2012 Harley-Davidson FLD Switchback | Doin' Time

Staffers’ Rides

Photography by Joe Neric

Wrist: Joe Neric
MSRP (2012): $17,579
Miles: 10,151
MPG: 38
Mods: Luggage rack, sissy bar, backrest pad, touring windshield, touring bag

Last August, when I first took the Switchback home, I asked my wife if she wanted to ride to Los Olivos for the weekend. Pointing at the Harley, she said, "On that?" I assured her that we could invite our close friends and wine-tasting buddies, Ben and Michelle, to join us. We could ride up, park the bike, and walk into town to go wine tasting. She finally agreed.

Before we set off, I needed to prep the bike for our short trip. As I've noted before, the Switchback's hard saddlebags are small, and I knew that they wouldn't carry what we needed for a weekend. Step one: installing a sissy bar and luggage rack. In order to mount a sissy bar and luggage rack, you must first install the Detachable Sideplates (www.harley-davidson.com; $139.95) and bike-specific Docking Hardware ($99.95). Keep in mind the rear wheel has to come off for the installation. I got lucky because this bike came with these parts already installed.

With four sissy bar options to pick from-ranging from extra-tall wussy to why-bother small-I picked the Chrome Low Sissy Bar Upgright ($99.95). I opted to keep things simple by matching the backrest pad to the stock seat by choosing the Smooth Top-Stitched Backrest Pad ($69.95). As for the luggage rack, I kept the simple theme going by picking the chrome Custom Tapered Sport Luggage Rack ($134.95).

For our two-day luggage needs, I went with the colossal 2400-cubic-inch (unexpanded) Premium Touring Bag ($229.95), which easily swallows two days of clothing and essentials. And to save us from the wind, I ordered the Detachable Tall Windshield ($339.95), which is 2 inches taller than the stock windscreen. Add it up for a grand total of $1141.65, not including any installation labor. The Harley accessories are well made but clearly not cheap.

Finally escaping Los Angeles two-up, I could feel the Switchback's steering get slower. But as soon as we crested the hill with Santa Barbara on the horizon, I understood the allure of what Harley riders refer to as The Open Road. The Switchback is very stable cruising at freeway speeds, and the taller screen was a big improvement; the stock screen buffeted my helmet so badly I'd get a headache after 20 minutes.

About 15 miles north of Santa Barbara, the scenery changes from ugly city to lush green hills peppered with cows grazing in the morning sun. At that moment, humming along on the 101, I wondered if I should I take back all the complaints I've had about cruisers because I was really enjoying it!

Before we stopped for lunch in Los Olivos, I needed to do some two-up testing on twisty roads-the wine trail of Foxen Canyon Road would do nicely. The Switchback's main handling limitation, restricted cornering clearance, was a lot worse with a passenger, as you would expect. But instead of simply grinding the floorboards, the floorboard hinges and even the frame were touching down. My wife noticed this grinding and squeezed me like a Thighmaster.

Pushing the pace revealed the Switchback's other weakness: brakes. A single front disc just isn't enough for a bike this big, particularly with a passenger and luggage. We're going to need to address this problem-though the way the Switchback is built the only cost-effective option would be different brake pads-but for now the easiest fix is to bring the pace down. Way down.

With the pace recalibrated, we enjoyed the rest of the ride through wine country before stopping in Los Olivos for lunch. If you're ever in Los Olivos, stop by Los Olivos Café (www.losolivoscafe.com). The food is fantastic, just call ahead for a reservation.

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