2012 Harley-Davidson Model Introduction

Text: Ken Freund • Photography: Tom Riles, Brian Nelson

Harley-Davidson rumbles into town with 32 different models on six platforms for 2012. The number of models that come standard with the bigger Twin Cam 103 engine is expanded to all Touring and Softail® series, all but the two least-expensive Dyna® models: Super Glide® Custom and Street Bob®.

The TC 103 is rated 100 lb-ft of torque, which is an increase of about 6 percent compared with the TC 96 engine it replaces. (No horsepower rating is given.) Compression on the TC 103 was raised from 9.2 to 9.6:1, and a new automatic compression release now makes it easier for the engine to crank over for quick startups.

The Rocker™ C, Cross Bones™, Sportster® 1200 Low,  and Street Glide® Trike have been discontinued. For 2012 all Dyna, Softail, Touring, CVO and V-Rod® models offer a Security Package, which includes an antilock braking system with Harley’s Smart Security System. The Security Package is standard on the Road Glide® Ultra, Electra Glide® Ultra Limited, Road King® Classic and CVO models. It’s a factory-installed option on all other listed models.

Dyna Models

The Dyna platform consists of five models: Wide Glide®, Super Glide, Fat Bob®, Street Bob and the new Switchback. The only changes to the Glides and Bobs are new paint colors; the big news is the Switchback model.

Switchback

Built on the lighter-weight Dyna chassis, the Switchback is intended for buyers who may like Harley’s big Touring models but want a smaller, easier-to-handle option. Harley says the new Switchback is the lightest custom-touring motorcycle in its displacement category. Its ready-to-ride weight is 718 pounds, and it looks like a three-quarter-scale Touring model, with the gas tank, saddlebags and windscreen all proportional.

The Switchback comes ready for a road trip, but thanks to its removable windscreen and detachable hard saddlebags this versatile “convertible” machine is designed to be stripped down for around-town riding so it can appeal to both cruiser and touring enthusiasts.

Power comes from the TC 103 feeding into a six-speed Cruise Drive transmission with a tall overdrive sixth gear for highway travel. New front-end geometry combined with a new fork work together for lighter, more-responsive steering. Five-spoke cast aluminum wheels are easy to clean and allow tubeless tires: a 130/70B18 Dunlop D402F in front, with a 160/70B17 Dunlop D401 at the rear. A single front disc with four-piston caliper and one two-piston rear caliper provide stopping power, and the optional ABS adds safety during hard braking.

To achieve a saddle height of 27.4 inches, suspension travel is reduced to a skimpy 3.4 inches in front and only 2.1 inches at the rear. A SHOWA fork with 41.3mm legs uses an unconventional combination of a damper rod in the right leg and a 20mm cartridge insert in the left. Triple-rate fork springs and dual nitrogen-charged rear shocks with dual-rate springs (with adjustable rear preload) are employed to reduce road shocks with the short suspension travel.

Instrumentation includes a tank-mounted analog speedometer, along with the odometer and dual tripmeter functions, and a fuel-level gauge in the fake left gas cap. Riders can also choose to toggle between a clock or the gear position and engine rpm shown in the small digital display instead of the odometer. The Switchback’s windscreen detaches in a few seconds without tools and looks right with or without it. Once unlocked, the saddlebags, which hold 75 percent of the volume of the Electra Glide’s hard bags, also remove easily sans tools.

Touring Models

Eight models make up the Touring line: Road King and Road King Classic; Electra Glide Classic; Ultra Limited and Ultra Classic®; Street Glide; and Road Glide Ultra and Custom. While 2011 saw a lot of Touring model changes, they’re limited for 2012. The Twin Cam 103 is equipped with an oil cooler on all Touring models, and all except the Ultra Limited will offer optional tubeless, chromed-aluminum, profile-laced wheels.

Softails

Five Softails are offered for 2012; the Heritage Classic and Deluxe, Blackline®, Fat Boy® and Fat Boy Lo. Both the Softail Heritage Classic and Deluxe models are offered with optional spoked, tubeless, chromed-aluminum wheels. Other changes to the Softail line include a narrower seat that places the Fat Boy rider in a lower position, and both the Fat Boy and Fat Boy Lo get reduced-reach handlebars.

Sportsters

There are six 2012 Sportster models, from the high-performance XR1200X to the lower-priced and low-saddle-height SuperLow, and custom roadsters like the Iron 883™, Nightster® and Forty-Eight™. The Sportster 1200 Custom can be personalized with “H-D1” factory customization, which allows buyers to use the Bike Builder tool at www.harley-davidson.com to select options when the bike is built. More than 2,600 combinations of options are available through H-D1 so customers can change the appearance, foot-control location, seat, and handlebar combinations.

V-Rods

To celebrate a decade of V-Rods, Harley introduces the new V-Rod 10th Anniversary Edition, finished in Brilliant Silver Pearl livery reminiscent of the anodized aluminum on the initial 2002 V-Rods. All three V-Rod models – the 10th Anniversary Edition, Night Rod Special and V-Rod Muscle – also sport 10th Anniversary badges. The Night Rod Special gets a new tail piece, lighter rims, an inverted fork and improved ergonomics, while the V-Rod Muscle is unchanged. All V-Rod models are powered by the latest version of the fuel-injected Revolution engine, a 1250cc DOHC liquid-cooled V-Twin.

Trikes

For 2012 H-D has scaled back to one trike model, the Tri Glide® Ultra Classic. It comes fully equipped with cruise control, a locking trunk, and electric reverse with an LED indicator. A raked-out fork offers reduced steering effort, plus a steering damper helps control kickback from rough roads.

Despite economic headwinds, Harley-Davidson continues to refine and improve its products. We were impressed with the fit and finish on all the models and enjoyed sampling the latest products for the Motor Company’s 106th year.