Harley-Davidson Softail FXS Blackline Review New Motorcycles New Zealand

17 May 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Harley-Davidson Softail FXS Blackline Review New Motorcycles New Zealand

Harley-Davidson Softail FXS Blackline Review

Harley-Davidson Softail FXS Blackline test

Clean, minimalist styling with black finish and chrome highlights

Easy handling and comfortable ergonomics

Standard pipes produce distinctive and pleasing notes

Excellent standard of fit and finish

The Softail’s classic pseudo rigid-frame look pays its respects to the overall style of the first overhead-valve V-twin Harley, the 1937 EL model, with its distinctive Knucklehead engine, teardrop-shape fuel tank, horseshoe oil tank and twin downtube frame.

Sussing out the Blackline

The Blackline’s dark custom look is about adding a younger audience to the Softail’s already substantial fan-base. But there’s more to this new Harley than a black paint job.

The design team has taken a less is more approach in developing the Blackline -keeping the design simple and paring things back to produce a distinctive, lean, low-bling version of the Softail.

The Blackline has a simple short-list of features – slender rigid-look chassis cradling the big naked motor, spoked wheels with black rims (a raked-out skinny 21-incher up front complemented by a slim 144mm-wide rear tyre), close-fitting bobbed guards, clean uncluttered tank, minimalist instruments and a compact 146mm headlight.

The bike’s standard of fit and finish is excellent. And designers have been at pains to hide any potentially untidy stuff – for example handlebar electrical wiring is carried internally.

The Blackline is powered by the 96B balancer-shaft version of the Twin Cam engine, rigidly mounted to the frame. It comes with a black finish on most of the castings with a few chrome highlights. Drive is through H-D’s six-speed helical-gear transmission and belt final drive.

Single 292mm discs front and rear, gripped by four-piston callipers provide the braking.

Time to saddle up

The split dragbars combine with a low seat and forward mounted footpegs for what H-D calls an aggressive riding position. I found it comfortable.

The classic teardrop tank has lost the usual pair of big filler caps (one actually a fuel gauge), now replaced by one small plain cap. And there’s no speedo and housing on the tank. A die-cast strap takes its place.

The small traditional speedo (there’s no rev-counter) sits on the top triple clamp. Below it a discreet bar of warning lights.

Underway the steering feels heavy initially but that passes as you gain speed. You’re aware of the bike’s weight too, but it’s carried quite low and is never intimidating.

H-D feeds enough vibe to the rider to add to the pleasure of the ride. More noticeable at idle, it fades into the background on the road. At low revs under load it can send piston-pulse tremors through the frame before it picks up speed and smooths out.

And the standard exhaust system, while keeping the decibels legal, adds that distinctive loping beat to the pleasure mix and produces a heart-warming crackle on the over-run.

H-D has got engine management and fuelling down to a fine art on these Twin Cams. Throttle response is always clean and progressive.

Braking is good. In typical cruiser fashion rear wheel braking is an important part of the equation and the front brake lever needs a strong squeeze. The ABS works well, intervening when provoked in a way that informs rather than distracts you.

While the skinny back tyre was primarily dictated by style it’s actually a bonus to the bike’s function. Unlike cruisers with fat rears, the Blackline turns in easily. Tight urban roundabouts and back-lane manoeuvres are a piece of cake.

But urban speed humps need to be taken at modest pace to avoid a spinal thump.

Out of town sixth gear is a true overdrive; if you’re looking for some real punch for overtaking or for strong drive through fast bends, fifth gear is your friend.

Handling is good; as always with cruisers you’ll be decking the low-set pegs in most bends taken at speed.

The 2011 Blackline showcases all that Harley-Davidson stands for in the modern era – a well judged blend of tradition and modernity.

For a bike that’s primarily a boulevard cruiser, a very stylish city bike, it’s quite versatile. It can commute, threading through the urban gridlock with grace, and doesn’t object to a brisk ride through the hills.

Harley-Davidson FXS Blackline

It’s a competent motorcycle that’s a pleasure to ride.

Hidden Softail treasures

There’s a bunch of impressive engineering beneath the Blackline’s stylish surface:

Softail rear suspension. Twin shocks that are cleverly slung out of sight under the gearbox (running fore and aft) provide a useful 91mm of well damped rear wheel travel.

ABS. The Harley set-up cleverly monitors wheel speeds by using magnetically encoded wheel bearings to feed input to the sensor.

HDLAN wiring. Brand-new on Softails for 2011, HDLAN (Harley-Davidson local area network) eliminates the traditional bulky wiring harness, using instead a system that minimises the use of power cables. All major electrical components are coupled direct to the battery via a control module. Switches and controls only send signals to the control module which then does the current switching.

Where the old system required 11 fuses and two relays, the HDLAN system gets by with only three fuses and eliminates the relays entirely.


Engine type Air-cooled, Twin Cam 96B, 45-degree, V-twin

Capacity 1584cc

Bore x stroke 95.3 x 111.1mm

Compression ratio 9.2:1

Fuel system EFI

Type Six-speed, constant-mesh

Final drive Belt

Harley-Davidson FXS Blackline
Harley-Davidson FXS Blackline
Harley-Davidson FXS Blackline
Harley-Davidson FXS Blackline
Harley-Davidson FXS Blackline

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