Harley-Davidson 2012 FLD Dyna Switchback ride review Thunder Press

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Harley-Davidson FLD Switchback

Harley-Davidson 2012 FLD Dyna ride review


April 2, 2012

Ever the unveiling of the new FLD Switchback last the universal impulse has been to it to something else. The most comparison has understandably been to the King, Harley’s long-running touring model which its stock windscreen and hard was just begging for it. Within nanoseconds of the appearance the obvious and unfortunate of “Road Queen” was in play, and not like The Motor Company complicit in all of this, heralding the as lighter, less intimidating, and costly than the Road and thus essentially a downsized version of a for-real Harley

Spend a few days on the road the Switchback, however, and that to see it as what it isn’t instead of it is vanishes, and the realization that the is absolutely unique and complete itself replaces it. That struck me the second morning out as I out of my motel room in Paso to pack the bike for another day in the and seeing the machine with a mind at first light I saw it enough—a new light.

It was no longer the sum of its culmination of a long list of challenges and balancing acts—or a marketing exercise, or a downsized It was just a perfectly-proportioned, beautifully-executed of serious Milwaukee road

The designers didn’t set out to create a Road King, though no denying that model’s as a template for the first FL treatment of a Rather, the Big Idea here was to the “convertible” concept in more and dressier trim.

It had been a dozen years the last OE foray into the format, and it took that to revisit it because the predecessors lackluster reception at best consumers who, at the time, more interested in glitz utility. Times have in that regard as value is of a virtue now, and the success of the CVO helped too. But most Milwaukee’s re-envisioning of the convertible in the case of the Switchback expanded the to add some the of the glitz missing in efforts and thus set out to produce a that could pass as a cruiser, back road and super-slab horizon chaser solid competence in all three of pursuits.

A tall order, But no one ever said that the impossible would be easy. all of those ends in a balanced that’s not just highly but also easy on the eyes a holistic engineering approach as as any The Motor Company has undertaken.

styling, handling and touring of the bike had to be considered in light of other element simultaneously in a of three-dimensional chess game. It maximizing the model’s abilities in of its three assigned operational without detracting from its in the other two.

For example, the directive demanded a bold front end while the back mode needed low weight and handling manners and the touring asked for all-day pavement-seam compliance. It was like juggling a ball, a Bowie and a balloon. And pulled it off neatly.

The solution they arrived at a clean-sheet redesign of the familiar FL covers and nacelle using cast aluminum (a feat in instead of zinc, a revised formula, a purpose-designed low-profile Dunlop tire on a lightweight wheel, and a front suspension employs triple-rate springs and damper technology to provide cushioning but stiffens up for the rigors of cornering. But the cartridge is only in one tube in the interest of shaving

The other tube houses a rod damper. And my eyes just

On the backend of things, new “cigar emulsion rear shocks been employed that five levels of spring and look just super on the

Similar agonizing went the design of the touring amenities it was the styling and touring camps were at engineering loggerheads. the windscreen was a no-brainer since had long since perfected the art of the unit in that department, the had to be designed completely from

For the sake of aesthetics and orthodoxy had to retain the basic shape of FLT panniers, but also detach without leaving unsightly hardware behind to detract the bike’s street panache. they needed to mount to the fender to maintain the model’s lines. Taking a page the CVO Convertible’s playbook, an unobtrusive docking post setup was with two docks on the fender and one on the lower fender surface.

It’s a snappy arrangement, with a knob inside the bag locks and unlocks the attachment a twist. The bags slip on and off ease.

The toughest challenge in the new saddlebags were the lids. little space between and the fender, existing latch couldn’t be used, and a new setup was It’s similar both in and operation to the existing units, but a very thin pair of catches on the bag’s back

Done properly, the closing and of the lid securely can be a one-hand operation… properly. Unfortunately, it’s all too to do it improperly and hook just one of the The lid then doesn’t seal and can pop when jarred by a bump in the

Getting it right takes practice.

The new saddlebags are about 25 smaller than those on the models, but as a practical matter are spacious enough for solo outings when augmented a small pack or duffle on the pillion. For two-up duty, want to invest in Harley quick-detach suite of add-ons—a backrest and luggage rack—and a big bar pack (a T-Bag or equivalent).

The ergonomics strike an optimal in accommodating riders of a wide of sizes. The low 27″ seat height and distance to the handlebar and footboards those of a smaller stature, but in large part to the foot possibilities of the those footboards the absence of an obstructive heel happily), tall operators my 6′ 4″ self have no trouble their sweet spot.

The windscreen’s another effective act, well-proportioned for the machine and rising to a height below the line of the rider. Even at relatively low height, its proximity to the makes for a fine fair-air and ample protection from the and weather. That effectiveness with the comfort of the seat and footboards make 500-mile not just bearable but pleasurable.

Harley-Davidson FLD Switchback

a 530-mile run in eight and a half my long bones and caprine (i.e. “goat …”) feeling just dandy and for more, thank you very

The Switchback’s companionable personality has a wild side owing to the Cam 103 motor that came to of the Dyna platforms for 2012 but the frugal-minded Dyna Superglide and Bob models). Now in its third year of OE the TC103 has proven itself a potent and economical unit in all It’s a lusty brute, a claimed 100 pounds of torque, and the pours on with arm-straightening throughout its range.

Mated to the relatively light 718 lb. weight, short 62.8-inch wheelbase and tight 29.8 degree angle, it results in a seriously front tire when you a fistful; freeway onramps are a pleasure, and quick spurts of power in dicey urban are but a flick away.

The power/weight also makes 6th speed a selection for motoring along at much any speed over 60 mph a cellarful of seamless thrust on Loping along at 75 mph, the spins at about 2,700 For Interstate work, it’s a set it and it proposition.

Adding to the TC103’s lovable and also burnishing the Switchback’s styling credentials is another component, the 2-into-1 exhaust Creating such a system was a of the model’s designers, though it may seemed at times a rash considering the lengths they had to go to in to make it happen.

The routing of the and the mounting of the collector required a new transmission case in order to it securely and the relocation of the oil-fill Both visually and aurally the new was worth the trouble. It’s not a handsome system that the cigar-tube rear shocks and the cut of the it also emits a truly growl under power.

summed up the primary nutshell of the new Switchback in saying, “It’s all handling,” and that claim was needed further exploration I departed Paso Robles for a day of test riding. I rode the mountain at San Ardo to the intersection of 198 and 25. The 63-mile run on route 25 from to Hollister is my favorite back-road track, offering, as it does, a gallimaufry (i.e. “goat wait.

I mean “confused of sweepers and twisties—banked, flat and addition to full-spank unpatrolled ending in abrupt pairs of pucker-string-pulling turns. Whee…

The Switchback attacks the course taking steering inputs a cutting horse, displaying cornering clearance, lunging off the like a goosed cheetah and down the straights like a piggy. They should put on this thing.

When Harley-Davidson introduced the FLD Switchback to the press last they announced that the was targeted at “Core young/Older Gen X women, and Boomerangs (aging Boomers).” That targeting a whole lot of demographic territory and ran the of running afoul of the conventional that in trying to please you’ll end up pleasing no one—or in the case of a motorcycle, you’ll end up everyone. That’s not the case the Switchback, however—not by a long

On the contrary, this model all the right notes; makes all the moves. Fast, nimble, and outfitted for highway adventure, inarguably the most well-rounded and Milwaukee bagger to date.

Queen? My sweet caprine More like Road

The 2012 FLD Dyna Switchback is in Ember Red, Brilliant and Vivid Black, with an starting price of $15,999.

Harley-Davidson FLD Switchback
Harley-Davidson FLD Switchback
Harley-Davidson FLD Switchback
Harley-Davidson FLD Switchback
Harley-Davidson FLD Switchback


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