Archive for February, 2012

First Ride: the Harley-Davidson Softail Slim

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on February 12, 2012 by bleiglass

Now this was trully the very first ride of Guildford Harley-Davidson new Softail Slim. As German I had not missed to put my towel in time on the seat to reserve my demo, and it was to some surprise of the crew that I showed up on time, on my Sportster 883R, in -6 degree C temperatures and icy roads.

Though I could no convince the boss to waive the 1,000 GBP excess one has to sign when taking a demo-bike on a spin, I decided it was worth the risk for taking this new addition out, specially as it had only 4 miles (four!) on its ODO. Just the mechanics taking the bike out of its box from Milwaukee did a short check run, so I was surely the first client to ride the new Softail Slim in the Guildford area, maybe the whole of UK, as Feb 11/12 was the introductory weekend nationwide.

If you expect a in-depth technical analysis of strength and weaknesses, based on the comparison and experience from many years of riding Harley models, stop reading now. For one the roads were really icy, and 1,000 GBP is real money, and a bike with just 4 mile on the ODO is really not run in. I did not push it, though this is a demo bike, it will one day find its way to a proud owner, and I wanted to give it at least the distant chance for a decent run-in.

For the record: I ride a Road King Classic for longer distances (about 15k miles a year) and a Sportster 883R for my daily 40 mile commute (about 5k miles a year).

First impression: the Softail Slim is more suitable to replace my Sportster then my Road King. I like touring, but the Slim did not provide enough space for even my own butt. The seat is clearly too short for my big bum, and the sales rep Michael had already $ signs in his eyes expecting to sell me a wider single seat.

The Slim was surprisingly agile, appeared small and not heavy at all. Not wanting to describe cosmetics, I leave that Harley-Davidson marketing guru’s, the handlebar felt right and very similar positioned then on the 883R, narrow enough for city commuting and filing through lines of cars, wide enough for longer distance runs. The major difference was the low seating position and the big fuel tank between my legs, something I welcomed, as I can not understand how a commuting bike that needs refuelling twice a day makes any sense, as beautiful as the 48er peanut tank may look. On my the 883R I at least get 3 roundtrips to the office.

The back of the Softail Slim is… very slim, never feels present, very nice, but not for touring, as I like to feel the presence of my saddle bags and its valuable cargo, and yes, my windscreen.

The 883R is the only Sportster with the “luxury” of double front disks, something I really appreciate for its fine controls and dose in stop and go city traffic. The slim has just one, and as this one wasn’t even properly run in as it still must have had Milwaukee dust on it, so this was the most disappointing aspect of the ride. With the icy roads I did not grab hard, avoiding surprises and the ABS, but it was very weak in comparison to what I am used.

The engine delivered what I expected, not run in, but deep and powerful, the 103ci on it will clearly improve over the next 500 miles and even put my 2010 Road King with 96ci engine into the shadows.

Did I take the cheque book out? No, luckily not for any 1,000 GBP excess, and not to own the slim. It would fit into my “collection” as a third bike, in between the Road King and Sportster, just for day trips on sunny warm days without luggage.

For 3 bikes in the garage, one even without a pillion seat, I will need a different “Board of Directors” in my household, and a new house. So the Slim will be considered again when its time to replace the Sportster for something more powerful, but nearly as agile. It is clearly not a replacement for a Touring Bike, with or without a bigger seats.

Thank you to Guildford Harley-Davidson to have let me ride this bike in these weather conditions, I can only recomend others to do it, as we all have different reasons and requirements for owning a Harley-Davidson. I have reasons to own 2 very different ones, but for a third there is no present need.