Harley to Build More Physically and Financially Accessible Motorcycles

Harley Davidson plans more physically and financially accessible motorcyclesIn light of our story last week about Harley's increasing sales in some segments of the market, it's interesting that Harley Davidson Chief Operating Officer, Matt Levatich, has just said the company will offer bikes that are more physically and financially accessible. Evidently the entry level Sportsters are not enough to bring in the sales growth they're looking for even though they're selling pretty well.

According to a Reuters article, Levatich made the comments at the Reuters Global Manufacturing and Transportation Summit. He didn't expand on exactly what he meant or the time frame involved so we can speculate all we want, but smaller, lighter and less expensive is in the Motor Company's future.

The article says he also addressed the issue of where they plan to build bikes going forward:

... the company will continue to do the bulk of its manufacturing in the United States, where it assembles nearly all the bikes it sells in the world. It also does some "complete-knock-down" assembly of motorcycles in Brazil and India due to tariff issues in those countries.

If the company should some day sell a bike that appeals only to emerging markets, he said the company would keep its options open on where to build it. But for now, it has no plans to open production plants outside the United States.

It will be interesting to see how they enter this "smaller, lighter, cheaper" segment while retaining the Harley brand image. It's not surprising and makes a great deal of sense when you consider markets in Asia, but, good idea or not, how they implement this move in the US may be a bit tricky, because the Harley faithful continue to be put off by anything that changes their impression of what the Motor Company makes, even if that view hampers efforts by Harley to become more competitive in the market they're dealing with.

Link: Reuters


  1. Thoughtless says

    Yeah, that will be a challenge. Even decades ago with the attempts at introducing the Amerimachi 250 Sprints and the prior two-stoke Scats, there were fights in the showroom. Not to mention a lot of belittling the riders of those machines by even the import lovers of the time.

    And they certainly wouldn’t dare castigate themselves with a Buell 500 knockoff, would they? Or a 750 twin that would get waxed by the Asian models of 20 years ago? Well, the latter might work with a heavy dose of Screamin Eagle parts to be sold for those that really want to pay less now and get reamed later.

    It’ll be interesting just to see if they follow through, at all.

    • peabody says

      I have yet to figure why “bigger” bikes are more expensive than smaller….except for incremental costs (by the pound) of materials….a wheel is pretty much a wheel, and a chain a chain….same with other components…does a 750 V twinkie cost more to tool and manufacture than a 1500 V? I seriously doubt it.

      • Thoughtless says

        Well, could be several things:

        Consider the supply / demand concept. There appears to be an increasingly greater demand for bikes large enough (not just powerful enough) to haul around fat-assed riders. So will the American Fat Boy drop a few McDonald pounds or pony up more $$ for enough iron to cart his girth?

        Or consider the ego of the wannabes. Are they into going to the gym to look like Arnold, taking karate long enough to tough as Van Damme, or get mentally hard enough to be a real badd ass? Or will just the image of a once heroic figure as found in Rebel Without a Cause do for the right price?

        Or maybe the Motor Company knows that the average IQ of the American public is just slightly above 98, and as pliable as freshly thawed cookie dough. Hence, value is not in the technology and profit is what the traffic will bear.

        Or maybe it’s just good old capitalism and branding that says “hey you want it, that’s the price, and there’s another wallet standing right behind you.”

        You just can’t rape the willing.

  2. GuitarSlinger says

    Funny that just over a month ago Harley Davidson announced they’d be building complete M/C’s in their new India factory ( the new ‘ entry level ‘ model ) for both the sub continent as well as the North American market and now they’re pulling this complete ‘ About Face ‘ claiming all their bikes are built in the US .

    Since both statements cannot be true ……….. Which Is It ???

    Methinks The Kneeslider needs to take on the role of investigating reporter and flush out the truth behind these contradictory statements from ‘ The Motor Company ‘ 😉

    • Paul Crowe - "The Kneeslider" says

      The claim that they would be manufacturing motorcycles in India was a rumor, flatly denied by Harley Davidson. They will be or already are assembling CKD (complete knock down) kits in India.

      See our original article here.
      See our follow up here.

      There’s nothing more. If you wish to believe something else, you are free to do so, if you think you have evidence that proves something else, feel free to present it. Otherwise the issue is closed.

      • GuitarSlinger says

        Paul – thanks for dispelling the rumors that so many others in the M/C and General press have been putting out there .

        No need to take such a defensive posture BTW . I was only asking for clarification from the your end . I will ask amongst the factory workers here to confirm all you’re saying , but in truth I’ve no reason to doubt it

        Assuming as I am that you are correct , thats good to hear . Sounds like maybe ” The Motor Company ‘ is finally getting its act together . Now if they can just manage an attitude adjustment amongst their dealers , they could be on their way to another come back

        • says

          I liked your comment on the dealers GuitarSlinger. Afterall, that’s what proved to be the key factor in the Buell saga in my opinion, in that the dealers in my area so often treated Buells as “the other bike” and placed them out of site in a dark corner of the dealership.

          Paul’s comment in the article on the effects this will have on the Harley faithful is pretty interesting. As I see, the company better adopt a “change or die” philosphy. The plus to this, as I see it, is that the Motor Company will have everything under its own domain, unlike when they were operating Buell and MV Augusta in a brand umbrella type way.

          I’m really glad to see they plan to stay here in the US and build bikes. That really means a lot to me. I am anxious to see what they come up with in terms of product. Still hoping for a XR883 model with a classic fairing sort of like the old XRTT road race machine. That would get me in the showroom quite rapidly!

  3. Bigshankhank says

    For all the articles that followed HD’s announcement of its India assembly plant, I never once read (not even here) that they would build any bikes and ship them back to the US. Why does that rumor persist?

    As for me, I’d totally rock a new SS350 if they brought one to market.

  4. Dabber says

    I’ve always been of the mind that HD and Victory should Diversify their lineup. Not just air cooled either. Something Kickass and unexpected. Many other companies have all types of bikes, other than cruisers, something completely modern, and maybe not even a v twin. The adventure sport segment would be a good start.

  5. Jim says

    Seems to me they already had a bike that could have become this with the Buell line but they let that get away a short while ago.

    • sundrop says

      bingo. Round and round goes the motor company, chasing the vague marketing guidelines that are popular – back to basics, diversify, we’re doing great, we need new riders, blah blah blah

  6. B50 Jim says

    If they’re talking about it they’re thinking about it and probably planning it. But more likely the announcement is a large-scale focus-group experiment to gauge consumer reaction. Still, a 650 or 750, water-cooled 45-degree OHC V-twin in an agile frame yielding a 500-pound bike that “looks American” would be about right, and provide a basis for future bigger models. It could be viable competition for the popular retro standards from Triumph.

    When dealing with H-D, however, speculation is almost useless. The only thing about the company we can depend on is that it will never do anything remotely radical.

  7. JD says

    I wonder if HD has taken note of the displacement gap between 250s and so-called “real bikes” in the US. Seems to me that, especially with the passage of the Kawasaki Vulcan 500, the market is wide open for a smaller displacement cruiser. Their only competitor would be the VStar 650; it shouldn’t take much for the motor company to top that.

      • Yeti2bikes says

        Buell singles were not just piles… They were gutless piles. Of course that motor was never meant to be a single. You could see on the castings where the second jug was supposed to be.

  8. Nortley says

    Note to H-D. Buy a few Honda CBR 250s. Run ’em around and see what great “little” motorcycles they are. Now look into your own history at the Pea Shooter. “Small” diplacement 4 stroke single, up to contemporary standards. Now bring this bit of heritage into the present with a machine a little bigger than the Honda with a few options. Say a 350 with available bags and a few dress up bits. Unfortunately, they’d have to be largely sold overseas to pay for themselves.

    • Klaus says

      “Note to H-D. Buy a few Honda CBR 250s. Run ‘em around and see what great “little” motorcycles they are.” Now realize that you’re not remotely able to ever produce such a bike for a low price. Go back to build big, shiny, impressive bikes and hope the economy will turn better soon.

    • HoughMade says

      Before they go buying CBR 250s, maybe they ought to study how ell they sell in the U.S. Maybe they’re setting the world on fire…..but I’ve never even seen or heard of someone buying one. Great bike, but 250cc is not where it’s at- over 500ccs would be necessary to get any volume in the U.S. at this point in time.

      • MacAttack says

        Actually, the local Honda dealer is getting $500 over MSRP for them, when he can get them.

        They’re made in Thailand.

      • says

        @HoughMade – “Not where its at”

        why do they have to start with the US market first? It seems that would be down the list considering the APA regions and even EMEA region have more potential right away than the US for light, small bikes.

  9. says

    I think at this point the “Harley” branding has become so mainstream that a fair number of people will buy anything (including smaller motorcycles) that says Harley on it just for the image, and I would also say that many of the long-time “Harley faithful” have already left the fold out of embarrassment of the new “Harley faithful” and their pirate outfits and such. I sincerely feel bad for the true 1% outlaw that have had their lifestyle made into a cartoon. Oh well…

    • Klaus says

      A fair number of people will buy Harleys just for the image but not for long. An image needs to carefully groomed or all is lost. If riders diss them for being too modern, too small or – even worse – for beginners things may change quickly.

  10. B50 Jim says

    Larry Kahn–

    Don’t feel too bad for the 1% outlaws. They don’t care; why should we?
    I know such a person. He has spent nearly half his life in Federal prison. I doubt that he even thinks about the poseurs and wannabes. He only wants his bike and to be left alone.

  11. Generic1776 says

    Harley needs to make something overseas that is small and cheap, to get a piece of the China/India market, in the 150cc-350cc range. Don’t bother selling it in the U.S., except in extreme limited release to create a mystique.

    Motorcyclists are aging in the U.S. (on average) and the only youth market for motorcycles is dirt bikes; which are seeming so separated from street bikes. There doesn’t seem to be as much cross-over into the adjacent market as there ‘ought’ to be.

    I think something like the KTM Trickster would have more appeal to the youth, if we could only get it imported and made available. After all, 30-40 year old MOPEDS are still hugely popular, they are approachable and easy to ride. You just look at one and think “hey, let me try that!” and that’s what there is a market for.

  12. says

    C’mon, can HD even find its way out of a pair of Depends? Are they too stupid to grasp that millions of motorcyclists don’t aspire to own a full-dresser, or too arrogant to accept it? While they claim the importance of appealing to “a broader array of buyers, from women and minorities in the United States to those in emerging markets”, and admit that “the company’s products still appeal to a narrow band of buyers”, they still don’t get it.

    For a long time, HD has been successful at manipulating the market into demanding what they make, instead of making what will be demanded- but those days are over. It’s great they’re considering “…making smaller and less expensive bikes”, but until they lose the “move ‘em up to a dresser” mentality HD will continue to compromise its future. Success will be found making products the world demands- not trying to convince the world to demand their products.

    Statements such as “…the company has been held back by international partnerships before, Levatich said, citing the example of a former Italian distributor which promoted lower-cost Harley sportster bikes over its upper-end models” is a prime example of HD’s arrogance or stupidity. Maybe the Italians understand their customers better than Harley, and if they made a product more suited to european markets they’d have better success. What’s wrong with promoting the models customers want instead of just the “upper-end” ones- especially if that’s what is being demanded?. But alas, HD will tell the world what it wants, not build what the world asks for.

    HD has the capability of being a leader on the world stage in motorcycle design, manufacture, and excellence (like BMW, Ducati, and Triumph), but continues to be an embarrassment to America by not only striving for mediocrity, but also by having an attitude that’s just plain distasteful. What is it going to take to get their heads screwed on straight?

    • Thoughtless says

      A competitor with more chrome, more CI’s, and more dumb ass buyers impressed by the aforementioned crap.

      I agree with your assessment of HD capability. And it is the success of pandering to the masses that has made HD an enduring success. Ask any politician, and the answer is to pander to the lowest common denominator and you’ll win by sheer numbers.

      Which is why we will shortly be underwhelmed by no further development issues beyond a lower frame/seat height and a few less bucks for a retro sized Big Twin. It won’t be a market changer, it’ll be a market conformer for those that can afford only afford a really cheap impression of a modern motorcycle instead of a real POS aimed at those that CAN afford an impression of a modern motorcycle.

      Buy Screamin Eagle parts, support your local pig farm and be an economic stimulus package that encourage mediocrity.

      It’s the USA kinda way to ignore reality and divert attention via size.

      And they all sang…I lov big butts, and Harleys too…got some cash…so I’ll act like a fool…they say Io can ride cheaper…but that’s a lie…just less horses for more of my pie

      • says

        …and why the F is Victory following every f ‘in move HD makes?

        Victory has followed enough of the steps to take/get a piece of the dough (good, great in fact); but if Victory continue to go down that path too far, they will lose their distinct advantage over HD to grab the x00,000 of people looking for something else. The Victory faithful could care less about the entire line-up (as long as there are quality models that sell), however, the more Victory puts out another variant of their cruisers in the HD-way, the other riders in the world will lose confidence in Victory’s ability to do anything else. Ask enlightened HD businesses how hard that disposition was to crack in the mind of prospective Buell buyers. Be ware Victory and start doing something else.

    • B*A*M*F says

      I agree that Harley has a “move em up” mentality. The same is true for the Big 4 as well. When I bought the scooter I have had for years, I went into a few multi-brand dealerships. The majority of them tried to get me onto a sport bike or cruiser instead of what I came in to buy. This was at the dealer level, but I think it exists further up the chain as well.

      Oddly enough, the few dealers I’ve been to that carry Euro bikes like Triumph, Guzzi, Ducati, KTM, etc. seem pretty enthused about whatever bike I came in to look at.

    • Klaus says

      HD got a serious PR problem on their hands. They’ve enjoyed an amazing success by promoting their expensive, weak, heavy but great sounding bikes as being the ultimate adventure/lone wolf riding machine, turning the owner instantly into a real man. Nothing puts hair on your chest like wearing a leather jacket with a HD logo.
      But they’ve promoted themselves into a corner; to escape that market segment is almost impossible. If long-time HD fans are disgusted with a watercooled engine that really goes, what’ll happen if they build a small womens/beginner’s/ entry level bike?
      It’s like a shoot-em-dead action movie actor suddenly doing drama or even comedy – people wouldn’t buy it, because if you build on image, you have to stick to your image, or you sit between the chairs and loose everything.

      • rohorn says

        Yeah, just like BMW will never build a high performance bike and get away from the plodding geezer bike image that they had for ages, either.

        Care to regurgitate any more cliche’s and serve them up as wisdom?

        • Klaus says

          Funny that you should mention BMW – both brands started around the roughly the same time building push-rod twins. BMW evolved technologocally over the decades, even was the world’s first in several categories, had shaft drive, started the adventure craze with the GS series, won the Dakar, came out with the first factory faired model, with FI in the early 80s, built tripes and inline-fours, DIVERSIFIED – while Harley was making a big deal in 1999 to come out with one brand-new engine since WWII.
          And you’re right, BMW built a 180hp sports bike that blew the Japs away, no small feat.
          Sorry, your point was…?

          • says

            @Klaus – you are saying it is impossible to change course after an image is set. Relatively-speaking, no one thought BMW could produce the RR, especially with its performance and price. Todd’s point underscores Rohorn’s point that you seem to miss (and the real issue, not marketing image)…. There are plenty of engineers within HD and in this country that would love to build something else. It is HD Management that needs to start changing before we see anything else.

            on another note: Are you sure about BMW being first with shaft drive? Who came first, Indian or BMW?

    • John says

      ” but continues to be an embarrassment to America” What an idiotic statement.I wonder what would make someone write a rant like yours.You obviously don’t own one so what’s it to you what Harley builds? Ride whatever you want. Every where in the world there are Harley enthusiasts loving thier bikes. Go to youtube and look at Harleys in Japan, or Europe or Cuba or anywhere in the world. I live on Maui and the majority of bikes here in the state are HD’s and ridden by people with Asian ethnicty. I was on the mainland this summer on a 6 day ride through the Rockies and by far the great majority of bikes were HDs. What a fool.

      • Sledgecrowbar says

        I’ve seen pictures of Harleys in Japan, they’re different and classic, the way old Triumph Cafe Racers are in the US. I imagine it’s the same in Europe as they produce superior domestic bikes as well. The idea isn’t to be better, it’s just to be different. As far as Cuba, there’s an interesting reason they ride Harleys, and I’ll give you a hint: it’s the same reason everyone who’s lucky enough to have a car drives a clapped-out 50’s American sedan. Are they somehow superior to other cars?

        Yes, there are Harley enthusiasts all over the world. There are people who love old British cars, but nobody’s arguing they were great until someone fixed them up with aftermarket parts.

        The fact remains that Harley does not produce a competitive product unless your metric is brand recognition, which is great, right up until the emerging generation of riders realizes that the bike performs like a hot turd and costs too much.

        I desperately want to be proud of my home team the way I’m proud of my nation’s flag, but I don’t see anything they do better than or even *on par with* anyone else. Show me a single way that a Harley is superior to a competitive offering. Engine output? Handling? Comfort? I can buy a GoldWing that’s smoother, quieter, lighter, and has a lower center of balance for the same price as a mid-tier touring model. Are you going to argue that nothing sounds like a Harley? Because I love the sound, too. It’s not enough.

        • John says

          Goldwing is lighter? Than what a Ford Expedition? A Goldwing weighs 933lbs and a Full dress Harley is 889lbs full of fluid. Any Jap bike that competes with a Harley is always heavier. VRod vs any of the Japanese power cruisers, StreetGlide vs Kaw Vaquero or Yamaha or Honda you name it.In a recent CycleWorld comparison test of the Vaquero and a HD StreetGlide the HD was lighter and faster even though it had a smaller motor with aircooling , 2 valves and pushrods vs bigger motor with 4 valve OHC and watercooling. The HD had more horse power and was down on torque by only a couple off points. The HD won the comparison according to CycleWorld on speed , handleing, comfort, style and fuel milage. You guys perpetuate false information to the uninformed and ignorant.

      • says

        John, I have owned 34 motorcycles which have included Triumph (8 Hinckley), Ducati (4), Aprilia (1), MV Agusta (1), BMW (3), Yamaha (2), Kawasaki (2), Suzuki (2), Honda (3), Buell (5), and Harley (3). I have worked in the motorcycle industry for over a decade and currently own a shop that provides motorcycle parts, accessories, service, tool rental, and is a meeting house for riding enthusiasts (lounge, TVs, refreshments, Wi-Fi, art gallery, club meetings, tech days, etc…). I feel I have some basis for my idiotic rants.

        I have many customers who ride Harleys, and I stock items for them. They are happy with their bikes and I’m fine with that. I wanted to be happy with my HD products too, but having the ability to compare them directly with other manufacturers’ offerings through ownership left me less than impressed. Frankly, HD is selling an inferior product at a premium price to customers who are glad to accept both- and that’s a national embarrassment in my opinion.

        HD continues to have success selling overweight, underpowered, mediocre handling motorcycles assembled with lowest-bidder hardware. I can make this statement because I have owned them, and have personally experienced it. But success does not forgive them in my eyes for NOT doing what they COULD be doing which is building modern, powerful, great handling, high-quality, world-class motorcycles which one would EXPECT from an American manufacturer. The world understands that having a marketing department that would make PT Barnum proud is not what earns a product a world-class rating or respect. The HD products I have owned have been inferior to every foreign bike I’ve owned, and there’s no excuse for that- no matter how many they sell.

        I’m not going to start a rant about Buell- I enjoyed them the most and they were the best HD products I’ve owned. But the bottom line is that it now has been shown that Buell’s shortcomings were due solely to HD’s mismanagement- completely beyond the control of Erik Buell. It’s just another example of HD dropping the ball.

        In fact, HD drops the ball so often I end up wondering if they want to hold the ball at all. Being the most successful manufacturer of heavy weight cruisers while selling to a shrinking demographic seems to be the only game they want to play. If that’s the only ball they want to continue to hold on to, then it seems like they’re destined to be standing in an arena alone amongst empty stands muttering… “my precious”. What are they afraid of? Why won’t they diversify and take the world head-on? Why won’t they even attempt to make America proud?

        If HD would build diverse, world-class motorcycles I would gladly own one again. But until they do, they won’t get my support, respect, or my money.

        • John says

          You may have owned Harleys but I doubt any recently, but then that doesn’t even matter. You can think and say whatever you want to, I have a different oppinion, ride whatever you want to ,who cares I sure don’t. The thing that bothers me about sites like this that are mostly non Harley riders is that they make it a habit of ragging on Harleys. If you don’t like them talk about something you do, your love of anything not Harley. All the HD forums I visit all we care about and talk about is Harleys. Occasionally some non Harley rider makes some stupid statement on those sites to sart trouble and thats the only time other makes are even mentioned. We just don’t care about them.

  13. Fretka says

    Grow or Die, nothing new there. I will venture a guess that HD wanted MV Agusta as a way into the European market at small cost. Already owning Buell they surely were not buying the product.
    Now we see another attempt at every capitalist’s favorite playground, China/India. A competitive small, low-priced entry with the HD cache attached.
    I really suspect that this move will have no impact on pre-established markets such as our own.

    As to all manufacturers building their products in third world countries, get used to it! This is called “survival of the fittest”. Remember when “Made in America” was a selling point for Harley? That died a very quiet death.

  14. B50 Jim says

    H-D’s first-quarter net income for 2011 was up $33.3 million over the same quarter a year earlier. With numbers like that they have no incentive to develop new markets anywhere, any way. Even when their sales were off they simply hunkered down and waited for better sales. As long as they continue to show the shareholders decent numbers they won’t try anything remotely risky.

  15. Doug says

    Here we go again. History repeats itself. Harley’s past has been marked with several attempts at this. Fifth or seventh times the charm?

  16. Bryan S. says

    450cc air cooled bike on a slightly smaller frame would be perfect for their emerging market here. Most cant huff around their huge machines, and are intimidated by not only the engine, but the price tag.

    They could sell 1000 huge bikes a week, or 10000 mid size bikes a week that get 50mpg.

    Which is going to make them money?

  17. B50 Jim says

    Bryan S.–

    Make it a 650 so it will get down the interstate with no fuss and it’ll be a winner. The engine would weigh only about 15 pounds more than a 450 but make plenty of power in the 45=75 mph range. Keep the bike’s overall weight below 450 pounds and it might stand a chance.

    But “small bikes” are not in H-D’s DNA. They have a bad record of importing badge-engineered machines (the Aermacchi was a good bike and made Harleys look downright portly) — so what will they do? If they do anything it will be interesting, but maybe not in a good way.

    • sundrop says

      Consider the SV400 vs SV650. The 400 never would have sold in the US, so they punched it out to 650 and the result is a cult following here among beginners and experienced riders who are honest about their abilities. The bad news is, even for a brand like Suzuki, the SV was regarded by many as a girl’s bike and never made as much money as the squid mobile super sports. So, no more SV. Keep in mind that the SV makes a lot more power than the Sportster 883… and 1200 if I’m not mistaken.

      Now we’re talking about a brand whose customers consider the current entry level bike, at 500 lbs and almost 900 cc’s, a girl’s bike. If Suzuki can’t make money selling a cheap (well designed) motorcycle, how is Harley going to?

      You might be able to put enough monkeys at enough typewriters to produce Shakespeare, but Harley’s engineers couldn’t produce a design like the SV in a hundred years of trying. To compete in anything but cruisers, you need performance beyond the competition. Good luck HD.

      • Tim says

        I went through something similar when buying my current bike: its “only” 675cc. (Triumph Street Triple R) but it does everything I need a bike to do, and goes any amount quick enough. In fact too quick because I got a damn ticket in the mail this morning :(

    • Dabber says

      B50 Jim,
      I agree, that sounds about right. I would like them to surprise us with a modern 650 water cooled OHC direct injection, lightweight.

  18. rohorn says

    As I start my lunch break, I wonder (and not for the first time) how many of the above “motorcycle business experts” are emancipated adults with full time jobs.

    Then again, as is the case every year, that time between finals and the end of Christmas break is a dismal time to expect intelligent comments on the internet.

    The shed awaits – can’t wait to read the dumb comments when I’m done…

  19. Marvin says

    I have previously owned a CBR 400 and ridden a CBR 250 they were both great bikes and both more than fast enough.

  20. Tin Man 2 says

    I bought a Buell Blast for my wife and it is a nice little bike, I’m pretty sure HD has already said they are planning a new entry leval bike based on the Blast engine. A 500cc single is just fine for around town, Ive never had any problems with ours. Put the Blast engine in a standard style bike and it would fill the bill quite nicely.

    • Chris R says

      I agree with Tin Man 2. Harley has no bike for the short stature or female rides. Not all women can handle a V-twin and a Sportster is a Sportster, no matter how many times you the to change paint or lower shocks. A 500cc class cruiser is the niche that would bring a lot of women into the HD stable.

  21. Carolynne says

    When I saw physically accessible I thought they meant in terms making bikes rideable for disabled people. That would be a really interesting challenge. Then I read a little deeper and realized they meant the vertically challenged such as myself. I wonder if there is a way to open up the bike market to people with disabilities. Is there such a thing? I guess those four wheeled bike that just come out might be the way to go for that.

    • Jim Too says

      To add to B50 Jim’s note. I’ve known two handicapped riders on side car rigs. The first had lost a leg as a result of a MC accident and lost the second to cancer. For the second the side car was actually a trailer for his motorized wheelchair. The first walked with the assistance of prostheses and a stick. He’d raise himself up on the seat and swing a leg over the tank. The second, after securing the chair to the rig, would lift himself on to the bike and position his feet on the pegs.

      Both bikes were BMWs with ABS with the front and rear brakes (and possibly the car brake) were plumbed through a single master cylinder actuated by handlebar brake lever. The clutch and transmission were stock, but the shifting was accomplished by a solenoid controlled by a pair of buttons on the hand grip.

      If you really want to ride…

    • Thoughtless says

      They’re called TRIKES! I’m all for getting the disabled and older than dirt crowd out of SUV’s and onto smaller/lighter machinery where they kill only themselves with impaired and/or diminished abilities. Sound crass and politically incorrect? Well, go riding with one of the over the hill crowd like our local chapter of The Retreads (real name!). Seeing them run off the pavement and make turns in front of oncoming traffic or sitting in the middle of the road trying to remember where/what/why is an enlightening experience.

      Yeah, we need more of that.

      • Carolynne says

        Isnt the trike the ones with three wheels. I think Tim had the proper name of what I was thinking of the spyders. As for the elderly and disabled, If they are that dangerous on a bike they would be the same in a car or SUV. So whats the difference? If they can drive a car, why not a bike, especially with the modification B50 Jim, and Jim Too have described. I don’t think you can discredit a whole population in such a blanket fashion. There are young and completely physical capable drivers who are every bit as bad. Like the idiot who nearly killed my 6 year old son when he decided to stop on the gas and barrel past a guy who had stopped to let us cross in a parking lot.

      • Carolynne says

        oh yes, we actually have a motorcycle group here with even a better name. They call themselves the “Old Bastards vintage motorcycle club”.

        • Thoughtless says

          Hey, I wasn’t being the least bit sarcastic. I mean it. Get them on bikes/trikes/gocarts and out of SUV’s and Dualies. But I do not buy into a back-handed train of logic that if other’s are bad, then it’s justification to let the least qualified drivers to be one the roads in whatever they please..

          That’s one of the problems with the driver’s license procedure in America, where anyone that passes a very basic written and road test has free reign to buy anything from a 25Hp smartcar to 500Hp Vette. Same with bikers, pass a Riders Safety Course that any 12 year old with a Schwinn can master, and go buy yourself a ‘Busa the same day.

          Graduated privileges based on more advanced testing and skill ratings would save both young and old, bikers and cagers. Our current system is a throwback to the days of horseless carriages and roadways that were vast stretches of emptiness.

          I don’t even blink when I read about a numb skull biker that plants his face in the tarmac while trying to set a land speed record during rush hour. But my blood frk’n boils when I read about the local dundercrip that killed 4 bikers by pulling his F350 into their lane and later claimed he didn’t even see them, then couldn’t drive well enough to hit the brakes and get back into the proper lane.

          Why do you think so many elderly and disabled people drive behemoth vehicles? To protect themselves from themselves!

          So like I said…get’em in/on something that makes them less threatening to the rest of the world and let’em die with a smile on their face and bugs in their teeth. Gawd I hope I am not so stupid when I get to be that age, or should I become disabled I hope I have the sense to think more of my bikers than to make them bowling pins.

          • Carolynne says

            Hmmm, good idea about the graduated licencing based on actual skill. We have graduated licencing here but its purely age based. But I still think you cannot paint all disabled people with the same brush. Being disabled does not automatically mean incapable. Thier brains still work fine.

          • Carolynne says

            I just read about the 4 motorcyclists who were killed in Florida by a F350 in March of 2010, is that what you are referring too? The guy that was driving was 45 years old. You can hardly use an example of a 45 year old man to argue why the elderly and disabled are bad drivers. That was the exact point I was making, there are many young terrible drivers, why single out that particular group?

        • Thoughtless says

          Carolynne, the thread seems to be about used up so I’m having to backup and find a reply point.

          a) yes, that driver and incident in Floral City, FL, is my referenced incident. That F350 driver happens to live not too far from me and I know that he had a disabled parking sticker hanging from his mirror and yes he was impaired further with alcohol at the time.

          b) My brother is disabled (artificial right leg from military service). Drove a Trans Am before and insisted on driving one again, after. Years ago, sober and in light traffic, he plowed into the back of mini-van and killed a 28 yr old mother and student because he didn’t get to the brake pedal on time when she had to stop unexpectedly. His mind worked just fine, his physical impairment did not. The State did not revoke his license and he received only a ticket for driving beyond prevailing conditions. Remorseful as hell, he immediately insisted on his “right” to drive and even asked to borrow my car. Not.

          And I cringe daily, seeing elderly people hobble into cars that can barely walk. So, at highway speeds, are they getting to the brakes on time, are they even strong enough to keep their bodies upright should the need for an avoidance maneuver, can they hear that loud ass Harley in the lane next to them? And can the Trike rider, with legs no longer strong enough to hold up a bike, and a questionable sense of balance be anything more than dangerous? On a bike or trike, or in a truck?

          We can be humanistic and emotionally sophisticated to state that a disabled or elderly person is no less human, no less worthy. But it is patently idiotic to claim, in the face of the very definition of the terms, that a disabled, handicapped or otherwise impaired person is as CAPABLE as a non impaired person. The words, by their very definition, paint a very broad and accurate picture.

          Compassion is not synonymous with common sense.

  22. B50 Jim says

    Carolynne —

    I’ve seen sidecar rigs set up to carry a wheelchair — the bike was a Honda automatic, and the rear brake was plumbed into the brake master cylinder so the rider didn’t need his feet to shift or brake. There’s always a way to ride!

  23. Lee says

    I say good for Harley-Davidson. Unfortunately, the younger market was a segiment of the motorcycle community that Harley-Davidson has neglected for too long. They were trying to get a foothold in that younger market in years past, with the above mentioned bikes, like the Sprint, Hummer B, etc., but gave up on that market. In contrast, the Asians had bikes that younger riders could “Cut their teeth on” and as has been seen, they gained a loyality as these kids grew up with their bikes. What they need to do it develop a single, geared toward younger riders, that they can grow up with and gain that loyality from a young age. Additionally, smallet displacement, lighter less expensive bikes for those starting out would be great. As the younger/beginner riders mature in motercycling, they would naturally move up to the heavier V-Twins that Harley-Davidson is know for and had dominated in that field for years. I say to Harley-Davidson, “Kudos”. Now DO IT!

  24. johnny ro says

    USA is where Ford Explorers were/are considered to be aspirational vehicles. HD knows its market. I’m looking at you too Canada.

    Expect a sleeved down 883 with “heritage” cast iron frame and handlebar tassles, and lower seat?

  25. todd says

    Considering that the immensely popular Ninja 250 has 11.5 pounds per horsepower vs the Sportster’s 13.8 making an entry level 250 would be a good way to improve performance for Harley.

    I remember when Harley was courting KTM. That purchase would have been a good move for The Motor Company. Harley could easily come to market with bikes that compete directly with KTM, BMW, and Ducati. Harley has just as much capability to mass produce a lightweight bike as they do with their big bikes. Those three companies have been doing it with far fewer resources.

    I don’t quite understand why they ignore segments of the market that could earn them sales and more customers. I can’t think of any company that thinks it already has enough customers. If I was a Harley share holder I would see every bike sold to Honda, BMW, Triumph, etc as a sale that H-D lost. I would expect them to figure out ways to keep that from happening in the future.

    Like Rohorn said earlier, if a company like BMW was able to wiggle out of their constricting, “stodgy” image Harley should be able to grow out of theirs.


  26. Klaus says

    “Like Rohorn said earlier, if a company like BMW was able to wiggle out of their constricting, “stodgy” image Harley should be able to grow out of theirs.”
    Actually BMWs image is and was cutting edge technology, reliability and a long lasting product. Building watercooled FI triples and in-line fours then was no surprise.
    But Harley with their air-cooled V-twins are stuck with their product. They’ve built their success on their image and it’s not easy to change that. Or can you imagine HD building modern triples and in-line fours, if they wrer even able to?

    • Tin Man 2 says

      This is not rocket science, just a motorcycle. Any Motor manufacturer can build any style engine they care to build, the question is can they sell enough in an over crowded market to be profitable?? The Asian manufactorers have engineered themselfs into a tight spot, no matter what they build it is past its prime in 4 yrs, The Sport bike buyers have little brand loyalty, If (and its a big if) they buy a 2nd Sport bike they just buy the Hotest new bike on the sales floor, thus last years hot bike sits on the sales floor with deep discounts,not a good way to make money.

      • Thoughtless says

        That is a good and valid point. One of the reasons, also, that HD resale values remain high even for 20 yr old makes.

        But it cuts both ways. There is not much point for a Dyna rider to buy a new ride when it looks just like the old ride.

        At least one maker (Honda) realizes this and offers a a stream of models that can be seen as a linear progression from the kid’s first dirt bike to his middle aged sport tourer to his last and lasting heavyweight hiway cruiser.

        And as to HD’s profits, there is a saying in business one-0one that states there is never just enough. You’re either gaining on your competitor or they are gaining on you. This hasn’t been a major concern for HD until now, when looking ahead the baby boomer market of the born in 1950 will be gone in another decade. The current 30 something crowd is more than just aware of performance, and when the wrists get tired of over the handlebar stress they will still want something that actually gets out of it’s own way.

        Not only does HD realize they need to cultivate a new market, they should (think they do) realize that the Dyna will be a smaller segment of the sales line 5-10 years down the road. Still significant, I’m sure, but sooner or later there needs to be an HD that actually measures up to an FJR/Goldwing/K1600.

      • akaaccount says

        It might not be rocket science, but developing bikes isn’t easy enough to assume that any team with enough resources can deliver the same level of product. Developing a single motorcycle may not be that big a deal, but sustaining success by accumulating knowledge – learning from past designs and always improving is what makes a manufacturer cutting edge and perceived by buyers as such. I can’t imagine an engineering team less adept at this kind of continual improvement through learning as Harley Davidson.

        The guys who developed the bikes they sell now have long since moved on and what they have today is a team of guys who tweak appearances and tackle sustaining engineering problems. I’m just saying that HD in particular is at an advantage versus everybody else if they decide to develop something new.

  27. akaaccount says

    Sometimes I think the Kneeslider gets hard up for ad revenue and throws in a bunch of stories about HD to blow up the comments section. Whatever it takes, I love the site.

  28. T-bone says

    I have lost a lot of faith in HD over the years and have never bought into their image, probably because I have never been attracted to the big twins. I have owned a couple dozen Sportsters over the years, K-models, Ironheads, Evos and three Buells! I have always been a fan of flattrack motorcycles with their neutral, athletic nature, and have always had either a Sportster or old Triumph in my garage. I prefer that size of motorcycle and I prefer the power delivery and torque of a twin. A bike that can blast down a dirt road and still cruise at 80 mph on the freeway. For the life of me, I still can’t figure out why Harley took their lightest, best handling, best performing motorcycle and added 60 pounds to it and ruined the handling with that new rubber mounted frame. They completely lost me there.

    Then they axe Buell, who in my opinion was the best thing that had happened to HD in a long time, albeit, Buell was a little too sportbike oriented for my tastes. Buell’s partnership with Rotax on the 1125 was really opening up some interesting possibilites. Maybe a new lighter water cooled adventure bike was coming or a modern streettracker? Then, poof! It was gone. For me, that was insult to injury. They ruined the Sportster, then they killed Buell. The only bikes from HD that I was ever into.

    The XR750 and KR750 before it are iconic, legendary motorcycles and have won countless numbers of racing championships both on dirt and on pavement. The XR750 stands as the undisputed king of the dirt tracks. Why in the world hasn’t Harley ever TRULY paid tribute to this motorcycle and put something like it in it’s lineup? I mean that XR1200 was a joke. Technically, it might be a pretty nice ride, but it’s 200lbs too heavy and doesn’t look a thing like an XR, and it could never come close to handling anything like the real thing in that chassis. How could they miss the mark so badly? Didn’t they learn anything from the XR1000?

    There are a number of awesome streettracker builders out there, MULE motorcycles comes to mind, that make light, agile, powerful, athletic Sportster based motorcycles that truly are modern XR750 tributes. Harley could have been building one of those for the past 25 years!

    I still think a modern 45 degree air/oil cooled or water cooled 650 or 750 cc bike in a standard frame like the new Bonneville could be a big seller for Harley. Especially if they had a version that looked and felt like a modern XR750.

    Triumph is showing everyone that it can be done. You can have one foot in the past and one foot in the future, you can compete with Japan and Italy, you can have performance and styling, and you can earn record profits doing it! What’s the secret to their success? They build bikes people want.

    My current daily rider is a Ninja 650R that I stripped of all it’s bodywork. I put some handlebar risers on it, mounted some dirtbike handlebars, hung a couple of Pelican hard bags on the back, bingo, instant sport/adventure bike! That bike does everything well. It’s no wonder it’s winning flattrack races too.

    I hope HD can figure it out. They have their work cut out for them. I wish them the best. At least they’re talking in the right direction.

  29. T-bone says

    I added the smiley face with hopes the average reader would understand my tongue in cheek comment.

    My real name is Terry Williams, I have been a blues guitarist in the Kansas City area for over 20 years. I play with the King King Trio. I was given the nickname name T-bone back in 1991 by some fellow musicians after the famous blues guitarist T-bone Walker.

    Lighten up, you might find some humor in all of this, sheesh.

  30. Richard Hinely says

    I’m all for a 600 or 650cc Harley streettracker with the Rotax motor they already race! I want light weight, great handling, good torque and horespower, and they can skip the saddlebags and do-rags if you please.

  31. RobbieAG says

    My first bike was a 73 Harley Sprint 350. It was a fun little thumper. I could definitely see them creating a new Sprint using the Buell Blast as a starting point and giving it fuel injection and generally updating it. It would be a great entry level bike and would probably sell a lot better with the HD name on it. I don’t care where it would be made as long as the quality is there.

  32. Nicolas says

    Can’t judge a company on intentions (or marketing/PR), but on actions.

    If it’s PR stunt, too bad. If it really ends up having HD diversify it’s line of products, it’s all good.

    Let’s wait and see.

  33. Hooligan says

    They want a lightweight 750 that handles? Just rebadge/copy/buy the rights to the Aprillia Shiver. Oh sorry I forgot they went down that cul-de-sac before to not very impressive results.