Difference Between Rigid and Softail Frames
Street bicycles with attached combustible engines gave rise to the invention of the first motorcycles made with rigid frames. These early motorcycles were simply designed, consisting of a sturdy frame, a motor, handlebars, functioning brakes and a set of wheels. In 1958, Harley Davidson introduced its first softail frame design called the Duo-Glide. From then on, softails were differentiated from rigid frames. The term softail was officially adopted and used to describe any motorcycle possessing rear suspension.
Motorcycle handling refers to the amount of control a motorcycle rider experiences while maneuvering his motorcycle. Rigid frames, also called hardtails, have poor handling because they lack a rear suspension (the component that dampens road bumps and steadies the frame). Softails do have a rear suspension and, therefore, have much better handling characteristics.
Hardtails have fewer moving parts than softails. For example, since hardtails do not have rear suspension, the axle mounts directly to the frame. Less moving parts means fewer maintenance issues since a smaller potential exists for malfunctioning components.
Softails are generally more expensive since they include more technology in the form of shock absorbers, swingarms and other modern styling gadgets. Hardtails are built for nostalgic traditionalists, who like a more primitive design. Hardtails are usually less expensive because they are built from minimal components, styled after the more basic, lightweight motorcycles of the early 1900s.