rigid structure, the Softail looks like a hardtail. Despite the bike’s classic look, it has a softer ride.


A hard-tail frame has been around for quite some time. Chopper builders prefer them because of their simple construction. Hard-tails are considered by most “old school” builders to embody the true spirit of a chopper. At the end of the day, the chopper was meant to be cheap, fast, lightweight, and without anything but the basics to handle the road.

The term “soft-tail” refers to motorcycle frames using active suspension. Regardless of whether it’s an A-frame or swingarm structure, the basic principles apply. In order to pivot, the suspension is mounted on a horizontal axle (see illustration of soft-tail suspension). Those who want a smoother ride, so they can prefer this type of frame.

Harley Hardtail Vs. Softail: Unique Qualities You Should Know

Harley Hardtail:

  • Hardtail motorcycles have an advantage in corners due to their rigid frame.
  • Hardtail motorcycle frames consist of a single piece.
  • On longer rides, the motorcycle transmits every bump to the rider.
  • There is also a nostalgic appeal to Hardtail bikes among Harley-Davidson collectors.
  • Over time, it has become increasingly challenging to find hardtail bodies.
  • The unique aspects and the historical value of hardtails still make them a popular choice among buyers.
  • The hard-tail is considered the pinnacle of the “old school” builders.

Harley Softail:

  • Ride smoother and handle better with the Softail’s rear suspension.
  • One pivot joint connects the two parts of the Softail frame.
  • Swing arms and shock absorbers are added to the Softail.
  • As a result, the cost is a bit higher, and there is a greater potential for wear and tear.
  • Since Softail frames offer riders superior comfort and stability, they have succeeded over hardtail models.
  • A rear-wheel suspension mechanism allows for much easier control.
  • Various configurations of shock absorbers are possible, from horizontal to vertical.

Harley Hardtail Vs. Softail: Which Motorcycle To Pick?

Hardtail motorcycles are mainly chosen for their price. Due to their simple design and lightweight, these models tend to be more affordable than a Harley-Davidson Softail model. Unfortunately, they are missing some key functional features from Softail. To give their aching muscles and joints a break, riders have to take frequent breaks during a ride.

A Softail motorcycle, instead, is designed to provide a more relaxing ride. Consequently, they are more durable, handle better, are less likely to bounce, and vibrate less. Softail motorcycles are more appealing to those who spend a lot of time on the road. Discover and select one that suits your ideal model, budget, and lifestyle.


Why Do People Ride Hardtails in Winter?

Some suspension bushings, shock seals, and linkage bearings are literally ground through the grinder. Hardtails are a winner in the winter because you cannot wear them out without them. The tires have plenty of clearance from mud; therefore, you won’t drag your feet.

What Are the Most Popular Softail Models?

Softail Slim and Softail Standard are Harley-Davidson’s two most popular models for 2021. Although these two builds perform similarly, they differ slightly in length and seat height to fit riders of various sizes. Each of these Softail models would be an excellent purchase for a beginner, depending on your body size.

What Can I Use a Hardtail for?

If you’re looking to hit jumps, goof off, ride a fun street trail, or just enjoy the same trails you always do, a hardtail is an appropriate bike. There is a little more friction on hardtails, but it adds to the feeling of power, regardless of how fast you ride.

What is a Softail Slim?

Harley-Davidson offers seven models in its cruiser lineup, including the Softail Slim. Comfort and light touring are achieved with a relaxed rider triangle and upright riding position, as well as floorboards. The shortcut fenders add classic HD styling to the stripped-down look.

Sum Up

Harley-Davidson’s Hardtail motorcycles are essentially obsolete due to the advantages of Softail frames. Despite their past and unique characteristics, Hardtail motorbikes are still a popular choice among buyers. Hardtail bodies are often coveted for their unique feel, even when Softail frames are more popular because of their smoother ride and increased control. Regardless of which type you choose, ensure that you are always safe by wearing the proper motorcycle riding gear. Have a safe journey.

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