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2012 Harley-Davidson Softail Slim Review


by Pascal Bastien ,

Harley-Davidson introduces the sixth member of the Softail family. Rather than shaving weight, the Slim is about going back to the basics. Make no mistake, though: this clean-looking cruiser is still bad to the bone and provides wicked fun on the open road.

Sleek and stylish, the Slim strikes a chord at the very first glance and makes onlookers believe that it comes straight from a tuner's shop. The wide ''Hollywood'' handlebar harkens back to custom bobbers of '50s and even features a cross brace to mount lights or a small cargo case. Add glossy black laced wheels, a solo rider's seat, equally wide front and rear tires, a chopped rear fender, and massive forks borrowed from the Fat Boy, and you get an irresistible package.

2012 Harley-Davidson Softail Slim

Mechanical delight
The Twin Cam 103 is where the fun really starts. You'll never get tired of this torquey yet flexible 1,688cc engine, from the pulsating rumble at super-low revs to the arm-ripping punch under hard acceleration.

Together with an easy-to-use slipper clutch, nicely calibrated 6-speed Cruise Drive transmission, and quiet, low-maintenance belt final drive, the powerplant delivers friendly riding dynamics and safe handling on slippery pavement.

2012 Harley-Davidson Softail Slim engine
The Twin Cam 103 is where the fun really starts. You'll never get tired of this torquey yet flexible 1,688cc engine. (Photo: Sébastien D'Amour)

Comforting ergonomics
The 2012 Harley-Davidson Softail Slim proves easy to control for a machine that tips the scales at 304 kg. The wide handlebar and ultra-low centre of gravity obviously have a lot to do with it. Riding in the city is almost effortless, while the clean design doesn't intimidate like large bagger-style cruisers do.

On the road, the Slim obeys your every command and even lets you have some fun in corners (until the half-moon foot boards call you to order), while the classic syncopated sound of Harley engines plays in the background.

Initially launched in 1988, the Softail frame looks like a hardtail but is actually equipped with horizontal rear shocks hidden under the swingarm pivot. This short-travel setup contributes to a unique slammed look.

Elsewhere, the Slim comes with available ABS as a part of the Security Package. The front and rear hydraulic pumps are beautifully concealed within the wheel hub. Braking performance is commendable, even with a slight pressure on the lever.

2012 Harley-Davidson Softail Slim front view
On the road, the Slim obeys your every command and even lets you have some fun in corners. (Photo: Sébastien D'Amour)

Almost serene
The wide handlebar, large tank and forward mounted footpegs dictate a radical riding position yet one that's fairly easy to live with considering the aggressive design. Whether in Vivid Black or the oh-so-fitting Ember Red Sunglo, the Slim will make you look good and let you feel all the subtleties of the engine.

This Harley devours miles of pavement at any speed you want and in almost serene fashion. Of course, when the road deteriorates, things get pretty rough. However, that's a relatively small price to pay given the extremely sexy look.

In the end, the 2012 Harley-Davidson Softail Slim is a genuine custom-type cruiser, a stripped-down steed driven by a legendary motor that's always ready to deliver the goods when you twist the throttle. The many appealing design cues go hand in hand with the charismatic ride and handling of this newest Softail representative.

Lots of style
Superb fit and finish
Solid frame
Improved brakes with ABS

Lack of rear suspension travel

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