Motorbike Analysis: Harley's Switchback

Published: 22nd March 2012
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Lose weight fast! Buy one get one! Some of the powerful promoting and marketing phrases we believe Harley could have easily incorporated into the promotional material for its most recently released model, the Switchback.

It appears to be most people as well as their physical trainer are always searching for the latest craze to easily shed extra pounds. Why not, reducing your weight helps you look and feel better and you'll move much faster and consequently are more agile. Well, suppose we mentioned there was a weight loss program enabling you to get rid of nearly 100 pounds without cutting down your Big Mac take in or jogging one single mile? It is possible. Simply just roll into your local Harley Davidson dealer and trade that 812* pound Road King for a 718* pound Dyna Switchback. On top of that, with a price tag that is $1,500 cheaper than a King, choosing the Switchback you are actually getting yourself a BOGO deal, seeing as the Switchback is basically two bikes packed in one.

Obviously the idea of two bikes in one isn't a new idea from Harley-Davidson by far; the factory has offered convertibles under the FXR, Dyna, and Softail product lines. What is special and different about the Switchback is that having its 41.3mm front-end, chrome front lights nacelle, 130mm front wheel, floorboards, durable saddle bags, and an extensive FL-style fenders; it appears to be from the Touring line and not just a Dyna with hard bags and a windscreen. When you peel off the windscreen and saddle bags, well, it still kind of looks like part of the Touring models, pretty much undressed, cleaned up and more sexy.

As soon as you throw a leg over the saddle and cruise the highway it clearly shows this bike is not the offspring of some hefty sofa glide. It's agile and strong. I invested a bit of time with the Switchback and everything to it from its external features and maneuvering to the performance, storage capacity, and variety amazed me.

The Harley-Davidson engineers really did their homework when it came to setting up the handling and play to be sure the bike got the comfy and lush drive of a touring motorcycle, but the maneuverability and handling of the Dyna. The front-end angle, tire features, and suspension were all made to work together to offer crisp and light steering.

Within the big fork is a 20mm cartridge that helps provide much better damping, and also at the back end is a pair of Nitrogen-charged mono tube rear end shocks together with dual rate springs. The back shocks are adjustable, which help make it quite easy to set up the rear suspension for single, two-up, or full capacity riding. Back to the front, a 130mm Dunlop offers a nice steady footprint and bombing along the route, but the low profile style of the wheel helps to get the motorbike over and in and out of sharp curves with ease.

The one thing I undoubtedly noticed was that unlike the members in the Touring models that can sometimes bring undesired feedback in the form of trembling when ticked-off by inconsistencies on the streets at high speeds and high speed turns, the Switchback was stable from front to rear at excessive speeds, tight sudden curves, and once crammed up and leaned in fast sweepers. Even tough I gave the mini ape handle bars a good shove while driving along the highway, the motorcycle continuously retained its line without having the rear end being squirrelly or requiring time to settle down.

Motorized through the 103ci motor and supported by the 6-speed transmission, the Switchback gets to where you want it to be, facing that big rig, easily. Granted it's not going to break any kind of speed records, but with the saddle bags fully jam-packed plus a touring bag strapped to a baggage carrier, I am able to comfortably skip through heavy traffic on inclines without having to lower it down into the fifth. Weighing in 43 pounds lighter compared to the Heritage Softail Classic (761* pounds), and only 12 pounds heavier than the second heaviest Dyna, the Fat Bob (706* pounds), the Switchback is simple to fold back kickstand but not so hefty which slows down the efficiency or capabilities of its three-way displacement engine. Bolted right side of the rubber secured engine is a chrome 2-into-1 straight cut tailpipe that offers a respectable note and offers the motorcycle much more of performance look as opposed to the dual vintage look seen on most touring types. And not like the Touring designs which have exhaust system attached towards the rear end of the saddle bag supports, Harley builders created the back exhaust hanger clump to mount the back of the drive train and to really move while using drive train. With overall weight a main concern, Harley chose an aluminum rear end hanger bracket rather than metal.

Slowing the Switchback down or arriving at an immediate halt is helped by a 4 piston set front side caliper and 300mm regular expansion floating rotor, with a two-piston torque-free back caliper getting down on a 292mm rotor. The bike I analyzed had the Security Package Option that bundles the Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS) together with the Smart Security System.

The Switchback looks like it could be the Road King's much younger brother, which is great since the King has long been a crowd favorite among Harley aficionados. The measurements of the motorbike are basically perfect along with the saddle bags weighing about 25 percent smaller compared to a typical FLT saddle bag and a 4.7-gallon fuel tank rather than 6-gallon gas tank that comes with the King. Even though the bags are smaller sized, I was able to pack in them a jacket, a few shirts, a tool roll, and a camera in one bag alone, by installing a sissy bar possibly a baggage rack and placing a big travel bag and hooked up my motorcycle helmet on the side, I get to bring enough gear along with me on a two-week bike journey.


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