Escape Artist

Story by Costa Mouzouris// Photos by Brian J. Nelson
June 1 2013
2013 Harley Davidson Breakout

It’s loud, often brash, sometimes vulgar – and always fun. It’s Bike Week at Daytona, and I’m here testing Harley’s new Softail Breakout. Harley-Davidson introduced the CVO version of the Breakout late last year (see page 29). It featured a long, low-slung Softail chassis, fat tires, bobbed fenders, a raked-out front-end, and Harley’s powerful Twin Cam 110 V-twin.

This new, regular-production Breakout has several of the CVO’s distinguishing features, like the fat, 130-series, 21-inch front tire, the extra-wide 240-series rear tire, a long, 1710 mm (67.3-inch) wheelbase and raked-out fork. The rake angle is actually a lazy 35 degrees, and the forks are kicked out two additional degrees in the triple tree clamps.

What the Breakout doesn’t have is the CVO’s abundant chrome plating and bolt-on cosmetic bits, or that bike’s larger engine. It uses Harley’s smaller, yet still massively torquey, Twin Cam 103B V-twin. The air-cooled engine displaces 1690 cc and is counterbalanced for smooth operation, while a smooth-shifting, six-speed gearbox transfers power to the rear wheel via a silent, low-maintenance belt.

Test Drive Harley Davidson BreakoutIf the devil is in the details, then the folks at Harley know Beelzebub well. The paint finish is spectacular, and I’m especially fond of the ember red sunglo, which is deep, rich and smooth as glass. Even the gear-shaped crest on the fuel tank makes a statement with a jewel-like cloisonné inlay. The wheels are a tribute to the Gasser dragsters of the ’50s and ’60s, with a machined finish on alternating spokes. With much less chrome than the CVO, the Breakout exudes a more sinister presence, with sporadic chrome trim balanced out by abundant blackout treatment. This is a good thing if you appreciate an understated look as much as I do.

To emphasize the Breakout’s fat tires, the fenders are cut short, and my American-spec test bike is equipped with a side-mounted licence-plate mount as well as turn signals that double as tail and brake lights; almost all you see from the rear on this bike is tire. Canadian-spec Breakouts will have a centrally mounted licence-plate mount and tail lamp to comply with our more zealous Transport Canada regulations.

Harley Davidson BreakoutHarley-Davidson literature claims that “the Breakout motorcycle is an urban prowler, a bike ready for a midnight ramble to the roadhouse or a rib-joint rendezvous with the crew.” In essence, the Breakout is the quintessential bar-hopper. Its Easy Rider seating position would make Dennis Hopper proud; it has an ultra-low, 660 mm (26 in.) seat height, a leg stretch far ahead towards the forward-mounted foot pegs, and an equally distant reach to the flat, drag-bike bend handlebar. Don’t forget, the Breakout isn’t an Iron Butt candidate, and it isn’t about carving back roads with sportbike agility; it’s about riding in short spurts and taking long breaks in between, chatting up your buddies and eating. If you do intend to take a longer ride, its 18.9-litre fuel tank should be good for about 340 km at a time.

Despite the Main Street brouhaha, Daytona Bike Week is the ideal backdrop to launch the Breakout, not only because it’s the first biker gathering of the year, but also because Florida’s roads are smooth, flat and straight. Tight, winding roads are not this boulevard-cruiser’s forte, and aside from the laidback riding position, there are a couple of other factors working against the Breakout’s handling prowess. The long wheelbase and fat rear tire give it resistance, making it feel like it’s leaning onto a spring while arcing through a turn. Leave a stop into a sharp right-hand corner, and you have to maintain constant pressure on the inside handlebar to maintain an arc or you’ll find yourself running wide. The benefit of this handling quirk, of course, is absolutely unwavering straight-line stability, and on the highway, even windblasts from oncoming trucks don’t budge it from its lane.

This doesn’t really matter to me as I stroll northbound along Highway 1A with the Atlantic Ocean to my right; if I want to scrape knee sliders, there are other bikes and other places for that. Here, I just want to take in the scenery, and the Breakout chugs along comfortably at what my U.S. speedometer reports as 55 mph (about 90km/h). The smooth asphalt doesn’t tax its short-travel suspension, though after about 40 minutes in the saddle I begin to fidget, moving my butt from side to side on the seat. The seating position might look cool, but it places all of your upper body weight on your lower back, which needs regular relief.

I turn left onto High Bridge Road, just south of Flagler Beach, and take the only road in the area that has a few bends in it (there are six!). Even at a gentle pace, the Breakout’s limited cornering clearance makes it all too easy to touch the foot-peg feelers to the pavement, so I slow down and strike poses for a pair of roadside photographers taking pictures of passing bikes and selling the images online.

Rolling on the throttle provides a substantial kick in the pants, as the big twin produces its peak torque at just 3000 rpm. The engine is also remarkably smooth, and the transmission shifts with great ease and a light touch, even by Japanese sportbike standards. Exhaust sound, is of course, well subdued to meet stringent emissions regulations, but there are enough loud bikes here during Bike Week that the lack of sound actually sets me apart from the crowd.
Breakout pricing starts at $20,329, and although it’s now the most expensive model in the Softail line-up, it costs almost $10,000 less than the CVO. I think of it as an entry-level CVO that you can customize on your own terms using the countless accessories available through Harley’s accessory catalogue, as I suspect potential owners will do. ABS is available as part of an optional $1,360 package that includes a security system.

There are pullback handlebars and passenger backrests available to improve comfort, but those things detract from the Breakout’s low-profile looks and badass attitude. Other touring accessories include saddlebags and a windshield, but those will probably be the least popular add-ons for this machine, especially since the potential buyer probably already has a bike in the garage for travelling long distances.

Harley’s marketing folks have no illusions as to their target customer for the Breakout, stating during the technical presentation that it is meant as a second bike. This is not a beginner bike, it’s not a travelling bike and it’s not a road-carving sportbike; it is a top-of-the-line custom bike that makes a subtle, yet powerful statement.

The Basics
LIST PRICE $20,329
WARRANTY 2 years, unlimited mileage
The Drivetrain  
ENGINE TYPE Air-cooled, 45-degree V-twin
TORQUE 95.5 ft-lb (125 N-m) at 9750 rpm
BORE AND STROKE 98.4 x 111.1 mm
FUEL DELIVERY Electronic fuel injection
the essentials  
FRONT SUSPENSION 49 mm fork, non-adjustable
REAR SUSPENSION Twin shocks, non-adjustable
WHEEL TRAVEL Front: 117 mm (4.6 in.); Rear: 79 mm (3.1 in.)
BRAKES Front: single 292 mm disc with four-piston caliper; Rear: 292 mm disc with two-piston caliper;
ABS optional  
WHEELBASE 1710 mm (67.3 in.)
RAKE AND TRAIL 35 degrees/146 mm
TIRES Front: 130/60B-21; Rear: 240/40R-17
WEIGHT (WET) 322 kg (710 lb.)
SEAT HEIGHT 660 mm (26 in.)
FUEL CAPACITY 18.9 litres
FUEL ECONOMY (CLAIMED) 5.6 L/100 km (50 mpg)

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