This season there has been a lot of news coming out of Harley-Davidson. They have shown three new bikes and have released two of
them. Normally this would be impressive for any motorcycle manufacturer. Honda for instance actually reduced their line up and Yamaha streamlined its cruiser line up. For Harley-Davidson to add more bikes to its already impressive selection should be seen as a
sign of a prosperous company, at least that's what they want you to think.
Lets look at what Harley-Davidson is. Harleys are the symbol of freedom in America and the boss of cruiser bikes internationally. They have an unmistakable sound, a presence that no other bike can quite capture (even my beloved Indian Motorcycles) and are a status symbol. This image has been built up over the past 70 years or so when the Club scene really came into the forefront with newspapers chronicling the exploits of motorcycle clubs and some of their members wild lives. Most of these bikes were bought as post war surplus for extremely low cost. Now however you can buy a brand new economy car for the price of a used Harley-Davidson.
Harleys audience is easy to identify. They aren't crotch rocket guys! They aren't guys who zig zag in and out of stopped traffic narrowly missing mirrors and bumpers. They are people who like big impressive machines who like to have their presence known on high CC bikes with loads of sound that look like they are (and sometimes do) rattle and shake themselves to death. They are people who like to go on trips, put hours in the saddle, want to feel the wind flowing through their hair. They are not wanting to be in a semi pushup position and only put an hour or so in the saddle before saying “my hands hurt”, “I need to stretch out my legs... but can't” or “oh boy I love laying on my crotch while I go over every bump”.
With this knowledge in mind let looks at the new toddlers in the prestigious Harley-Davidson line up.
Harley-Davidson Street 500
Harley-Davidson Street 750
Harley-Davidsone Project LiveWire
...right... those are suppose to be Harleys you ask? Well that's what they are telling us. Now looking at the target market this just seems like a slap in the face to the Harley owner or aspiring owner.
I am FINE with more affordable entry level Harleys. I would love to have a Harley I don't have to take a second mortgage out to buy new. These eye sores are cheap (save LiveWire as its a working concept) and are entry level but when buying into the Harley brand this is not what someone seeks from this manufacturer.
Clearly Harely is trying to latch onto the Cafe Racer and late model bike craze that is happening at the moment with riders aged 16-30. Or maybe they are just trying to be more inclusive of all the riders out there. It is a miss guided approach I believe. People in that demographic aren't buying Harleys not because they don't want them, like them or have a primordial fire burning in the centre of their soul that screams HARLEY OR BUST! No, they aren't buying them because they are too expressive to purchase new or used, too expensive to insure in Canada at least and are costly to maintain. Yamaha and Honda on the flip side give riders the style that are reminiscent of Harley, are cheaper new then a used Harley at times, are extremely reliable and cost a decent price to insure.
Instead of spitting in the face of those who have always bought Harley and those who wish to enter into the Harley family they should give us bikes that can respectably stand beside the big CC machines we've come to know and love. There are other manufacturers that riders who have a predisposition to sportier bikes can turn to. It appears that the cohesive Harley Family now has 3 new additions to the family unit who are clearly the Milkman's, Mailman's and Cable guy's bastard demon spawn and we have to put up with it.