Harley-Davidson Breakout 117 review: Lean Locomotive

    Form over function is the Breakout’s thing, should it be yours?

    Published on Jun 03, 2024 07:00:00 AM


    Harley-Davidson Breakout 117 review: Lean Locomotive

    The Breakout is unlike its other Softail brethren (the ones that are sold in India at least) in two fundamental ways - it's much slimmer looking and is the only one to use the new, larger 117 CI motor. Aside from my (and the Terminator’s) perennial favourite, the Fat Boy, the Breakout is pretty much the coolest looking Harley in my books. Design is one of the quintessential reasons people keep queueing up at Harley showrooms and I think the Motor Company has hit the nail on the head with this bike.

    Harley-Davidson Breakout design

    Unlike the other big Harleys, where the sense of proportion is typically American (read huge), the Breakout has a rather minimalist design, at least when it comes to the front. That slim LED headlight, straight ‘bar, and teardrop-shaped fuel tank all come together very well to endow the Breakout with a front-end design like nearly nothing else short of a custom bike can match. 

    As your eyes snake their way backward, you’re reminded that this is a near 2 litre motor and the rear tyre section is wider than that on a midsize sedan. Putting that fat 240 section hoop on full display is the chopped rear fender, although I can imagine that it will kick up all sorts of dirt and muck from our roads onto the rider or pillion.

    Sticking with the minimalist theme is the Breakout’s handlebar-mounted negative LCD display. This unit is far too small and not bright enough but it shows you all you need to know. Switchgear is typically Harley with big, chunky switches (that’s America for you) with each indicator getting a dedicated button on the respective switch cube. I’m used to this layout as I have ridden my fair share of Harleys in the past but for those coming from a ‘normal’ bike will need some time to adapt to this system. 

    Small negative LCD can stand to be brighter.

    Harley-Davidson Breakout engine, ride and handling

    After I spent a fair bit ogling it, I finally sat atop this poster-worthy cruiser and thumbed the starter. What followed was something very un-Harley-like. Nearly no heavy vibes. As the big 1,923cc, 45-degree (purists rejoice!) V-Twin engine settled into its meaty idle, there was just a minor pulse that I could feel at all touch points. And for the most part there are no intrusive sensations to speak of here.

    The seating position on the Harley-Davidson Breakout just instantly makes you feel ultra cool. Your hands are nearly straight, as are your feet with the forward set footpegs. For 30 minutes at a time that will be alright but beyond that, this riding position will start to become properly painful. Especially on our roads. On Thailand’s excellent roads, I encountered precisely three small bumps (read this and weep, Indian road contractors!) and over all of them, it was an unpleasant feeling. The suspension is non-adjustable except for preload on the Showa monoshock, which gets a handy remote adjuster that some lower Softail models miss out on. 


    Air filter fouls with knee, makes using rear brake tough.

    One typically Harley oddity was that the Heavy Breather air filter is positioned such that your right leg is splayed out a little more than usual. This makes operating the rear brake difficult, which is a problem on a cruiser where using the back brake to stop the bike is pivotal. The brakes have enough power to slow you down, which is surprising since it only has a single disc up front, but I’d have liked some more feel from the lever.

    Harley-Davidson Breakout cruising ability, comfort

    Cliches like “locomotive levels of torque” come to mind when speaking of this engine and rightfully so. There is some misconception among the two-wheeler community that Harleys are ‘slow bikes’ but having held a display-indicated 120kph on an open Thailand motorway, I will have to digress. That low-vibration character continues even at speed and it's only when you’re on the wrong side of 150kph that the vibes become a problem. Riding that tidal wave of torque is a joyous feeling and you can pull away from speeds as low as 50kph in sixth gear without straining the engine too much. 

    Unstressed engine is smooth and makes a great sound.

    The exhaust note too is a thing of beauty if you’re into the trademark H-D potato-potato sound although a pair of louder pipes would be the first mod I’d do if this bike were mine (what a cliche!). The two nits I have to pick with this engine are that the clutch pull is on the heavier side and that the rear cylinder can make things properly toasty. 

    Harley-Davidson Breakout electronics, ride and handling

    Helping you keep the rubber side down is a traction control system and dual-channel ABS is also there to help you but that's about it. Mostly though, with a kerb weight of 310kg, traction is at high levels almost all the time. 

    Cruising out on the open road with the Breakout shouldn’t be a problem as long as there aren’t too many tight corners on said road and your core and neck muscles can take the windblast since there’s no fairing. Wheel and tyre sizes are chosen on this Harley keeping design first and foremost. These oddball tyre sizes more or less take away from the handling capabilities of the chassis and the aesthetically pleasing 240-section rear tyre is a real challenge when taking a corner. With its relatively skinny 130 section front tyre, tipping the Breakout 117 into a corner isn’t the problem but once leaned over, that fat rear tyre really locks you in place and making quick changes of direction is hard work. To its credit, the bike is stable on the side of the tyre and you can have some fun until the pegs start scraping. 

    On the fabulous roads around Bria circuit in Thailand, there were no speed breakers so we didn’t have a chance to put that low 115mm ground clearance number to the test. However, back in India, over our abundant mountainous speed bumps, you’ll have to exercise extreme caution if you don’t want to scrape the Breakout’s low-hanging belly. 

    Harley-Davidson Breakout price, verdict

    At Rs 31 lakh (ex-showroom, India), the Harley-Davidson Breakout 117 is undoubtedly an expensive proposition. What this bike has in spades is the inimitable cool factor that most big Harleys do, a thumping but refined V-Twin and an inevitable sense of exclusivity owing to its price and limited practicality. The few well-heeled cruiser aficionados that will be able to afford this will have to put up with a jarring ride, precious little ground clearance, engine heat and a heavy clutch. Once you get past that, you will have a very unique bike that will earn you unending attention and chances are you won’t care about any of the flaws I’ve mentioned above if you’ve already owned a big Harley before. 

    Tech Specs

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