Harley Davidson: Bad-ass Slim all about ride

By Jacqui Madelin

Harley has pared back the gadgets for the low-riding Softail Slim but the bike makes the most of its muscle.
Harley has pared back the gadgets for the low-riding Softail Slim but the bike makes the most of its muscle.

Latest Harley delivers punch and classic style.

Talk about Slim Shady, this low, stripped bare matte-black Harley-Davidson Softail Slim oozes bad-ass naughtiness from every pore.

It's a deliberate antidote to porky cruisers of late and harks back to the original Softail, a tribute to bikes that sold without rear suspension.

Harley wedged the coil-over shocks within the frame so they're almost invisible to deliver a truly classic look.

Then it took an axe to the chrome and flim-flam liberally applied to the Slim's stablemates, fitted a pared-back single seat that'll suit the lone rider, and focused attention on that mighty 1690cc V-twin engine wedged into a frame with long, lean lines, tarmac-skimming frame rails, and a pew that sits your leather-clad butt just 658mm above the ground.

Sturdy front forks support a skinny front guard to expose the 16-inch spoked front wheel, while the bobbed rear mudguard barely wraps a narrower rear tyre that underlines this bike's focus - forget the parade, let's ride.

Thumb the starter and there's no doubting you're aboard American iron. There's a mighty kerlunk as the first massive 98mm piston begins its stroke before settling into a vigorous off-beat idle.

Into first, swinging boots on to footboards you could surf on and on to the highway, with the low-mounted seat sheltering you from the wind, this new-gen engine smooths out in sixth gear at speed and delivers torque across a broad spread of revs - settling at a 2150rpm open-road cruise with more in reserve before the 134Nm peak arrives.

Yes, there's a tacho among the multi-function trip commands, though you won't be using it.

Harleys aren't about revs, or top-end power for that matter, so Harley doesn't quote it. They're about ostentatiously oiled muscle, and the Slim makes the most of it when the road gets bendy.

Clunk the notchy gearbox down to third and ride the torque wave, the wide "Hollywood" bars with their classic-flavour cross brace letting you tip it deep into bends, the footboards skimming tar before folding as they press the road, and pouring power to punch you out of bends, the mighty twin announces your big, bad arrival and equally assertive departure.

Fortunately a modern Harley's brakes are up to the job, though a forceful approach to lever the four-piston fronts on to that single 292mm disc did lead more rapidly to brake fade than is good for the heart; fortunately a tap on the rear stopper managed momentum - and there's ABS in reserve.

And it's when you're braking that you really notice the weight, for the Slim may look toned and trim but it tips the scales at 317.5kg wet weight, though it's as well balanced as its brethren - feet-up u-turns easy anywhere the long wheelbase allows.

Annoyances? These bikes may need the security alarm, but the need to lift a flap, insert and turn the key, remove and pocket it, close the flap, then turn the ignition switch on before thumbing the starter button soon felt like too much ceremony, and it's rather too tempting to leave the key-slot in the "on" position and trust you're far enough away with the security key that no lowlife can fire her up.

And that tanktop speedo might look the part, and removes clutter from that front end, but it's not easy to read quickly at speed - honestly, officer.

The $28,995 Softail Slim goes on sale on September 1.

- NZ Herald

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