Picture a warm, humid morning on Collins Avenue, South Beach. Chic boutiques and pricey, gourmet restaurants stud every corner. Well-tanned men in silk shirts, flip-flops and European sunglasses buy shiny things for slender, haughty young women in bathing suits and gauzy skirts. Mercedes Benz and Porsches roll slowly by tourists on rented fat tired bicycles as the Floridian sun polish the pristine and all-too civilized scene.
That world was artistically shattered by a legion of new Harley-Davidson led by 2012’s additions to the family, the Softail Slim and the 72. Men and women in their riding armor and leathers pushed the beach bathing, spa loving crowd aside with a roar of grumbling V-Twins, reminding the locals life in motion beats a life lounging and admiring oneself in a mirror.
Harley-Davidson gathered motorcycle journalists from around the world at the Shore Club Hotel, blending the introduction of the two new models with an exploration of southern Florida’s artistic culture. The reporters swapped bikes back and forth as they rode from South Beach to the avant garde neighborhood of Wynwood.
Once a dangerous part of town, artists settled in the Wynwood Arts District to find studio space with cheap rent. Since the area needed a lot of aesthetic improvements, local authorities and neighborhood groups thought, “Why not put that influx of talented painters and designers to use?” So, Wynwood is now an urban wonderland of of huge murals and art installations adoring the warehouses and office space.
That’s the kind of artsy, rebellious ambiance Harley-Davidson is reaching for these days. America’s biggest bike maker already has the longtime rider, touring enthusiast and tough guy/biker rally crowds. Now, they’re looking to promote their rides as symbols of artistic creation, individuality and customized expression.
Admittedly, the two newest entries at the heart of this particular roll-out are updated takes on classic looks. The 72 is a clear salute to the choppers of the 1970s. While it doesn’t have the extended wheel base of the stereotypical Easy Rider clone, the Peanut gas tank, the longer fork, the lowered body metrics and the modified gorilla bars give this sportster a classic look with a punky attitude.
There’s something about the length of the $10,499 bike that gives you the impression it’ll be heavy, but Harley-Davidson stripped out a bit of weight out the frame to create a surprisingly light, balanced and punchy ride. Roll that throttle too aggressively, and you feel your butt inch back on the seat due to the acceleration force thanks to the fuel-injected, air-cooled 1,200cc Evolution v-twin engine.
When Harley-Davidson led journalists on a ride from Miami to Key West, the 72s had to stay behind. The smaller Peanut tank limits the 72’s range between fill-ups, making it poor choice for touring. But, the sportster addition will serve as a fun, eye-catching urban cruiser.
The new Softail Slim also serves up somewhat of a retro look with its big headlight, countered leather seat and narrow rear fender. A slightly smaller, stripped down addition to the Softail family, the Slim shared that sensation of surprising grace at speed for a Harley-Davidson. Combining reduced weight with a Twin Cam, 1690cc engine leaves the would-be rider with a motorcycle that could easily serve as both a cruiser and a touring bike (with a few add-ons) at much lower cost than a CVO model or the Switchback.
Taken as a team, the 72 and Slim continue Harley-Davidson’s necessary and well-reasoned transition to sportier, more stylish motorcycles for younger buyers interested in fast, lighter, maneuverable rides imbued with self-expression.
Photo Credit: Shutterstock and Harley Davidson