The 2012 Harley-Davidson Switchback in touring form. (Harley-Davidson )
New for 2012, the Switchback is Harley-Davidson's version of a reversible jacket. It's a cruiser that can be ridden to the Rock Store for a burger or across the country to Daytona.
"We were hearing from a lot of women and aging riders: 'I love to tour, but I don't want an 800-pound motorcycle,'" said Jennifer Hoyer, media relations manager for Harley-Davidson in Milwaukee.
Harley's answer: A 718-pound addition to the Dyna family that can be packed like a mule or prettied up for town with an easy-to-detach windshield and saddlebags. Both accessories can be removed in 45 seconds by riders who have never handled a wrench. No tools are required.
Starting at $15,999, the Switchback is powered with the same Twin-Cam 103-cubic-inch engine that Harley is using on all its Softails and Touring bikes and most Dynas. Tuned for low-end torque that makes it easier to haul this hog from a dead stop, the 103 is air-cooled, fuel injected and relatively fuel efficient. Harley clams it gets 42 miles per gallon.
Although Harley has yet to step up to a catalytic converter, it embraces more technological advancements with each model year. The Switchback comes with a six-speed cruise drive transmission, anti-lock brakes and an Engine Idle Temperature Management Strategy system that cuts off fuel to the rearmost cylinder when the bike is idling, to reduce heat and prevent the rider and passenger from feeling like rotisserie chicken. The Switchback also employs a cartridge-style front left fork and emulsion shocks to soften the ride on long hauls.
Designed for riders that are more Jax Teller than Clay Morrow, the Switchback's retro style belies its modern behemoth engine and other 2012 amenities. Its cast-aluminum wheels are skirted with fenders, its rear shocks disguised as cigars, its handlebars stretched into mini ape hangers. Showcased in a modest frame, the 103's cylinders and heads are powder coated black with polished rocker covers.
2012 Harley-Davidson Switchback
Base price: $15,999
Powertrain: Fuel-injected, air-cooled, twin cam 103, pushrod overhead valves, two valves per cylinder, six-speed
Displacement: 103 cubic inches
Maximum torque: 100 pound-feet at 3,500 rpm
Wheelbase: 62.8 inches
Seat height (unladen): 27.4 inches
Curb weight: 718 pounds
EPA estimated fuel economy: 42 mpg