by Bryan Harley

Harley Reveals its Latest Dark Custom Softail Cruiser

The black block letters on the white marquee read Harley-Davidson Dark Custom. Anxious journalists filled the taut, dark confines of the Viper Room Saturday night in anticipation of the unveiling of The Motor Company’s latest endeavor. Guns & Roses’ ‘Rocket Queen’ echoed from the cave-like acoustics of the famed Hollywood club as a DJ kept the vibe on high. The circle around the motorcycle sitting in the middle of the dance floor under a shiny black veil tightened as Willie G. stood to introduce the newest softail, the Harley-Davidson Cross Bones.

Applause filled the room as Willie G. and son Bill, Harley-Davidson’s V-P, lifted the veil. The bike is a real looker, big springs and high handlebars. Mini-apes drape over a sweet custom-style dual tank. A shiny Springer on a fat knob of a front tire gives the front end a brutish stance. The fat-bottomed leather solo seat has dual springs and a metal pan design that dates back to the '30s. The retro feel of the bike is reinforced by the bike’s gloss black round air cleaner cover and old-style half-round rider footboards.

“We have a litmus test at The Motor Company. A lot of workers on the line are hard-core riders, and when we roll these bikes down the assembly line for the first time, we always know when we have a home run because the line slows way down when they like what they see,” said Bill Davidson. “The Cross Bones definitely passed the test.”

Harley looked to its knuckles and pans of yesteryear for styling cues on the latest motorcycle in its Dark Custom line. The Cross Bones has the “retro look of a Springer front end and other post-war era bobber styling cues like a sprung solo seat, half-round rider footboards, Gloss Black round air cleaner cover and chopped front fender.” Harley has done its homework because these styling cues are reflected in current trends in the custom building scene.

And while the look may be retro, the performance should be all 21st Century. It’s got a black and polished version of Harley’s Twin Cam 96B providing the power.

“The Twin Cam 96 on the Cross Bones has unfinished fins. We just cast the engines and then leave them alone,” said Project Leader Jim Williams.

The progressive powertrain includes a 6-speed Cruise Drive transmission and H-D’s Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI). It exits out of a straight shot exhaust system with chrome slash-cut mufflers. The Cross Bones’ rear suspension has the vintage rigid look without the rigid ride thanks to its hidden horizontal coil-over rear shock absorbers tucked out of sight below the powertrain.

The tank is a defining element of the Cross Bones character. The bike has split tanks with a gloss black “cat-eye” styled console dividing the two cells with a new raised speedometer face. The console only comes down half-way the tank where the chrome gives way to a hand-laced leather tank panel that disappears under the sprung solo seat.

The ‘Dark’ attitude of the Cross Bones is exhibited in its Gloss Black painted Springer front end, black bucket headlamp and black mini ape-hanger handlebar. The chopped front fender puts the spotlight on a burly front wheel, and a Bobtail fender helps showcase a wide 200mm rear tire. The tires ride on Steel Laced wheels with Gloss Black painted rims. The bike is the latest of Harley-Davidson’s Dark Customs, a family that includes the Nightster, Night Train, Night Rod Special and Street Bob.

The raw aggressive styling of the Cross Bones is no mistake. Harley is exposing a fresh, mainstream side of the venerable Motor Company. At the Viper Room intro, V-P Bill also announced that Harley-Davidson is now the exclusive motorcycle sponsor of the UFC. The Bar & Shield logo was emblazoned center stage of the octagon at an event that aired December 29. The popular Mixed Martial Arts arena possesses the type of swagger and attitude that Harley is hoping to tap into with its new arena of Dark Customs. It is the first worldwide sports endorsement the Company has done besides racing endorsements.

The FLSTSB Cross Bones will come in premium custom graphics with wicked striping and paint featuring new Dark Blue Pearl, Dark Blue Denim, as well as Vivid Black, Black Denim, Olive Pearl and Pewter Denim. Of course, there’s already a list of aftermarket accessories to give it that final touch of personalization. The newest softail stickers for $16,795, or $17,140 for color.

American Thunder’s host , Jay Barbieri, best summed up the general consensus of the crowd about the new Cross Bones.

“It kicks ass, Bill” Barbieri shouted over the crowd. And it does. Can’t wait until the press intro.

2008 FLSTSB Cross Bones features:

  • Rigid-mount, 1584 cc Twin Cam 96B balanced engine
  • 6-speed Cruise Drive transmission
  • Black powder-coated engine with polished rocker box covers and pushrods and untreated fins
  • Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI)
  • Gloss Black painted Springer front end with chrome springs
  • Gloss Black mini ape-hanger handlebar
  • Straight shot exhaust with chrome slash-cut mufflers
  • Adjustable sprung solo seat with leather lacing
  • 26.6-inch seat height
  • Chopped front fender with striping
  • Bobtail rear fender with striping
  • Gloss Black cat-eye tank console with new speedometer face
  • Gloss Black round air cleaner cover, oil tank and rear fender supports
  • Distinctive five-gallon fuel tank with hand-laced leather tank panel and striping
  • 200 mm rear tire
  • Laced Steel front and rear wheels with Gloss Black painted rims
  • Half-round old-school foot boards
  • Horseshoe oil tank with Harley-Davidson patent badge
  • Optional Smart Security System