You can say whatever you like about Harley-Davidson, but one thing is undeniable: it knows how to spot a trend – and, sometimes, how to start one.
For example, when the (thankfully) short-lived chopper craze hit a few years back, it brought out the Rocker (although, it’s probably safe to say it did not meet expectations). Before that, it was the Crossbones; before that, the Street Bob; before that, the Springer; and so on.
And one of the most popular platforms the company utilizes to revamp its lineup is the Softail. From its inception, in 1984, the Softail has been the starting point for innumerable variations and mutants.
One of the latest is the Slim, or FLS, which debuted last year. As is often the case with Harley Davidson, the Slim is essentially a custom treatment of an existing model; this time around, with an eye on the mystifying retro/bobber/nostalgia/rat bike trend that’s everywhere you look. In a nutshell, the idea seems to be less is more, with wild expensive paint jobs supplanted by hard-core attitude, and the emphasis being placed on presence and innovation rather than how much money you’ve spent.
Not that the Slim can be described as a rat-bike by any stretch. This is a thoughtfully styled, nicely crafted and evocative cruiser that takes you back to the 1940s. Cross-braced handlebars, footboards, beefy front end, bobbed fenders, traditional round air cleaner, cut-down windscreen and oversize tires front and back convey an image of solidity and nostalgia in one hard-to-ignore package. Lee Marvin was riding one like this when Marlon Brando kicked the crap out of him in The Wild One and, if Betty Page were around, she’d look right at home on it.