First ride: Harley-Davidson Breakout review

First ride: Harley-Davidson Breakout review

A drag strip-inspired thing of beauty

HARLEY-DAVIDSON’s 2018 Softail range has an interesting theme about it.

‘All for Freedom, Freedom for all’ is the slogan under which Harley is marketing the Softails, and nothing shouts freedom more than the aptly named Breakout.

Long, low, wide and imposing, the Breakout is a drag strip-inspired thing of beauty.

But with those huge tyres and wides bars, one question remained: would it handle like the escape vehicle it purports to be?

We went to the 2018 Softail launch in Catalonia to find out…


The Breakout boasts Harley’s Milwaukee-Eight V-twin, which was first seen in the 2017 Tourer range. For the 2018 Softails, this unit has received dual internal counter-balancing, which works with the rigid engine mounts to reduce vibrations.

It’s still pretty shaky, but calms down at higher speeds. Harley’s ‘potato-potato-potato’ soundtrack is omnipresent.

On all eight Softail models, the 1745cc 107 unit is standard. For an extra £1,200, buyers can specify the 1868cc 114, which is the powertrain we tested.

The 114 makes 92.7hp and 114 lbft of torque. Peak torque is reached at 3,000 revs, while the engine tops out just shy of 6,000.

This is a versatile unit, with an abundance of power – peak is reached at 5,020 rpm. According to HD figures, the 114 is 9% faster from nought to 60mph than the 107, and 13% faster in fifth gear from 60 to 80 mph.


What's immediately noticeable about the Breakout is its muscly characteristics, namely the huge, flat-profile 240mm rear tyre, wide bars and elongated design. Combined, these factors make the bike incredibly stable in a straight line, but turning is a whole other story.

Harley-Davidson’s new 34%-stiffer chassis brings a huge 17kg weight reduction on the previous model, but at 305kg wet, the Breakout takes some serious shove to turn in to bends, and manoeuvring at slow speeds is also an effort. Once leaning, expect the pegs to scrape almost immediately – the Breakout has only a 26.8° maximum lean angle.

The 34° rake isn't conducive to a sense of connection with the front wheel, which doesn’t inspire confidence on tighter bends.

Where this model shines is on long, wide, open roads – the kind you find in Harley’s home territory. The asphalt-devouring model is powerful, stable and, for the most part, comfortable.

However, I did feel that the bike would be better suited to someone with a little more leg and arm length than myself. Reaching the widespread bars and foot controls was a stretch – which made the already-clunky gears feel even heavier.

But that can probably be addressed, as Harley's range of 300 accessories includes alternative pegs and seats. 


The forks feature a new Showa dual-bending valve, and adequately smoothed out what bumps there were on the well-suurfaced roads of the test ride. 

The new monoshock at the rear has adjustable preload, which can be changed easily via a subtle remote adjuster on the side of the bike.


Similarly to other models in the Softail range, the Breakout features a single front disc with a four-piston fixed calliper. At the rear is a two-piston floating caliper. When used in conjunction, this set up is both progressive and powerful. ABS is of course standard.


The Breakout is arguably the most stylish option of the 2018 Softail range. The dark frame, bars and trim really make the chromed engine stand out. Those ‘Gasser II’ rims and fat tyres look awesome, and the bar clamp mounted speedo gives the top of the tank a clean look.

A signature vertical LED strip headlight shines from the traditionally round-shaped unit, while keyless ignition with security system and a steering-head mounted USB port also feature.

Despite the price tag, the bike has no traction control, and it would probaby benefit from it given its considerable torque. 

We like:

The Breakout’s drag strip-inspired looks. It’s long, lean and mean, with dark effects and chrome in equal measure.

We don't like:

One thing Harley-Davidson didn't shout about at the launch is the disparity between the new and the previous Breakouts’ fuel capacities. While the previous model could hold 18.9-litres, the 2018 bike’s tank takes just 13.2-litres, and is now the smallest of the Softail range. I understand scaling back the tank to improve the looks, but that's a big difference, which will make a serious reduction in range.



If you climb aboard the Breakout expecting a light, agile ride, you’ll be disappointed.

But the clue is in the inspiration. Harley-Davidson called it the ‘drag-strip inspired model’ and as we all know, drag strips are straight line sprints.

Approach the bike with this mentality and you’re guaranteed a great ride. As you open the throttle on the long roads the Breakout is born for, the torque will threaten to stretch your arms and you’ll be left laughing aloud at the sheer grunt of the Milwaukee Eight big twin.


Model tested: Harley-Davidson Breakout 114

Price: From £18,395, model tested £18,745

Engine: 1868cc Milwaukee-Eight 114

Power: 92.7hp

Torque: 114ft-lb torque

Kerb weight: 305kg

Seat height: 665mm