2012 Harley-Davidson FLD Switchback | Doin' Time

Staffers' Rides

Wrist: Joe Neric
MSRP (2012): $17,579
Miles: 7811
MPG: 38
Mods: Detachable seat hardware kit

Apparently, choosing Motorcyclist's Best Cruiser of 2012 for my next long-term assignment has opened the floodgates of ridicule. Not just from my jackass co-workers, but from our friends on Facebook as well: "That guy always gets the worst bikes," says Facebook user Chess Xgambit. I respectfully disagree, sir. I thought the '08 Honda CBR600RR and the 2010 CB1000R I had were fantastic motorcycles. True, there was that forgettable year with an NT700V…

I am looking forward to this long-term test. I’ve always been curious about life on a cruiser. Have a look around. If cruisers sucked, then why are there so many on the road? I, too, am guilty of bagging on baggers. I’ve repeatedly said, “Forget the cruiser, I’ll have the sport-touring bike with hard luggage.” Judging by the month aboard the ol’ Switchback, I may have to eat those words.

Before I do that, let's get a couple of things straight. Even though the Switchback is equipped with Harley-Davidson's 103-cubic-inch twin-cam motor, it's not a fast motorcycle. It may have 94 lb.-ft. of torque, but if I can't lose a Subaru Impreza WRX off my tail while merging onto a freeway, it ain't fast. Sorry, it's not. Second, dragging the floorboards while leaving the parking lot isn't my definition of good handling, either. But that's not the point with this bike, now is it?

More people approach me and talk about motorcycling because of this bike, and not just about owning a Harley. Friendly people and good stories, too. Just last week, a complete stranger told me how a heart attack almost ended it all for him two years ago. The first thing he did after he recovered? Bought a Harley. I never caught his name, but he has accumulated more miles traveling on his Sportster than I have on my previous two long-term test bikes. That’s a nice change from swapping stories with the mouth-breathers riding clapped-out sportbikes with four-inch-wide chicken strips. You know, the ones wearing those ridiculous, neon helmet mohawks.

What’s my plan for the Switchback? Hit the open road to add to the 7000 miles it was delivered with, taking my wife on some weekend road trips before I have a heart attack myself. That alone is very different from my previous long-term tests. I did most of the riding by myself. Having all the fun, by myself. Having the wife tag along will be a nice change. We’re planning a wine-tasting trip to Los Olivos, one of our favorite getaways, and I can already see an advantage to the removable windscreen and saddlebags. Although, we’ll be leaving the bags on when we get there and filling them with wine before heading back to the hotel. And that is the point of this bike, right?

Having to use a screwdriver just to take the seat off was annoying. This quick release will make life much easier. ($19.95; www.harley-davidson.com)