NEW BIKE REVIEW • by Dain Gingerelli
Some motorcycles are best defined with a single word. The 2016 FLD Dyna Switchback is one of those bikes, and the best description for it is “versatile.” In fact, versatility is what led to the name Switchback, because owners can, by removing the quick-detach windshield and saddlebags, switch back from a touring bike to a cruiser in a matter of seconds. I’ll go one step further, though, suggesting that the Switchback also presents itself as a worthy all-around motorcycle, one you can log countless miles with during daily commutes or for cross-country travel. Yet if you venture onto a winding, twisty road, the Switchback rewards you with responsive handling, braking, and power, allowing you to feel comfortable in its contoured saddle all the while. That’s true versatility.
Even so, the Dyna Switchback has gained a reputation of sorts for being a lightweight motorcycle, one best reserved for newbies and women riders. Hardened Harley riders cite a few reasons, chief among them being the FLD’s relatively light weight (696 pounds, claimed dry weight), a wheelbase that’s a couple of inches shorter than any of the bigger FLH Electra Glides’ 64″ hub-to-hub span, and a friendly 26.1″ seat height (with a 180 pound rider on board) that allows anybody taller than Tom Thumb a favorable chance to flat-foot it during stops.
Short of its low seat height, though, the Dyna Switchback is every bit the full-on, long-distance motorcycle that any of the original Duo-Glide models happened to be when they ruled the roost for long-distance riding. As proof, let’s travel back in time to 1958, the year for the first Duo-Glide, Harley’s original touring model with front and rear suspension. According to most sources, the Duo-Glide, powered by a Panhead engine, weighed 648 pounds, and its 16″-diameter balloon tires were spread exactly 60″ apart. Interesting — those dimensions are comparable to the Switchback’s specs.
Spin our time machine’s needle forward 10 years and the FL — now powered by a Shovelhead engine and called the Electra Glide thanks to an electric start system that was added in 1965 — weighed a mere 680 pounds. By 1972, Harley had added enough styling and touring accessories to bulk up the bike to about 720 pounds, but those specs still cast yesterday’s Panhead- and Shovelhead-powered FLs in a league closer to the Switchback than to the FLH we have today.
If you’re still not convinced that the Switchback is a full-on touring motorcycle, consider what some of the magazine editors wrote about the Electra Glide of yore. The editors for Supercycle magazine offered this about the 1972 FLH in their March 1973 issue: “It is quite a feeling sitting on such a large hunk of machinery. First time FLH riders are somewhat reluctant to take it off the stand. It just doesn’t feel like anything else you’ve ever ridden — and it isn’t like anything else you’ve ever ridden.”
For the 2016 Harley Switchback full ride review, custom bike features, tech stories and more,
CLICK HERE American Iron Magazine issue 333
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