2011 Harley-Davidson Softail
The Harley-Davidson Dark Custom line of motorcycles, which first appeared four years ago, has been a blessing to the younger rider set. Blacked out and minimalistic, the Dark Customs exude a sense of old-skool nostalgia with a touch of modern moto-enhancements like optional ABS and an H-D security system. The latest installment in the Dark Custom line is the 2011 Blackline.Basically this is Harley’s new bare-bones Softail with their definitive hardtail-looking rear suspension and a Twin Cam 96 motor. The Blackline has H-D’s confident-shifting six-speed “Cruise Drive” transmission and its cases and covers have a sharp gloss-black powdercoat.There is some chrome on the Harley but for the most part it is a dark beast. Having less items to clean is just fine with me. I like to spend my time riding, not polishing. As for that powerplant, it is nearly 1600 cc and one twist of the throttle lets you no that, in no uncertain terms. The Blackline delivers smooth torque-filled power that’s easy to keep in control.This Harley-Davidson moto is quite an imposing hot rod of a bike. The rod look extends right from your fingertips through its two-part “split drag” handlebar design. The bars are black finished and internally wired for a nice, clean look. This machine rolls on spoked wheels and black-finished aluminum rims, with a big 21-inch tire in front and a little 140-section rear.I appreciated that set up when it came to the bike’s handling, especially when swerving. Coming in at 683 lbs, this heavyweight cruiser was lighter than I expected and that made for a good degree of flickability.The Harley-Davidson’s chassis is draped in a satin-black finish on the frame and swingarm, and it has an FX front end with blacked-out triples and fork lowers. All your stopping is done courtesy of a four-piston caliper and single 292mm disc in front and a single four-piston caliper in back. I am not usually a fan of single discs up front but the B-Line stopped with total confidence and fast, controllable slowing.There is all-new bodywork for this year’s bare bones Harely-Davidson Softail with fenders that are minimal and a new, fat, curvy gas tank with “Blackline” trim running down the center of it. The seat is as low as a dual saddle can get-at 24 inches with a rider on board (26.1 inches unladen).That was reassuring at stops, especially with a passenger. Speaking of riding pillion, the rear seat could use some width to it. My passenger found it a touch narrow but I am happy to report that the rider seat was very comfortable. Comfort was also extended through your legs thanks to well-positioned forward-mounted controls.The new triple clamp-mounted speedometer was easy to read and full of hidden features. (Well, at least its digital strip was full of goodies.) Pressing its button toggles you through an odometer, tripometer(s), clock, gear setting, engine diagnostics readout, mileage countdown feature, low oil pressure indicator, 6-speed indicator, ABS indicator (optional) and tachometer screen displays. I LOVED that tach feature and left it on that setting most of the time.The Harley Blackline has an MSRP of $15,499. You can learn more about it at harley-davidson.com.If you want a moto that hustles, looks and acts tough, is back-to-basics to the core but full of great technology, throw a leg over the Harley-Davidson Blackline and start heading down the long black line of the road ahead.Alan Tecchio is a freelance writer based in the NY metro area who has interviewed hundreds of celebrities. He is an avid motorcyclist and active Motorcycle Safety Foundation RiderCoach. Alan has also written a weekly motorcycle column for nine years in Steppin’ Out Magazine, a NY metro area entertainment publication. He is the lead singer of the rock band Autumn Hour (autumnhour.com) and sings for the heavy metal band Hades (myspace.com/hadesusa) and the musical project Minds Mirrors (myspace.com/mindsmirrorsproject).