The new Softail manages this feat by keeping it simple, stupid. The subtle styling touches keep the focus on its parts – a sign that the days of highly stylized bikes like the Cross Bones are rapidly receding in the Motor Company’s rear view mirror.
If the Breakout sounds familiar, it should; it’s the brooding younger brother of last year’s CVO Breakout. But while that $26,499 bike is awash in chrome and sparkle, the production model, in dealerships in April, is a stripped-down, no-BS version that should garner a far wider audience – thanks mostly to its $17,899 price tag.
For the first time, Harley has followed one of its CVO motorcycles with a mass-produced version that aims for a wider demographic. This was not an afterthought; these bikes were developed simultaneously, with the limited-production CVO serving as a tasty hors d’oeuvre to the meat-and-potatoes meal served here.
Make no mistake: the Breakout is a bona fide knockout. But it achieves its appeal through poise and confidence rather than flash and dash. The front controls combine with a reach to the handlebar to put the rider in a broad-shouldered, four-point stance. Dual staggered mufflers give the motor a mean growl instead of an obnoxious bark. The 35-degree rake and 5.7 inches of trail contribute to the long, low-slung look, and the wide 49mm fork allows the 130mm front tire to put a bold foot forward.
The Breakout’s identity is anchored by its use of gloss black on chrome; it’s an expertly applied scheme that keeps the bike from looking like just a stripped-down Softail. The gloss black adorns the frame and swingarm, headlight bucket, exhaust shields, oil tank, rotors, handlebar, and fork lowers, and it plays off the chrome on the upper fork, air cleaner, fender struts, head covers and pipes to draw the eye toward the Breakout’s major components: its engine and wheels. The doughty look is complemented by a demure handlebar-mounted speedo (with digital trip- and dual odos, range-to-empty counter and clock) and unadorned dash.
The clipped rear fender is positioned close to the tire, so there’s no light shining through between the rubber and the metal – a style crime that detracts from the fat tire profile on so many other low-pro choppers. The passenger pillion features tool-less removal that exposes no bolt holes.
In the saddle, the Breakout’s 24.7-inch seat height should be more than accessible enough for any rider to plant his or her feet at a stop. The forward controls are large and intuitive. The stretch to the drag bar, however, is not insignificant, and the effect is compounded by the widespread placement of the grips. On our ride around the Florida countryside, the vast reach seemed incongruous to the bike’s handling – but then, Florida’s notoriously straight and flat roads rarely require a rider to use much leverage. Still, this could become a comfort issue over the long haul, particularly for short-armed motorcyclists.
The posture is interactive, though, and when the Breakout pulls strongly from a stop, the rider is prepared. Power is smooth and generous, rider feedback is liberal, and the Breakout’s plush suspension keeps the bumps on the pavement where they belong.
The Twin Cam 103B engine is as ardent as you’d expect from Harley’s stalwart powerplant. Pushing 95.5 ft.-lb. of crankshaft-rated torque, it combines with a six-speed tranny to deliver performance on par with any of Harley’s current production Softails. Whether tearing down the highway or cruising the boulevard, the Breakout delivers.
With assured grace and steadfast confidence – and an MSRP lurking at or near the bottom of the range – the new FXSB Breakout surely stands as one of the Softail line’s coolest customers. As with all new Harley-Davidsons, a two-year warranty with unlimited mileage is standard, and Smart Security and anti-lock brakes are optional.
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