It’s that time of year when Harley-Davidson announces its line-up for 2020. Now, given the release of last year’s much-publicised More Roads strategy, it’s something of a disappointment and remarkably tame, although that may be for a reason…
As usual, some models have been culled, although, in this case, you have to wonder why Harley has chosen to discontinue the 107 cubic inch Breakout which, along with the 107 cui Heritage Classic, has been a consistent seller. The FXLR Low Rider, FLSB Sport Glide, FXBB Street Bob, FLSL Slim and the FLDE Deluxe continue with the 107 cui engine although it seems likely that in the next couple of years that powerplant will be phased out. There’s very little if any changes to the Sportster range which rather worryingly suggests that Harley may be winding down the Sporties in favour of a forthcoming water-cooled middleweight engine.
But what is new is not the adventure bike or the streetfighter with which Harley has teased us last year, but the return of the Low Rider S. When it was introduced in 2016 it was immediately popular with its tuned 110 cubic inch engine. But the amalgamation of the Dyna family into the Softail dynasty saw it dropped last year just when it could have sold by the skipload. But now the Low Rider S is back, now with the 114 cubic inch Milwaukee Eight motor, 1868 cee-cees of power that produces 119 ft/lb of torque at 3000rpm. At the front are upside down forks and the rake has been reduced by two degrees.
Vice-President of Styling and Design Brad Richards, says: “The look of the new Low Rider S is really rooted in the legacy of the Low Rider models of the 1980s that [have] a devoted following which has spread worldwide from origins in Southern California. We’ve applied that coastal style and performance-first attitude to the Softail chassis to create a Low Rider S that’s more powerful and agile than ever, with a heavy dose of tough-asnails attitude.” Basically, Harley has seen how popular the FXR scene has become, both in California and Europe, and jumped on the bandwagon. Of course, it would probably say it’s listening to its public. Regardless of such quibbles, we think that the Low Rider S will be a hit. It’s available in black or silver with a blackedout motor and frame and a mini screen in front of narrow handlebars mounted on four-inch risers. It’s never going to trouble the likes of a Buell or a Vee or even Indian’s FTR1200, but it will, we reckon, be leaving showrooms in greater numbers than any other 2020 model.
And that, of course, includes the LiveWire, Harley’s electric motorcycle which has taken five years to come to production. Five years? It seems so much longer (and it is, Harley actually started this project nine years ago). There is no denying that the Livewire is a good-looking machine. With its Revelation ‘motor’, Harley appears to have done its utmost to make this look like a normal motorcycle rather than some of the radical electric models we have seen of late. In fact, on giving it an idle glance, some people may not even realise it is an electric bike. But hereby lies the conundrum; by making it look like a traditional motorcycle, that would indicate that Harley is trying to appeal to an equally traditional audience, possibly those people who either already own or would consider buying a Harley- Davidson. And we are not convinced that that is the market for this machine.
It doesn’t have the range of other electric machines on the market. It doesn’t have the top speed of some of its competitors, nor will it recharge as quickly. And then there’s the price, which is something we have mentioned in these pages before. A Livewire will set you back £28,995, plus on the road costs. That’s considerably more than its main rivals. Zero’s SR/F is under £18,500. The Energica EsseEsse 9 is under £20,000. Almost 30 grand will buy you a lot of other options, whether electrically or petrol-powered. The Livewire may sell like hot cakes or it may sell like cold porridge, but it seems that this will be the first electric offering of many to come to the Harley menu. But if those too are to take the research and development time of the Livewire, then the MoCo could find itself going hungry.
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