New Harley-Davidson Softail Slim

A stripped-down Softail with narrow styling with less chrome and retro details. Pare down a Harley-Davidson® Softail® motorcycle to its essential elements and you have the Slim. From its trimmed front fender to its narrow rear end, the Slim is a a back-to-basics motorcycle. You can call it stripped or old school. What’s left is the elemental Softail profile that recalls classic custom bobbers of the 1950s.

“It’s time to make the engine the focal point of the motorcycle,” says Harley-Davidson Senior Designer Casey Ketterhagen, “so we put a Softail on a diet to get the proportions back in check. Scale down the rear with a narrow tire and chopped fender and the heart of the bike, the motor, once again becomes the focus. We left a gap between the nose of the seat and tank so the rider can see the top of the motor. I like to be able to look down and see what’s moving me.”

To keep the rear of the motorcycle simple and clean, the Slim has combination stop/turn/tail lights and a side-mounted license plate. The rear fender struts are left uncovered, exposing the forged steel and fasteners. A thin formed-leather strap covers the fuel tank seam. The powertrain is finished with polished covers instead of chrome, and the black cylinders are left unhighlighted. The FL front fender is trimmed to expose more of the tire.

“I’d personally like to strip the bike down even further,” says Ketterhagen, “but this is as far as we can go on a production model. The Slim is intended to be a direct interpretation of home-built customs of the 1940s and 50s, and we used a number of components that evoke that era, beginning with a Hollywood handlebar.”

The Hollywood bar, identified by its wide bend and cross brace, was originally an accessory for Harley-Davidson® models with a Springer fork. The name may have been coined because owners of that era who used the cross-brace to mount lights and bags had “gone Hollywood” with excessive accessorization. For the Slim, the cross-braced bar and louvered headlight nacelle are finished in gloss black. Other period styling cues include a gloss black “cat’s eye” tank console with a retro speedometer face, half-moon rider footboards, a round air cleaner cover, and gloss black wheel rims and hubs. The cover of the solo seat is stitched in a tuck-and-roll pattern. “The seat really gives you the feeling of sitting in the bike, rather than on it,” says Ketterhagen. “The bars are nice and low, too, so when you’re riding you have an unobstructed view forward, which reinforces the idea that this is a very elemental motorcycle, a real back-to-basics ride.”

A counter-balanced Twin Cam 103B™ engine is rigid-mounted within the frame, creating a solid connection between rider and the machine. The Softail® chassis mimics the clean lines of a vintage hardtail frame, but utilizes rear suspension control provided by coil-over shock absorbers mounted horizontally and out of sight within the frame rails. With the combination of a 23.8-inch seat height and rider footboards, the Slim comfortably fits a wide range of riders and offers light side-stand lift-off. A pull-back riser from Harley-Davidson® Genuine Motor Accessories can be installed to move the handlebar back two inches without changing control cables and lines.

Key features of the 2012 Harley-Davidson Softail® Slim™ include:

• Rigid-mounted, air-cooled, 1690 cc Twin Cam 103B™ counter-balanced engine with Automatic Compression Release (ACR) rated at 98.7       ft. lbs. peak torque at 3000 rpm.
• Powertrain is finished in Black powdercoat with polished covers.
• 6-Speed Cruise Drive® Transmission.
• Chrome, over/under shotgun exhaust with slash-cut mufflers.
• Gloss Black round air cleaner cover.
• Classic 5.0-gallon Fat Bob® fuel tank.
• Black “cat’s eye” console holds electronic speedometer with retro-style face.
• Dunlop® 16-inch (MT90B16) front and rear (MU85B16) tires.
• Black, Steel Laced wheels.
• Hollywood handlebar with cross-brace
• Gloss black headlamp with chrome trim ring.
• Gloss black nacelle with punched louvers.
• Half-moon footboards with retro-style foot control pads.
• Chopped rear fender exposes rear tire.
• Trimmed FL front fender.
• Side-mounted license plate bracket.
• Combination stop/tail/turn tail lights.
• Solo seat with black tuck-and-roll vinyl cover.
• Forged rear fender supports are finished in Gloss Black powdercoat.
• Gloss black “horseshoe” oil tank.
• Paint color choices include Vivid Black, Black Denim, and Ember Red Sunglo.
• Security Package Option (factory-installed option) includes: Harley-Davidson® Smart Security System with proximity-based, hands-free security fob and Anti-lock Braking System (ABS)

40 Responses to “New Harley-Davidson Softail Slim”

  1. 1 BB Feb 1st, 2012 at 10:56 pm

    A back to normal Softail! No more 200 series tires. I dig the skinny tire, floorboards, trimmed fenders and Flanders style bars. Stick a carb on the side and I’d ride it!

  2. 2 .357 Magnum Feb 2nd, 2012 at 12:48 am

    Love the plain round air cleaner covers, on this and the new Sportster. I put one on my Road King, and it almost makes it look decades older. Very classic look.

  3. 3 NutCracker Feb 2nd, 2012 at 2:00 am

    I like the FLS. A good starting point. You mean to tell me HD is listening to their customers?

  4. 4 Brauchi Feb 2nd, 2012 at 2:54 am

    Exhaust, fork and primary cover need 2 be black, 2 😉

  5. 5 Hungouver Feb 2nd, 2012 at 6:11 am

    Hey Brauchi, they will gladly sell you that stuff! LOL

  6. 6 BobS Feb 2nd, 2012 at 8:52 am

    If they wanted to make the engine the focal point how ’bout putting the Revolution in there? Sucks that their best engine is in a bike nobody fits on. A TC for the traditionalists and a comfortable bike with the Revolution for the rest of us?

  7. 7 calif phil Feb 2nd, 2012 at 8:57 am

    BB said it best. Took the words right out of my mouth.

  8. 8 Steve N Feb 2nd, 2012 at 9:37 am

    Now put a narrow glide front fork on it, A late model sportster tank, git rid of the factory dash and put a small set of ape hangers with the spedo on it. Do the same paint job as the new 72 and you have a bike that would sell like hot cakes. What do think us small shops have been doin’ for the last 5 years.

  9. 9 Alan sharp Feb 2nd, 2012 at 9:47 am

    its a fat-boy slim fat front black-line back heretic wheels,,,,,,if it had apes on it,it would be like the hi ball??? but$4000 more…………..Not going to get me on a HD i will wait for the 2013…2014….2015…just something new please……………

  10. 10 Hondo Cat Feb 2nd, 2012 at 9:47 am

    $15,499 for Vivid Black and $15,884 for the other two colors offered.
    Victory’s new Judge is $13,999 for Gloss Black and $14,399 for their two other colors.

    Harley has the 103ci and Victory the 106ci. Victory usually wins if you’re able to ride comparable class bikes one after another. Just comes down to style and personal preference, cost concerns, and availability of accessories and parts.

  11. 11 Seven Feb 2nd, 2012 at 9:54 am

    I agree with Alan…. nothing spectacular here and would love to see some real innovation with some leadership (instead of following already passing trends).

  12. 12 Luis Feb 2nd, 2012 at 10:02 am

    Looks like a scaled up 48. I like it.

  13. 13 john p Feb 2nd, 2012 at 10:09 am

    It’s a fatboy with shorter fenders and different handle bars.

  14. 14 skulltrain Feb 2nd, 2012 at 10:15 am

    So harley have designed a new model NOT! … and called it the SLIM .. its a FATBOY … how people are easily pleased reading these posts wake up its a friday afternoon bike no imagination someone just went down the spares dept got all the old parts nobody was buying and built another abortion! ….. If you cant design something new Harley sub it out! ….

  15. 15 Alan sharp Feb 2nd, 2012 at 10:22 am

    it needs a single point sprung saddle,,like the 50s look…

  16. 16 Rob Feb 2nd, 2012 at 10:32 am

    Yup. I like the emphasis on being able to look down at the motor. First time I rode a Harley that was what struck me. It was a 73 Sporster I later bought; seeing and hearing the workings of the engine was the coolest thing ever.

    That headlight is like a satellite dish on the front! Kinda makes the front end look skinnier. I dunno if I’d go narrow glide, but losing the tins might be cool.

  17. 17 Henry Feb 2nd, 2012 at 10:53 am

    Will probably buy one. Can push even more the old look with some customization, then I get a modern bike without the trouble of the old Harleys. Perfect.

  18. 18 Caruzo Feb 2nd, 2012 at 10:56 am

    Want one in vivid black.

  19. 19 Brett Feb 2nd, 2012 at 10:59 am

    Well Hondo…the Judge is actually like a Dyna Fat Bob, which is $13,999….so there ya go

    Alan, not impressed…oh well. let me know the service you get for a Victory when you have to take it to a Polaris ATV repairman & have to wait 4 weeks for any part.

  20. 20 barney Feb 2nd, 2012 at 11:26 am

    Nice looking ride. I like it.

  21. 21 Blkbkr Feb 2nd, 2012 at 11:31 am


    Victory’s really ever go in for service…Not being an ass just being truthful. Most guys I know that have Victory’s have only had them in for routine maintenance, that’s one of the key selling points.

  22. 22 Buffalo Dean Feb 2nd, 2012 at 11:37 am

    I agree. Made to be customized. So, it’s a great platform.

  23. 23 Woody-G Feb 2nd, 2012 at 12:26 pm

    I’m almost 57, & the only thing I still like, that looks like it came from the 50s, is me!!! I used to sell new H-D bikes, till I grew very bored with the Halloween costume party!

  24. 24 Jim C Feb 2nd, 2012 at 1:07 pm

    The pipes say Fatboy all over them.

  25. 25 BEN Feb 2nd, 2012 at 2:09 pm

    Fatboy, Heritage, Deuce, Custom, Super Glide, Road King, Road Glide, Ultra, and Street Glide if that dont work ride an Indian

  26. 26 Alan sharp Feb 2nd, 2012 at 3:51 pm

    is that a indian HD assembled in India, lol, i have had 12 HDs 3 buells 4victorys, only problem i have had with victorys is regulator blew up and i ride it hard my last HD blew its head gasket and a big oil leak thats y i ride the victorys……….

  27. 27 Brett Feb 2nd, 2012 at 4:27 pm

    Alan…you mean your Mexican Victory assembled in Mexico??? Or did you miss all the blogs here about how Polaris was closing plants here to open in Mexico?

    As far as Victories & service…….there are many forums with plenty of horror stories about getting service for Vics. Not every bike is trouble free.

    As for HD. I have a 2001 FXST that has needed nothing but general maintenance. I ride it hard & it’s been to Sturgis from Wisconsin 3 times. To the Smokeout in Salisbury NC 1 time. To Tennesse 1 time. New York 2 times & on & on…not bad for just oil changes & new tires. Just goes to show every bike factory puts out good bikes & some lemons….

    As for selling pints to a Vic…they better get some more because I think 2010 was the last time I found actual sales numbers & Vics sales for a year are onl;y half of HD’s sales for 1 quarter….so basically the sales in 2010, Victory would need 8 years of sales to match HD in 1 year, which goes back to if this bike wasn’t owned by Polaris, they’d be out of business.

  28. 28 Alan sharp Feb 2nd, 2012 at 4:47 pm

    when i have any problems with my victory i will let you no, it would be great if victorys were badged as H/Ds then you would not call them you would own one lol

  29. 29 Fausto Feb 2nd, 2012 at 5:55 pm

    Spin the clock backwards a little more and the models could get really interesting.

  30. 30 badams Feb 3rd, 2012 at 11:45 am

    Smacks of a spreadsheet / focus group design to appeal to foreign emerging markets. India, etc. This platform is dying on the vine, probably trying to squeeze the last bit of profitability out of the supply chain for this model. Hopefully when they finally retire this platform, HD replaces it with something as innovative as it was back in the early 80’s.

  31. 31 Geno Feb 3rd, 2012 at 12:03 pm

    well done Harley
    but offer it with a two up seat
    I know you make a lil more $$ forcing
    90% of buyers to buy a 2up seat
    but the single seat thing is over
    come up with a nice roll and pleated
    cobra seat to go with the rest of
    the pkg from the factory

    Harleys always rule
    victory needs to stick to snow mobiles

  32. 32 winterman Feb 3rd, 2012 at 7:17 pm

    Hmmmmmmmmmmmm………….103 c.i…………….I think I will stick to my 110 on steroids thank you.

  33. 33 Pam and Wayne Feb 4th, 2012 at 2:58 am

    We have seen it all before-show us something new.

  34. 34 Axel Feb 5th, 2012 at 1:27 am

    The styling department comes through again, although I agree with having it more blacked out and especially having a 2-up seat. I mean really, do guys not want to give chicks a ride anymore? Really? What I’d most like to see, though, is a new engine and transmission. A new 45 degree, air-cooled, OHV, V-twin engine, that is. And a tranny that doesn’t make embarassing noises and can be more easily repaired at a much lower cost. And that doesn’t require a compensating sprocket at the rear.

  35. 35 Axel Feb 5th, 2012 at 1:29 am

    Oh, and thank God the wide-as-the-gas-tank rear tire appears to be headed the way of the dodo bird.

  36. 36 Alby. Feb 5th, 2012 at 2:08 pm

    I bought my FXDL new in December 04. It has given me many (75,000) trouble free kilometers here in Australia. I’m still waiting for HD to tempt me into another new bike. This ain’t bad but I’m sorry but it isn’t going to get me down to the dealer. As has been stated…something NEW please, not just another parts bin special.

  37. 37 Santino Mar 4th, 2012 at 4:24 pm

    I’ve been riding for 25 years. I love old bikes and when I saw this bike on the show room floor it was love at first sight. Hope the bike rides as well as it looks. Signed up for a demo ride. Can’t wait. Caio.

  38. 38 PWilly Apr 2nd, 2012 at 9:00 pm

    Santino, I just bought one – it’s smooth, easy-riding, and with a short wheel-base…extremely nimble. That’s one thing I don’t like about my Road King – not much fun on a winding back highway in the foothills of the Ozarks with turns so sharp, you can kiss your own ass. Not so with this one…as maneuverable as a Honda 750 Shadow, but with engine and gears that do well on the highway. Not a big fan of overly loud pipes, but only complaint I have is the engine noise is louder than the light exhaust tone. That, and I can’t find a freakin’ solo luggage rack to fit this thing ANYwhere.

  39. 39 PWilly Apr 2nd, 2012 at 9:03 pm

    oh yeah…and I bought it for my wife…(yeah right)

  40. 40 Barry Apr 25th, 2012 at 8:51 am

    I bought one. It’s my first new bike so I don’t have much to compare I to. What has me worried, a lot,is how many comments I have received not on the bike but how hard it is to see the brake lights! Maybe because there isn’t one in the center where most people are used to looking for one, or because the two turn signals which ARE the brake lights too are very small in diameter. Either way this is not reassuring whenever I slow down or stop with traffic behind me!

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Cyril Huze