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2012 Harley-Davidson Softail Slim First Look

Wednesday, February 1, 2012
2012 Harley-Davidson Softail Slim
Harley-Davidson trims down its Fat Boy for the newest addition to the Softail family appropriately called the 2012 Softail Slim.
Pare down a Harley-Davidson Softail motorcycle to its essential elements and you have the Slim. From its trimmed front fender to its narrow rear end, Slim is a no-nonsense, back-to-basics motorcycle. Call it stripped. Call it old school. Call it lean and mean. What's left is the elemental Softail profile and iconic Harley-Davidson style that recalls classic custom bobbers of the 1950s.
"It's time to make the engine the focal point of the motorcycle," says Harley-Davidson Senior Designer Casey Ketterhagen, "so we put a Softail on a diet to get the proportions back in check. Scale down the rear with a narrow tire and chopped fender and the heart of the bike, the motor, once again becomes the focus. We left a gap between the nose of the seat and tank so the rider can see the top of the motor. I like to be able to look down and see what's moving me."

To keep the rear of the motorcycle simple and clean, the Slim has combination stop/turn/tail lights and a side-mounted license plate. The rear fender struts are left uncovered, exposing the forged steel and fasteners. A thin formed-leather strap covers the fuel tank seam. The powertrain is finished with polished covers instead of chrome, and the black cylinders are left unhighlighted. The FL front fender is trimmed to expose more of the tire.

"I'd personally like to strip the bike down even further," says Ketterhagen, "but this is as far as we can go on a production model. The Slim is intended to be a direct interpretation of home-built customs of the 1940s and 50s, and we used a number of components that evoke that era, beginning with a Hollywood handlebar."

The Hollywood bar, identified by its wide bend and cross brace, was originally an accessory for Harley-Davidson models with a Springer fork. The name may have been coined because owners of that era who used the cross-brace to mount lights and bags had "gone Hollywood" with excessive accessorization. For the Slim, the cross-braced bar and louvered headlight nacelle are finished in gloss black. Other period styling cues include a gloss black "cat's eye" tank console with a retro speedometer face, half-moon rider footboards, a round air cleaner cover, and gloss black wheel rims and hubs. The cover of the solo seat is stitched in a tuck-and-roll pattern.

"The seat really gives you the feeling of sitting in the bike, rather than on it," says Ketterhagen. "The bars are nice and low, too, so when you're riding you have an unobstructed view forward, which reinforces the idea that this is a very elemental motorcycle, a real back-to-basics ride."

A counter-balanced Twin Cam 103B engine is rigid-mounted within the frame, creating a solid connection between rider and the machine. The Softail chassis mimics the clean lines of a vintage hardtail frame, but utilizes rear suspension control provided by coil-over shock absorbers mounted horizontally and out of sight within the frame rails. With the combination of a 23.8-inch seat height and rider footboards, the Slim comfortably fits a wide range of riders and offers light side-stand lift-off. A pull-back riser from Harley-Davidson Genuine Motor Accessories can be installed to move the handlebar back two inches without changing control cables and lines.

Key features of the 2012 Harley-Davidson Softail Slim include:
Rigid-mounted, air-cooled, 1690 cc Twin Cam 103B counter-balanced engine with Automatic Compression Release (ACR) rated at 98.7 ft. lbs. peak torque at 3000 rpm.
Powertrain is finished in Black powdercoat with polished covers.
6-Speed Cruise Drive Transmission.
Chrome, over/under shotgun exhaust with slash-cut mufflers.
Gloss Black round air cleaner cover.
Classic 5.0-gallon Fat Bob fuel tank.
Black "cat's eye" console holds electronic speedometer with retro-style face.
Dunlop 16-inch (MT90B16) front and rear (MU85B16) tires.
Black, Steel Laced wheels.
Hollywood handlebar with cross-brace
Gloss black headlamp with chrome trim ring.
Gloss black nacelle with punched louvers.
Half-moon footboards with retro-style foot control pads.
Chopped rear fender exposes rear tire.
Trimmed FL front fender.
Side-mounted license plate bracket.
Combination stop/tail/turn tail lights.
Solo seat with black tuck-and-roll vinyl cover.
Forged rear fender supports are finished in Gloss Black powdercoat.
Gloss black "horseshoe" oil tank.
Paint color choices include Vivid Black, Black Denim, and Ember Red Sunglo.
Security Package Option (factory-installed option) includes: Harley-Davidson Smart Security System with proximity-based, hands-free security fob and Anti-lock Braking System (ABS)
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fuzzandtanya   February 18, 2012 09:02 PM
A trimmed down Fat Boy?????.........it sounds like a tow truck driver after he's taken a big crap!
harleybro   February 7, 2012 03:37 PM
Comparisons to sportbikes miss the point. Look, people buy sportbikes for different reasons than they buy harleys. Me, I have one of each - a Yami FZ1 and a Super Glide Custom. When it's track day or when I want to blast through the twisties, I grab the Yami. When I want to cruise, solo or with my wife, it's the Harley. People who buy Harleys want to cruise. It's as simple as that. Try cruising with some hyperactive rev-happy sportbike some time - it's no fun.

Beyond that, Harleys allow you to relive (or experience for the first time) the love affair with the road and the spirit of freedom this country had a while back. Name me one other new product that allows you to do that. Ok, maybe a Ford Mustang or a Chevy Camaro, but that's about it. The people who get it, get it. The rest, just don't understand.

And, you know what? That's ok - different strokes. Thank God we still have choices in this country. that's why no matter what I'm riding and what the other guy is riding, I always wave to the other guy. We're going to stay up or go down together against those who would restrict our freedom to ride. If you don't think it can happen, think again - just look at what California did to aftermarket pipes recently. It's like the frog in the slowly heating water that Doesn't know he's ****ed until he's boiled. So let's cut out this Harley - lover/Harley - hater BS. If you're a rider, just ride, no matter what it is, and support all your fellow bikers.
Mitch   February 7, 2012 07:54 AM
I think they should have called it "Fatboy Lo with Spokes and a Solo Seat" but "Slim" has a better ring to it =).
DocNick   February 4, 2012 10:40 PM
It's fine to look retro, but the one time I rode a Harley I found it to shake too much and provide too little forward thrust. The engine wastes too much of its energy shaking itself around. This is compared to my Intruder 1400, so I'm not comparing it to a sport bike. No complaints about the style or the quality, but that Massey-Ferguson silage chopper should have been replaced a long time ago.
Piglet2010   February 4, 2012 04:56 PM
@ .357 Magnum - I posted what is known as a rhetorical question (I happen to have a graduate engineering degree, so I am fully aware of the subject of dynamics); H-D does not post horsepower figures since they are very low on a specific power basis (e.g. my Yamaha TW200 has about 1/8 the displacement of a "Big Twin", but about 1/4 the power). And my CBR600F4i with it tiny (35% of the displacement of a Twin Cam 103) engine will blast by packs of H-D riders on the open road - start out a pass in the mid-50 mph range, and by the time I pull in in front of the group, I am going well over the "ton". :)
leward18   February 4, 2012 08:22 AM
Nice platform for a few modification tweaks here and there to give it the perfect look I envision.
wildpig   February 3, 2012 07:42 PM
bob the fact is -- you dont have a clue.................
Bob59601   February 3, 2012 10:51 AM
The fact is that these bikes are pigs that will barely get out of their own way.
sam650l   February 2, 2012 05:21 PM
Nice info .357 Magnum! Well said... This bike looks pretty good in it"t bobber skin. I prefer Victory's but this would be one Harley I'd drop change on. Riders that love to actually ride their bikes and not pose on them would enjoy this rider for sure.
Hecklerboy   February 2, 2012 12:46 PM
I don't like the rear fender. From the pictures it looks like it's sitting too high. Needs to be closer to the tire.
sloppy   February 2, 2012 09:10 AM
The rear lines don't flow the best on this bike but it still looks great. I have to admit that this is one of the best looking bikes that Harley has come out with in the last 10 years. It is truly unique looking as well.
22AaronW   February 2, 2012 08:35 AM
Having a high torque figure with low horse power may be useful in a tractor, but we are talking about motorcycles here. I guess some people like riding two wheel tractors down the road, slowly. Here's some math for you; My Kawasaki has 59% of the Harley's displacement, 75% of the Harley's torque, and about twice the horsepower. It'll out scoot any Harley down the road. The truth is Harley-Davidson motorcycles are all about image, which I'm fine with. They look and sound cool. But let's not pretend that there is any performance advantage.
Brian426v   February 2, 2012 08:04 AM
Because it take ALOT of torque to push something that heavy
Matus1976   February 2, 2012 06:49 AM
Go retro, harking back to the old simpler days, by using a handlebar synonymous with excessive accesorization? It is a nice clean looking machine though.
.357 Magnum   February 2, 2012 05:34 AM
Piglet2010, horsepower is just a function of torque as it relates to RPM. Since Harley uses pushrod motors, they spin slower than their competitors, which gives the illusion that they're very weak to those people who don't know what horsepower is. In fact, they're kind of like those big agricultural or military diesels from the early 20th century that spin SO slowly you can count the revolutions manually--"tock, tock, tock, tock, tock"--but drive all the equipment and handle any resistance you throw at them. Those big engines make SINGLE-DIGIT horsepower, which confuses ricer kids these days, who don't understand the math. To avoid confusing the ricer kids, who think that high-pitched whining motors mean power, Harley has adapted the car enthusiast's adage, "people BUY horsepower, but then they DRIVE for torque." And that's true; peak horsepower is only important on the track where engines run constantly at their redlines. In real-world driving and riding, "twisting power" (torque) at all RPMs, ESPECIALLY down low as we start from stop lights and intersections, is what gives us that ability to get scooting. Though Harley's horsepower numbers are low, their torque numbers are quite good and since that's what matters in the real world, other makers ought to do the same.
Piglet2010   February 1, 2012 07:07 PM
Why does H-D provide torque, but not horsepower in their specs?