Test Drive

Harley-Davidson FLD Switchback: classic look for modern features

Charming, evocative, essential. The Switchback of the Dyna family by Harley-Davidson, a cruiser-tourer with a classic look and contemporary content. Injection engine, ABS, luggage and windscreen as standard make this model the right compromise between Yankee hedonism and European pragmatism.

Around Wisconsin, motorcyclists have a habit of walking like shrimp: they have their backs to the future and look to the past. The tradition for Harley-Davidson is everything, or almost everything. It’s the one that allows her to keep dreaming of millions of fans all over the world, feeding her aura of mythological brand. In Milwaukee they don’t particularly like “revolutions”. As solid “conservatives”, they limit themselves to siping off the few, but necessary, improvements to the range to keep the brand up to date with technological times and environmental requirements.

Only in 2001, at the venerable age of 98, Harley-Davidson generated something “alien” to his philosophy: the V-Rod. With its short-stroke engine, four-valve distribution, injection, liquid cooling and the unthinkable – for Americans – cavalry that exceeds one hundred units, it makes many “traditionalists” turn up their noses, but at the same time allows the brand to acquire a new type of customer, attracted by the brand’s coat of arms and the proposal finally adhering to its desire for beauty and power. To this day, H-D is the only example of a sudden leap into the future: for the rest, they continue with the policy of small steps, drawing on their unparalleled background.

The FLD Dyna Switchback is one of the products that reflects the way H-D operates and grows. Starting from the base of the Dyna series, which is located within the Harley range, between the Sportster and Softail families, the American technicians have set up a tourer model that completes the offer of versions of the same series. Switchback has been designed to offer the rider the unmistakable American style combined with European practicality. It looks like a Touring (Road King, Electra Glide), shares the engine, but reports 30 kg less on the scale (320), a smaller wheelbase (1,595 mm against 1,613) and its ability to adapt, better than its “older” sisters, even to the winding and demanding roads of the old continent. Without upsetting its nature as a peaceful millstone of kilometres, Switchback can entertain and give you dormant driving sensations, swaying with a thread of gas in souplesse between the curves, or it can be placed on the motorway, at code speed, and take you wherever your desire guides you. The FLD proudly displays that unique and unmistakable family feeling that characterizes H-D production in the world motorcycle scene.

The styles that have generated Switchback come from the second half of the 60’s, a period in which the icon par excellence of Harley-Davidson, the Electra Glide, was born. Today, as then, we have windshields, comfort saddles, fibreglass cases, sinuous shapes and wraparound fenders that inextricably link this Dyna with the past. Of course, there is also substance: the latter has instead made decisive steps forward, compatible with the laws of physics. We must not forget that the concept of motorbike for Americans is based on different parameters from those, basically performance oriented, in force in Europe. The need to move from one geographical point to another as quickly as possible, has never been a fixed nail for the “rude” bikers overseas. The “anachronistic” air-cooled long-stroke engines of the H-D company do not go well with arguments such as speed and power. On the other hand, they offer above-average torque values and unique use elasticity. All you have to do is build a motorcycle around this base that satisfies hedonism with fascinating, timeless shapes, softened by chrome details, and that reassures you of its reliability and long-lasting sturdiness.

The Switchback’s propulsion system is the tried-and-tested Twin Cam, mounted on a silentblock, in the 103 cubic inch (1,690 cc) version. The bore (98.4) and stroke (111.1 mm) combined with the 9.6:1 compression generate 126 nm of torque, which is transmitted from the six-speed gearbox to the drive wheel via a kevlar belt. The fuel (ESPFI injection) is supplied by a single throttle body. The distribution to the valves is guaranteed by rods and rockers, together with the torque of the cams present in the right part of the engine base. The fork, 41.3 mm stems with stabilizing cartridge, has an inclination of 30° and a travel of 98 mm. At the rear there is a pair of nitrogen shock absorbers, with progressive springs, adjustable in preload, and a travel of 54 mm. The braking system consists, in addition to the ABS, of only two discs. The front disc is 300 mm with a 4-piston caliper, while the rear disc is 292 mm with a 2-piston caliper. The instrumentation is enclosed, together with the starter block, in the classic console upstream the tank (17.8 lt.) and includes, in addition to the multifunction speedometer, all service lights. The platforms, in the forward position, and the wide handlebar, not too far from the torso, favour a “living room” ergonomics, thanks also to the wraparound saddle. The quick-release windscreen, as well as the bags, which are not large enough for a long trip, can be easily removed to turn the double face tourer of Milwaukee into a carefree race cruiser.

On the road, the Switchback proves to be able to easily follow the sinuous course of the mixed-fast, while for the more closed corners of hairpin bends and the like, it is necessary to pay attention to the insertion in the curve, after having swiped the platforms on the ground. The low règimi is the trademark of Harley, which even in this case does not deny its peculiarities. The maximum torque is reached at 3,500 rpm. Enjoying it is a continuous enjoyment, often forgetting also the gearbox, not very fast and with “male” grafts. Braking, despite the single disc at the front, is safe and modulated thanks to ABS. For mixed use in the medium to long range, it would be useful to equip it with a luggage rack and backrest for the passenger, which increase comfort and load capacity. The Genuine H-D catalogue of accessories also exists for this purpose. Overall, the Switchback is an engaging motorcycle, with a double and original personality, dedicated to tourism as well as after-hour cruising. You ride with style, without haste, because that’s the way a Harley is made. “If i have to explain it, you wouldn’t understand”…

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