Indefinitely Wild

Harley-Davidson’s First Adventure Bike

Want to ride around the world? In 2020, you’ll be able to do that on a Hog.

Looks pretty good, but will it ride well? If Harley wants to compete in Europe and Asia, it needs function as well as form. (Harley-Davidson)

Facing declining sales, aging customers, and now a public battle with Donald Trump, Harley-Davidson desperately needed to do something to boost its stock prices. That something is revealing its five-year future product plan—a move that’s unprecedented from the typically tight-lipped motor company. 

To me, the most exciting motorcycle in that future product line is the Pan America, a large-capacity, liquid-cooled adventure bike in the BMW mold. Harley also plans to finally put into production the LiveWire electric motorcycle it’s been offering test rides on for the last few years, which will lead to a range of electrics that will include pedal-assist e-bikes. And there’s even an aggressive new unfaired sport bike that looks like it’ll pick up where company’s Buell brand left off. Color this once very jaded motorcycle journalist excited about H-D for the first time ever. 

Harley-Pan-America-1
Interesting looks, and decent components, but nothing here looks terribly lightweight. (Harley-Davidson)

This being a future product preview, details are slim. H-D says the LiveWire is coming August 2019, and the Pan America is launching sometime in 2020. That model will be powered by an all-new 1,250cc liquid-cooled V-twin. CycleWorld speculates that that new motor appears to retain Harley’s traditional 60-degree cylinder angle (which should keep the uneven character), but will be equipped with dual overhead cams and a six-speed gearbox. Don’t expect class-leading performance or weight figures, but the bike should at least be of this century. 

Styling of the Pan America is an interesting mix of futuristic shapes—the very square front fairing and headlight—combined with classic Harley features, like the shape of the gas tank. Components appear to be of good quality—radial brakes, spoked wheels with tubeless tires, upside down forks—but the bike also appears to sit decidedly on the touring side of the broad adventure-touring spectrum. Expect some limited dirt capability to be mixed in with a heaping dose of long-distance comfort courtesy of a high curb weight. 

Harley-LiveWire
If you've been within three states of a motorcycle event in the last five years, you've probably test ridden this thing. Let's hope Harley plans to improve the production model beyond the prototype's ho-hum performance. (Hardly-Davidson)

On the electric side, the styling of the LiveWire has long been established by various Marvel action movies. Over that prototype, the production model should benefit from Harley’s recent partnership with Bay Area electric motorcycle innovator Alta Motors. My sincere hope is that Alta will be able to give the production LiveWire the performance edge that the prototype was missing. 

Harley-Electric-Tracker
If this thing can carry over from sketch to production largely unaltered, then they might really be onto something. Alta performance in good-looking tracker would be incredible. (Harley-Davidson)

A more clear product of that partnership should be the other, lighter electric motorcycles Harley previewed in sketch form. A svelte electric street tracker with classic Harley styling and legit Alta Motors performance and weight? Yes please. The motor company will also be bringing other, smaller electric motorcycles and bicycles to market over the next-half decade, in a transparent attempt to attract new, younger riders to the brand. 

Harley-Street-Tracker
Here's a radical idea: Let's take Ducati's worst bike, and put a Harley badge on it! (Harley Davidson)

Then there’s the 2020 Harley-Davidson Streetfighter, which looks to all the world like a Harley-branded Ducati Diavel. It appears as if “Streetfighter” will become a new sub-brand, partially occupying the role Buell once played at the company, with a range of performance-oriented models ranging from 500cc (likely using the Indian-made Street 500 platform), on up to one that shares the Pan America’s 1,250cc motor. That first model in 2020 will be equipped with a 975cc liquid-cooled twin. 

Harley-E-Bike
Now this is more like it. This otherwise undefined prototype doesn't look like anything else Harley makes. If it wants to appeal to a wider audience beyond sad old men in leather chaps, then Harley must define new archetypes, and sell people on real innovation, rather than just fond memories of the past. (H-D)

Overall, Harley claims it will bring 16 new models to market in the next five years, all part of an effort to recruit two million new riders in this country by 2027. It's focusing on international markets, too, namely in India and China, where the motor company is announcing plans to open between 25 and 35 new dealerships per year over the next five years. In the meantime, look for even more model announcements as H-D pivots toward those markets. 

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