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The Softail Slim: A new addition to the Harley-Davidson lineup



Pare down a Harley-Davidson® Softail® motorcycle to its essential elements and you have the Slim motorcycle.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 once again make the engine the design focal point of a motorcycle,” says Senior Designer, Casey Ketterhagen. “So we put a Softail® [motorcycle] 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, 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.”

Photo: Harley Davidson

To keep the rear of the motorcycle simple and clean, the Slim motorcycle has combination stop/turn/tail lights along with a centre mounted LED tail light and licence plate illuminator. 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 [motorcycle] 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 motorcycle, the cross-braced bar is finished in Gloss Black, with matching Gloss Black hand controls and a louvered headlight nacelle. 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 103BTM 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 uses rear suspension control, provided by coil-over shock absorbers that are 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 motorcycle 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 handlebars back two inches without changing the control cables and lines.

Key features of the 2012 Harley-Davidson® Softail® Slim motorcycle include:
  • Rigid-mounted, air-cooled, 1690 cc Twin Cam 103BTM counter-balanced engine with Automatic Compression Release (ACR), rated at 98.7 ft. lbs. peak torque at 3,000 rpm
  • Powertrain is finished in black powdercoat with polished covers
  • 6-Speed Cruise DriveTM transmission
  • Chrome, over/under shotgun exhaust with slash-cut mufflers
  • Round Gloss Black air cleaner cover
  • Classic 5.0-gallon Fat Bob® fuel tank
  • Black cat’s eye console holds the electronic speedometer with a retro-style face
  • Dunlop 16-inch (MT90B16) front and rear (MU85B16) tires
  • Steel Laced Black wheels
  • Gloss Black 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 the rear tire
  • Trimmed FL front fender
  • Combination stop/tail/turn rear lights
  • Centre mounted LED tail light and licence plate illuminator
  • Solo seat with black tuck-and-roll vinyl cover
  • Forged Gloss Black rear fender struts
  • Gloss Black oil tank
  • Colour choices include Vivid Black, Denim Black, and Ember Red Sunglo
  • Security Package Option (Factory-installed option) includes: Smart Security System with proximity-based, hands-free security fob and Anti-lock Braking System (ABS)

The 2012 Harley-Davidson® Softail® Slim motorcycle is available through the Canadian network of authorized Harley-Davidson® Retailers at a suggested Canadian Retail price of $17,599. For information on free test rides, please visit the events tab on

As reported by Deeley Harley-Davidson® Canada