Rapid Reaction to Harley’s Future Plans
We have dedicated a full page and a half just to today’s announcements in Issue #367 (on sale 9/11), which we’re putting the final touches on now. But given the deluge of information and Harley’s apparent attempt to “break the internet”, we would be remiss not to offer some instant thoughts on the news (after all, the internet is all about rapid reaction without seeing or fully experiencing that which caused the reaction, right?).
With just a handful of pictures to assess and a few lines in the press release, we need to intuit for ourselves just what these bikes are and mean for H-D.
The adventure touring model, named the Pan America, features a brand-new 1250cc engine, liquid-cooled judging from the radiator at the front of the engine. It’s an intriguing decision; it’s the first-ever Harley adventure-tourer (if we’re entirely excluding the Buell Ulysses), and the model will have to hit on a multitude of features and capabilities to make significant headway in a competitive marketplace, one in which the Europeans and Japanese have been perfecting the craft year after year. In the few hours since the news broke, we’ve seen some genuine interest in how Harley’s offering turns out—it’s tantalizing to consider Harley-Davidson becoming a player in this segment, and we’ve seen custom shops develop their own visions of the Bar & Shield as adventure-tourers. But given all the on-board technology, weight-saving measures, creature comforts, and years of tweaking, the Euros have a leg up on their new American competition. Again, we only have a few PR lines and a couple of pictures, so what Harley ultimately develops might kick the door wide open in the market—or it could be a serious misstep.
The 975 Streetfighter. Monoshock, dual discs, inverted forks, liquid-cooled engine. The chatter around the office revolved around two things: We like this model, and it might be the next-gen of the Sportster line. As the resident millennial (I’m forced to accept this as my label), I’m excited about the Streetfighter. A growing number of my generational cohorts are flocking to the naked-standards from international manufacturers; the bikes put out good power, are nimble enough for city-dwellers maneuvering through traffic and perfect for escaping the city and leaning over on country roads, and, perhaps most importantly, are reasonably priced for everyone from entry-level to experienced riders. If more is lost on indecision than wrong decision, then Harley choosing to not remain static or recoil to what they’ve always done best might just be what’s need in the evolution of the company. Again, hitting all the points with this model will be paramount, especially when it comes to the price. It will require more than just Harley-Davidson on the tank for a motorcycle as different as this one to steal away—and hopefully retain the loyalty of—new riders.
The 1250 Custom (TBD on a name) is set to debut in 2021. It appears to draw influence from bits and pieces of the new Softail lineup, while also accenting the Custom with bronze-colored parts, fat tires, a similar, albeit smaller, headlight to the 2018 Fat Bob, inverted forks, and high two-into-two pipes. I’ve seen a lot of comments comping this bike to Indian’s Scout Bobber, and there’s probably some merit to those observations. The chopped fenders and fat skins will inevitably remind you of the Scout Bobber—and that radiator hanging off the front the frame, of course. But the 1250 Custom seems to offer more radical styling cues in its stock form. This looks like it’d be a blast to rip open on the highway. Again, we’re at least three years from seeing this in person, so we’ll have to judge the minutiae at a later date.
The first of these bikes that we’ll see is Harley’s first electric motorcycle, the LiveWire, which is set to debut just next year, 2019. It’s a brave new world. The LiveWire has been tested and tweaked for the last few years, and we should see longer battery life and plenty of power throughout the RPM range. Along with the LiveWire, Harley also shared some design sketches for other electric two-wheelers. The market for electric scoots will continue to grow, and Harley is getting its big, history-laden foot in the door to the future.
- It’s refreshing to see H-D take such a proactive approach with outlining a portion of its future for the public. Whether or not you like these new models, Harley is front and center of the conversation again. As a young motorcyclist with skin in the game, these are the kinds of moves I’m glad to see Harley make.
- Harley is still committed to its cruiser and Touring lines. I know seeing the Motor Company make these kinds of moves leaves a lot of the old-school riders upset. What’s becoming of their company? But if the survival of Harley hinges on gaining that same kind of loyalty from a new generation of riders, then maybe Harley sees the need to adapt to current crop of young ones hitting the road on two wheels.
- I don’t want to come across as though I’m speaking entirely for a generation, because so many of us do ride and love our Harleys. This just usually falls on my shoulders because, like I said, I’m “Resident Millennial”.
- Today’s news, of course, allows for the Softail/Dyna decision to be rehashed in the online discourse. Ride one of the new Softails—you won’t regret it.
- I really hope the Streetfighter isn’t a heavy, hulking machine. Like…really, really hope not.
- Millennials suck! Just kidding…kind of.