Harley-Davidson departs from the tried and true
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Harley-Davidson has been working hard behind the scenes in an attempt to find a way to attract new riders to the brand.
But since the announcement in 2017 that Harley-Davidson would unveil 100 new models in the next 10 years, the new models that have been announced have — for the most part — not been major departures from what we have come to expect from the Milwaukee-based manufacturer.
However, starting from August next year , that all changes when the production version of 2015’s project Livewire — now firmly dubbed the Harley-Davidson LiveWire — arrives in dealerships for the first time.
“Harley-Davidson has highlighted that it will be 2019 that we will see [LiveWire] come out for the US and the European markets. Specification information will be coming soon, however, for New Zealand and Australia we can’t advise when the bike will arrive,” Harley-Davidson Australia and New Zealand’s new marketing manager, Keith Waddell, clarified.
There have been a few changes to the Livewire from what we saw when we rode the concept bike in 2015, despite full specifications not being released with Harley’s announcement this week.
Although the frame and longitudinally mounted electric motor have seen minor alterations judging from the photos released by Harley, the biggest changes to the LiveWire make it far more practical than its concept predecessor.
Harley-Davidson Project Livewire concept bike from 2015. Photo / Driven File
The biggest faux pas of Project Livewire was its mirrors, which although looking cool, served only to give the rider a great view of their knees. Thankfully Harley has given its first fully electric offering conventional mirrors and also altered the subframe and seat for the production LiveWire, which offers a stepped seat and pillion accommodation.
Braking now comes from twin discs with Brembo calipers up front, and suspension is large-diameter USD units.
It is yet to be confirmed but we expect the LiveWire to feature a TFT digital display, as featured on the concept, and some form of regenerative braking.
Harley-Davidson says: “The Livewire model ... will provide a visceral riding experience with instant torque and thrilling acceleration — no clutch, just twist and go.”
That’s certainly my recollection of riding the prototype.
The LiveWire will be followed by additional electric models through 2022 to broaden the range with even more accessible product options. Harley has released concept imagery including an electric flat track styled bike, electric bicycle and even an electric scooter which seems to indicate the Motor Co. are broadening their horizons. Or at least thoroughly considering it.
“Harley-Davidson will continue to develop and enhance our current touring and softail platforms. There is a long product lifespan for those products but we do see the electric vehicles as a key component in market trends in urbanisation.
So, the increase in the number of people living in high-density urban areas is ever increasing and we do feel that the EV product does fit very nicely into that trend.”
But Harley’s big announcement on Monday night didn’t end with the LiveWire as the brand works to broaden its position in the motorcycle market from its traditional base.
For the first time, Harley-Davidson will be entering the highly competitive adventure market with the forthcoming Pan America model, powered by a new modular 1250cc liquid-cooled V-twin.
Harley-Davidson Pan America. Photo / Harley-Davidson
“Harley did some comprehensive top-to-bottom reviews of its business and really focused in on the adventure touring and streetfighter segment,” Waddell said. “We’re seeing growth in the global industry and really want to tap into that growth. We do feel those segments will attract brand new riders to Harley-Davidson and the ‘More Roads to Harley-Davidson’ strategy is about appealing to as wide a customer base as we can.
“While styling of the Pan America is definitely unconventional, with a fairing resembling the ‘shark nose’ of previous touring segment machines, the new bike will finally see Harley-Davidson officially step well away from the traditional feet-forward pavement cruiser market, and closer to a more global tourer a la BMW’s legendary R 1200 GS.
The Pan America is set to launch in early 2020 and Harley claims that the “commanding riding position allows the rider to see the world from another point of view. Travel coast-to-coast. On road or off. All while experiencing your own adventures.”
The modular 1250cc liquid-cooled engine which powers the new Adventure Harley is an important part of the company’s plan going forward, as it will not only be available in 1250cc from, but also as smaller displacement 975cc as well as two, as yet unconfirmed, displacements.
Harley-Davidson Streetfighter. Photo / Harley-Davidson
The 975cc version of the new engine is slated for use early 2020 in a 975cc streetfighter.
Apart from the displacement of the engine, Harley has yet to release any further details on the new bike, with even its name a mystery.
However, as with the Livewire, the firm plans to build on the new streetfighter by 2022 with a wider range of streetfighter models, possibly in smaller capacities such as 500 or 750cc to match or even replace the current Street range of motorcycles.
Harley-Davidson also announced a new “Future Custom” for the 2021 model year, powered by the same liquid-cooled 1250cc V-twin as the Pan America. With the Sportster line’s Evolution V-twin now the oldest engine in the Harley-Davidson line-up and unlikely to meet stringent European emissions standards going forward, we are willing to bet that this concept will be the likely replacement for the current Sportster line.
Harley-Davidson Future Custom. Photo / Harley-Davidson
“We are always assessing the product line-up to make sure it meets both the current needs and the future needs of the customer base,” Waddell told Driven.
It seems that despite the recent trouble for Harley HQ caused by the US President’s insistence to start a trade war with some of Harley’s most important markets, Waddell is optimistic for the Harley-Davidson’s near future prospects.
“Even though it was a bit of a shock announcement in terms of the strategy update. . . we do have the experience to ensure the new product ranges are going to be a huge success.”