Har­ley bike wor­thy of its sporty name

Matamata Chronicle - - Your Paper, Your Place - MO­TOR­ING: PAUL OWEN

It’s easy to see why Har­ley-David­son sees style as a big­ger seller of its bikes than sport­ing ap­peal.

If we track the 58-year his­tory of the Sport­ster fam­ily and fo­cus on two re­cent mod­els – the XR1200 of the mid-noughties and the Forty-Eight of the early-tee­nies – we can see that the XR was a bit of a show­room wallflower while the 48 was, and still is, a ram­pant sales suc­cess.

But times have changed for Har­leyDavid­son. Sales in its do­mes­tic mar­ket are stag­nant, South Amer­ica has gone nip­ples-up, and Europe and Asia now rep­re­sent the best op­por­tu­ni­ties for growth. So cue the new Road­ster model tested here. It’s a reprise of the cor­ner­friendly val­ues that once made the longdeleted XR my favourite Har­ley, but one that doesn’t stray too far away from the long n’ low styling cues that con­tinue to make the Forty-Eight such a suc­cess.

Some­thing has also hap­pened to the mar­ket­place since the XR was dropped (more than five or six years ago if mem­ory serves). A younger gen­er­a­tion of rid­ers be­gan cus­tomis­ing their bikes on a var­i­ous range of themes – Cafe´ Racer, Bob­ber, Flat Tracker – and post­ing the re­sults on so­cial me­dia to at­tract as many ‘likes’ as pos­si­ble.

A cus­tom-look­ing bike there­fore quickly be­came as es­sen­tial as a taste for craft beer, fa­cial hair, and brown shoes to the ur­bane hip­ster life­style. So there was fur­ther rea­son for Har­leyDavid­son to res­ur­rect the more sport­ing theme of the XR1200 than just the mo­tor com­pany’s geoe­co­nomic shift in sales growth. The XR was ar­guably the right bike built at the wrong time, while the Road­ster now ar­rives in our well­man­i­cured Har­ley show­rooms while surf­ing a trend.

Har­ley has cre­ated the Road­ster by do­ing what any sel­f­re­spect­ing cus­tomiser would do to the FortyEight. Fend­ers have been carved back for a leaner look, the in­stru­ment dis­play is more min­i­mal, and the head­light has been tucked more tightly into the bulk of the bike.

The han­dle­bar looks like it was stolen from some 1920s board-track racer.

PAUL OWEN/FAIRFAX NZ

Dig­i­tal speedo hard to read in bright sun­light so it’s best to mem­o­rise bike speeds.

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