Let’s say that you’re currently riding a Harley Sportster model, and feel the need to move up to something a little bigger in a cruiser or touring genre, but have some issues with things like size, power, price and image. Both the Softail and Dyna Harley families provide some pretty cool choices in the Cruiser category, as does the Road King, while the H-D Touring family serves up an ideal selection for making those long-haul journeys in open road comfort, while offering plenty of practical storage and passenger accommodations. We’ll look here at the 2012 Harley-Davidson FLD Dyna Switchback.
On the issue of size, riders of smaller stature might well be intimidated by the dry weight of Harley’s big touring bikes – cruisers not so much as they’re a little lighter and often feature lower seat heights. In terms of power, both families of bikes deliver varying ranges of power, which can always modified and increased to suit a rider’s requirements. Price is another story altogether, as cruisers cost more than Sportsters, but less than bikes in the touring category.
Image-wise, Cruisers are generally available in either a solo or two-up configuration – solo for the free-spirit individual image, and two-up to accommodate a passenger, with or without bags. Tourers on the other hand are normally more about function and accommodations for a passenger than form, and often lack the same “coolness” image factor as solo bikes.
What to do? What to do? Well, it seems that the good folks at the Bar and Shield company may have come up with the ideal solution offering a practical alternative for the rider who wants or need a more manageable bike in terms of size, that delivers more than adequate power at an affordable price. That solution is in the form of the 2012 Harley-Davidson FLD Switchback – part of the Dyna family. The Switchback is essentially two bikes on one. It comes with lockable, sealed and quickly removable hard saddlebags and windshield to satisfy the need for the storage of personal gear and protection from the wind on the road at speed – a “mini-bagger” if you will. Or not, with the bags and windshield removed for that solo biker image. Essentially, the Switchback isn’t too big or too heavy, nor is it to tall for those with shorter inseams. It’s bigger than a Sportster and actually smaller than a Road King, so it’s not really intimidating at all, even for the smaller rider. The seat height is only 26.1-inches, the rider’s footboards are mid-mounted and the mini-ape handlebars are ideally positioned for a comfortable riding posture.
Power for the Switchback is delivered by a 103.0 cu. in. OHV, 4-valve, air-cooled, twin cam 103™ engine with electronic sequential port fuel injection with a two-into-one right side exhaust. Power reaches the rear wheel via a Chain Primary and Belt final drive, with gear changes provided courtesy of a smooth 6-speed CruiseDrive sequential manual gearbox.
Suspension componentry consists of 41.3 mm forks with 20 mm cartridge damping and triple rate spring with 3.86” of travel up front. The Showa fork features a conventional damping rod on the right side, but provides a more elaborate damping cartridge in the left with 3.86-inches of travel thanks to the triple rate springs. The swingarm is connected to “cigar tube” chrome shock covers in the rear that hide modern nitrogen-charged emulsion 36mm dampers with a 5-step preload adjustable dual rate spring and 2.13-inches of travel.
The Switchback rolls on Black 5-spoke cast aluminum wheels with highlighted rims (3.5x 18” front and 4.5×17” rear) shod with Harley-Davidson Dunlop bias blackwall rubber – D402F 130/70B 18 63H front and D401 160/70B 17 73H rear.
Bringing the Switchback to a halt is a single rotor with 4-piston fixed caliper forward, and two piston torque-free floating caliper on a single rotor aft. ABS is an available option for $1,195.
Dimensionally, the Switchback sports a wheelbase of 62.8-inches, an overall length of 92.8-inches, and a dry curb weight of 696 pounds. Fuel capacity is 4.7 gallons, and the bike is expected to achieve 42 mpg combined city/highway fuel economy.
My test 2012 Harley-Davidson FKD Dyna Switchback was sprayed Vivid Black and came with a base price of $15,999. Estimated final price for my Switchback test bike was $16,734. Optional paint schemes including Brilliant Silver Pearl or Ember Red Sunglo are priced at $16,384. Add $335. For Freight Charge and approximately $350-$400 for dealer prep and handling, which varies by dealer, and add another $1,195 for ABS.
SUMMARY: The 2012 Switchback is Chameleon-like, with the ability to switch back (hence the name) and forth from touring bike to cruiser in just a few minutes. It is sure to appeal to a wide range of riders, such as younger riders seeking to hit the road touring, women and aging baby-boomers looking to downsize for greater manageability. The Switchback may well be thought of as a trimmed down Road King – roughly 80 pounds less.
The bags feature a simple, small, round three-point arrangement with two attachment points on the fender struts and one at the bottom of the fender, for a clean appearance when the bags are off.
As already stated, the Switchback serves the purpose of a mini-bagger or a solo cruiser equally well. For many riders, it will be just right, with its size, weight, price and dual role image.
On The Fast Lane Car’s rating scale of:
• Buy It.
• Rent It
• Lease It.
• Forget It.
Buy It for a dual role mini-bagger/cruiser image.
Base Price: $15,999.- Vivid Black / $16,384. Colors (Brilliant Silver Pearl or Ember Red Sunglo.
Price as Tested: Add $335 Freight Charge and approx $350-$400* for dealer prep and handling. Add $1,195 for ABS.
*Estimated dealer prep and handling costs vary.
SPECIFICATIONS: 2012 Harley-Davidson FLD Dyna Switchback
Base Price: $15,999. – Vivid Black / $16,384. Colors (Brilliant Silver Pearl or Ember Red Sunglo.
Price as Tested: Add $335 Freight Charge and approx $350-$400 for dealer prep and handling. Add $1,195 for ABS.
Engine Type and Size: 103.0 cu. in. OHV, 4-valve, air-cooled, twin cam 103™ with electronic sequential port fuel injection.
Horsepower (bhp): Not listed
Torque (ft./ lbs.): Not listed
Transmission: Six-speed Cruise drive sequential manual.
Drive Train: Primary Drive – Chain 32/46 ratio / Final drive – Belt, 32/66 ratio.
Suspension: Front – 41.3 mm forks with 20 mm cartridge damping and triple rate spring with 3.86” of travel.
Rear – Swingarm with nitrogen charged 36 mm monotube damper with 5-step preload adjustable dual rate spring with 2.13” of travel.
Brakes: 4-piston fixed front with two piston torque-free floating rear, with optionally available ABS.
Tires: Harley-Davidson Dunlop D402F 130/70B 18 63H front / D401 160/70B 17 73H rear bias blackwalls mounted on Black 5-spoke cast aluminum with highlighted rim 3.5×18” front / 4.5×17” rear.
Wheelbase: 62.8 inches
Length Overall: 92.8 inches
Curb Weight dry: 696 lbs. (dry)
Fuel Capacity: 4.7 gallons – estimated 42 mpg-combined city/highway.
Seat height: 26.1 inches
0 – 60 mph: Not tested.
Review by Arv Voss, Auto Impressions