2011 Harley-Davidson Blackline
Engine: Twin Cam 96B
Power: 1584cc, 89 lb-ft torque
Weight: 638.5 lbs.
MPG: 54 hwy/35 city
Price as tested: $15,499

Mobile entertainment has come a long way in the past decade. What, with all the Bluetoothing, hot-spotting, and satellite signals shooting through your average new car or even bike, there’s little reason to pay attention to anything else going on with your piece of polished heavy metal. But if you’re like us, sometimes all that technology has no place on the road. Sometimes, all you need for kicks is some wind in your face and the rumble of a throaty exhaust. 

I know what you’re thinking – “Harley-Davidson?” Well if the mention of the All-American brand conjures up nothing more than unfortunate biker stereotypes in your head, you haven’t been doing your homework. Part of the Dark Custom line, the Blackline is the latest in Harley’s minimalist movement: A stripped to the core, dumped-down softail that takes a no nonsense approach to riding. The Blackline boasts the lowest-slung seat of any factory Harley-Davidson—padding your backside comfortably, a mere 24” from the pavement. Comfortably seated, our further inspection of the bike was brief. Simply put, there wasn’t much to look at. The Blackline had a speedometer, trip computer, and a few indicator lights. The rest was just your basic motorcycle controls. Hell, it didn’t even have a key, unless you count the generic formed object that could probably also be used to open vending machines. We were loving it.

Fired up, we did find the noise of the bike’s pushrod V-Twin to be a bit subdued by the mated chrome exhaust. If she were mine to keep, we’d probably start our personalization with a more aggressive exhaust, but maybe we're getting ahead of ourselves. Before you put your music loud, you have to make sure it’s good, right? Kicking down into first gear, we immediately noticed a pronounced smoothness to the Blackline’s transmission. While the bike’s 1584cc engine really comes alive above 3,000 RPMs, it’s loaded with torque that’ll make your grand exits from stoplights obnoxiously memorable, if that’s your sort of thing. Through turns and banks, the cycle leaned effortlessly, and despite its road-hugging nature, we didn’t scrape a peg once.

Back in the garage after a day of riding that left me neither tired nor sore, we combed over the Blackline’s styling—another exercise that really didn’t take long. The Dark Custom softail’s styling is Spartan in the best sense of the term, allowing its machined heads, chromed air cleaner and exhaust pipes to shine boldly in a sea of night. True to its minimalist approach, leafing through the paperwork showed hardly an option available to up the MSRP of $15,499. In fact, the bike is only available from the factory in three subdued colors, and you guessed it—one of them is black.

Final take: The Blackline is less Harley, for much less money, that’ll give you more of a genuine riding experience than some motorcycles twice its price. If you’re the type that can’t live without your iPod or 24 hours of dub step on XM, it may not be the ride for you, but we recommend you give one a try nonetheless. You may find the separation somewhat therapeutic.