2013 Harley-Davidson Breakout Test
The new Breakout is the first-ever standard-issue Harley-Davidson modeled after a Custom Vehicle Operations model, rather than vice-versa. When creating the Breakout, the Harley-Davidson staff worked in conjunction with the CVO developers – a whole other department (think FBI and CIA, and the big disconnect).
The standard Breakout is basically a de-commissioned CVO Breakout. Missing is the CVO’s Screamin’ Eagle Twin Cam 110B with its (amazing) downshift assist, ride-by-wire throttle, chromed Turbine wheels, chrome handlebars, and loads of other expensive shiny garnishes.
This less glitzy version knocks almost $10k off the price of the CVO Breakout, and is tastefully accessorized with gloss-black parts, including the oil reservoir, fork legs, and exhaust shields.
Though the designers at Harley-Davidson would be loathe to acknowledge it, the new Breakout responds to everything that went wrong with the Rocker C, which departed the lineup at the end of 2011 after a four-year run. In a few words, the Rocker C had difficult handling, and styling was very controversial, to put it gently. It was just a matter of time before something filled the low-slung/wide-stance void.
With chopped fenders, a 26-inch seat height, a wider fork spread than any current Softails, and 240mm rear rubber, the standard Breakout screams fat styling. Yet, the Breakout does the seemingly impossible – unify fat styling and sporty handling.
The designers spent many hours improving agility. Even with a long, 67.3-inch wheelbase and 35-degrees of fork rake, the Breakout allows for some hard-hitting cornering, whether you are exploring the depths of a curve or maneuvering in a parking lot with aggression.
Though the pegs’ two-inch long feelers were mashed into the concrete in the few sharp corners in Florida where we tested the Breakout, the bike begs for more and more lean, allowing riders to choose a consistent line. Unlike other low-slung cruisers, the cornering stability doesn’t sacrifice comfort on the straightaways.
The Gasser-style wheels harken back to 1960s dragsters, assisting in your thirst for assertive handling. With the Harley-Davidson branded Dunlops, you get a stylish 21-inch front and matching 18-inch rear wheel. The 240 not only enhances the Breakout’s low-slung image; it also sticks. The rear tire did not break loose while riding, even on a few corners dusted with sand.
If you have ridden the CVO Breakout, you’ll know how powerful the Twin Cam 110B is on that bike, so you may be worried about a “mere” 103B pushing the standard Breakout around town. In stock form, the 103B produces 95.5 ft/lbs of torque, which is enough to have some fun on the 710-pounder (claimed wet). With a few mods, this engine hauls, and will complement the impressive chassis.
The balanced Twin Cam 103B engine is rigid mounted in the Softail chassis, of course, providing just enough vibration to know there’s a 45-degree, air-cooled pushrod V-twin beneath you. For the other senses, the Breakout has staggered exhaust with a soft bark and effective gloss-black heat shields.
The 6-Speed Cruise Drive transmission is as expected, featuring slow, positive shifting. In the Breakout’s case, neutral is always easy to find. The clutch has a light feeling to it, not providing much of a workout to the hand. Most of the time, you can leave this Breakout in sixth gear and drop down to speeds as low as 35 mph, the engine po-ta-to-ing along as you engulf the surroundings.
The Breakout’s optional anti-lock braking system works well, though hard use of the single disc results in some fade and a spongy lever. Stick with the back disc and the fat 240 for consistent, non-emergency stopping power.
Styling more than makes up for the sloppy brakes, though, especially when thumping down the boulevard. Feeling is everything for diehard cruisers, and the Breakout has it. It may sound like a cliche, but you feel like you’re sitting in the bike, not on it. When reaching for the 1.25-inch black, drag-styled bars on risers, you feel lower than you actually are. Though the seat provided all-day comfort, the bars were a bit of a reach for me.
Rider experience is enhanced by the center of the tank, which features a function-free lower leather strap that widens as it approaches the chrome centerpiece. While riding, the top of this chrome tank accent reflects off the bottom of the four-inch speedometer/tachometer combo (with gear indicator, if selected), creating a “V” reflection of the rider.
Though beautiful, don’t get mesmerized or you won’t enjoy this factory chopper for long. The Breakout’s gloss-black headlight offers a more sinister look, and keeps the eyes from wandering at attractive reflections.
By far, the glass-filled medallions on each side of the tank are my favorite styling touch. They feature a bottle-cap design, which accents the Breakout’s smooth Softail lines. One of my rituals while riding is tapping the gas tank’s side, which helps me create a beloved feeling for the motorcycle. These medallions beckoned for every tap, evoking that image of man becoming one with machine.
Passenger or none, the Breakout features a two-up seat with no-nonsense styling and a quickly removable pillion. Even on long straights in Florida, my behind remained comfortable. For riders with legs longer than my 32-inch inseam, things may get cramped, and there is not much room for movement on the seat.
Without question, Harley-Davidson successfully designed the 2013 Breakout to be a low-slung cruiser with good handling and a badass look. Sure, there were styling and performance sacrifices when the CVO budget was revised for this standard Softail motorcycle, yet, the essence is there.
The translation was done with deft hands, providing a tough-guy cruiser that is within the grasp of a larger number of potential owners.
This story is featured in the May/June 2013 issue of Ultimate MotorCycling magazine — available on newsstands and good bookstores everywhere. The issue is also available free to readers on Apple Newsstand (for iOS devices) and Google Play (Android). To subscribe to the print edition, please visit our Subscriber Services page.
Photos by Brian J. Nelson