Harley-Davidson has a reputation for incorporating modern technology with classic design elements from the past, even embracing custom looks that never saw a showroom floor, and the Softail Breakout does not disappoint.

The engineers borrowed from the custom “Gasser” look of the 1950s and 1960s when setting up this sled, then they packed it full of CVO-inspired innovations to ensure that the performance is up to date. Back in the day, Gassers were customized drag bikes and this bike pays tribute to its roots while maintaining the performance standards demanded by its customer base.

Continue reading for my review of the Harley-Davidson Softail Breakout

  • 2015 - 2017 Harley-Davidson Softail Breakout
  • Year:
    2015- 2017
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    Air-cooled, Twin Cam 103B
  • Displacement:
    1688 cc
  • Top Speed:
    124 mph (Est.)
  • Price:


2015 - 2017 Harley-Davidson Softail Breakout Exterior
- image 575254

The natural starting point for custom-looking bikes from that era would be the Softail frame that emulates the look of the old rigid frames that were commonplace then. A set of wildly asymmetrical tires that give the bike an undeniable dragster vibe completes the rolling chassis. Sheet metal is minimal on this model. The small front fender leaves an unobstructed view of the front wheel, and the rear fender is just barely long enough to cover the fender struts.

Everything else on the bike is either chromed or painted black, with the black accents on the lower fork legs and mufflers giving the bike a little flavor of yesteryear. Little bullet lights keep the rear end clean, as does the side-mounted license-plate holder. The lights are all-in-one, with the taillight, brake light and turn signal all contained within. True, they are small and have several jobs to perform, but with LED lights it doesn’t take much to get the job done.


2015 - 2017 Harley-Davidson Softail Breakout Exterior
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Frame and rolling-chassis design is where this ride really starts to stand apart from the Softail crowd. Harley took the frame and gave the steering head a 35-degree rake, which compared to the 31-degree rake on the Fat Boy/Heritage models, is a big change. This stretched the overall length of the bike to 96.3 inches with a 67.3-inch wheelbase, making it the longest member of the Softail family. The length of the bike and the low 26.4-inch seat height make it look long, low and mean!

But honestly, nobody will notice the bling once they behold the massive 240/40 R18 rear tire.

The “Gasser-style” cast-aluminum wheels give this ride yet another link to the past, and the spokes alternate between polished and black to give the wheels a nice, flashy effect when rolling. For 2017, the Breakout gets Gloss Black Turbine wheels with machined highlights for an awesome look, but honestly, nobody will notice the bling once they behold the massive 240/40 R18 rear tire. Whoever ’beholding’ that, ’beholding’ one fat tire, I guarantee!

The long wheelbase and fat rear tire make the Breakout handle a little differently in the corners than you are used to, but at least it won’t be as bad as a more-radical chopper would be since you still have 5.7 inches of trail. It’s a tradeoff though — what it lacks in the corners it makes up in the straights, and the five-gallon gas tank keeps it going straight (past the gas station). The bike can reach a modest 23.4-degree lean angle, so if you are a fiery-eyed pegdragger you will not lack for opportunity to make some sparks. Single front- and rear-disc brakes handle the stopping, and the ABS system ensures that they can be used safely and with confidence.


2015 - 2017 Harley-Davidson Softail Breakout
- image 692178

Harley used the air-cooled, Twin Cam 103B, with its 95.2 pound-feet of cheek-tightening torque to back up the expectations one would have after all the classic drag-bike design references. The engine is clad all in black and chrome, and is mated to a six-speed cruise-drive transmission that delivers both stump-pulling lower gears and highway-speed, low-rpm cruising. Electronic sequential-port fuel injection (ESPFI) controls the emissions and ekes out an overall 42 mpg, which isn’t bad considering that the bike’s ’fighting weight’ is around 710 pounds, plus rider. Engine power maxes out at 3,000 rpm, so you still have the low-end torque that you should expect from an H-D V-twin.

The 2016 Breakout came with even more attitude packed away in the mill. H-D upgraded the powerplant to the High-Output version of the Twin Cam 103B that cranks out 97.4 pound-feet at 3 grand for a difference you can definitely feel in the seat of the pants. Most of this increase comes from the low-resistance air cleaner and performance-ground cam that effectively act as a factory Stage 3 kit. If you are into stoplight burning as a hobby, the Breakout with the HO Twin Cam will save you the aggravation and post-sale expense of going into the shop for work right off the showroom floor. A win-win for the truly incorrigible among us, because let’s face it, a custom-looking, chopper-esque bike like this has very little social value whatsoever. This is a good thing.


2015 - 2017 Harley-Davidson Softail Breakout Exterior
- image 575266

$18,599 will get you the 2015 Breakout in Vivid Black. If black ain’t your thing, you can get Mysterious Red Sunglo, Hard Candy Quicksilver Flake, Radioactive Green, Superior Blue or Charcoal Pearl for another $400. Or you can really go crazy with the paint and opt for one of the custom colors or Hard-Candy colors for $19,549 and $19,799, respectively. ABS comes standard, but the security option will set you back another 395 bucks. California customers can expect a $200 California Emissions charge, and all will take a $390 hit for freight.

Prices on the 2016 model went up $200 across the board to include the paint packages. So, a 2016 in Vivid Black will run you $18,799, et cetera. For 2017, the prices bumped up even more with an additional $500 tacked onto MSRP. For that extra money, you get a battery tender harness included as standard equipment.


2016 Star Motorcycles Raider
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2015 - 2017 Harley-Davidson Softail Breakout
- image 651657

With looks and performance as the main criteria, it didn’t take long to find a worthy competitor in the Raider from Star Motorcycles, a subsidiary of the Tuning Fork company.

Visually, the similarities are uncanny. The Breakout rides on H-D’s Softail frame, so it looks like a rigid from steering head to rear axle due to the camouflaged, triangular swingarm. Star doesn’t go quite as far as all that, and stuck with a traditional yoke swingarm, but the geometry of the rest of the frame is designed to at least suggest at the old rigid lines. Both of them carry quite a bit of rake forward, but the Breakout falls a little short at 35 degrees while the Raider sports a 33-degree steering head plus a six-degree offset in the tripletree for a total of 39 degrees of rake, an astonishing number for a production motorcycle to be sure.

Wheelbase figures are long too, but as you can imagine the great rake on the Raider pushes the wheelbase out further to 70.9 inches, 3.6 inches longer than the 67.3-inch Breakout wheelbase. To be fair, both are pretty long for cruisers, and that plays right into the overall panache.

The sheet metal on both rides follow the bobber philosophy in that everything that doesn’t contribute to performance gets cut down, or cut off. “Minimal” is the best word for the fenders on the Breakout, and while the Raider fenders are a little bigger, the “Bob-tail” flare adds a little flavor to the sheet metal.

Both engines break the 100-inch (1,638 cc) mark, with the Raider mill coming out on top at 113 cubic-inches (1,852 cc)versus the Twin Cam with 103 cubes (1,688 cc). This shows up in the torque figures with a claimed 97.4 pounds of grunt from the Breakout mill and a claimed 123 pounds from the Raider. That’s a substantial difference, and I expect the ’16 Breakout would not fare well in a drag race against the same year Raider. Don’t bet the pink slip, boys! Naturally, Harley’s V-Twin fits the American Gasser mold, but Star did a good job with the look of the Raider V-twin; it has the same sort of appeal and new-world charm.

Harley takes a whack at the checkout. While the Raider rolls out in any color you want, as long as you want Candy Red, for $14,990, Harley looks to get $19,299 for the basic, Vivid Black model, and all the way up to 20 grand for the Hard Candy color options. If you are looking for a stoplight burner with outlaw/custom appeal in the classic Gasser style and you are not hung up on the H-D brand, then the savings on the Raider should earn it at least a test ride. You can use all that extra money for some decent protective riding gear. Wink nudge.

He Said

“I really like this ride. I’ve always loved Softails because of their low-slung looks and historical roots. Having ridden a chopper with rake and stretch, I have no desire to ride around trying to straighten out every curve in the road. The Breakout has just enough rake to be noticeable, but not so much to make the bike obnoxious in the corners.”

She Said

My wife and fellow writer, Allyn Hinton, says, "Exactly. Cornering on a chopper can be an ordeal, but the Breakout has just enough rake to make it sexy. I’ve had my eye on this bike since Harley came out with it in 2013. It’s right up my alley with the 26-inch seat height, but the forward controls still concern me with my short legs. It’s a Harley. I’m a fan, and something like that can easily be customized."


Engine: Air-cooled, Twin Cam 103B™
Bore: 3.87 Inches
Stroke: 4.374 Inches
Displacement: 103.1 Cubic Inches
Compression Ratio: 9.6 to 1
Fuel System: Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI)
Engine Torque Testing Method: EEC/95/1
Engine Torque: 97.4 Pound-Feet at 3,000 rpm
Lean Angle, Right: 23.4 Degrees
Lean Angle, Left: 23.4 Degrees
Fuel Economy: Combined City/Hwy: 42 mpg
Primary Drive: Chain, 34/46 ratio
Gear Ratios (overall) 1st: 9.311
Gear Ratios (overall) 2nd: 6.454
Gear Ratios (overall) 3rd: 4.793
Gear Ratios (overall) 4thv 3.882
Gear Ratios (overall) 5th: 3.307
Gear Ratios (overall) 6th: 2.79
Exhaust: Staggered, straight cut chrome mufflers with Gloss Black muffler shields
Wheels, Front Type: Gasser Cast Aluminum, 2017: Gloss Black Turbine with machined highlights
Wheels, Rear Type: Gasser Cast Aluminum, 2017: Gloss Black Turbine with machined highlights
Brakes, Caliper Type: Four-piston fixed front; Two-piston floating rear
Length: 96.3 Inches
Seat Height, Unladen: 26 Inches
Ground Clearance: 4.7 Inches
Rake (steering head) : 35 Degrees
Trail: 5.7 Inches
Wheelbase: 67.3 Inches
Tires, Front Specification: 130/60B21 63H
Tires, Rear Specification: 240/40R18 79V
Fuel Capacity: 5 Gallons
Oil Capacity (w/filter) : 3.5 Quarts
Weight, As Shipped: 681 Pounds
Weight, In Running Order: 710 Pounds
Lights (as per country regulation), Indicator: Lamps High beam, neutral, low oil pressure, turn signals, engine diagnostics, security system, six-speed, low fuel warnings, ABS
Gauges: Clean tank console with a riser mounted speedometer
Colors Vivid Black, Charcoal Denim, Velocity Red Sunglo, Crushed Ice Denim, Laguna Orange’, Hard Candy Hot Rod Red Flake
Price: Vivid Black: $19,299, Color: $19,699, Custom Color: $20,249, Hard Candy Custom: $20,499
TJ Hinton
TJ Hinton
T.J got an early start from his father and other family members who owned and rode motorcycles, and by helping with various mechanical repairs throughout childhood. That planted a seed that grew into a well-rounded appreciation of all things mechanical, and eventually, into a formal education of same. Though primarily a Harley rider, he has an appreciation for all sorts of bikes and doesn't discriminate against any particular brand or region of origin. He currently holds an Associate's degree in applied mechanical science from his time at the M.M.I.  Read full bio
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