Once upon a time, wide 240-series rear tires were only found on $50,000 custom motorcycles, or bikes heading for the drag strip that needed a big footprint to maximize traction. Today, they’re pretty common on cruisers, many of which handle poorly because of them. Not so for the new Harley-Davidson Breakout, which does a lot more than just go in a straight line and has good suspension to match—new territory for a gnarly looking factory custom.
Just to get the name straight, The Motor Company had previously unleashed a CVO (Custom Vehicle Operations) version of the Breakout replete with show chrome up the wazoo, dazzling custom paint, a 110 cubic-inch motor, custom leather saddle and all the accouterments a top-line custom could carry… and a commensurate price tag. The fully amped-up CVO was totally show and go, aimed at veteran riders who wanted the full ante up front and didn’t feel the need or inclination to bolt on more stuff.
The production version of the Breakout, introduced during 2013 Daytona Bike Week and H-D’s 110th Anniversary year, is what you might call de-blinged, though it still walks the walk and talks the Harley talk. In fact, the official terminology characterizes the new bike as an “Urban Prowler.” Further described as a “premium Softail chopper,” it is targeted at a younger crowd who might welcome the lower price tag and a clean canvas on which to exercise their personal customizing preferences.
Aesthetically speaking, the Breakout presents itself as beefy but “ripped,” thanks to its overall compactness and minimalist approach. Its chopped, close-cropped fenders, drag bars and stout front end project a pit-bull lean impression overall. The proportions are clean, the detailing even svelte; the traditional blingy, big-twin tank console has been smoothed off, for example, and the neatly housed speedo is mounted on the handlebar risers, lowering the profile and emphasizing performance and attitude. This is something that Harley’s Chief Stylist Ray Drea, Styling Manager Kirk Rasmussen, Tech Lead Mark Strong and the entire H-D team wanted to capture and express in the Breakout, and succeeded in doing. “With the Breakout, we got down to motorcycle essentials, which means emphasizing the powertrain and the wheels,” said Rasmussen. Regarding the 240-series rear tire, he added, “We wanted a lot of rubber showing to give the Breakout a tough, muscular look.” The tires are mounted on what Harley calls its Gasser wheels, 10-spokers that are new and specific to the Breakout and inspired by drag racing wheels from the ’60s and ’70s.
The bike’s overall handling was a key issue for Harley’s engineers. The rear suspension is controlled by coilover shocks mounted horizontally within the frame rails á la Softail. The 49mm fork is some 13⁄4 inches wider than other FX Softail models to allow for the 130mm front tire. It’s a combination that appears right on the money. To sum up the 150-mile test ride, the handling was nearly seamless and the bike tackled a variety of road surfaces in stride, from high-speed highway to meandering down Spanish moss-draped town streets, to winding through Florida swampland pathways. And if I felt like stopping to smell the roses or the Spanish moss, the brakes have floating rotors front and back, and good lever and pedal feel (with optional ABS braking).
Power is via Harley’s tried-and-true, fuel-injected 103ci Twin Cam 103B engine, which provides all the stump-pulling torque (a claimed 95.5 lb-ft) you should need. The bike is set up for “a midnight ramble to the roadhouse” rather than any long-distance hauling, although toss on a pair of saddlebags and a weekend road excursion is certainly within its multitasking abilities. The 5-gallon gas tank will get you a good 150-200 miles depending on your throttle hand. You definitely ride “in the wind” with the Breakout, with air cascading up the beefy front end and making its presence known. Perhaps a “bikini” fairing would aid in decreasing the turbulence while maintaining the bad-boy looks.
Seating can be a sore spot on any bike—the comfort zone always a matter of what DNA gives you. For me, I’d quickly look for another seat and bars a bit farther back to dial in my optimal riding position. All of that’s available, since H-D already offers a full menu of options and accessories.
Color options for the new Breakout model are Big Blue Pearl, Ember Red Sunglo and Vivid Black. Vivid is a good word with which to describe the first and lasting impression of the bike. Harley-Davidsons are partly about image, after all, and the Breakout cuts a fine figure from any angle.
2013 Harley-Davidson Breakout
Base Price: $17,899 (black), $18,299 (solids)
Engine Type: Air-cooled, transverse V-twin, OHV, 2 valves per cyl.
Bore x Stroke: 98.4mm x 111.1mm
Transmission: 6-speed, cable-actuated wet clutch
Final Drive: Belt
Wheelbase: 67.3 in.
Rake/Trail: 35 degrees/5.7 in.
Seat Height: 26.0 in.
Claimed Wet Weight: 710 lbs.
Fuel Capacity: 5.0 gal, last 1.0 gal. warning light on
MPG: 91 PON min. (avg) 42.0
(This article Fat-Tired Urban Prowler: 2013 Harley-Davidson Breakout was published in the July 2013 issue of Rider magazine.)