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HARLEY-DAVIDSON SWITCHBACK (2012-on) Review

Published: 06 May 2015

Updated: 06 May 2015

The Switchback is a dual-purpose machine offering cruiser styling and touring comforts

HARLEY-DAVIDSON SWITCHBACK  (2012-on)

The Switchback is a dual-purpose machine offering cruiser styling and touring comforts

  • At a glance
  • 1691cc  -  76 bhp
  • 42 mpg  -  160 miles range
  • Low seat height (695mm)
  • New: £13,499

Overall Rating 4 out of 5

There’s more to the Switchback than the brilliance of being two bikes rolled into one. Rider ergonomics have been looked at and now suit normal-sized Europeans. There’s also the changes in suspension, braking and more which make riding a Harley-Davidson a much more pleasurable option over the custom fakes from Japan. The determining factor is that the Switchback is a Harley-Davidson - and a particularly good Harley-Davidson at that.

Ride Quality & Brakes 4 out of 5

The biggest difference between the Switchback and other Dynas we’ve experienced is the ride-quality. The Switchback is very neutral and steers with little input from the rider. Harley has got it together with the suspension too - the cartridge-type front forks aren’t adjustable but they don’t really need to be and the two rear shocks work well too. While the stylish set-up of one front caliper copes surprisingly well, preference for total stopping power would involve a dual disc set up. But it was the ABS that surprised us most. Firstly, by not being so openly noticeable and, secondly, because it doesn’t intrude until the last possible moment.

Engine 4 out of 5

The Twin Cam 103 is a torque-monster and it has to be to pull 330kg in the smooth, compliant way it does. It doesn’t feel particularly powerful because peak torque of 93ftlb is at just 3,500rpm and the engine doesn’t rev much higher than this. Simply put, this Twin Cam engine is the finest air-cooled motor from Milwaukee yet. Even the gearbox is decent - a bit noisy and clunky in the first two gears maybe, but like the other four gears they too slot home and stay there. 

Build Quality & Reliability 4 out of 5

They may look old but Harleys have always been relatively reliable bikes and there's no reason the Switchback should be any different.

Insurance, running costs & value 3 out of 5

The removable screen and panniers are standard items in the Switchback’s £13,499 price (£13,799 for red or silver models). But whichever colour scheme is chosen, both are considerably cheaper than any of the present Harley-Davidson Touring range.

Equipment 3 out of 5

Being a Dyna model, the Switchback is a traditional-styled heavyweight cruiser with visible rear twin-shock suspension and a large capacity engine (1690cc). But with the addition of a quick-to-fit tall, clear screen and solid, lockable panniers the Switchback becomes a viable touring machine too, so you're essentially getting two bikes for one. The black five-spoke, blade-like wheels with polished rims are cool and make the chromed headlight, handlebars and fork shrouds stand out even more. 

Facts & Figures

Model info
Year introduced 2012
Year discontinued -
New price £13,499
Used price -
Warranty term -
Running costs
Insurance group -
Annual road tax £91
Annual service cost £350
Performance
Max power 76 bhp
Max torque 93 ft-lb
Top speed -
1/4-mile acceleration -
Average fuel consumption 42 mpg
Tank range 160 miles
Specification
Engine size 1691cc
Engine type Air-cooled, 4v, Twin Cam, four-stroke, fuel-injected V-Twin
Frame type Tubular steel
Fuel capacity 17.8 litres
Seat height 695mm
Bike weight 330kg
Front suspension Non-adjustable cartridge-type telescopic forks
Rear suspension Twin rear shocks, adjustable for preload
Front brake Single fixed disc with 4-piston caliper
Rear brake Single floating disc with 2-piston caliper
Front tyre size 130/70-18
Rear tyre size 160/70-17

History & Versions

Model history

Introduced in 2012 as the latest member of the Dyna range

Other versions

None

Owners' Reviews

2 owners have reviewed their HARLEY-DAVIDSON SWITCHBACK (2012-on) and rated it in a number of areas. Read what they have to say and what they like and dislike about the bike below.

Review your HARLEY-DAVIDSON SWITCHBACK (2012-on)
Summary of Owners' Reviews
Overall Rating 4.5 out of 5
Ride Quality & Brakes 4 out of 5
Engine 3.5 out of 5
Build Quality & Reliability 4.5 out of 5
Value & Running Costs 4 out of 5
Equipment 4 out of 5
5 out of 5

Darn good bike!

26 October 2018 by Todd Bradley

This is by far the best handling Harley I've ever owned.

Ride Quality & Brakes
4 out of 5
I've ridden Street/Road Glides, Road Kings, and I am just as comfortable on long rides on the Switchback
Engine
3 out of 5
Ran great after I did the stage one tune. Runs way too lean from the factory
Build Quality & Reliability
4 out of 5
Other than constantly tightening bolts, it's been rock solid.
Value & Running Costs
4 out of 5
-
Equipment
4 out of 5
-
4 out of 5

Excellent Riding Motorcycle!

01 March 2016 by ccrider77

The best feature is the bike's versatility. The worst feature is the inadequate cornering clearance. I would definitely recommend a Switchback to a friend.

Ride Quality & Brakes
4 out of 5
Brakes are adequate. Not great but not poor either. This bike could really benefit from two discs up front. The handling is excellent, especially with better tyres. The factory Dunlop bias tyres don't do this bike justice. I'm running Michelin Pilot Road 4 radials, with the GT in the rear and it's like night and day. Front forks work well, but could use more preload. Rear shock shrouds squeak once in a while. Overall, being 100 pounds lighter than a Road King and with the more nimble Dyna chassis, this thing really flies.
Engine
4 out of 5
Engine produces more than enough power to move this machine. It feels like a freight train. The torque will easily bring the bike to the 120 MPH mark fully loaded and beyond, if that's where you want it to be. Of course it responds far better with a decent aftermarket exhaust and the cat gone. The transmission is heavy and clunky, like most Harley transmissions but smooths out when it's broken in. Clutchless shifts can be made in every gear except the 1-2 shift.
Build Quality & Reliability
5 out of 5
Build quality is excellent! Paint and chrome is flawless. Like many Harley products, the fastener quality consists of zinc-plated nuts and bolts which quickly dull. The brushed aluminum fork lowers are plastic coated, like a lot of Japanese motorcycles and looks poor after a couple years. It would be better if Harley simply polished these. I've ridden mine several times a week for 4 years with no breakdowns whatsoever. I've only had two headlight bulbs burn out.
Value & Running Costs
4 out of 5
The biggest service cost are tires each year. Oil changes are easily done by the owner.
Equipment
4 out of 5
I highly recommend the factory spotlight kit. Well worth the money. I've also added a crash bar, to save the bike if it's dropped at slow speeds. With the old FLH badges added, it looks a lot like an old 68-72 Panhead. The mags look and perform well too. The footboards will touchdown quickly in most turns and I recommend adding some hard plastic bumpers to the bottom of these.
Buying experience

My buying experience was perfect. Great dealer in Camarillo, CA and an excellent price that was way below list. I paid $13,000 and the bike listed for $15,000 at the time.

Photo Gallery

  • HARLEY-DAVIDSON SWITCHBACK  (2012-on)
  • HARLEY-DAVIDSON SWITCHBACK  (2012-on)
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