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What Is a Harley Davidson Springer?

Harley Davidson Springer

When a first year 1948 Panhead with springer fork was listed at the Bonham's Las Vegas Motorcycle auction for between $30-$35K, it perked some ear and renewed an interest in the Harley Davidson Springer. Although the bike is obviously a vintage collector's piece, for those not familiar with Harley Springers, it begs the question, what is a Harley-Davidson Springer? We're here to bring you up to speed with the history and facts so you'll have a level of expertise on the subject.

History of the Springer

The Harley Davidson FXSTS Springer Softail was first released in 1988 and was produced through the 2003 model year according to RC Components. The inspiration for the Springer goes back much further than this however. It goes back to the 1948 era to the bike that was recently offered at a Bonham's auction. The design of the 1988 Springer Softail was drafted in part with a significant assistance from CAD, to more precisely update the aging concept of the Springer front-end suspension into alignment with the current standards of performance. Careful attention to the details rendered a bike that features a low seat sitting at a hair over 26 inches with considerable width for greater comfort. This is the first notable difference most identify when they sit on the Springer for the first time. After the initially pleasant surprise passes, your eyes turn to the Springer fork with its shiny chrome windings which gives the bike a unique look but this is where the thrill begins. The real excitement and fuss over the Springer is the superior ride it has to offer.

Springer front suspension

Harley Davidson Springer 1

The front suspension of the Springer features plus fork action that is tweaked to perform seamlessly with the 21-inch front wheel with wire spokes that navigates through potholes and uneven rode surface with relative ease. It's tuned for riding at a relaxed pace on the open road with the outward appearance that is similar to a chopper because of the buckhorn handlebar. It handles a lot like a chopper in fact, complete with the sense of a slight front end wobble at slower speeds with a tendency for the bike to turn inward to a greater degree than other Harleys.

The Springer is a customizable motorcycle

Part of the attraction of riders to the Springer is that for most riders, this versatile motorcycle can be fully customized with all of the extras and alternative parts that were offered for personalization. This is a bike that could truly be tailored for a custom fit to suit about any preferences. according to MCN.

Changes made to the Springer

Harley Davidson Springer 2

Since its launch n 1988 there were a few notable updates made to the Softail Springer. for the first few years things remained relatively unchanged, until 1993. The first major update featured a new gearbox and belt drive. Another two years would pass and in 1995, Harley added a smooth exhaust and vacuum fuel tap. In 1997, the Springer's rear wheel hub was replaced with one made of aluminum, and the following year the clutch was re-imagined. It received nine plates to enhance longevity and operational performance. The final update was made in 2002 with bullet shaped indicators and an immobilizer alarm introduced.

Fans for life... or not

MCN goes on to share reviews of the Springer Softail, and it's interesting to find out what other riders have to say about its overall performance. There are those who don't find much merit in the Springer, and others who are willing to stand up and fight to defend its honor. While some describe the Springer currently as an older and slower bike that isn't that comfortable to ride because of its low slung design, there are others who jump to its defence. Reviews from owners are split, but those who love the Springer realize its inherent value after accidents that could have otherwise totalled other bikes leave this tank in good operational condition. It meets the definition of being rugged and tough. For some, this is a safety feature that cannot be countered by any other bike, but we're all entitled to our opinions. Some riders have become lifelong fans of the older Springer models, while others fail to see the attraction.

Original pricing

Harley Davidson Springer 3

In 1997, the FXSTS Springer Softail retailed for a sticker price of $14,765. The standard color issue was vivid black. It was available in other colors for an extra cost. Yo cold have it factory painted in a States Blue Pearl, a Violet Pearl, Patriot Red Pearl, or a range of two tone colors including platinum silver with black, or Victory Sunglo with Platinum Silver, according to Motorcycle Cruiser.


The Harley-Davidson FXSTS Springer Softail was and is a unique model that found its share of fans who remain loyal to its inherent benefits to this day. It wasn't as well-liked among riders who were looking more for high speeds or greater stability at low speed, as this is the nature of the design. It's going to behave like a chopper at low speeds, but it's not a racer either. This is a bike that is made for riders who enjoy a relaxed and low seating position. It's for the serious rider that isn't out to prove anything but values the safety of a sturdy and well-built bike with a versatile front suspension. The possibilities for personalization are another attractive feature about the Springer that still makes it a popular choice in the used motorcycle market. Sometimes you can find them fully loaded, but if there's more you need to do, there are still plenty of alternative components available on the market today to further customize your ride.

Benjamin Smith

Written by Benjamin Smith

Benjamin Smith is one of the managing editors of Moneyinc. Ben's been focusing on the auto and motorcycle sector since 2005. He's written over 1000 articles in the space and continues to learn about it each day. His favorite car is "any Bugatti" and he's a die hard Harley Davidson fan.

Read more posts by Benjamin Smith

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