The Softail Slim, released as a midyear 2012 model, is an all-new bobber-style motorcycle from Harley-Davidson. Its based on the Fat Boy platform, with a similar front end and an extremely low profile. The Slim now shares the title as Harleys lowest motorcycle with the newly released CVO Breakout, both with a seat height of 23.8 inches. Released in February, the Slim caught the eye of Hollywood movie producers and made a brief appearance in the blockbuster movie “The Avengers,” with Captain America riding off on it after defeating the bad guys at the end of the flick.
At first sight, it makes sense why this bike was selected for Captain America to ride. The superhero character is aveteran ofWorld War II, and the term “bobbers” came about when US troops returned home and “bobbed off” excess parts from leftover Harley WLA military model bikes. The Slim is a polished-up factory version of a bobber, styled like those uncluttered 1940s and 1950s era backyard-mechanic creations.
The Slims comfortable solo seat is finished with detail stitching in a plump, ribbed tuck-and-roll pattern that looks good and keeps the rider firmly seated. The seat tapers to the tank,nestling the rider into the bike (rather than perched up) andmaking it even easier to flat foot the motorcycle. Thanks to theextremely low seat height of 23.8 inches,I had no trouble maneuvering the bike with my legs. Im 5-foot-5, but a seat height this low means riders even shorter than me should be able to get their feet on the ground. The flat handlebars, called Hollywood bars, are not too wide or tall, allowing the rider to sit at a slightly lifted, arms-forward stance.
The Slim is not overdressed in add-ons, but it does have a decently sized list of niceties inside and out, as riders have come to expect from a modern Harley. For example, while the speedometer looks “old school” with its retro face, displays include “new-school” information, such as a clock, a dual trip meter, an RPM/gear indicator, a low-fuel warning light and countdown feature, a low oil-pressure indicator light, an engine diagnostics readout, LED indicator lights, and a six-speed indicator light.
The “guts” of the Slim are far from vintage, with Harley’s refined Twin Cam 103 V-twin, the same engine that powers all the 2012 and 2013 Dyna, Softail and Touring models (except the Dyna Street Bob and Dyna Super Glide Custom, which have the Twin Cam 96). Harley-Davidson actually has two different versions of its Big Twin 1690cc engine, and all the Softails get the “B” version, which means the engine is counterbalanced to smooth out the shake and shimmy from the air-cooled pushrod motor.
The Slim is basically a Fat Boy model with the fat trimmed off. Bobbed fenders cover tiresnarrowerthan those on the Fat Boy, with Dunlop 16-inchers (MT90B16 front and MU85B16 on the back) made with a specially formulated compound for grip in wet or dry conditions.
The low seat height and easy maneuverability make the Slim a cinch for even a confident newbie to ride, while the smooth shifting 6-speed “Cruise Drive” transmission provides a healthy andexhilaratingthrottle roll that experienced riders will appreciate.
As with all Harley-Davidson models, the little stuff counts. An easy-to-use sidestand means rookies won’t be searching around to find it. Additionally, a formed leather strap runs from the console to the seat and covers the fuel tank seam, protecting the paint from jacket-zipper scratches.
Optional ABS brakes, which are hidden within the wheel hub, are available on the Slim as part of Harley-Davidsons Security Package, costing an additional $1,195. The Security Package also includes the factory-installed H-D Smart Security System, featuring a hands-free fob that automatically arms and disarms the vehicles electronic security functions as you approach and walk away from the bike.
I hadonlyone little problem while riding this bike on a muggy day in Southern California. It was hot, and the heat coming from under the seat had me standing up at almost every red light after just half an hour of rolling around in traffic. I suspect that the Engine Idle Temperature Management Strategy (EITMS) was not turned on. EITMS, also called “Parade Mode,” can be activated by your dealer on any of the new Twin Cam 96, 103 and 110-equipped Harleys. This mode temporarily stops fuel and spark to the rear cylinder but still allows air to flow when there is a high engine temperature, or when the bike is idling or in neutral, resulting in reduced engine heat.
I test rode theSlim inVivid Black, which along with the Blackline is the most affordableSoftailin the 2012 lineup, with a price tag of $15,499 for the 2012 model. Add $385 for the color options of Black Denim or Ember Red Sunglo. Add on the Security Package and the price jumps to $17,079. (California residents should add another $200 for CARB emissions laws.) Model year 2013 pricing has the Vivid Black Softail Slim starting at $15,699.
Riding the Slim is downright fun! It is a Big Twin with a tough look, but the low seat and quick steering are extremely confidence inspiring. It grabs attention with its understated looks and can put out a grin-inducing growl. While the Slim is not ideally suited for touring due to the lack of bags, overnight trips are not out of the question, as it can comfortably handle long highway runs with ease.
Accessories like a luggage rack and windshield are available in the extensive Harley-Davidson catalog—but remember, this bike is supposed to be minimalist. So please, add a side bag or grab your backpack and avoid cluttering up this beauty. Just bask in its simplicity.
Specs At A Glance: 2012 Harley-Davidson Softail Slim
Displacement: 103 cubic inches (1688cc)
Seat Height: 23.8 inches
Weight: 700 pounds
Price: 2012 starts at $15,499 (Vivid Black); 2013 starts at $15,699
Colors: 2012: Vivid Black, Black Denim, Ember Red Sunglo; 2013 add Big Blue Pearl
The Softail Slims super-low seat height and easy maneuverability matched with its classic looks and plenty of power make this bike suitable for all types of riders. However, despite the Slims extremely low center of gravity, we recommend beginners have some miles under their belt and be comfortable handling the size of a “larger” motorcycle before considering this bike. The price tag is excellent as a starting point into the Softail family. If day rides and short overnighters are in your future, the Slim is ideal. ————————–