Harley-Davidson Softail Breakout review, test ride
18th Dec 2014 3:58 pm
We took the the shiny new Harley-Davidson Softail Breakout out on the highway, and here's what it felt like.
Set your eyes on the Harley-Davidson Breakout for the first time, and you see a low, muscular and an almost menacing profile. With a seat height of 660mm, this is one of the lowest slung among all the Harleys currently on offer in India. The overall Breakout design has been inspired by Gasser drag bikes. The front mudguard is quite short, and the handlebar is straight, but slightly pulled back towards the rider. The handlebar incorporates notification lights, and on the centre sits a chrome-coated single dial speedometer, which houses a small multi-function LCD display. The switchgear on the handlebar has a glossy-matte finish to it and the mirrors mounted on either sides are small, with chrome treatment. There’s chrome all over the Breakout as well, something that's pretty usual to motorcycles from the Milwaukee based manufacturer. Front forks, headlamp housing, engine block, stock air intake housing, gear and brake levers, and the Breakout exhaust pipe - everything has a mirror-like finish. The fit-and-finish on the Breakout is brilliant, but that is something that's expected from a Harley bike – visually, there’s barely anything that seems out of place – and unlike the last Harley, the Street 750, there are no visible cables that spoil the look of the motorcycle.
The Breakout gets the same 1,690cc, four-stroke, V-Twin, air-cooled engine as the Heritage Softail Classic. Crank it, and you’re rewarded with a soft, yet throaty grunt from the exhaust. Mechanically, the engine is quite silent, and while riding, the only sound you’ll actually hear is the all-business speaking exhaust note. Mated to the big powerplant is a six-speed gearbox, which is a disappointment as it lacks refinement. However, the gears shift with a mechanical feel and sound. The Breakout’s engine makes a massive 13.2kgm of torque at 3,000rpm, and despite it being a cruiser at heart, the big bike surges forward with urgency when the throttle is wrung to the top. The first and second gears feel rather short, but then again, higher gears are reached rather quickly and you can cruise at relaxed engine speeds. The big Harley cruiser feels most comfortable between 1,500-3,100rpm. Cross that, and vibrations creep in through the handlebar and mirrors. This gets annoying in the long run. However, upshift early, crack open the throttle and you are rewarded with a pleasant, well spaced out thumping melody. Fuelling is a touch snatch though, and can improve.
The Breakout's seating position is aggressive, and you sit leaning forward, although not enough to get really uncomfortable over long rides. I’m 5-feet, 11-inches tall, and found that with some adjustment, I could fit in well with the Breakout’s ergonomics. You also need strong legs while parking, because the Breakout weighs 322kg, and rolling it around requires a lot of effort. Harley-Davidson motorcycles are built to be ridden on highways, and the Breakout conforms to that. It loves to be ridden on long straight stretches of tarmac, throw turns its way however, and the Breakout will protest. It takes a lot of effort to tip the motorcycle into corners, and you will have to push quite hard on the handlebars and lean in, to translate intention into action. The safe, available lean angle capability on the Breakout is also limited, and you could easily end up grinding the footpegs when negotiating fast curves. Tight turns are a pain, and you will have to strategically preplan your lines into U-turns and hairpin bends. Undulations in the road also upset the Breakout quite easily while following curves in the road, especially the rear section of yhe bike, which bobs up and down quite a bit. It is also quite low, and with a ground clearance of 120mm, which means it doesn’t take too well to speedbreakers.
The Breakout is air-cooled, which becomes an issue when negotiating the congested city roads. Heat coming up from the engine becomes quite difficult to bear, and if your leg touches the exhaust pipe by mistake, expect a nasty singe. The brakes on the Breakout feel quite progressive, and offer decent feedback at the control levers. They do lack an initial bite, but they never claimed this to be a sportsbike, and that’s not too bad because you can make them work harder with confidence. The Breakout is equipped with an Anti-lock Braking System, which is a boon, especially while trying to avoid the villagers crossing our highways, as I found out. As we said earlier, the Breakout is not made for the city. The right place for this big, low set Harley bike is on the open highways, to ride into the far horizon. Despite this, you still feel like a rebel because the design and seating position is not typically Harley, and will encourage you to make quick dashes too. At Rs 16.98 lakh (ex-showroom, Mumbai), the Breakout fits the bill for those looking for a simplistic, yet attention grabbing motorcycle to take out on weekends, and on long road-trips.