WELCOME TO THE FUTURE, HARLEY-DAVIDSON
IN THE PAST 10 YEARS, WE’VE SEEN SIGNIFICANT CHANGES FROM THE HARLEY-DAVIDSON MOTOR COMPANY, FROM THE RELEASE OF THE STREET GLIDE IN 2006 TO THE PROJECT RUSHMORE MOTORCYCLES AND INTRODUCTION OF THE STREET PLATFORM IN 2014 TO THE MOST RECENT RELEASE OF THE MILWAUKEE-EIGHT ENGINE PLATFORM IN 2017, AND THE SUBSEQUENT RELEASE OF THE NEW SOFTAIL MODELS IN 2018. BUT DRASTIC CHANGE IS ON THE HORIZON FOR HARLEY-DAVIDSON IN 2019 AND 2020, AND THE MOTOR COMPANY HAS A FEW NEW TRICKS UP ITS PROVERBIAL SLEEVE. FROM A PRODUCT STANDPOINT, THERE IS A WHOLE LOTTA DIFFERENT.
Remember Project Livewire? That was Harley-davidson’s foray into ebike territory in 2014. And then it kind of went nowhere. Or did it? As it turns out, Harley-davidson has been quietly fine-tuning the electric cruiser in its secret laboratory over the past few years. For 2019, the first no-clutch “twist-andgo” Livewire will be ready to hit the road for consumers. And other Livewire variations will follow through 2022. I can definitely see a newer segment of younger motorcycle enthusiasts jumping on two wheels in the very near future.
I remember riding the Livewire. It was a neat little bike that had plenty of pep in its electric step. But, as with ebike, there are the two other bits of criteria that are necessary for success: battery life and recharge time. Sure, Project Livewire was a “concept” and didn’t go into production until the Motor Company could process consumer feedback. But the fact that it’s here in 2019 means whatever issues that kept it from being released for so long have most likely been solved. But that’s not all. Harley also just announced a completely new modular 500cc to 1,250cc middleweight platform of motorcycles that spans three distinct product spaces and four displacements: the Harley-davidson Pan America 1,250cc, Harley’s first-ever adventure touring motorcycle; a 1,250cc custom model; and a 975cc streetfighter model, all to be launched in 2020.
I am very excited about the adventure model. I know a certain individual who will be just as excited too (page 56). I’m at a point where off-road riding has become a huge part of my life, and an H-D ADV could potentially marry my street-riding passion with my love of off-road riding. At least that’s the goal. If you look at the interest in the ADV bike world, it was just a matter of time before Harley jumped on board. But will it compete with the likes of the KTM 1290 Super Adventure or Honda’s Africa Twin? Since I don’t currently have all the particulars about the Pan America, I’m interested to see how that crowd welcomes Harley’s initial ADV effort. But the effort alone certainly deserves kudos.
As for the streetfighter and custom models, I’m jazzed about both. The streetfighter reminds me of the XR1200 a tad. I haven’t been given all the pertinent details about the new bike, but my educated guess is that this model—along with the other two new models announced—is equipped with a 60-degree V-twin with overhead cams and integrated gearbox.
As for the custom, I immediately see touches of the Fat Bob in a tight little Forty-eight package. I like it. And the 1,250cc engine stuffed into the tubular chassis is definitely a departure from traditional Harley styling, which could be appealing to younger, newer riders not wanting a larger V-twin.
Overall, this is huge news for H-D. I’m excited to test the completed versions of these prototypes soon. HB