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Softail Slim Riding Impressions

So What's the Deal, Is it Old, or Is it New

By Doc Robinson Bikernet's Australian Certified Road Impression Specialist in Charge

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“A pre-2006 Fat Boy with spoke wheels.” “Another parts bin special masquerading as a hot new model.” “Less is more when it comes to price with this bike.” “Overpriced for what you get.” These are several of the comments that guys have made to me while discussing the Softail Slim.

The Motor Company, on the other hand, says it is, “The perfect blend of classic, raw bobber style and contemporary power creating a modern ride with unmistakable old-iron attitude”. Old iron attitude? Would someone please explain that one to me?

Oops, it looks like they have. Deeper into the H-D web site I found out this, “A cutting-edge ride that's rich with Harley-Davidson history, the Slim model's old-iron soul comes alive right up front. Unique retro-inspired handlebars call back to the glory days of 1940s bobbers, while the gloss-black headlamp cover and the ‘Cat Eye’ console with its retro speedo face add even more swing-era swagger.”
Are we clear now?

Okay, that’s enough fun with the marketing gibberish. What do we really have here? Firstly, a damn good looking bike with authentic styling hints from the glory days of bobbers, particularly in respect of the cut down front and back guards (fenders), the half-moon floorboards and the Cat-Eye dash (isn't that Cat's-eye). Then there are the Hollywood handlebars with their wide bend and cross-brace, and some blacked out bits - it is just another Softail with a skinny back wheel and a seat harder than a slab of granite.

Well maybe not granite, but while riding it on my first jaunt, a distance of only 230 miles, I found it bloody uncomfortable, the worst stock Harley seat I can remember in two decades of testing them. Hey, it looks good though, especially in the showroom.

So to this point, you’d reckon I don’t like this bike much at all. But that is not the case, I really like it, both in its looks and its handling. As with the Blackline, the Slim’s relatively narrow rear tyre of only 140mm provides superior handling to the rest of the Softail range with their wider rear tyres. Like the Blackline, it seems you only have to think about cornering and it begins tipping in. So the combination of the relatively chunky front tyre (130mm) and slim rear one makes for great cornering, by Softail standards at least.

Of course the lunatics on the forums are already buzzing about how fat a tyre might be made to fit and how much a wide arse conversion might cost. Sheesh!
I’m all for modifications but if you want a fatter back tyre why not just buy a Fat Boy or any one of the Softail range excepting the Blackline.

Softails are still very popular in Australia.
Softails are still very popular in Australia.

By the way, if anyone happens to have noticed that the styling approach to the Slim is similar in some ways to the Blackline, that’s because the same bloke, Harley-Davidson Senior Designer Casey Ketterhagen, was once again delegated design duties.

Throwing a leg over the Slim immediately demonstrates the low seat height, and thumbing the starter button immediately brings the 103-cube TCB motor to life with a deep and satisfying rumble. Let the clutch out and the bike surges ahead in a spirited fashion because even in stock form these are a very powerful motors. A great motor. In fact the biggest Big Twin motor Harley-Davidson has ever bolted into any model line of motorcycles, CVO’s excepted.

And that first impression is confirmed every time the throttle is twisted and makes riding a 103 cube Harley a joy, with oodles of power and torque at your command as you sweep through the corners or charge along the straights.

With a 6-speed box, Brembo brakes and a cool riding position for cruising, this bike is solid package all up. For comparative purposes the Fat Boy has a seat height of 27.1in (690mm), the Fat Boy Lo a seat height 26.35in (669mm) and the Softail Slim 25.9in (658mm).

Despite being labelled Slim it only weighs a little less than a Fat Boy, the Slim coming in at 700lbs (317kg), while the Fat Boy weights 728lbs (330kg). The Slim is part of the 2013 model range and has an RRP of $15,699, while the Fat Boy is $16,999.

It won’t be everybody’s cup of tea, but the Slim should find its way into the garages of bikers who care more about handling and cornering than fat ass back ends. Recommended for real riders.

But Doc, you are my cup of tea...
But Doc, you are my cup of tea...

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Reader Comments

Had this bike for over a year, 3800 miles so far. I have a different seat for the long trips but use the stock for everything else. I totally love and enjoy this bike. It’s like riding a jet engine with pegs although the baggers get me in the corners due to the floor boards, but my light weight and monster engine nails them everywhere else.

I love this bike!!

craig pendley
lancaster, CA
Saturday, March 8, 2014
Test road one of these and the seat sucks, but clearly not as bad as the piece of plywood they call a seat on a Wide Glide. What a POS. Who wants to fork over that kind of money, only to have to go out and buy another seat. Maybe the factory should offer an option of a real seat.

Mike Powers
Longwood, FL
Tuesday, September 25, 2012
Editor Response I'll bet they do offer an alternative seat, and Saddlemen offers a complete line of gell seats, plus Le Pera offers the custom approach. Good god. But what the hell, make that puppy your own. This is not about vacuum cleaners, this is about what you ride.
Parts bin bike just like the Blackline.

Santa Maria, CA
Monday, September 24, 2012

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