It’s a new model year for Harley-Davidson, and when it comes to motors, all I have to say is “Goodbye 96 and hello 103.” That’s because all Twin Cam models, with the exception of the Dyna Super Glide and Street Bob, now come standard with the 103 motor.
This news, and the fact that the Rocker has been discontinued, are pretty much all there is for me to get excited about this year. Also on the chopping block are the Crossbones and Street Glide Trike. CVO models remain unchanged — the exception being the Road Glide Custom is going to be replaced by the Road Glide Ultra. The only new offerings for this year are the Dyna Switchback and the 10th Anniversary Edition V-Rod.
Those who know me well know that I’m a Dyna fan. When I heard Harley was coming out with a new convertible model, this Switchback was the last thing I pictured in my mind. I figured it would be something along the lines of the convertible models from previous years. If I had my way — and unfortunately I don’t — you’d be looking at a new and improved version of the Super Glide T-Sport. Instead, we’ve got the Dyna version of a Road King with smaller bags. The more I look at the Switchback, I can’t help but wonder how many people are going to choose it over the Road King.
I know what you’re thinking and you’re right: The motorcycle saddlebag support brackets on the Road King prevent it from being a true convertible. However, even some of the most hardcore of hardcore bikers will confess that once you ride with hard bags, you become spoiled by their convenience. So much so that you end up leaving them on the bike all the time. My thinking is, given time, Switchback owners are going to feel the same and wish they had larger bags.
Also, Harley is pitching the Switchback as a “lightweight easy-handling tourer.” You’d think it has a considerable weight advantage over the Road King but surprisingly, it’s only 94 pounds lighter. Both bikes feature rubber-mount chassis that are very similar in design and are comparable in handling. For only $1,500 more, you can pick up a bike that’s even more comfortable and that handles just as well around town — with more storage capacity. Then again, that’s just my opinion, which probably means the Switchback will be a huge success.
V-Rod 10th Anniversary Edition
This one is for the haters. You guys trashed the V-Rod when it was first introduced in 2002 and many of you still do. Why? Because the MoCo partnered with Porsche to develop its highest-horsepower motor to date. That liquid-cooled, dual-overhead cam Revolution 1250 V-Twin puts out 125 hp and 86 ft-lbs of torque at 6,500 rpm. Well, this bastard son of the Harley family just turned 10, so the factory is obviously doing something right.
However, I’m not so sure it should really be considered a “new” model. It’s basically a silver Night Rod Special that has undergone some nice changes for this year. With the exception of the exhaust system and the finish, the bikes are identical. The most notable changes for 2012 are the front end, rear end and wheels.
Both bikes now rock the V-Rod Muscle inverted front end with a newly redesigned headlight and speedscreen. The rear end is by far the best-looking piece to date. A chopped tail section with a flush-mount LED taillight finally gives the V-Rod the aggressive look that it has been lacking since its inception. The bike also gets a fresh new set of five-spoke cast-aluminum wheels that are considerably lighter than in years past.
If you’re not a V-Rod fan, the 2012 looks pretty much the same as it did a decade ago. But if you’ve been paying attention, all of the subtle changes over the past 10 years have transformed the V-Rod into the more refined machine that you see today. In the beginning, the V-Rod performed better than it looked. Now it finally looks as good as it performs. Happy Birthday to the VRSC — and here’s to another decade of distinction.