QUIKSPIN: Harley-Davidson Switchback - Middle road

26 September 2012

The Switchback is the latest model to emanate from the Harley Davidson stable, and just feels right as soon as you settle into the well-padded seat.

The newest member of the infamous Dyna family, a well-handling, comfortable bike that comes by its name honestly. In seconds it can be switched from a custom tourer to a custom. And great detail was taken to make sure it handles switchbacks well.

The Switchback is targeted at the young core of adult riders coming up through the ranks who might be coming off a cruiser and want something with a little more functionality, but still want a custom. Or someone looking for something a little more lightweight, nimble and easy to ride. And aging baby boomers looking for something a little easier to handle and lighter than the Ultra Classic they’re on.

The handling is relatively nimble with light handlebar inputs having an effect and plenty of ground clearance. It may not be an XR1200, which begs to be leaned over, but for a motorcycle this size it is confidence-inspiring,

The Switchback is a hybrid that uses a twin-shock Dyna chassis with an updated version of the Road King front end. The front features an all-new black five-spoke aluminum wheel with a highlighted rim, one of the bike’s signature pieces, along with a new horizontally split headlight surround.

The all-new inverted 41.3 mm fork has a 20mm cartridge damper and triple-rate spring offering100mm of supple travel. The new rear shocks, which offer 54mm of travel, are nitrogencharged cigar tube models with 36mm monotube dampers that have five levels of preload adjustment.

The front wheel carries a single 300mm disc gripped by a four piston caliper. Out back is a 292mm twin-piston floating rear caliper. Having just ridden the twin-disc XR1200, and the twin-disc V-Rod before that, highlighted the lack of a second front disc. ABS is an option on the Switchback in the USA.

The Switchback uses the rubber-mounted, aircooled Twin Cam 103 (1690cc), now standard on all touring bikes, all Softails and all Dynas, except for the Super Glide Custom and Street Bob, which use the Twin Cam 96.

The Twin Cam 103 (1690cc) and gear ratios were designed with touring in mind. At 120km/h in sixth gear the engine is loping along at 2750rpm. And that’s also where the sweet spot is (between 2200-2800rpm) with the peak torque of 136Nm at 3500rpm.

The pieces that give the Switchback its unique character are extremely well thought out. The windscreen detaches in seconds and takes only a few seconds more to re-attach. There is no perfect windscreen height – Harley-Davidson discovered that after much experimentation and chose the second shortest option of all its trials.

The saddlebags are almost as easy to change as the windscreen. Attached at three points to the rear sub-frame, they come off quickly with a dial inside the bags, though it does take a few tries before they can be replaced effortlessly. The capacity of the bags is about 25 percent lower than the touring model and they’re rated for 7kg.

The Switchback is almost a jack of all trades.

Configuration 45? V-twin
Cylinder head OHV, two valves per cylinder
Capacity 1690cc
Bore/stroke 98.4 x 111.1mm
Compression ratio 9.6:1
Cooling Air
Fueling EFI
Power NA
Torque 126Nm @ 3500rpm
Type Six-speed
Clutch Wet
Final drive Belt
Frame material Tubular steel
Frame layout Cradle
Rake 29.9?
Trail 148mm
Front: 41mm USD fork, preload adjustment,
100mm travel
Rear: Monoshock, preload adjustment,
54mm travel
Wheels Five-spoke, cast aluminium
Front: 18 x 3.5 Rear: 17 x 4.5
Front: 130/70B18 (63H)
Rear: 160/70B17 (73H)
Front: 300mm disc, four-piston caliper
Rear: Single disc, twin-piston caliper
Control: ABS (optional)
Weight 316kg (dry claimed)
Seat height 696mm
Max width 930mm
Max height 1385mm
Wheelbase 1595mm
Fuel capacity 17.8L
Excellent ergonomics
Nimble handling
True sixth-gear overdrive
Substandard brakes
Clunky transmission
Buffeting above 100km/h

Protect your Harley-Davidson. Call Shannons Insurance on 13 46 46 to get a quote today.