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Whilst it remains a difficult pill to swallow, when Harley-Davidson revealed plans for its Rewire strategy (since renamed Hardwire), first announced in April 2020 to replace the More Roads to Harley-Davidson plan put in place in 2018, the need to streamline the product portfolio was always going to be on the cards.

With Covid-19 sweeping the world and H-D facing internal crises with senior staff cuts, and bike sales and revenues enduring a savage beating, the writing was on the wall. A $92 million net loss in the second quarter of 2020 saw the company announce plans to axe up to 30 per cent of its model range.

Breakout

With Harley’s focus on new models, the cuts were going to hit some riders hard, especially when it was announced that the Breakout would disappear alongside other Softail machines, including the Low Rider, Deluxe and the drag-style FXDR 114, which had only hit the market in 2019 but was criticised for its comfort, compromised handling, and with only 5bhp more than the Fat Bob, costing an additional £4000. There was, however, a silver lining for the UK market. Whilst America was to witness the demise of the Breakout, the 2021 model still appeared on the company’s UK website.

There are not many bikes that manage to flex its biceps quite like the Breakout, a long, lean, muscular machine housing the mammoth Milwaukee Eight 114 engine and enough drive to power a battleship. With a dry weight of 294kg (648.2lb) and the engine producing a maximum peak output power of 100hp (73kW)) @ 5020rpm and a gut-wrenching maximum torque of 161.36Nm (119ft-lb) @ 3000rpm, no punches had been pulled, but then, when you look at the bike, it would be an insult to offer it anything less.

Breakout

The Breakout started out life in 2013 with a 103cu.in (1690cc) unit, the same as the Softail Slim which had been introduced the previous year. It was the first Harley to be issued as a CVO model before a standard model was released, and sold out so quickly that Harley then introduced a standard version.

Come 2021, and the Breakout has been on its own trajectory, picking up fan after badass fan along the way. I managed to secure the loan of a press fleet bike for a week, but sadly did not get that many miles on it because part way through the week I was away for a couple of days riding the new Pan America across Britain as part of H-D’s The Great Relay 21.

Breakout

When I did happen to be on board, it made my eyes water – literally. The addictive 119ft-lb of torque at my disposal at a mere 3000rpm put one’s licence in the danger zone in urban environments, throttle control being a must. This bike is a blast, especially in a straight line. Yes, I know, how many times has that comment been made about Harleys, but the Breakout always has its sights set firmly on the horizon. The rake being set at 34 degrees, you may well want to keep it pointing in an arrow-straight line. And that’s without taking into consideration the 240mm wide Michelin Scorcher 11 rear rubber biting the bitumen.

The last time I did a long road trip it was across Namibia… in a jeep. Nothing but endless miles of gravel and wired fencing to keep roaming cheetahs and leopards at bay. The scenery was spectacular, the weather glorious, my route devoid of traffic. In fact, on one day I passed only four vehicles in a multi-hour stint from Windhoek to the Namib Desert. Parts of America I guess are like that, through Arizona and California and New Mexico, roads disappearing to the horizon, spectacular vistas, prairies and mountains. Makes the heart ache, doesn’t it?

Breakout

But then, of course, you get the sweepies, the winding roads that demand attention, and there are plenty of those around the UK, as we all know. It would be nice to think that that is where the Breakout comes into its own, but of course it doesn’t, far from it. It’s fine if you are following meandering, almost slalom-like curves, but when it comes to the tighter turns, once you commit that 21-inch front wheel to a line it’s going to take it, no matter what. Try and fight it, and you are going to end up arse-sliding into the nearest hedge, so best get it right in the first place. If that means dropping off the revs, then it makes sense. No one wants to throw a bike costing an eye-watering fiver less than £20,000 down the road.

Most testing of all are roundabouts and tight turns, when you have to keep your wits about you, your fingers tickling the clutch and foot on the rear brake to stop tipping over, particularly at slow speeds. Head above 12mph and you can start to breathe easily again… until the next bend, when you need to be aware of the maximum lean angle of this bike… 27 (well, 26.8 actually) degrees. Digging into our human limitations, according to Bernt Spiegel’s book, The Upper Half of the Motorcycle, humans have developed an internal programme that allows us to lean a motorcycle, albeit only to a certain point, that being pre-set at 20 degrees. Fortunately, we can exceed our natural capacity by gaining a better sense of stability, and that comes from practice. Watching MotoGP riders scraping knee sliders at over 50 degrees puts the fear of God in many of us, and merely the sound of a Harley foot peg scraping on Tarmac is enough to jolt us upright, but once you get used to it, it is nothing to fear, you just know that you have hit your, or the bike’s, limit. So, remember to look for the limit point, pick your line, and take the corner at a sensible speed before powering out, making full use of that M8 engine.

Breakout

What I particularly like is the fact that if you want to sit back and enjoy the ride without inducing any hairs on the back of the neck thrill, the Breakout is wonderfully versatile, happily sitting at or below 2000rpm, even in a high gear.

In conclusion then, there are plenty of good reasons to buy a Breakout. I am not sure whether I would have one as my main ride, but as a missile to hoon around on at weekends, there is not much to compete with it. And should you have the money for a new model to hand over to your dealer, bear in mind that like most other models in the Harley range, resale values hold firm. A few years back I noted that H-D bikes retained an average of 84 per cent of their value over a five-year period, so there you go, five years of being an utter badass hooligan.

SPECIFICATION

HARLEY-DAVIDSON BREAKOUT 114

  • Price: from £19,995
  • Engine: Air-cooled Milwaukee Eight 114 V-Twin, 1868cc
  • Torque: 155Nm @3250rpm
  • Horsepower: 94hp/x69Kw @ 5020rpm
  • Chassis: Mild steel tubular frame
  • Rake: 34 degrees
  • Trail: 145mm
  • Suspension: 43mm inverted forks, 130mm travel, Monoshock rear end with remote preload adjustment, 86mm travel
  • Wheels: Gasser II cast aluminium (F) 130/60, (R) 240/80
  • Brakes: (F) 300mm, four-piston fixed caliper (R) 292mm rotor, two-piston floating caliper, ABS
  • Tyres: Michelin Scorcher II
  • Fuel capacity: 13.2 litres
  • Fuel economy: 43mpg (claimed)
  • Wet weight: 305kg
  • Seat height: 665mm

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