Find of the Month: 2012 Harley-Davidson Switchback

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Welcome to the Find of the Month, where we share some of the cool bikes we find for sale on autoTRADER.ca. This month, we’re checking out a 2012 Harley-Davidson Switchback for sale in Cartyville, Quebec. It’s also the bike that a nostalgic-feeling Zac wants for Christmas this year!


“So that’s going to be my bike for the next month,” I thought, as Deeley’s staff wheeled the Switchback out into the parking lot of Harley-Davidson’s Markham location. 

The bike was gorgeous, a rich, deep blue. It had lots of shiny chrome. It was an absolute barge. It was the biggest motorcycle I’d ever ridden in my life, but I didn’t tell the Harley-Davidson staff that. I stuffed as much gear as I could into the saddlebags and rolled down the street, amazed at the agricultural feel of the single front brake disc. I was headed out for four weeks on the road, to Arizona and back.

It was a lot of bike to get used to, and the 407 wasn’t a good place for it. Cars were weaving all over the place, and I decided the best way to stay safe was to just leave the whole mess behind. I banged the transmission into high gear and blasted south, like a panzer late to Operation Barbarossa.

Zac’s borrowed Harley-Davidson Switchback back in 2013 took him from Toronto to Arizona and back.

Launched in 2011 as an early 2012 model, the Switchback was one of those mix-and-match models that Harley-Davidson has filled its lineup with over the years. It was basically a Dyna with bags, with Harley-Davidson’s Twin Cam 103 engine, a quick-detach windshield and hard luggage. The idea was, you could rip off the touring accoutrements for an evening’s ride around town, or you could take off for distant horizons as the whim took you. And it was all lighter (and less expensive) than a full-sized touring bike.

I liked the sound of all this, when I was planning my 2013 ride across the US. I wanted a touring-friendly bike, but not one so big that it was no fun on the Tail of the Dragon or the Million Dollar Highway, and so on. Harley-Davidson could have set me up with a Road King,  but I went with the Switchback instead — or, as it was known at the time, the “Road Queen.” A colleague pointed this out, with an amused look, but I didn’t care. I was going to see America on a Harley-Davidson, and the fact that it wasn’t the biggest and baddest bike in the lineup didn’t bother me.

There’s not much stuff in those bags – it’s all piled high on the seat behind.

What did bother me was the limited storage space. The saddlebags were tiny, tapered on the inside and really restricting you to a weekend’s clothes, unless you strapped a bag to the tail (which I did). And the weak front brake, well that wasn’t great. And most of all, the floorboards sucked. I mean, floorboards are part of the deal when you’re riding a big-dollar cruiser, but I much prefer mid-controls. I got around the weird foot-forward riding position by resting my toes on the backs of the floorboards, with my heels dragging off the back. Not only was this more comfortable, it also served as an early warning system when I was dragging through the corners …

But get out on the highway, and man, that bike would sing. An engine with 1,690 cubic centimetres of fuel-injected V-twin goodness, blatting down the fast lane past all the staties, who didn’t so much as flash the cherries at me. Who’s going to pull over someone who’s Living the American Dream®? So I rolled south, through Appalachia, westward, through cowboy country, then north, through the Great Plains, then back east, through John Dillinger’s backwoods hideouts. Nobody bothered me. All I heard, everywhere I stopped, was “Nice bike, man!”

It was chilly up in them thar hills, but Zac’s soul was warm.

By the time I was done, I’d put 12,000 km on the bike in four weeks. I’d bonded with the machine; sitting in the saddle was like sitting in my office chair. The bike was home. I dropped it off at the Harley-Davidson headquarters in Ontario, jumped in a cab, and headed home via Billy Bishop. I never saw the bike again.

I know it wasn’t perfect, and there were plenty of times on the trip that I wanted something else that was better-suited for exploring the sandy trails off the sides of the desert highways. But it was still a gorgeous bike, and for a month, it did everything I asked of it. There’s no way I could have afforded it at the time, but if the $3,200 price tag isn’t a typo on this autoTRADER ad (sadly, I suspect it is), then I could afford this bike now. So if my wife’s reading this, and is looking to top off my Christmas stocking, then how about it? Once the kids are grown up, we can go out west and I can see all that stuff again …

A different colour and a single seat, but otherwise pretty much the same bike. Are you seeing this, Mrs. Zac?

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