2012 Harley-Davidson Softail Slim | Test

2012 Harley-Davidson Review

There is always something special about taking the seat on a low and heavy Harley-Davidson with plenty of V-twin power trembling underneath you.

The new 2012 Softail Slim is such a motorcycle, bobbed down to resemble your granddaddy’s Harley from the 1940s and 1950s. We were in Spain recently to test this new machine during Harley’s international press launch.

The south of Spain will have to double for California in the same way it did for the spaghetti westerns of the 60s. If you’re made for digging the Slim isn’t for you. I pull the trigger of a throttle and the Softail Slim pulls off in a smooth and assertive fashion.

The 1688cc Twin Cam 103B responds in all gears from low rpm, and I kick up the six speed gearbox to overdrive as quickly as I can to just cruise through the corners and the straights. The footboards scrape the tarmac easily but it doesn’t bother me it just adds to the nice soundtrack of the big twin and heavy metal.

There’s not that much to say about the Softail Slim concept as it’s a bobber with minimal black paint and design. The Slim is one big engine surrounded by as little else as possible. Still, the fuel-injected twin is operated by a ride by wire throttle and it’s got ABS brakes. All the high tech is hidden within the frame and inside the wheels for as clean an exterior as possible and as usual Harley-Davidson pulls this one off better than anybody else.

The Slim weighs in at 700 lbs. ready to ride, so the slim part’s got nothing to do with any type of motorcycle diet. The “slim” in the Softail Slim is in the wheels, tires and minimal mudguards.

The 140mm Dunlop rear tire is slim indeed for a Big Twin but also makes the Softail Slim turn in faster than if it had a fat rear tire. The front tire is a wide and fat 130mm wide in contrast to the rear, though both arrive on 16-inch spoke wheels. The styling idea behind the narrow rear tire helps create an image of a proportionally larger engine.

The low 25.9-inch seat height, forward mounted footboards and a 40s style “Hollywood” handlebar allows ample space for my 6-foot frame. Shorter riders will find both feet planted easily on the tarmac at the lights, and taller riders will still pull off the cool look this bike inherently gives you.

There are a few vibrations from the engine at idle but as soon as I get moving it’s all but vanished. The hand controls are in usual Harley-Davidson style impeccable and gives a full and solid feel using them. The Slim has got ABS brakes and the stopping power is solid, the Softail featuring a 4-piston caliper single disc at the front and a 2-piston at the back.

The testers were in a hurry to make the lunch stop and rode on fast Spanish A roads at between 60-95 mph most of the way. This isn’t ideal on the Softail Slim as you’re completely exposed to the wind all the time.

The seat and suspension were very comfortable though and small bumps in the road at high speed were soaked up with no objection. The chassis tackles everything from slow speed cruising to high speed touring well.

Of course, the Slim is course built for cruising and that’s what I enjoyed most doing on the day. Anything above 60 mph gets painful in the long run at least with an open faced crash helmet.

The 100 ft. lbs. of torque developed already at 3000rpm ensures momentum stays once achieved but my neck sadly isn’t made of the same sturdy stuff as the Harley-Davidson Slim.

2012 Harley-Davidson Softail Slim Conclusion:

Compared to last years offering in this bobber cruising segment, the Harley-Davidson Softail Blackline, I must say that I prefer the Softail Slim for its relaxed riding position, plush suspension and cool understated 40s and 50s look.

The engine moves you along in an effortless way with plenty of torque available straight away. The slim and minimalist rear end offers a great contrast to the massive 1688cc V-twi, and the big forks at the front are very appealing. There might not be anything new apart from styling on the Softail Slim, but Harley-Davidson is an expert in giving its customers choice. And the Slim isn’t a bad choice at all.

2012 Harley-Davidson Softail Slim Positives/Negatives:


+ Understated and minimalist design paying homage to the Harley’s of the 40s and 50s

+ Great Twin Cam 103B V-twin power

+ Plush suspension


– Inhibited lean angle for a Harley that handles better than it’s allowed to show

– The riding position that makes you look cool in town gives you lots of pain on the motorway