Zane has been in search of the most "Harley-feeling" bike on their 2023 line-up. He might've just found it with the 2023 Breakout! Check out what he thought of the chromey cruiser....
Harley-Davidson has taken many routes in the past few decades to help widen its range and meet a list of demands on all fronts. The one motorcycle in their range that still screams “I’m a Harley” is the Breakout and the 2023 model is an excellent machine…
I have seriously enjoyed my time on every single Harley-Davidson I’ve tested in recent years; they all have so much emotion, and you feel so special when you ride them. However, my experience with them has all been “this doesn’t really feel like a H-D”.
Well, what do I associate as a true Harley-Davidson? Loud, long-reach to the bars, legs right out the front of the bike and a hell of a lot of chrome. The new Breakout ticks all those boxes, only being muffled in sound by the stringent Euro exhaust regulations that plague these thumping v-twins.
Read Zane’s review of the Low Rider ST here…
Almost entirely different to the Low Rider ST I just hopped off, the Breakout isn’t about hitting the twisties, going fast or coming to a stop on a dime. I did tackle the Royal Nasho on it, but I enjoyed cruising the coast’s roads around the Illawarra area more…
The Breakout isn’t about hitting the twisties, going fast or coming to a stop on a dime. I did tackle the Royal Nasho on it, but I enjoyed cruising the coast’s roads around the Illawarra area more…
Let’s talk styling; the Breakout is a funny one. From some angles the bike looks absolutely spectacular; that fat rear tyre mixed with a premium paint scheme, wide ‘bars and enough chrome to burn holes in your retinas if you look at it in the sun for too long, just drip cool. But I feel as if this model has missed the mark with its spider-eye headlight and those not-so-pretty wheel designs. It’s not my cup of tea, but it will be someone’s.
“That fat rear tyre mixed with a premium paint scheme, wide ‘bars and enough chrome to burn holes in your retinas if you look at it in the sun for too long, just drip cool…”
And someone’s cup of tea it is; while taking the statics, I had a line of people ranging between 30-70 years old all talking about how gorgeous the bike is. I always find this side of the job embarrassing when I have to admit that it’s not actually my bike, and it’s only a loaner. I can’t think of the last time that I received this many compliments about a motorcycle.
Jumping on the bike for the first time after coming off the Low Rider ST, I’m met with an entirely different feeling machine despite sharing the same chassis, rear suspension and engine as the LRXST. The seat height is extraordinarily low; you lean further forward to reach the handlebars, and the footpegs are placed closer to the front of the bike. Yep, this is what I call a Harley.
What does feel the same as the Low Rider ST is the manageability yet face-melting torque of the Milwaukee-Eight 117ci V-Twin. This powerhouse is an absolute gem; it sounds fantastic, and the throttle input has been refined to allow smooth take-offs when you want to regulate your speed. It will also apply torque that seems to want to detach your arms and legs from your body until you’re bouncing off the rev-limiter when you twist it all the way on.
There’s nothing bad to say about the Milwaukee-Eight in the 117ci layout. It’s a tried and tested engine by 2023, and Harley has made a conscious effort to retain the Harley rattle by off-setting the crank balancers slightly. It hasn’t got the most impressive power figures, but it’s so easy to use, and there’s 167Nm of torque on tap at 3500rpm. It’s simply just a fun engine to be a hoon on.
Throughout the test, I averaged around 5.6L/100km, which really isn’t all that bad for a bike that’s 310km and has a capacity of nearly 2L. I’m sure fuel savings are the last of a Harley-Davidson owner’s thoughts, but the Milwaukee platform has seen massive improvements over the past few years.
The clutch is typical of H-D; it feels like you’re driving a car with the long bite point and the ability to regulate torque through the clutch. Gearing is long, fifth and sixth are almost pointless with Australian speed limits. The shift is also typical H-D with a distinctive clunk as you flick through the gears.
The first thing I notice with the Breakout is the air-intake location. I’m 183cm tall with long legs, and It just gets in the way. You can ride with your knees pointing outwards, but this causes trouble trying to leverage your foot on the rear brake. I am concerned that over time, you’ll either scratch/rub through the chrome as my shin rests directly on it while using the rear brake.
Other than the leg positioning, I quite enjoy the ergonomics of the Breakout. You have a long and flat reach to the handlebars, which helps eliminate some of the arm-pump you get riding motorcycles with your elbows bent. The seat also feels like a couch cushion, which soaks up some of the bumps that the monoshock doesn’t, although I would have liked a little more support for my lifetime of motorsports damaged lower back.
The front brakes are certainly made for cruising rather than sporty riding. Coming off the Low Rider ST, which had some of the best feeling brakes on the entire H-D range, the Breakout falls short with a firm lever action, little initial bite and much more input needed to come to a halt quickly. This is due to the Breakout having only a single front brake to maximise aesthetics on the left-hand side of the bike but at the cost of losing nearly half of the braking power.
The rear brake works excellent when you can get your foot on the lever. It’s imperative to have plenty of feel while riding a heavy motorcycle, and the Breakout is easy to lane split on despite its giant statue.
Read Andrew’s 2023 Harley Breakout launch report here…
Comfort is kept in mind far beyond sporty riding. The conventional forks soak up the harsh bumps in our awful Australian roads very well, and there are no bottoming out/weird noises coming from the front. Granted, nothing the design of this bike fills me with confidence to tip it into a corner at speed, but the forks do a decent job of keeping the bike on track through the twisties.
The monoshock doesn’t shine as an overly comfortable setup, but, again, it does do an excellent job at tracking through corners with confidence. I did notice it slightly bottoming out on some of the heavier potholes/bumps, and I’m pretty sure I winded myself after hitting a big pothole.
I notice the same improvement in handling that Andrew did at the Australian launch earlier in the year. Despite the intake being in the way of the footpegs, the ‘peg position improves the cornering feeling of the Breakout. You don’t have to reach the corner of the tyre to scrape the footpegs, which actually makes for awesome fun and gives an excellent guide to not lean this beefy machine over too far.
How do the ergonomics and suspension handle that 240-width rear tyre? Surprisingly well… Harley-Davidson seems to be uncompromising when it comes to the stance of the Breakout; the fat rear tyre is such a staple of what the model stands for. Sure, there’s some loss in handling ability, but it’s a lot less daunting than what it looks like.
The Breakout sails into corners and doesn’t suddenly tip over as you’d expect for a tyre wider than what I have on my car. The rear doesn’t feel overly heavy, and it just feels like a high freeway kilometre tyre, sort of square in the middle.
Something that drove me nuts trying to figure out the sound coming from the rear. The width and hollowness of it makes a slight clunking sound while riding over road imperfections; at first, I thought it was the shock bottoming out, but the small bumps that would randomly cause this weird clunk seem to be due to the wheel.
The 130-width front tyre offers plenty of confidence in all weather. I found that the Breakout actually shines quite well in the rain with the combination of the wide Michelin Scorchers and traction control; it’s one of the more planted wet weather bikes I’ve ridden this year. Although, I did not enjoy needing to clean the chrome after riding it in the rain…
The 2023 model is equipped with cruise control, which is seriously easy to use and holds the set speed within 1km/h, faster or slower. As was the case with the Low Rider ST, the big bore and high compression of the Milwaukee-eight means that the Breakout doesn’t coast a considerable amount, allowing the cruise control to maintain the correct speed even while going down a hill on the freeway.
“I found that the Breakout actually shines quite well in the rain with the combination of the wide Michelin Scorchers and traction control…”
The dash is super simple. I believe it suits this bike well, but it doesn’t fit the price range. At nearly $40,000, you do expect a lot more tech in 2023, but you don’t get much at all. What you do get works well besides the laggy digital tachometer, the same lag as what I saw on the Low Rider ST.
In my opinion, the Breakout is the most Harley-Davidson of the modern line-up. It’s tough, has heaps of chrome, an excellent engine the size that’ll make a modern hatchback self-conscious of its size and a stance that is just so Harley.
The 2023 model is a significant improvement over previous models in handling, riding emotion, and, besides the wheel design, looks. Is it worth the $37,995 rideaway price? Well, you do get a premium paint job and attention to detail that a lot of bikes lack in 2023, but you also get minimal suspension and electronic equipment. This is a bike that needs to be purchased with your heart and not your head because it is genuinely a fun bike to cruise on…
2023 Harley Davidson FXBRS Breakout 117 Specifications
Price: From $37,995 Ride Away ($365 for special paint*)
Colours: Vivid Black, Denim Black*, Atlas Silver Metallic*, Baja Orange*
Warranty: Two-years unlimited km
Service: 1600km then every 8000km
Fuel Consumption: 5.6L – 5.9L/100km
Claimed Power: 76kW[102hp]@N/Arpm
Claimed Torque: 167Nm of torque@3500rpm
Wet Weight: 310kg
Fuel capacity: 18.9L
Engine: Air-cooled Milwaukee-Eight 117 V-Twin, 1923cc, 103.5 x 114.3mm bore x stroke, 10.2:1 compression ratio, ESPFI, two-into-two exhaust
Gearbox: Primary drive: 34/46. Six-speed ratios – 1st: 9.311, 6.454, 4.793, 3.882, 3.307, 6th: 2.79 Final Belt 32/66
Clutch: Wet multi-plate, cable actuation
Chassis: Mild steel tubular frame, rectangular section backbone, stamped – cast and forged junctions, MiG welded, alloy fender supports
Suspension: Dual-bending valve 49 mm telescopic with aluminum fork triple clamps; dual rate spring, N/Amm travel, Monoshock rear end with remote preload adjustment, N/Amm travel.
Brakes: 300mm rotor, Four-piston fixed caliper (f), 292mm rotor, two-piston floating caliper (r), ABS
Wheels & Tyres: Machined alloy wheels, 130/60 – 21in (f), 240/40 – 18in (r), Michelin Scorcher II
Seat height: 665mm
Ground clearance: 115mm
Overall Length: 2370mm
Instruments & Electronics: Multi-function analogue and digital LCD displays, handlebar mounted, cruise control, ABS, TCS
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The Verdict | Review: 2023 Harley-Davidson FXBRS Breakout 117