Alpha Riding

Meraj Shah takes the HD Breakout for a spin to Goa and Bhutan and comes back impressed with its looks, drive and handling

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In demeanour and temperament, the HD Breakout shares more with the Fat Bob than its siblings—the Fat Boy and Heritage Classic—in Harley Davidson’s Softail line-up. But compared to the Bob’s unfettered bruiser stance, the Breakout’s menace and street cred is just that bit more evolved, more nuanced. With no prejudice towards the Fat Boy—I can’t imagine John Travolta riding anything else in Wild Hogs, or, for that matter Schwarzenegger in Terminator—the Breakout is exactly what an urban-slick and suave alpha-male would ride.

Not saying that the drag-racer inspired Softail is low on intimidation: on the contrary, the Breakout makes a measured threat even at standstill that is accentuated by the low baritone from the pipes when the 103B V-twin is fired up. This motorcycle is not about in-your-face rage but rather an understated passive aggression that isn’t rough around the edges.

In true Softail tradition the historical roots are all in place: the Breakout is styled in the ‘gasser,’—customised drag bikes from the 1950s-960s—vein. Ergo, the cast aluminum wheels and the massive 240/40 R18 rear tyre mated to a much longer rake that stretches the overall length of the bike to 96.3 inches with a 67.3-inch wheelbase, making it the longest member of the Softail family.

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What’s more impressive though, is that the radical looks don’t translate into radical handling. Like most HDs this bike is not meant for sharp cornering, and really comes into its own in the straights. Still, the 23.4-degree lean angle means it’s not obnoxious on the twisties. Taking U-turns is, as expected, an exercise, but the low seating and lighter weight (322kgs) compensate adequately: HD’s 103B feels much more powerful and responsive than it does on the Breakout’s heavier cousins. Considering this is a chopper-esque motorcycle with serious rake and stretch, just the fact that you don’t have to straighten out the corners is what makes the Breakout so special: it looks like a genuine badass hardtail and yet cornering is not an ordeal. The riding position is cleverly neutral and feels much more comfortable than you’d imagine and the single analogue dial (with a toggle switch for the digital display) gives a nice clean look of the road to the rider. On the go, maximum torque comes up at a ridiculously low 3000rpm, which means you can be pottering around at 2400rpm on the highway with all the twist and churn at your beck and call.

Over the two weeks that I rode the Breakout on Goa’s coastline, and later on the narrow mountain roads in Bhutan, I felt no stress on the back whatsoever. It played the role of a boulevard cruiser to perfection in Goa and managed to tackle the curves in Bhutan with adequate gusto. In Bhutan the low rumble soundtrack was intermittently interrupted by the scraping of the footpegs: the Breakout handles so well that it can be a tad irritating that you can’t lean it more. Those considering buying this motorcycle would do well to consider investing in HD’s after-market forward pegs which should give just that little bit more clearance on the turns. Also, the rear seat, while padded well enough for short jaunts, won’t do for a longer ride—this is not a pillion machine, in more ways than one.

With no prejudice towards any other bike in HD’s long 2016 line-up, the Breakout hits the spot on pretty much every parameter. Visually and functionally, it’s the most compelling manifestation of the marque’s retro-chic appeal mated to a modern motorcycle. The Road King is still top of the pops when it comes to no-holds-barred long distance cruising, but for an all-round proposition, the Breakout is peerless.

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