2023 Harley-Davidson Breakout 117 review | The factory custom brawler


The Harley-Davidson Breakout is back in the global line-up for 2023, and we flew to California to try out the eye-catching cruiser

FANS of the factory custom look can start rejoicing now, as 2023 sees the Harley-Davidson Breakout arrive for 2023 with styling tweaks plus 117ci Milwaukee-Eight power.

The bike was pulled from the range in 2020 for some markets, after a stint of around eight years on the roads. That did leave a bit of a hole in the Harley lineup though for our friends across the pond.  While many bikes from the American brand are vehicles to help shift some accessories and parts, there are a great number of riders out there who longed for the more ready-made factory-custom look. Thankfully for these riders, Harley listened, and the Breakout blasts back onto the roads on both sides of the Atlantic.

Harley-Davidson Breakout 117 price, colours and updates for 2023

The 2023 Breakout is actually known as Breakout 117 (for reasons given below) and is listed with a price of £24,195. It comes in a choice of four colour options. Vivid Black, Black Demin, Baja Orange (as ridden), and Atlas Silver Metallic. The base Vivid Black commands the same MSRP, while each of the other colours adds on £440.

The bike we rode in Santa Barbara was the Baja Orange machine, and while it is certainly eye-catching, I think the nicest colour of the lot is the understated Black Demin with its grey inserts. The matt finish is very classy looking and is designed in such a way that it alters over time, weathering and smoothing in areas where the rider comes into contact with the paint.

One of the changes for this year comes in the form of revised graphics on the new slightly larger and flatter fuel tank. The new tank at 18.9 litres gains you 5.7 litres of extra freedom… I mean petrol, and it gives the bike a more muscular ‘flat-tank’ look when compared to the previous model. The fuel tank also gains a chrome strip running up the centre of it, although as with the old model, the dials are still neatly integrated into the bike’s handlebar clamp. This setup keeps the cockpit of the bike looking clean and custom, with all the wires fed through the bars and the just clutch cable and brake line visible. 

Another change for this year is the move up to the 117ci (1,923cc) Milwaukee-Eight engine from the previous bike’s 114ci motor. This increases power from 95 to 102 hp (100bhp), while torque also rises significantly to 168 Nm (123 lb-ft). The larger capacity engine is a sensible step and allows Harley to up the performance of the bike a little without pissing off the emissions gods.

Another change for this year is the move from blacked-out detailing to bright chrome, on the rear mudguard (or fender, if you must!) stays, exhaust, and handlebars. The bar risers have also been raised slightly to give a marginally more easy-going riding position.

2023 Harley-Davidson Breakout 117 review

The Breakout is one of the few bikes in the modern Harley range I’ve not ridden, and swinging a leg over it for the first time was a bit of an eye-opener. It looks long because it is long, with 34 degrees of rake and a total wheelbase of 1,695mm, and as I reach for the bars I’m reminded of just how long this thing is. In normal operation, this isn’t a problem, although tighter U-turns do have me leaning right/left and forward to reach and keep my hands on the outside handlebar. 

With a quick pre-ride briefing complete, the starter button thumbed (it’s all keyless ignition on the Breakout after all), the 103.5mm pistons begin their 114.3mm journeys up and down the bores. The Milwaukee-Eight briefly shuddered at start-up but is quick to settle into tickover at just under 1,000rpm. A quick blip of the throttle dumps a dollop of fuel into the new Heavy Breather air intake and the bike momentarily wakes up, sending a shockwave through the frame and the seat. This bike is a badass, in every sense of the word.

I stretch my left leg forward and engage first gear with a trademark Harley-Davidson thwunk and head off into the hills above the sleepy town of Ojai in Ventura County, California. Threading through the sleepy town is my first taste of a Harley drag-style bike since I rode the similarly styled FXDR back in 2020 and they do take a bit of getting used to. Bikes like this, especially ones with a 240/18 rear and 21-inch front, do tend to be point-and-squirt bikes. You have to get as much of the deceleration done before you think about turning it in, which in reality is pretty easy. The bike has monstrous engine braking, and relying on that to do most of the heavy lifting will help prevent you from overpowering that skinny front hoop.

Once you reach the apex of the corner is where the fun starts because, with the traction control turned off, you can make merry with the throttle, but be careful; you have to get these bikes and ride them by the scruff of their necks! If you wind on the throttle too lazily, the bike will simply understeer as the back tyre overpowers the front. What you have to try and do is break the rear traction and get the rear stepping out a bit to turn the bike more sharply thus firing you out of the other side. Don’t get me wrong, you don’t have to ride the bike like this all the time, but if you want to enjoy the thing and not get frustrated by the long geometry, I’d recommend at least giving it a try!

The roads we explored in Santa Barbara were stunning, and we were particularly blessed because, despite the prior reports, so was the weather. The corners were relentless, with sweeping bends that featured the kind of camber that makes you bite your lip as you tip the bike in. It was mile after mile of grunt-inducing, footpeg-scraping fun. And while we are on the subject of footpeg scraping; if you like to push on, be prepared to replace the hero blobs quite frequently! 26.8 degrees of lean is the quoted number and from experience, that sounds about right. Also try not to overdo it and be that hero, as if the pegs lift you’re not far from other, more solid pieces of metal meeting the Tarmac!

Braking on the Breakout (I’ve waited so long to type that!) is taken care of by a single front disc and a four-pot caliper. It’s weird that Harley has gone for this design, given that the similar (and also now sadly discontinued in the UK) FXDR had a twin disc set-up that delivered so much more seat sliding braking effect. I’m guessing it’s a styling choice and something that was driven by the bike’s designers wanting a more stripped-back and custom look. From my side, I’d rather have a tad more power and feel on the front brake, especially given how quickly this 310kg machine can gather speed.

Our launch route (thankfully) didn’t cover any highways or dual-carriageways and I think I know why. With its raked-out stance, my lower back was beginning to complain after around 3-hours in the saddle, and as I must basically fold my bladder in half to get on the thing, comfort breaks were fairly frequent. That said, this isn’t a bike for belting out long rides across a county, let alone a country. This is a bike for cruising the beachfront, looking cool and going slow, everything else it can do is simply a bonus!

2023 Harley-Davidson Breakout 117 verdict

Okay, so I’m going to have a crack at a verdict of the 2023 Harley-Davidson Breakout, although I’m not sure there’s much point. In all honesty, if you’ve read this far, you’re probably one of the people that appreciate this bike just for what it is, not what it can do as is often the case with most other bikes. The Breakout isn’t bothered about competitor analysis, and I don’t think that it really cares whether you like it or not. I’m fairly sure it’ll sell well for Harley regardless - given that it was pulled from sale in some countries a few years back and seemingly given no natural successor. And it’s not like many other manufacturers took advantage of the space it left in the motorcycle world either, as its return to sale sees it slide back into the space in the motorcycle universe it vacated some two and a bit years ago.

The Breakout 117 is a big, brash, brawler of a bike. If you loved the point and squirt attitude of the old version, or indeed the older V-Rod, you’ll love the added brawn of the new bike and its 117ci engine. If the slow-in, fast-out riding style isn’t your thing, you’ll probably find any of these long and low cruiser bikes a little bit strange to ride. Basically, and this goes for all Harleys, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and to do that you’ll need to swallow your pride and book a test ride – but be careful, you might just enjoy it.

More information on the 2023 Harley-Davidson Breakout 117 and the rest of the 2023 range can be found on the official website.

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