Tell me that you don’t enjoy cruising down the street while enjoying the flattering glares of other people, and I’ll point out a liar. In a world of high-end cars, smartphones, and fashion, there’s not too many classic things these days that can harken back to the “age of cool” and achieve that desired effect. That is, until we got up-close and person with the 2016 Harley-Davidson Softail Slim S.
I had the privilege – nay, the pleasure – to have one for a week, to pretend I was Captain America, and learn exactly what it meant to own a Harley.
So where do we start? From first impressions, when I received the initial image of the Slim S, I was stunned at its beauty; shortly followed by furiously sending some photos of the Slim S to my mates on Whatsapp at the expense of their jealousy.
From the brochure images, the Harley Slim S does look as it’s described: slim. But do not be fooled. When you lay your eyes on her in real life, you realise the scale and beefiness of the bike. With all the aesthetics of the “old-school” Harley, complete with army colours and the white star on the tank, the Slim S has a classically nostalgic visual element to it. But Harley has brought along with it the finishes and bells and whistles of the modern world (complete with a keyless ignition and anti-theft system), making the Slim S the best and most well-rounded Harley I’ve ridden in years.
The Slim S features a hefty V-twin engine, elegantly flowing to the double exhaust, which Harley describes as an “over/under shotgun exhaust with slash-cut mufflers” – do I really need to say anything else? With so much torque, you can feel the Slim S grip to the tar as you open the throttle. Her low centre of gravity helps distribute the weight to create a more stable and controlled ride, and that feeling of safety and composure is exactly what I expect from a modern day Harley.
This stability makes for an incredibly comfortable ride, but with enough bounciness to make you feel like cowboy, as you should. It’s hard not to feel the heat-seeking-eyes lock onto as you slowly open the throttle to get the groin-pleasing vibrations from the deep base 1800cc engine.
Now for the drive. When you find yourself in the midst of Harley enthusiasts (or should I say every little boy’s role-model) you will hear the murmurings about the clunky gearshifts on the older models. Let me tell you, they have come a long way since then. The Slim S features six gears and they are all smooth as a slow break on the Californian coast. And of course, the open roads are where the Slim S thrives, and to embrace them, Harley has included a cruise control (yes, it has an effortless make-me-badass cruise control) allowing riders to engage and enjoy the scenery rather than putting your carpal-tunnel to the test.
The one con that did bother me a bit were the footboards. They make for an incredibly comfortable ride, but they are extremely low and relatively wide from the bike’s chassis. This makes for the perfect cruiser, be it along the Sea Point promenade, the R62 into the Klein Karoo, or on a morning run from Joburg to Hartbeespoort Dam. Unfortunately when you buy the Slim S, you won’t only be using her on the long road, you want to show her off, get some compliments and just clock some miles. So driving around town and making some finer turns, the Slim S can be a bit crammy on the tighter bends, so take them slow, but still take them.
In my opinion, this is the finest Harley ever made. An incredible ride, with so much power you don’t want to stop. It’s got that classic appeal for motorbike fans who want something more refined than some of Harley’s other offerings.
Have some interest in the Harley-Davidson Softail Slim S? Keen on giving it a test ride yourself? Mail our editor firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject “I want to be badass” and we will speak to our people in-the-know and organise a ride or deal for you with one of these beauties. It is well worth it.