The long, low, dragster-style Breakout is the definitive Harley-Davidson ‘boulevard bruiser’, and for this model year update gets extra punch and flashy style. It might not be the most practical (or comfortable) of Hogs but it looks – and goes – better than ever.
“The hot rod/drag strip inspiration needs only two things – style and a big engine”
‘Design’ is probably a moot point when it comes to Harleys, and never more so than with the new Breakout. In one sense it’s the purest Harley of all, given the hot rod/drag strip inspiration needs only two things – style and a big engine. On those scores the Breakout, first introduced in 2013 and one of the most popular Harleys in the UK since, is brilliantly executed and this third update with Harley’s biggest 117 cubic-inch (1,923cc) V-twin engine, stylish new wheels, extra chrome, revised seat, new tank and all-new paint jobs, is better than ever. Others, however, may look at it and think it’s not very comfortable, practical, particularly fast, doesn’t handle that well and isn’t very well equipped so how can it deserve full marks for design? To those people, the classic Harley reply of ‘If you have to ask, you wouldn’t understand…’ applies more strongly than ever.
Expert rating: 5/5
“Longer cruises of 100 miles plus are possible and it’s more than happy in its natural habitat of posing along a promenade”
For a true posing machine like the Breakout a comfortable riding position isn’t that important, and it’s not the first time a Harley has prioritised form over function. Remember the short-lived Blackline? Or extreme FXDR? The Breakout is similar in having a drag bike style feet-forward, arm-stretched, low bum posture but it’s not as agonising as those two, and at least the new version is a further improvement. Extended (by 19mm) handlebar risers mean the stretch isn’t quite as extreme as before and the new seat (necessary as Harley has reverted to the Breakout’s previous and larger fuel tank) is better than before, too. As a result, longer cruises of 100 miles plus are possible and it’s more than happy in its natural habitat of posing along a promenade. But with short travel suspension that jars over potholes, no weather protection and even less provision for pillions, riding comfort is never that great.
Expert rating: 3/5
“If you want a practical Harley get a ‘bagger’ like the popular Street Glide or the new generation PanAmerica adventure bike”
Another area that doesn’t really apply to the Breakout. If you want a practical Harley get a ‘bagger’ like the popular Street Glide or the new generation PanAmerica adventure bike. If, on the other hand, you’re not really bothered about practicality and want the most ‘posey’ Harley out there the Breakout should be right up there. It’s a competent motorcycle and can transport you to places at a cruising speed of up to around 70mph, but that’s about it. Beyond that it’s uncomfortable, has no weather protection or luggage, can’t easily take a pillion, is cumbersome, heavy and awkward around town, is so precious you wouldn’t want to ride it in the wet or through winter and is so pricey it’s not even economic transport. But then you knew all that already. It looks and sounds brilliant, though, and does have Harley-Davidson on the tank…
Expert rating: 2/5
Performance & braking
“The result is still classic Harley – clunky, characterful and more flexible and versatile than you might expect but now with a raw punch that excites when you whack open the throttle”
Ah, at last, one aspect of conventional motorcycling the Breakout takes at least partly seriously. When originally introduced in 2013 the Breakout had the then ‘Twin Cam’ 103 cubic-inch (1,690cc) version of Harley’s traditional 45-degree, air-cooled, pushrod V-twin. It received a significant makeover in 2018 when it got the Milwaukee Eight 107 cubic-inch (1,746cc) engine,the then biggest 114 cubic-inch/1,868cc version also available as an option. Now Harley has made it bigger again. ‘117’ refers to its capacity in cubic inches, which equates to a whopping 1,923cc. Other relevant numbers include 103 horsepower and 168Nm, both up on the 107’s 87 horsepower and 145Nm, the 114 in-between. The result is still classic Harley – clunky, characterful and more flexible and versatile than you might expect but now with a raw punch that excites when you whack open the throttle, especially as the only electronics are ABS, switchable traction and cruise. It’s no Yamaha VMAX, Ducati Diavel or Triumph Rocket 3, admittedly, but it does have a fun, tyre-squealing kick. Braking, however, is taken less seriously. Despite the Breakout’s performance and weight there’s just a single front disc and four-piston caliper (it’s all about those drag bike looks again) which is only just adequate, and even then you need to use the rear at the same time.
Expert rating: 4/5
Ride & handling
“You do tune into it and gentle bends can be swept round with pleasure until you run out of ground clearance”
With the Breakout primarily designed to look great and deliver drag bike style straight-line punch away from the Santa Monica seafront traffic lights, this is another area which isn’t its forte. The long and low stance means the old school tubular steel cradle frame has its forks kicked out at a long 34 degrees, which makes for ponderous, tiller-like steering. At the rear, there’s a massive, 240-section drag inspired rear tyre, which also doesn’t like going round corners. Rear suspension is the short-stroke, hidden shock ‘Softail’ type, which is designed to look like a hardtail. So, there’s not much by way of sophisticated suspension travel and although decent Showa Dual Bending Valve forks grace the front, they’re hardly designed for handling. The result is the steering characteristics of a container ship and the ride of (virtually) a hardtail chopper. However, you do tune into it and gentle bends can be swept round with pleasure until you run out of ground clearance, which doesn’t take long. Considering what the Breakout is really all about, somehow it doesn’t seem to matter that much anyway.
Expert rating: 3/5
“Fuel consumption can be expected in the mid-40s, residual values are excellent and it has things like belt instead of chain drive”
Ultimately, we’re talking about a premium-priced, high performance (ish) dream machine, so the Breakout’s running costs were never going to be paltry. There’s the initial high purchase price, inevitably high insurance premiums, and so on. That said, the Breakout’s power is relatively modest all considered, fuel consumption can be expected in the mid-40s, residual values are excellent and it has things like belt instead of chain drive, reducing both maintenance and costs. There’s just the one front brake, so pad replacement won’t be that bad either!
Expert rating: 4/5
“Yes, it’s a little crude and old-school, but it’s also thoroughly understood and, thanks to things like fuel-injection, more ‘modern’ than many people realise”
Although the 117 Milwaukee Twin engine is Harley’s largest version yet of its classic V-twin, it’s still relatively understressed and is also about as overdeveloped and proven (refined is probably taking it a bit far) as contemporary motorcycle engines get. Yes, it’s a little crude and old-school, but it’s also thoroughly understood and, thanks to things like fuel-injection, more ‘modern’ than many people realise.
Expert rating: 4/5
Warranty & servicing
“The updated Breakout 117’s service schedule is also the same as all current ‘Big Twin’ Harleys and fairly straightforward”
Harley’s standard warranty is the industry-typical two years/unlimited mileage covering all parts and labour. The updated Breakout 117’s service schedule is also the same as all current ‘Big Twin’ Harleys and fairly straightforward in requiring a basic break-in oil and filter change at 1,000 miles followed by major services every 10,000 miles, although some recommend interim services at 5,000 miles as well. Being an accessible, fairly simple, twin-cylinder design means cost isn’t excessive, too.
Expert rating: 4/5
“The tiny, reversed LCD ‘strip’ dash on the top yoke may seem joke like at first but is utterly in keeping with the look of the bike”
Less is mostly more with the new Breakout, so you shouldn’t expect much in the way of fancy fripperies, despite its exorbitant price. There are a few exceptions worth mentioning, though. This update has seen the Breakout revert to the bigger, 18.9-litre fuel tank, which now gives a welcome range of around 200 miles. The tiny, reversed LCD ‘strip’ dash on the top yoke may seem joke like at first but is utterly in keeping with the look of the bike, and actually displays everything you need. There are no modes but there is switchable traction and basic ABS. There’s no luggage or wind protection either but the lights are now LED and the seat has been improved. The new 26-spoke cast alloy wheels look gorgeous, there are fancy new graphics, lashings of extra chrome and four different colourways, although sadly the brightest, orange, as pictured here, has already sold out in the UK and Ireland allocation.
Expert rating: 3/5
“The Breakout is Harley’s definitive drag-style cruiser, and if that’s what you want, nothing else will do”
As we said at the start, if you have to ask you wouldn’t understand. But in simple terms the Breakout is Harley’s definitive drag-style cruiser, and if that’s what you want, nothing else will do. More importantly, this new 117 version is better than ever, and in more ways than you might expect. The new 117 motor is a significant step up, sounds great and is a blast, the styling is improved and the surprise bonus on top is that it’s pleasingly more comfortable thanks to the revised bar position and tweaked seat. If you wanted a Harley Breakout that probably doesn’t matter anyway, but Harley’s dragster IS better than ever.