The Switchback in its mini bagger form.
Lose weight fast! BOGO! Just a couple of highly effective marketing terms we felt Harley could have easily incorporated into the promotional material for its latest model, the Dyna Switchback.
It seems everyone and their physical trainer is always seeking out the latest fad to quickly drop a few pounds. And why not, slimming down helps you look and feel better and you can move quicker and are more agile. Well, what if we told you there was a weight loss program where you could shed nearly 100 pounds without cutting back on your Big Mac intake or jogging a single mile? It’s possible. Simply roll into your local Harley dealership and trade in that 812*-pound Road King for a svelte 718*-pound Dyna Switchback. And best of all, with a price tag that rings in $1,500 cheaper than a King (pricing on Vivid Black models), with the Switchback you’re essentially scoring yourself a BOGO (buy one get one) deal, seeing as the Switchback is basically two bikes in one.
Of course the idea of two bikes in one isn’t a totally new concept from Harley by far, the Factory has offered convertibles in the FXR, Dyna, and Softail families. What is unique and different about the Switchback is that with its 41.3mm frontend, chromed headlight nacelle, 130mm front tire, floorboards, hard saddlebags, and full swept FL-style fenders, it looks like a descendant of the Touring lineage rather than just a Dyna with hardbags and a windscreen. Then when you peel off the windscreen and saddlebags, well, it still kind of looks like part of the Touring family, just stripped down, cleaned up, and sexier.
Once you throw a leg over the saddle and hit the streets it becomes evident this bike isn’t the offspring of some overweight sofa glide. It’s agile, powerful, and likes the twisties—ah ha! It does have Dyna DNA. I spent quite a bit of time on the Switchback and was impressed with everything from its looks and handling to the performance, storage capacity, and versatility.
The Harley engineers really did their homework when it came to setting up the steering and suspension to ensure the bike had the comfortable and plush ride of a Tourer, but the maneuverability and handling of a Dyna. The frontend geometry, tire specs, and suspension were all designed to work together to provide crisp and lightweight steering. Within the beefy fork legs is a 20mm cartridge which helps provide enhanced damping, while at the rear is a set of Nitrogen-charged monotube rear shocks with dual rate springs. The rear shocks are preload adjustable, which make it easy to set up the rear suspension for solo, two-up, or loaded-up riding. Back up front a 130mm Dunlop provides a nice steady footprint while bombing down the highway, but the low-profile design of the tire helps get the bike over and in and out of tight turns with ease. One thing I definitely noticed was that unlike the members in the Touring family which can sometimes provide unwanted feedback in the form of shimmying or shaking when upset by inconsistencies in the road at high speeds and/or high-speed turns, the Switchback was solid from tire to tire at excessive speeds, tight sharp turns, and when loaded up and leaned over in high-speed sweepers. Even when I gave the mini ape handlebars a good shove while cruising straight down the highway, the bike steadily kept its line without the rear getting squirrely or needing time to settle down.
Powered by the 103ci engine and backed by the six-speed transmission, the Switchback gets to where it needs to be or where you want it (in front of that big rig) with ease. Granted its not going to break any land speed records, but with the saddlebags fully loaded and a touring bag strapped to a luggage rack, I was able to easily slip past slow moving traffic on inclines without having to drop it down into Fifth. Weighing in 43 pounds lighter than the Heritage Softail Classic (761* pounds), and only 12 pounds heavier than the next heaviest Dyna, the Fat Bob (706* pounds), the Switchback is easy to unload off the kickstand but not so heavy that it hinders the performance or potential of the triple-digit-displacement engine. (If you haven’t done the math already, the Switchback is 94 pounds lighter than the Road King.) Bolted to the right side of the rubber-mounted engine is a chromed 2-into-1 straight-cut exhaust which offers a decent note and gives the bike more of a performance look as opposed to the classic look of duals found on Touring models. And unlike the Touring models in which the exhaust is secured to the rear of the saddlebag supports, Harley engineers designed the rear exhaust hanger bracket to mount off the back of the drivetrain and to actually move with the drivetrain. With overall weight a main concern, Harley opted for an aluminum rear hanger bracket as opposed to steel.
Slowing the Switchback down or coming to an immediate stop safely is assisted by a four-piston fixed front caliper and 300mm uniform expansion floating rotor, with a two-piston torque-free rear caliper cinching down on a 292mm rotor. The bike I tested was outfitted with the Security Package Option (additional $1,195) which bundles the Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS) with the Smart Security System with proximity-based hands-free security fob. As we’ve experience with other ABS-equipped bikes the pulsating brakes in tight situations works well.