If you want to get a sense of just how good the new Harley-Davidson Heritage Classic really is, I suggest you first take a test ride on the equally new Breakout. Both are popular models, both are part of Harley’s overhauled Softail lineup, both are powered by the Milwaukee Eight V-twin engine, and both have the same frame (though the swing arms are different). But only one of them is a bike I’d spend money on.
I got a chance to ride the 114 cubic-inch versions of both motorcycles in Catalonia last week, along with the equally all-new Fat Bob and Street Bob (more on those soon), and being able to compare the four models helped put each in perspective. In my opinion, the Breakout is the stinker of the bunch. I don’t like its looks, I don’t like its riding position, and I don’t like the fact it can’t corner on any road with curves sharper than those found on a NASCAR track.
I realize there are plenty of folks who disagree. Contributor Leah Misch was a big fan of the raked-out beast when she rode one in Southern California a month ago, as were the firefighters she was perving after. Meanwhile, the folks at Harley tell me the Breakout has been one of their most popular models. Fine; to each his own. But for me, the only truly good thing about the Breakout is its engine.
The torque-tacular Milwaukee Eight – first introduced on Harley’s touring lineup last year – is a legitimately good powerplant that easily outclasses the Twin Cam 103 engine it replaces, and definitely holds its own against competitors like Indian’s Thunder Stroke 111. Possessing enough character to remind you that you are sitting on a metal box of explosions, by gawd, it is still smooth enough to deliver an all-day ride without irritation. So, why not put it in something you actually want to ride all day? Something that can handle a few corners, something that’s comfortable, something… like the Heritage Classic.
The Heritage Classic is good enough on its own, but a test ride on a Breakout draws a big line under that fact and circles it in red marker with lots of arrows and the words “GOOD BIKE!” written across the top. After spending half a day on a Breakout, I threw a leg over a Heritage Classic and was so instantly smitten that I started pleading with Harley to let me ride it home.
I’ve managed to make it this far in a Harley review without using the word “iconic” but it’s difficult to think of a better way to describe the styling of the Heritage Classic….