MOTORCYCLE REVIEW: 2012 Harley-Davidson FLD Dyna Switchback, with Video

An economical touring motorcycle

By Genevieve Schmitt, Editor; Photos by Tricia Szulewski

Once in a while, a motorcycle is introduced that I believe has “woman rider” written all over it. The 2012 Harley-Davidson Dyna Switchback is one of those motorcycles. Why do I think this? Because it is a purpose-built touring motorcycle designed for riders who can’t or don’t want to handle the large touring motorcycles—and that description fits the majority of women riders.

Genevieve rides the Harley-Davidson Dyna Switchback, an all-new model for 2012. Fuel tank capacity is 4.7 gallons, and the bike gets an estimated 42 mpg.

The large touring bikes, often termed “baggers” because of their abundant storage space, are built on a chassis designed for long-distance riding comfort and come from the factory with accessories and components, like a windshield and floorboards, that increase comfort when traveling for long stretches of time. Because the average height of women is between 5-foot-4 and 5-foot-5, the majority of women riders find it difficult to maneuver these large motorcycles. Women want to experience all the benefits of touring on two wheels, but they desire a bike with all the creature comforts and handling of a large touring motorcycle, but in a lighter, more manageable package. Enter the Switchback.

If you’ve done any research on the Switchback, you’ll find that most of its advertising focuses on the bike’s most marketable attribute: the Switchback is actually two bikes in one. First, it’s a tourer because it comes stock with a windshield and hard-sided saddlebags. But it’s also an around-town cruiser when you remove the bags and windshield, which can be done easily and quickly. When you’re ready to “switch back” to a tourer, simply reattach those accessories.

The Dyna Switchback comes with matching hard saddlebags and a windshield.
With the saddlebags and windshield removed, the Dyna Switchback becomes a straightforward boulevard cruiser.

I don’t think this switcheroo feature is what will attract most women. Sure, it’s nice to have the option to remove the windshield and saddlebags when you don’t need them, but what woman doesn’t need or want a way to carry extra gear? And what woman doesn’t want a way to protect her face from the ravages of the wind? OK, I’m generalizing here, but you get what I mean. I believe the biggest appeal for women is that the Switchback is a motorcycle that’s set up for touring right from the factory and is much easier to handle and costs a lot less than Harley-Davidson’s larger touring models.

Touring long distances means sometimes spending hours on interstates at speeds exceeding 75 mph. I liked that the Dyna model was comfortable at this speed, driving home the point that it’s truly meant for touring.

When I first sat on the Switchback, I immediately thought “mini Road King.” The image of a man and woman riding side by side popped into my head, the man on his Harley-Davidson Road King and the woman on her “Road Queen,” the Switchback. His and hers—a matched set. So for couples wanting to tour together, consider these two motorcycles. Note to Harley-Davidson: I’ll allow you to use my idea of marketing these two motorcycles together as “his and hers.” With women influencing 85 percent of households’ purchasing decisions, this would appear to be a smart marketing strategy to get more guys (your core market) on the road. You can thank me later.

Comparing the Switchback to the Road King:

The Switchback weighs 718 pounds and has a narrow profile and a seat height of 26.1 inches. The price is $15,999. Saddlebag capacity on the Switchback is about two-thirds of that on the Road King.
The Road King weighs 812 pounds and is built on a larger frame, with a seat height of 26.5 inches. It costs $17,499.

Weighing nearly 100 pounds less than the Road King, most women, and some men (smaller guys as well as aging baby boomers dealing with waning strength and balance), will find the lighter weight and narrower profile easier to handle. The $1,500 cheaper price tag makes the jump from midsize cruiser (750cc to 1300cc) to the world of touring Harleys financially feasible, too.

With the Switchback, a rider doesn’t have to spring for touring accessories, like a windshield and saddlebags. With most of Harleys non-touring motorcycles, you’ll plunk down hundreds of dollars for these and other touring-oriented aftermarket parts. But for a price starting at $15,999, the Switchback is ready for your long-distance journeys.

Close-up of the fork-mounted windshield attachment.
To remove the windshield, lift on the metal handle that releases it. It comes off in seconds.
The top edge of the windshield cut into my line of sight. I had to either sit up very straight and look over it or just get used to having the edge cut through my vision. An aftermarket windshield that’s 2 inches taller is available from Harley for $339.95 (part #57400120).

Comparing the Switchback to the Softail Deluxe, a motorcycle that’s more popular among women than the Road King because of its extremely low seat height and stylish looks, the Switchback is a bargain at $1,100 less, which includes those saddlebags and that windshield. If youre wondering why Im not comparing the Switchback to the Heritage Softail Classic, a bike that does come with bags and a windshield too, its because that bike is not as popular among women riders, at least not as popular as the Deluxe.

Comparing the Switchback to the Softail Deluxe:

The Switchback has a seat height of 26.1 inches, includes saddlebags and a windshield, and costs $15,999.
The Softail Deluxe has a seat height of 24.5 inches and costs $17,149. It does not come standard with saddlebags or a windshield.

It costs approximately $1,500 to add hard saddlebags to the Softail Deluxe ($800 for locking leather saddlebags) and approximately $425 for a windshield. Your “tour-ready” Softail Deluxe now costs around $18,300. So the Switchback, at $15,999, is a bargain, and it boasts the same powerful engine as the Deluxe, the Twin Cam 103 (that translates to a displacement of 1690cc). The same engine also powers the Road King and Harley-Davidson’s other touring motorcycles.

The Twin Cam 103 badging is prominently displayed on the Switchback’s air cleaner and timing cover. Take note of the floorboard here, a nice feature to have for touring.

The power of the 103 engine is mightily evident on the Switchback. I’ve ridden all the Dyna models and have come to expect a certain amount of power out of these nimble motorcycles. I definitely felt the additional power of the 103—6 percent more torque over the Twin Cam 96—as I shifted through the six gears to get up to speed. Much of the torque (the muscle of the bike) is felt in the midrange of the powerband—that is, when shifting through third and fourth gear—producing up to 100 ft. lbs. of peak torque. Then when you’re up to about 70 mph in fifth gear, it’s nice to have that sixth gear to lower the RPMs so the motorcycle doesn’t feel like it’s screaming.

Besides the bigger powertrain, the large front end (similar to what’s on the larger touring bikes) is the other factor contributing to the bike’s stability at high speeds. This made the bike feel solid and planted at those faster cruising speeds.

I cranked the throttle to 80 mph and was pleasantly surprised that the “cruising” feeling was maintained without the bike feeling like it was being pushed beyond its limits. I felt some vibration in my feet at high speeds (despite the rubber dampening on the floorboards), but nothing that adversely affected the ride.

Harley completely reworked the Switchback’s front-end geometry, in addition to its wheel and tire specs, to create a ride that’s light and responsive.

So how does the Switchback handle corners? With grace and ease, never missing a beat. The Switchback inspired confidence, allowing me to fly through the twisties without that lumbered, heavy feeling that I’ve always said I felt on some of the Softails, namely the Fat Boy. The Switchback’s low-profile Dunlop 130/70B18 front tire and new front-end geometry contribute to the bike’s stable and planted feeling. While it doesn’t have any of a sportbike’s “zippy” qualities, the Switchback certainly feels right at home on the switchbacks, giving you an enjoyable break from the straightaways.

A cartridge-type 41.3mm front fork delivers enhanced damping performance and handling. The rear suspension features nitrogen-charged 36mm monotube rear shocks that have preload adjustable dual rate springs.

The stock suspension setting was ideal when I had the motorcycle loaded up with my backrest bag and saddlebags full of 25 or 30 pounds of gear. I glided over bumps, with the shocks soaking up the impact. However, my 118 pounds were not enough to compress the rear shocks with that extra weight removed, so I did feel the bumps a little more abruptly. If I owned this bike, I might have my dealer adjust the settings on the adjustable rear shocks. The stock setting may be just fine for riders weighing more than me.

The Switchback that I test rode is seen here loaded up with my backrest bag.
My Switchback test model was equipped with a backrest and a luggage rack, aftermarket accessories costing about $400.

The single-disc brakes in the front and rear provided adequate stopping power for the bike. ABS is available as a $1,195 option that comes bundled with Harley-Davidson’s Smart Security System.

Seat height is a low 26.1 inches—certainly not as low as the Softail Deluxe’s 24.5 inches, but the Switchback’s narrow profile makes up for what is lost in the wide saddle spread on the Softail Deluxe. That said, the feeling of a low center of gravity is not as pronounced on the Switchback as on the Deluxe.

The Switchback’s seat height is 26.1 inches, and my 5-foot-6.5-inch, 30-inch-inseam frame fit easily, with my feet flat and knees bent, providing me with enough leg length and strength to maneuver the 718-pound motorcycle. By the way, I’m wearing the Wrapter on my long hair. My review of that is here.

The ergonomics were right on for my taste and my size. The seat was plenty comfortable after hours in the saddle, and the position of the floorboards in relation to the seat and handlebars (the three points of contact) flowed just right for me. However, at 5-foot-6.5, I’m taller than most women and have longer arms. Women taller than I am, and men of average height, will feel right at home on the Switchback.

Women who fall into the average height category mentioned above and want to get lower to the ground and closer to the handlebars can install Harley-Davidson’s Super Reduced Reach Solo Seat for $199.95 (part number 54384-11), which brings the rider 1 inch lower and 3 inches forward. There’s also a Reduced Reach seat providing increased reach that’s not as pronounced. These Reduced Reach saddles that the Motor Company introduced a few years ago have been very successful in positioning riders closer to the handlebars and lower to the ground without requiring them to adjust the handlebars or floorboards or change out the shocks. I highly recommend looking into these seats first to see if that improves positioning.

Harley-Davidson introduced a new type of lockable hard saddlebag on the Switchback, one that is latched on and removed from the bike differently than the bags on the company’s other touring motorcycles. I have a Harley-Davidson Street Glide with hard bags, so I was used to positioning the top lid a certain way to close it. The Switchback saddlebags have a different latching mechanism that does not interfere with packing or reduce usable bag volume. It took me a while to get used to doing it this different way, which is no easier or harder, just different. Riders who’ve never used Harley’s hard saddlebags will probably have no problem with it.   

The saddlebags lock using the same key as the ignition switch.
You use the knob inside the saddlebag to detach the bag from the bike.

Genevieve Demonstrates How to Remove Saddlebags:

Here’s a close-up of the knob that unlocks the saddlebag.
Here’s what the rear of the Switchback looks like with the saddlebag removed. The unobtrusive docking points stay on the bike.

I spent some time in the passenger seat of the Switchback and found it to be comfortable enough. I think passengers may be slightly shortchanged with the smaller backseat accommodations when compared to, say, a Road King, which has more space between the passenger and the rider, along with floorboards for the passenger’s feet. But the smaller size of the Switchback doesn’t allow for either.

I found the “cush” factor of the rider’s seat to be just fine, with adequate lumbar support.

It’s nice that women riders now have the Switchback as an option for touring with their husbands, partners or friends. Because of the cost, a woman making the transition from a beginner Sportster to a tourer will simply outfit her Sportster with saddlebags and a windshield—still cheaper overall than a brand-new Switchback. But it’s frustrating for many women that their Sportster’s smaller engine has a hard time keeping up with the bigger bikes or that they get that “beat up” feeling at the end of the day from riding long distances on a smaller, less comfortable motorcycle. Thus, the Switchback fills a huge need in many ways.   

Specs At A Glance: 2012 Harley-Davidson FLD Dyna Switchback
Displacement: 1690cc
Seat Height: 26.1 inches
Weight: 718 pounds
Price: Starts at $15,999
Colors: Vivid Black, Brilliant Silver Pearl, Ember Red Sunglo

WRN Recommendation
For women riders ready to start taking multi-day journeys on a motorcycle, the Switchback is a great option. The Switchback keeps the rider comfortable, reduces long-day riding fatigue, keeps up with the big boys, and is economical when compared to Harley-Davidson’s other touring bikes. Confident beginner riders ready to move up from their first “real” bike to one they can keep for a long time will want to consider the Switchback.
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60 thoughts on MOTORCYCLE REVIEW: 2012 Harley-Davidson FLD Dyna Switchback, with Video

  1. Great article, very well written. WRN has been very helpful to my girlfriend who went from having no miles on any motorcycle in March, to taking the Harley-Davidson Riding Academy, to riding 1,500 miles on a Honda Shadow Aero, and now having 200 miles on her new (to her) 2012 Switchback. I think WRN is a fabulous source, not only for women, but for us guys too, and I have over 500,000 miles on bikes, so kudos to WRN.

  2. Thank you for a very well written review of the Switchback! The information on the optional seat was most helpful as I may want to be an inch lower. I have owned a Sportster, Honda VTX1300, Yamaha V Star 1300 and prefer a midweight bike and your article is very helpful.

  3. I’m a shorter guy (5 feet 6 inches to 5 feet 8 inches, depending on which convenience store I’m walking out of) and went with a Harley-Davidson Dyna Switchback. I usually leave the bags off since I like the look better without them, but it’s great to be able to snap them back on right away if needed.

  4. I find it interesting that this is mostly targeted towards smaller riders. I am actually considering the Switchback because I am a tall rider at 6 feet 4 inches with a size 14 boot — and the Dyna chassis seems to fit me best. I currently have a Dyna Fat Bob but after numerous long trips had my heart set on a Street Glide for the fairing wind protection and extra storage. The factory floorboards on the Street Glide, Road King, and Ultra make it almost impossible for me to curl my foot back to push on the brake and at normal sitting positions with feet flat on the floorboards I get charlie horses in my legs just sitting on them in the showroom. I found an aftermarket forward control option with engineering dimensions and went to the dealer with a tape measure to figure out placement. It put my toes almost against the engine guard and totally impossible on an Ultra with the lower fairings. Leading me to be concerned with my toes so close to the engine guard if in an emergency maneuver and needing to move my feet quickly. From what I have seen, it appears that the Switchback floorboards use the same mounting as the factory forward pegs on the Fat Bob or Wide Glide which are a good fit for me from the start without alterations. I even tried a tallboy seat on the Street Glide with very little difference. I have found aftermarket fairings for the Switchback and other Dyna models that would assist with wind protection and there are various tour packs and luggage bag options available as well. I am also considering taking the base model Dyna and adding to it. Whether it be a Switchback or other Dyna, for the price one can add many options to get to the base Street Glide price which for me would require more dollars on top of that to try and get it to fit me and jazz it up a bit. The Dynas just seem the way to go.

  5. I own this bike and it rocks! Gave up my 1200 Sportster for this and never looked back. I live in the mountains and this bike is nimble, quick and doesn’t feel heavy at all. Kicks the boys butt on their big ‘ole bikes going down the highway cause it’s light and fast with that engine. Didn’t need any customizing it fit me like a glove. I’m 5 feet 6 inches and 135 pounds. I definitely would tour on this bike. I don’t feel tired at the end of the day at all. The saddlebags hold a pair of chaps, leather coat, hoodie, purse, beater bottle, gloves. I have the backrest and luggage rack for packing on longer trips. Gas mileage is awesome too. I’ve run into guys who own this bike and they love it too. Much lighter and easier to handle than those big baggers.

  6. At 5 foot 4 inches and 130 pounds, I have a lot in common with many of your readers and have read a good few articles by you on Harleys of a certain size. They are helping me make the decision to change my Sporty Custom back to a bigger bike having previously owned a FXDX for 11 years.The main problem for me is that I am unable to find the equivalent of the detachable solo tour pack rack that I have on the sportster. I have fitted it with a Givi box which is great for my European tours. I will be looking in more detail at your reviews of other suitable bikes.

  7. Love, love, love my 2012 Dyna Switchback. I bought it used and not from a Harley dealership. I can definitely keep up with my husband now. This is a fast machine. And yes, it does get hot. Wearing chaps finally makes sense. I do have to fill up sooner than my husband’s Road King, but the stop is OK with us.

  8. Hello,I have a 2012 Switchback and I love it. I have added a fairing to by bike, and changed all non-chrome parts to chrome. The question I have is, do you guys have major problems with the heat? I have the heat shields but they are not working that good. Also, riding with other riders with Street Glides, Road Kings, etc., they don’t have to stop and get gas as much as I do. What’s up with that? Overall, I am so in love my Harley Switchback.I was thinking about switching to a Street Glide but I change my mind because this bike is much lighter and I can handle it better. Any suggestions or comments.

    1. Heat is a problem with the newer Harleys because of the bigger engines, that’s for sure. Did you get Harley-Davidson aftermarket heat shields or some other brand? The Harley shields work best in “shielding” the heat versus non-Harley brands. Other than that I can’t think of another way to combat the heat. As for the larger touring motorcycles not having to stop as often for gas — that is because the fuel tank on those motorcycles is much larger, 6 gallons versus the 4.7-gallon fuel tank on the Switchback.

  9. I enjoyed the article and I enjoy tremendously my own Switchback. I would ask you to please tell me where I can get the aftermarket back/sissy bar and rack.I just put the saddlebags rear guard and it added a nice touch and look.I hope that can please tell me about where to get the back rest and rack that you had on your test bike. Thank you so much for doing such a detailed article about a great HD motorcycle.

    1. The backrest and luggage rack are from Harley-Davidson Genuine Accessories — aftermarket parts made by Harley and available at a Harley-Davidson dealership.

  10. I don’t think you can buy a better motorcycle for the money. A great bike for someone around 6 feet. It handles and gives a good ride and is very fast. The only thing I don’t like about it is you can’t find many extras to add to your bike to customize it.

  11. I have the Switchback. I like it but don’t love it. I am also considering a Harley-Davidson Heritage Softail. Do any of you have experience with both?

  12. Question: Do you think a woman who is 100 pounds and 5 feet tall can learn to ride on her own on her boyfriend’s 2005 Harley Davidson Road King? Thanks.

    1. I do think a woman who is that size can ride a Road King. Check out this article on a smaller stature woman who can ride any size motorcycle. However, we don’t recommend, in fact, we insist, you do not learn to ride on the Road King. You are setting yourself up for failure. Please take the motorcycle safety class first to learn how to ride before doing anything else. And of course, check out the WRN Beginner’s Guide for lots of tips.

  13. Although Harley wanted to style this for the ladies they still missed the markNeeds seat lowered, a batwing fairing with radio, cruise control, etc. Set up and offer a ladies touring bike. I have a Sportster but I am writing to Harley to wake up and offer a ladies touring package.

  14. I bought my Switchback in April of 2012 and have more than 12,000 miles on it. I was very comfortable the entire way to Sturgis and back, although I did use the mesh/foam seat pad that Harley offers. I’m 6 feet 2 inches, 220 pounds, and even though the seat height is a bit over 26 inches, I had a leather expert take out about 2 to 3 inches of the padding for me. Dropped me lower and a little further back. I think it feels great, but the floorboards need to be moved up. It probably isn’t the best fit for my size but I love the way the bike handles. Not sluggish through the twisties at all. Anyone who wants to “putt” through those dragon style twisties and switchbacks on their heavy Road King tugboats…I’ll see you when you catchup. I’ll probably be on my second beer by then.

  15. I hadn’t owned a motorcycle in 20 years and wanted to get back in the saddle. Two years ago I bought a Sportster and it wasn’t fun or comfortable when I would go any type of distance. This April I bought the Switchback and I love it. I am 5 feet 7 inches and it fits me perfectly. I just didn’t feel comfortable on the bigger bikes that I test drove. I have already participated in a successful saddle sore ride (1,000 miles in less than 24 hours) and a number of other trips. In regards to handling, this bike is incredible. I often take it through the mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee with lots of twist and turns. My wife has also found it very comfortable as a passenger by adding floorboards and a backrest for her. With the 103 [cubic inch engine] this bike has plenty of power for any circumstance. The side bags are little small but adding a luggage rack to the backrest fixed that problem for overnight trips. For the price this bike is a great deal. I have owned it now for six months and already have 6,000 miles on it and have loved every minute of it

  16. Very thorough review. I wonder how much experience a new 5-foot 4-inch female rider would need following an MSF course with smaller bikes to handle the Switchback?

  17. I just purchased my Switchback in June 2012. I love this bike. It’s the best out of all the HDs I have had. I traded in a 2010 Road King that I couldn’t get it low enough. The Switchback I can touch flat footed and is really fun to ride. It put the fun back into riding. After only having the bike five weeks I have logged 3,400. Harley-Davidson created a great bike.

  18. I liked your review. I just won a 2012 Switchback off a $5 raffle ticket and found out at age 60 I’m one of those aging baby boomers with waning strength and balance, more-so on the balance, and at 5 feet 10 inches and 155 pounds I’m not big. I sold my 1963 Harley-Davidson FLH in 1995 and have been riding an antique 1969 GE Model Harley cop trike and a 2004 Russian Ural sidecar rig. I’ve been riding since 1968 but going back to two wheels after nearly 20 years is like learning to ride all over again. I have no problem once I’m rolling but having to stop worries me because of lack of the balance I used to have. Once I get used to riding a big twin again I’d ride the Switchback anywhere. I have a niece getting married in Seattle in August and would like to ride the 2,500 miles out there if I can get more confidence at stops. I wouldn’t recommend the Switchback to a beginning rider but know people who have started on big Harleys when we had to kick start them and have rode nothing but big bikes. I went from 175cc to 650cc, to 1200cc between 1970-76 and rode my 63 jockey shift Panhead for 20 years before I blew out my knee and couldn’t start it anymore. I was surprised at how heavy the Switchback first felt to me at stops compared to my Pan; the weight difference is under 50 pounds. I will probably put some kind of luggage rack on for a longer trip. The bags don’t hold much more than my leather and rain gear but it’s nice not having to carry enough tools to rebuild a Panhead on the side of the road.I’ve looked at a lot of reviews of the Swtchback and liked yours a lot. If women smaller than me can ride this thing I ought to be able to, even if I drop it, which I’m sure I will. I only have five bucks in it. Take it easy but take it.

  19. I like the removable saddlebags. When my dad and I rode from California to Montana, we were constantly having to unstrap the saddlebags from our bikes to take them into the hotel room. It was a pain taking those things on and off, but it’s looks really easy on the Switchback. Very cool.

  20. Great job on road testing and how things work on the bike. There is not enough of that in majority of road tests in magazines. Guess there assuming everyone just knows or are experienced riders. We all know what ass-u-me means? I have also enjoyed your writings in American Iron. Keep the how to ride/things work and little known or new items in your articles. Great for new riders. I like it because “so that’s how they did it.” I will also show that hair wrap thing to my girlfriend. Keeps putting it inside her helmet somehow, long like yours. Stay vertical.

    1. Thanks for your feedback. I’m glad you see how my writing is different that what’s presented in most of the magazines. I write from more of a lifestyle point of view, I’d like to think, a more “real world” point of view.And while it does say “women” in my Web site’s title, I never exclude men by always referencing women in the third person. Men will not feel alienated when reading the stories on the site. Thanks for “getting” and appreciating my work.

  21. My wife has had her Switchback for a month now and absolutely loves it! Compared to her Sporty, she hadn’t realized how fun and comfortable a motorcycle could be. I used to be the one pushing for the long rides, now she is.

  22. Helpful article, thank you. he comparison with the Road King could have saved me a lot of time wandering back and forth in the dealership had I read it before! I rode my 883 across the U.S. and although I love my bike, it’s not great for long days in the saddle for weeks on end. And a quick trip on an Ultra Classic (like riding in first class) ruined me for life. Hence the search for the perfect touring bike: Road King, Street Glide, or now Switchback. I hope HD has some to test ride. I’m wondering if the lighter weight and suspension affects the ride enough to make me want to go with a bagger. Definitely bookmarking this.

  23. To Karen (1/8/12): Genevieve makes some good points. I’d like to offer another perspective.Five years ago I was a new rider. My only experience was on the Buell Blast during my Rider’s Edge class. When shopping for my bike, many people tried to steer me to a Sportster or other “smaller” bike, but those bikes just didn’t fit me. I test rode a Street Bob, a V-Rod, a Softail Custom, and a Wide Glide…yes, as a newbie. I got the Custom because it fit me, and I’m so glad I did. Yes, I had missteps, including dropping it (because I hit the front brake when my wheel was turned), but the damage was limited to a few scratches on my mirror and saddlebag.And my philosophy is that we’ll all drop our bikes sometime…it’s just a matter of when. Nope, not fun. Yep, it could’ve been expensive if I’d worried about the scuffs and scratches, but nobody else noticed them (except my buds at the dealership when I took it in for service). The point of my rambling? Decide what kind of riding you want to do (around town only? long trips?), then let that guide the type of bike that will let you do that comfortably.

  24. I just got my endorsement in October 2011. I have sat on several Switchbacks and really like how it just seems to “fit” me and how well balanced it really seems. My family (avid, long time Harley riders) tell me that I can learn to ride on the Switchback and should go for it. I am a little concerned with the weight, but more concerned with the power. I haven’t gotten brave enough to test ride it, although there are a couple of dealers who are more than willing to let me try. So far I have test ridden 250s, a 650, two 750s, a 883 SuperLow, and a 1200 Low. I am also taking additional beginner classes over the winter to just get some more “seat time” in with instruction. Any thoughts about the Switchback for a newbie?

    1. I personally wouldn’t recommend the Switchback for a newbie with limited road experience (i.e. fresh from the training class). It is a large motorcycle with a powerful engine. That’s not to say you couldn’t ride or be OK on the bike for awhile, but as a new rider, you’re likely to encounter a situation where your balance or the balance of the bike may be impeded and not having an experienced awareness of how to “catch” the bike, more than likely it will go down. What I mean is, you put a foot down in gravel or an oily patch and the bike gets squirrely on you. Or, the you take a right turn to tight and the front end flops weighting the front end disproportionally. Newbies don’t have experience in these areas and are more likely to drop the bike. It makes more sense to learn all about a motorcycle’s weight distribution and how it shifts under all conditions on a bike that’s smaller and less powerful that the Switchback — one that you have more control over physically, and one that’s used so that when it gets scratched when it goes down, you won’t be disappointed that you dropped it as much as you would a brand new bike.You’ll be kicking yourself when simply dropping a Switchback means upwards of $500 to $1,000 just to replace a foot peg, a scratched saddlebag, and bent mirror. Those items are pricey and while you may come out of it unscathed your bike and wallet will not.

  25. Finally Harley makes us realize that a Dyna can tour. I think that of course you want to keep some of the Dyna looks. The great 103 engine and retro style is overall the best looking Harley this year. I used to ride a 1985 Low Rider as my touring bike for many, many years. It’s a Harley you have to customize to make it fit your own comfort and style. Hit a motorcycle show. There will be seat customizers that can help you. Ask at your local HOG chapter. Someone can help.

  26. I can tell you that at European speeds, one single front disc is greatly insufficient to stop the bike.

  27. In November 2011 I was looking to purchase a Dyna. I did not want a larger touring bike just because of the bulk and size. But when I saw the Switchback with the touring bike options I had to have it. Got the best of both worlds. Foot rest, saddlebags, and windshield and the 103 engine. So glad I bought it and love it.

  28. Great. Another Harley referred to as a “girls bike.”SignedProud Sportster owner.

    1. Note that Harley-Davidson has never referred to this motorcycle as a girl’s bike, nor has the company ever referred to any of its motorcycles as favorable to one gender over another. As the editor of Women Riders Now, the leading resource for female riders, it is my opinion that the Dyna Switchback has features favorable to women — and I made that clear in the first paragraph of my review. To repeat, it is my opinion and I stated that to my mostly female readership.

  29. My wife rides a Dyna Low Rider, her third Dyna. I wish this had been around when we bought hers cause she fills my saddlebags with her stuff leaving me very little room. She didn’t want saddlebags on her, bike but with ones that are that easy to remove she just might go for it. You guys always come up with these cool things just after we buy ours — referring to 6 speed trannies and these saddlebags. I like your Dyna but you’re too late.

  30. You lost me on this article at:”designed for riders who can’t or don’t want to handle the large touring motorcycles—and that description fits the majority of women riders.”I am 5 feet tall, and have ridden my Road King Custom all over the great USA — from Wisconsin to California and back on one trip, comfortably. I did test ride the Switchback, as I’m ready for a new bike, and there’s no comparison. The Switchback is not for me, but I don’t expect it to be for everyone either. I think the Switchback will suit some less “seasoned” riders just fine — but in no way is it something to “tour” with. I agree with Nancy — this bike is not a touring bike and the article is trying very hard to make us think it is.

    1. Women who can’t or don’t want to handle the big touring bikes have few options when it comes to touring. Just as one tours with a Softail Deluxe, a Heritage Softail Classic, so can one tour with the Dyna Switchback. Not all women can handle a Road King Custom or other baggers? So what should bike should they choose to tour with? The Dyna Switchback is one option. In my extensive experience working directly with all types of women riders, the majority cannot or don’t want to maneuver a large touring motorcycle. They simply don’t have the strength, experience or both.

  31. I got my Switchback in November and I love it. Had no idea it would be that easy to ride. Do have the Mustang seat. I rode a Sportster for two years and it does not compare. I am now the leader of the pack.

  32. Having been a rider since the mid 1960s, I question the mounting device on the rear fender. I hope it’s bolstered with something. The saddlebags usually vibrate with the engine. I have had several bikes that vibrated the saddlebag and fender brackets to death.

  33. I got my Switchback in November and I love it! The handling of the bike is awesome and it rides like a dream. If the heat is an issue you can buy a guard, but if you’re like me, you can always stop and take photos, which I love to do. As far as the bags go, I love them. A lot of time, it is how we take the time to place our things in them. I am a little shorter and plan on replacing my seat with a Reduced Reach Solo Mustang with a backrest. Maybe the Switchback isn’t for everyone, but for myself I made a really good choice.

  34. I read this review with interest. I noted that there wasn’t any comment on the excessive heat, even from the primary which makes for very uncomfortable riding. Also the seat is extremely uncomfortable, and is covered with very inexpensive vinyl. Also a lot of vibration.I purchased a Switchback in September and I am working on a relationship with it while wintering in Florida. I have purchased a Mustang seat with a backrest and hope for a more comfortable ride. I don’t know what can be done about the heat, but was told it was because of the catalytic converter. I previously owned a Heritage Classic and there is no comparison to the ride, so be careful what you wish for.

  35. I feel you missed the target. This is not a touring bike. It pretends to be a touring bike similar to its “big brother” the Road King but it is not. I was hoping that HD would come out with a bike that I could travel a long distance with that would include at least larger saddlebags. The front tire and wheel combination just looks like it was taken from a Super Glide and a flared fender was added to it. For a person who takes longer trips and is shorter in stature as I am the Heritage is better equipped for the highway. Too bad. I really had planned on buying the Switchback until I checked it out.

    1. Thank you for your feedback. Your point of view depends on what you qualify as a touring bike. As my review states, this is not your typical touring bike; it is an “economical” touring bike in every sense including size and price. As I responded to a previous reader regarding saddlebag space, bags any bigger would look abnormally large on this bike. They are about equal in space to the Heritage Softail’s bag. Regarding the front end, it is a new front end from Harley so it is not taken from or modeled after a Super Glide. The Switchback also offers up a completely different ride unlike any other Harley-Davidson.

  36. I can’t wait to get out and try that babe out! I ‘m pretty sure I have outgrown my Sportster and really would like a bigger faster bike. I don’t know why they can’t make bigger bags on it. You should see the monsters I have on my Sportster…LOL You can carry just about anything under the sun except for the kitchen sink. Come spring, I’ll be at the dealer to get it a whirl. Thanks for all the information about it.

  37. A lot of great reasons for women riders to consider a Switchback, and you’ve covered them well! A few observations after leading several rides on a Switchback at Demo Days: it vibrated a lot more than my Deluxe and just didn’t feel as comfortable or cushy. The narrower seat profile of the Dyna as opposed to the lower seat height but wider profile of the Deluxe is a wash, even for the shorter rider (as I am at 5 feet 2 inches). The 103 has great punch but I didn’t notice a significant difference from the 96 – that may be due to performance improvements to my 96. And lastly, add-ons like saddlebags and windshields, while not standard on a Deluxe, can be done much more economically than at dealer prices if you’re not afraid to turn a wrench. In all, I liked the Switchback and I hope it attracts a lot of new sales for HD, but I wouldn’t trade my Softail for one.

    1. Thanks for the feedback and comparisons Kristy. Very helpful for our readers.

  38. I have this bike and love it. I agree with the comments/analysis made below. One of the best attributes about this bike that I simply am impressed with is that my tailbone no longer hurts like it did on my prior bike (which had the Sundowner seat). I’m definitely happy with my Switchback.

  39. Great review and good information. Definitely a woman friendly bike. Although it’s more economically priced and comes with more bells and whistles, I prefer my Softail Deluxe. The seat height of 24 1/2 inches is perfect for my 5-feet 4-inch height and the lower center of gravity makes balancing and handling the Softail a dream. I tried out a Dyna and found it to be too “top heavy” for me and had difficulty balancing it. Just my opinion and every rider is different! It is a beautiful bike!

  40. I was excited about getting to try out a Switchback. I rode the Switchback during a demo ride and was disappointed. My main complaint was that there was not a heel shifter to accompany the floorboards. Next, I am not nearly as tall as Genevieve and, when I put my feet down, because of the narrower profile seat, my inner thigh touched the top of the engine, which gets hot of course. This forced my feet out farther from the bike, which meant the narrower seat was of no benefit. I found the saddlebags were smaller than I like too. The Switchback had a smooth Softail ride though and I my opinion is that it is a good model for mid-range touring and around town riding. I still like the look but I found it not to be as user friendly for my style of riding.

    1. Interesting observations. The heel shifter is a bit of a luxury found on the touring motorcycles. Remember the Switchback is an economical tourer. Same thing with the saddlebags. We certainly can’t expect them to be as large as the big touring bikes. They would be disproportionally odd against the smaller sized bike. They are about the same size as the leather ones on the Heritage Softail Classic. As for your feet being forced out from the bike, riders with shorter inseams than me will need to find a way to get both feet flat footed if that’s important to them. You seem like a great candidate for the Super Reduced Reach seat.

  41. I test rode the Switchback and absolutely loved it. I am definitely buying this bike. Perfect for women riders!

  42. I bought a Switchback a few weeks ago. I put the Super Reduced Reach Seat and it’s still not low enough for me. I am 5 feet 1 inches. I was wondering what else I could do to lower it. I thought about having the seat made thinner. What do you think? I don’t want to change the handling of the motorcycle by lowering it with lower shocks. Anyone got any ideas? Thanks.

    1. I’ve known women who’ve cut padding out of the seat and it has worked on other motorcycles. Find someone you know and trust to do the job right. Other readers, feel free to weight in here.

  43. Love the article. I am in the process of saving up to buy one next year! My boyfriend has a Softtail Deluxe and we ride all the time. But I really want my own now. It’s time to feel the freedom.

  44. Great bike and your article makes me want the Switchback. I’m 5 feet 2 inches, 110 pounds. I’ve had to lower every bike I’ve owned for 40 years. Another plus on the Switchback, Harley Davidson trashed its ugliest air cleaner ever!

  45. Great article, Genevieve! I’ve got my eye on this bike. I agree with you in your response to the rider asking about lowering; I don’t recommend it either. Lowering the motorcycle will reduce your cornering clearance, which can be a safety hazard. Buy a bike that fits, or make other alterations to make it “fit you.”

  46. Does the Switchback have cruise? I’ve tried the Super Reduced Reach Seats and they are not for me. Too confining. Can it be lowered?

    1. The Switchback does not have cruise control. Have you tried the Reduced Reach Seat, not to be confused with the Super Reduced Reach Seat?Sure it can be lowered with lower shocks, but you start to change the handling of the motorcycle when you shorten the shocks that’s why I recommend a lower seat. When all else fails, shorter shocks can lower seat height.

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