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Why Soft Tail Frames Create a Comfortable Motorcycle Ride

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk


Why Soft Tail Frames Create a Comfortable Motorcycle Ride

Tyler Powers
January 31, 2007

Soft tail frames for motorcycles are also known as "swing arm frames" for the swing arm which provides the soft ride. Motorcycles with soft frames ride quite different than those with rigid frames. The kidney-jolting road bumps feel much smoother and most riders find these bikes more comfortable for long trips.

How, exactly, does the soft tail frame and swing arm assembly work to provide the softer ride? The rear tire of the cycle must be connected to the frame. The difference between the two frame types is the way in which this connection is made.

A soft tail frame swing arm contains a pivot joint between the rest of the frame and the rear wheel assembly which supports the wheel and the rear suspension. Also, in a soft tail, there is rear suspension, including shock absorbers which remove some of the bumps that can be so hard on the rider's back.

The soft tail swing arm attaches to the frame behind the center of gravity on the motorcycle and the pivot joint is almost always higher than the hub of the rear wheel. This provides stability and prevents 'squat' when accelerating.

Stock motorcycles are soft tails. Custom built bikes can have either type of frame and many of the highly customized cycles have hard time frames rather. For riders that really prefer the comfort of the soft tail ride, there is no reason not to fully customize a swing arm frame. Even choppers, raked and lowered with long, extended fork assemblies can be built around a swing arm frame.

So, you might ask why some people strongly prefer a soft tail frame over a rigid frame. It's really simple; it is difficult to enjoy long road trips where most of the day is spent on the pavement which is frequently less than smooth.

As more and more motorcycle enthusiasts, many of which are baby boomers, get a bit older, comfort can be a major factor. No longer are motorcycles something that only the young ride for transportation. It's not uncommon to see groups of motorcycles ridden by retirees heading to Bike Week, Biketober Fest, or another major motorcycle gathering. America is aging and therefore more riders are older and seek the comfort factor.

One major difference between soft tail frames and the hard tail frame is the way the road feels to the rider. Hardcore bikers tend to love the way the hard tail allows the feel of the road to be felt through the frame, making the rider feel almost as if they are part of the road.

Is a soft tail frame the right choice for you? That is a question only you can answer. It all boils down to your riding stamina, how much you love that sense of feeling the road through the wheels, up into the frame and into your body, and sometimes just by what motorcycle you are accustomed to riding.

Tyler Powers is a contributing author and webmaster for custom-choppers-guide.com . You can get a special free mini course on motorcycle building mistakes at custom-choppers-guide.com/building-mistakes.html.

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