I had the opportunity to ride Harley-Davidson’s new for 2013 Softail Breakout. The Breakout has an initial learning curve, especially if the time of day you pick up the motorcycle coincides with rush hour traffic. Hunter S. Thompson said, “Anything worth doing is worth doing right.” Following Thompson’s advice led me to riding the Breaktout late at night to unleash it on empty city roads. In doing so I woke a sleeping giant and discovered what the new Harley-Davidson was really meant for.
There’s just one thing. We’re motorcyclists. By definition we don’t follow what society has determined to be “doing it right.” If we concerned ourselves with the right way of others, we would be driving around in messy minivans or silly SUVs. I expanded on that idea: If a motorcyclist doesn’t follow convention than why should his riding? I knew what the Breakout was meant for, but I wanted more. How could we discover what a motorcycle was really capable of without pushing the limits? “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” – Neale Donald Walsch. This time I decided to take the Breakout outside of its comfort zone and its “Urban Prowler” designation…
What exactly does prowling mean, anyway?
Imagine you didn’t know you were reading a Breakout review. Imagine you just saw this piece of paper and had to pick a type of motorcycle:
“Urban Prowler” probably wouldn’t be your first guess, but some kind of bagger or touring bike might. It was time to jump on the Breakout and get out of town.
First I needed to make a little pit stop. Fullbore Marketing was hooking me up with an Arai piece that I desperately needed for my beloved red and white helmet. I rode down to Studio Cycle Group in Toronto where Dave, Steve, and Jasen have always been infinitely resourceful. One by one they came out to see the shiny red Harley-Davidson parked out front. It’s a bit of a head turner. The guys gave the finish a thumbs up, fixed my Arai issue, and I was on my way.
My next destination was another set of friends from the motorcycle industry. In addition to writing my favourite motorcycle magazine, Motorcycle Mojo has always been very good to me. These are the real, passionate type of motorcyclists. The ones who would make a U-Turn on the highway to help a motorcyclist on the side of the road. In the current month’s issue Mojo had just reviewed the Breakout at Harley-Davidson’s model launch in the United States. It was about time I ride up to Barrie to say hi.
That’s when I was faced with the downside of the drag bar. I weigh about 140 lbs., maybe a little more dripping wet, but it wasn’t raining. Harley doesn’t list the specs, but that drag bar is wide. The Breakout’s speedometer cluster is designed to be level with and tucked beneath the handlebar in order to give the motorcycle that much more of a sleek, sexy look. The problem is that when you find yourself on the highway you have absolutely nothing in the way of cover. I would’ve welcomed even an erect speedometer à la Sportster. No luck.
I generally prefer a windscreen-less motorcycle but I was facing a strong headwind. The Breakout was not being blown around nor did it show any sign of slowing down. In fact this Harley-Davidson seemed impervious to wind gusts coming from any direction. The extra weight and the gobs of torque worked well.
As for the 140 lbs. rider, well, I was squeezing the grips with my hands and the tank with my knees a little harder than I like to. Eventually I swallowed my pride, tucked my tail between my legs, and scraped pegs along the ramp off of the highway. That reminds me, the Breakout’s lean angle, right and left, is 23.4 degrees. For a cruiser, that’s not bad!
I rode north to the very end of Jane St. and looked behind me. Mostly known for the intersection of Jane and Shepperd where violence and murder is far too common, Jane St. actually has a charming history and cultural significance that’s often overlooked and forgotten. At the turn of the 20th century a real estate developer was naming streets after his family members, but the largest and longest of all of his streets he named after his cherished wife, Jane. Almost a century later, the Barenaked Ladies, a Toronto band of international fame, would write a Canadian classic single about a girl with a dazzling smile, sweet Jane St. Clair, named after the intersection of Jane & St. Clair. From 60 km north of the city, the view from Tornado Dr., where Jane finally ends, was wonderful.
The Breakout was as happy as a pig in mud in the agricultural world. I did hit one road which suddenly turned to gravel and I slowed down so as to save Harley-Davidson Canada any unnecessary little dings from flying debris. Though the $20,000 Breakout has no business on gravel roads, with a 240 mm rear tire it feels as steady as anything I’ve ever rode over rock on.
As the tractors became a distant memory and we entered suburbia the Breakout began beaming with pride. Roads with multiple wide lanes and little traffic was the perfect place to roll on the throttle, zip from lane to lane to pass, and let loose. When we did hit a red light people were staring.
When I arrived at the Motorcycle Mojo headquarters everything in the office just made sense. It was high tech top to bottom, but still sprinkled with motorcycle magic and nostalgia in every room. Out front, like at Studio Cycle, the Harley’s paint was one of the first things mentioned.
The Mojo crew recommended I check out a restaurant called Puck’N’Pizza. Say it out loud. The food was Puck’N delicious. My cell phone’s battery was nearly spent from sharing my adventure on Facebook and Twitter all day. The blonde waitress kindly charged it for me and was tipped accordingly. Always remember karma when out on two wheels.
A headwind when you’re leaving home is often a tail wind on your return. With the wind at our back the Breakout and I flew back into the city. I felt no wanting for more speed or torque, not in province that suspends the license and tows the vehicle of anyone driving 50 km/hr over the limit. A small fly screen wind shield would have been welcome though.
Back in the city I called up the illustrious Toronto contortionist Gabby DB for an impromptu photo shoot and some slushies. Friends, motorcycles, riding, and taking pictures of a bendy girl who’s way too pretty to be hanging out with you, it was a perfect summer day.