Several issues back, we installed a Heartland 180 kit on our ’96 Springer Softail. The installation of the Heartland kit includes mounting one of the company’s three rear fender options: short, 20-1/2 inches; medium, 24-1/2 inches; or long, 28 inches. When mocking up the fender, you can only set it so low on the struts and still have enough material for the mounting bolts to hold the fender securely in place. So to get that low-profile, tire-hugging look, Heartland recommends lowering the rear of your bike before drilling the mounting holes so the ride height is pre-established and you can get the fender to fit around the tire exactly how you want.
The most popular way to lower a Softail is to install adjustable shocks, which come in two forms: manual and air ride. The only problem is that both types can be expensive, about $500 for a decent pair of manually adjustable shocks, and $1,300 and up for a good air-ride system.
After the Heartland kit, our budget was blown out until we could scrape up some more funds for a new set of adjustable shocks. So we took the next-best option and got our hands on a bolt-on lowering kit that would allow us to manually lower the bike almost 2 inches. There are several kits available, but after searching through the Custom Chrome website (www.customchrome.com), we found the White Bros. kit (MSRP: $99.95) to be the perfect solution to our money problems.
Once the jack was removed, Sparky took the final measurement and came up with 10-7/8 inches, 1-1/2 inches lower than when we started. The total install took less than an hour and cost a little more than $300, saving us a couple hundred bucks compared to buying new shocks. Without upgrading the springs, we would have saved quite a bit more. As far as ridability goes with these new springs, we will say you can definitely see a difference. At a load rate of 1,100 lbs per square inch, it takes quite a bit of weight to get these things to compress. Riding solo, they are pretty rough, but with a passenger they are a little more forgiving. It’s OK-we’re willing to sacrifice and save a little scratch until we can afford a good set of shocks.