With planning for an imminent road trip well underway at Dookes H.Q., I thought that I’d better get Baby Blue sorted and serviced before hitting the highway. She’s just turned over 9000 miles and is due her next service at 10k, so if I set out to ride any respectable distance she’s going to pass that easily; better get a service in first and whilst we’re at it a new pair of tyres too!
Soooo, yesterday morning I dropped her off at Plymouth Harley Davidson for the work to be done. I had hoped to wait whilst the technicians did their work, but for various reasons things got a bit stacked up and it was obvious that a quick turnaround wasn’t going to happen. The Dealership Manager Chris Iris appeared and after apologising for the delay offered me the chance to try out a new Harley Davidson Softail Slim on an extended overnight test ride.
I’ve got to admit that I was a tad peeved about the delay, but Chris’ offer was very fair and well the chance to test out a brand new model with only 160 miles on the clock was too good to miss.
The Softail Slim model has been around for about four years now and is the modern successor to my beloved “Harls,” a 2003 Softail Standard Centenary Model. Harris and the Slim share the same frame layout which really shows off the bulk of the V-twin engine. The Slim has “Fat Boy” type inverted front forks with a chunky great 16 inch wire spoked front wheel between. The engine is the 103B twin cam, that’s 1690cc of air-cooled grunt! In the classic way of all Harley Softails the rear suspension is hidden underneath the bike. The wire spoked rear wheel matched it’s front partner and looked super, I love “wire wheels!”
One thing I took an instant dislike to was the “Hollywood” handle bars, I’m more of a “Semi-Ape” man myself and the wide flat bars are just not my thing at all!
Harley Davison are making all sorts of statements about how this bike is 1950’s retro-styled and that it nods in the direction of the original custom bikes. I think the modern parlance is “Old School.” Now I’m as partial to old bikes as anyone, but I really feel that 1950’s or any other decade’s styling belongs in it’s original decade. I’d rather buy a genuine old bike, than a new one that’s pretending to be from another age!
The Softail Slim is certainly a smart-looking machine, if a tad Spartan. The seat is only a single, so no room for a pillion. Everything is minimalist, little things like combined rear brake lights and indicators are impressive, but I was left feeling that it was all a bit austere.
The twin stock pipes look great and give the Slim a nice throaty rumble.
Once I started riding that things started to really get disappointing. I’m very used to riding Softails and this one just didn’t feel “right.” The riding position may look as cool as you like and be ok for a short hop to the local café or shop, but you won’t want to be covering great distances on this machine. The saddle wasn’t at all kind to the Dookes derrière and the knees up under your chin position is frankly uncomfortable.
At low-speed the Slim handles crisply and responsively, turns in nicely on corners and sharply accelerates with swift throttle response. Above 45mph the naked bike and appalling riding position both combine to make for a teeth gritting hang on tight experience. Harley claim a top speed of 110mph, if you can get anywhere near that and still hang on, I wish you good luck!
Overall, I got to say that I was disappointed with the Slim. The on the road price is £14,995, it’s a lot of money for what is basically a posing bike and lashed up from parts of other models at that! So no I won’t be adding one to the Dookes stable anytime.
Thanks again to Chris at Plymouth Harley Davidson for the opportunity to try out the new model.
Back to the planning now, catch you soon!