HARLEY-DAVIDSON HOPES ITS ROADSTER WILL APPEAL TO A NEW DEMOGRAPHIC
Harley makes no bones about the fact that a lot of its customer base is dying off (pun intended). Bringing younger riders into the brand with bikes that break the traditional Harley stereotype is a key factor in the endurance of the most famous name in motorcycling.
Launched to media in Canberra, the new Roadster addition to the Dark Custom lineup is sure to gain a following in the younger demographic that Harley so desperately wants to bring into the bar and shield family.
The 2016 Harley-Davidson XL1200CX Roadster.
Based on the 1200cc Sportster platform, the Roadster ditches the kicked-forward foot pegs in favour of high, centrally mounted units, as well as taller suspension to aid in better ground clearance while cornering.
As a result the Roadster becomes a much more youthful and aggressive bike compared to the rest of the range.
“[The Roadster] is definitely targeted at the younger market, especially those who are otherwise looking at a sports bike or enduro,” says Harley-Davidson Australia New Zealand PR manager David Turney.
“We’ve already had major interest in the bike.”
Driven's Mathieu Day during the Harley Roadster launch in Canberra.
Due to arrive in the middle of this month with a price of $20,250 the Roadster is well priced for the package that is presented.
A stylish machine, the Roadster has been designed to evoke the spirit of garage-built roadsters. With flat handlebars and a taller presence than the Sportster, it looks fantastic parked up on its side stand.
The front and rear fenders have been chopped for a more minimalist look, and the classic peanut tank and low-rise bars are described as the bike’s crowning glory by Harley’s designers.
Powering the new Roadster is the same 1202cc V-Twin found in the Forty Eight and 1200 Sportster, tucked in between the same frame.
Suspension and brakes have been upgraded with the rear suspension now longer, and preload adjustable nitrogen-filled shocks that bring the rear end of the bike higher than the Sportster.
Up front are upgraded and longer 43mm USD forks, which help give the bike a strong-looking front end.
The braking system gains an extra 300mm rotor and caliper, now with two, twin-piston setups on either side of the lightweight 19-inch front wheel. ABS, as is now expected, comes as standard equipment.
On the road, the Roadster is unlike any other Harley I’ve ridden.
The first thing you notice is the beautiful ribbed seat, which proved very comfortable over a long distance.
Swinging a leg over and settling into the cockpit you can feel the extra height of the Roadster with the seat height measuring in at 785mm.
A new dual-function gauge sits between the low bars, giving you all the usual information. The analog tachometer was very easy to read at a glance, but I did find the dark digital display for the speedo and odometer a little hard to read at times.
One thing that became immediately apparent once astride the Roadster was just how wide the pegs are. With my left foot sitting firmly on the rubber peg cover, I had to consciously move my foot inwards to be able to reach the gear shifter.
It wasn’t the end of the world, but when discussing the pegs with my colleagues over a hard-earned beverage later in the day, we all agreed that Harley could have squeezed more than the 31 degrees of lean angle out of the Roadster by simply making the pegs stick out less.
Once I’d adapted to shifting, the bike became very capable. Turning into corners the lean angle was surprisingly good, and the riding style was much closer to that of a sports bike than a traditional Harley.
Surprisingly those wide pegs aren’t a hindrance, though it is still possible to touch them down and scrape them in tight corners.
I did notice there was a noticeable amount of effort needed to turn the bike in. Unlike a regular sportsbike, which tips in easily, the Roadster retains a more traditional heavy feeling response despite the revised rake of 28.9 degrees and the not all that fat 150 section rear tyre.
With Australian stunt rider and Harley fanboy Matt Mingay along for the launch, we were shown how capable the Roaster is as a larrikin’s bike.
Mingay popped wheelies at every opportunity, including outside the Australian Parliament building, so it was obvious the Roadster has a fun hooligan inside just waiting to be let out.
Although the performance of the air-cooled 1200cc Evolution motor isn’t startling, talking to the team it became clear that the motor is heavily restricted from factory thanks to increasing emissions standards.
With a peak torque figure of 98 Nm available from 3750rpm, power is still healthy.
With a large and varied accessory list specifically for the Roadster you know plenty of grunt is just waiting to be unleashed, thanks in particular to a large high-performance Screamin’ Eagle accessory package. A trip to the local dealership with a fistful of cash and a brochure is the only hurdle in unlocking the Evolution powerplant’s full potential.
As with any Harley, the accessory list also includes cosmetic touches to personalise the bike.
It comes in four colours: two blacks (one glossy, the other matte), the look-at-me Velocity Red Sunglo, which pops in the sunlight thanks to large amounts of metal fleck or, my pick of the bunch, the two-tone Billet Silver/Vivid Black, which I think best suits the racy Roadster.
It is a fun bike, sure to become a strong contender as the next logical step-up from the Street 500 learner bike for Harley’s younger riders — or riders in general who expect more sport in their Sportster.
1202cc air-cooled V-Twin
Handles great, looks cool, great brakes
Speedo a little hard to read, pegs a bit wider than necessary, engine felt a little tame in factory form