Review: Harley proves less is more

By Bill Heald - ReminderNews
Feature Article - posted Thu., Apr. 7, 2011
- Contributed Photo

I know some skeptics out there won’t believe me when I say this, but our winter is finally coming to an end, and spring and summer weather are practically upon us.  I also have noticed that gasoline is once again shooting up in price, and it’s worth pointing out that motorcycles tend to get considerably better gas mileage than cars, as well as being easier to park and hard to beat for the ultimate open-air experience in fair weather.

Harley-Davidson is not only one of the best-known motorcycle brands in the world; it strike an enviable balance between traditional styling and contemporary engineering to produce some very desirable machines. A new design approach Harley calls its Dark Custom movement combines back-to-basics simplicity with a certain rebellious attitude, and the latest version of this philosophy is the FXS Blackline. This is a part of Harley’s Softail family, and as we discovered after some seat time on the FXS, it’s a solid ride with excellent performance and refinement.

The fun starts with Harley’s Twin Cam 96B air-cooled V-Twin engine, which displaces 1584 ccs (or 96 cubic inches, hence the name) and is counterbalanced for smoothness. This is teamed with a six-speed transmission and belt final drive, and delivers a perfect mix of power, refinement and Big Twin character. In terms of vibration, the engine is always present, but never annoying, and an abundance of low-end torque allows the Blackline to pull from very low RPMs easily, making shifting a trivial affair.

Harley’s signature potato-potato exhaust cadence has never sounded better, too, and the engine is never stressed in the least, whether you’re tooling around town or blasting down the highway on a run with your buds. This engine is also (as it is with most Harleys) the visual centerpiece of the bike, and the tasteful concealing of the wiring and other plumbing belies the complexity and sophistication of the Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI) that lies beneath, delivering crisp, immediate throttle response. Another surprise on the technology front is the Blackline’s optional ABS brakes, which are part of the security package and help deliver secure stops in any weather. This technology is relatively new to motorcycles (especially of the cruising variety) and is both well-executed and very welcome.

Another very cool feature in this blend of simplicity and contemporary electronics is found in the odometer window of the speedometer. With a switch on the left handlebar, you can toggle through a variety of functions, including a gear selected/tachometer reading. The stretched out riding position is of the feet-first chopperesque variety that feels a tad weird at first (if you’re used to more upright or sporty ergonomics). But ultimately it works, especially around town.

Beautiful, functional and a very charismatic, this latest addition to the Dark Custom collection is as great to ride as it is to gaze upon, and that’s really the best of both worlds. The 2011 Harley-Davidson FXS Blackline is projected to deliver 35 MPG city/54 highway and has a base price of $15,499.


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