Flying all the way to the magical city of Berlin to party with Harley-Davidson and see them pull the wraps of their new half-model-year Breakout model might seem a trifle hedonistic, but as the old saying goes "someone has to do it".
So with no riding and no real product workshop to speak of, why go all this way to have a look at something you could see the next day on the internet? Well, to start with, I like nothing better than seeing a new machine in the flesh (especially something as complex as a motorcycle). Secondly, the bike was being launched in conjunction with the start of Harley-Davidson's 110th anniversary celebrations. And finally, well, because its very rock 'n' roll to fly to another continent for a one-night party.
What makes it even cooler is that the party was in the European studio of one of Harley's worldwide partners, Gibson Guitars. Oh yes, and Berlin was under 1.5 metres of snow. It's always going to feel a bit weird watching the cover pulled off a bike while all wrapped up in Arctic weather gear, along with bits of wood burning next to me in an old, apocalyptic-style oil drum. But bearing in mind the Breakout was designed with America's sun-drenched open roads in mind, rather than the dark, Gotham City backdrop that is Berlin, oddly it also kind of worked.
The Breakout, unsurprisingly, comes from Harley's young styling manager Kirk Rasmussen. The design mixes drag-style cool with enough chrome to keep the traditionalists happy. Mix that with the bold paintwork and you've got a very cool-looking bike. Buyers can opt for Vivid Black, Big Blue Pearl and the imaginatively titled Ember Red Sunglo.
Buyers get a twin-cam power train with 103 cubic inches (1,690cc in new money), a 240mm rear tyre and brand new Gasser wheels, which are specific to the Breakout.
"We've always loved the gasser-style drag-racing wheels from the 1960s and 70s," says Rasmussen. "Our wheels are loosely inspired by those classics. Each wheel has 10 half-round spokes. The gloss-black powdercoat is machined away on alternating spokes and the rim edge to expose the aluminium under the paint."
You also get a six-speed Cruise Drive transmission, floating front and rear brake rotors and drag handlebars to really accentuate that mean look. The bad-boy, drag-style wheels, the long and low chassis, all give that "backstreet" look that many riders want.
The designers really wanted to showcase the engine and wheels, so the bodywork has all been shaved and chopped back. But perhaps one of the coolest things about the Breakout is that it looks fairly easy to customise. The bike is crying out for a bit of Bobber style. Forget about pillions, ditch the rear end and add an old-school sprung seat for extra effect.
As if to help this along, the Harley engineers also managed to hide the rear suspension behind the frame rails, so the Breakout looks like a vintage hard tail, but without the bone-jarring ride that comes with running a bike with no rear shocks.
Back at the party, a new flurry of snow had piled up on the Breakout at the entrance, as we all hid inside the studios, listening to the eclectic mix of local rock band The Crave, top European DJ Kid Simius and the internationally renowned Gaslight Anthem's Brian Fallon.
It may have been one degree above freezing outside and the total opposite of Harley weather, but inside, the crammed party seriously rocked. Flying to Berlin for an unveil might seem a little over the top, but Harley is on a roll at the moment, with cool new bikes, appealing to that all-important younger generation.
With the new Breakout, it has all the ingredients to carry on in the same vein. I just couldn't quite fit one in my suitcase for the flight home.
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