Harley vs Indian Both Are Winners!

Shifting Gears with Buzz Kanter

SHIFTING GEARS by Buzz Kanter

SHIFTING GEARS, by Buzz Kanter, Publisher

Both bikes will attract new first-time riders and bring convert riders

After 30 years in the motorcycle magazine business, and many years before that as a passionate enthusiast, I’ve become rather jaded. Sure, there are some great bikes, products and services introduced every year. And as the editor in chief of this magazine, I am aware of most of them—often before they are officially announced. So, after so many hyped-up new product intros, it takes something special to get me excited. Especially when it comes to a new motorcycle.

Recently, two very different motorcycles broke away from the herd of “latest and greatest miracle” new motorcycles. And, as is typical of most radically different new products, they create a polarizing effect on the marketplace. Enthusiasts are going to either love them or hate them, with not many of us in the middle ground. I am, of course, referring to Harley-Davidson’s LiveWire electric motorcycle and Indian’s FTR1200S street tracker.

I can’t imagine either bike will significantly carve into the sales of the more traditional Harley and Indian cruisers or tourers. Some traditional Harley and Indian owners might add one or both to their stables. But, more importantly, both bikes will attract new, first-time riders and bring convert riders—from other brands—into the American iron family. Also, both machines appeal to the necessary younger riders in very different ways. The FTR offers the performance of high-end import sport bikes, but without the high-end prices. And Harley’s hinted-at expanded line of more affordable electric Harleys to follow the LiveWire will create an entirely new segment of motorcycle riders. And that’s helpful to help reverse the steady decline in motorcycle sales and riding.

Let’s consider what these two very different machines could mean in the near-term future. The LiveWire is the more daring of the two. Most people won’t confuse the stereotypical Harley rider with the tree-huggers and hipster crowd we associate with e-vehicles. I’m exaggerating a bit, but you get my point. Offering the LiveWire at $30,000, I expect Harley is tearing a page out of Tesla’s playbook. For each, the initial model is marketed with next-gen tech and is priced accordingly. It associates the brand with an image of high quality and bleeding-edge technology for those willing to pay the price. Then, as Tesla did, Harley will offer more modest models at consumer-friendly pricing. It is called the halo effect (not after the on-line game, but for the halo effect this premium model casts on all others that follow). Depending on what Harley unveils next and at what prices, this electric path could be the kind of game changer Harley is looking for. If successful, and I think it will be, the line of e-bikes would redefine Harley-Davidson for years to come.

The Indian FTR1200S, on the other hand, is a traditional internal combustion-powered, less radical category killer. It’s a larger street version of the amazing, all-conquering FTR750 race bike that dominates the AFT pro circuit. Three years ago, Indian introduced an all-new, clean-paper design dirt track racer. It came out of nowhere and took home pretty much all the marbles. The FTR750 built a powerful race heritage faster than anyone can believe by dominating American Flat Track podiums year after year.

The new street-going FTR1200, which is based on the race-only FTR750, can hang with the best street trackers regardless of price or country of origin. The FTR1200 shares a great deal of its DNA with the FTR750 and almost nothing with other Indian street models. It has drawn “import-only” sport riders to an American brand unlike anything since the short-lived Harley XR1200X cult bike. Fast, fun, and affordable, the FTR1200 is such a great bike that after reviewing it I got one for myself. You will read more about my adventures on and modifications to my FTR1200S in future issues.

Do yourself a favor and ride either or both of these machines at your local dealership or perhaps at the up-coming Biketoberfest in Daytona. I expect both Harley and Indian will have demo trucks there.

Ride safe, ride smart, have fun.

Buzz

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