This year is a landmark one for the mighty American motorcycle brand Harley-Davidson, with the celebration of 120 years of continuous production. Roderick Eime is along for the ride.
The story of Harley-Davidson motorcycles is a true American legend and this year the Motor Company celebrates 120 years of continuous production, the longest of any motorcycle brand
There are other brands with their own claims, but all have suffered interruptions and various cycles of demise and resurrection. Not so Harley-Davidson. It has weathered world wars, recessions, depressions, corporate bashes and stock market crashes, all the while keeping its production running.
As is Milwaukee tradition, anniversary years see a spray of specially produced custom motorcycles and announcements of all-new models. Sadly, if you had not placed your 120 Anniversary model (above) order by late ‘22, then you’ve missed out.
Spectacular custom paint schemes were devised for Softail models Fat Boy and Heritage Classic, while Street Glide and Road Glide tourers also sported vivid new colours.
Originally introduced as a niche 107ci CVO model in 2013, the ‘bad boy’ Breakout has been revived and uprated with a whopping 117ci Milwaukee-Eight, bright new colours and some minor but significant suspension tweaks that make open road touring more palatable.
Diehards will tell you it’s the impeccable heritage and continuity that are key to the attraction. The large frame machines and their signature 45-degree V-Twin engines that produce that distinctive exhaust note are the mainstay of production, but the 21st century has brought new challenges.
“At some point in time, Harley-Davidson will be all-electric,” said CEO Jochen Zeitz, in a recent interview “But that’s a long-term transition that needs to happen. It’s not something you do overnight.”
Nevertheless, Harley-Davidson made history as the first major manufacturer to release a full-size electric motorcycle, the stunning LiveWire in 2014.
The introduction of the top-class Pan America adventure bike (above) in 2021 is another breakthrough for the stalwart manufacturer. An instant hit with critics, the powerful 1275cc 60-degree water-cooled twin still has a tough road ahead to overtake well-entrenched rivals like BMW, KTM and Suzuki, but the word is out and sales are climbing slowly but steadily.
The Pan America was the first bike to feature the all-new Revolution Max engine, a 60-degree, 8-valve, DOHC water-cooled twin. This breakthrough powerplant can also be found in the Sportster S and the smaller 975cc Nightster Special, both new to the market.
For the Asia market, H-D had pinned hopes on the Indian-manufactured Street 500 as a smaller capacity entry-level bike. Various issues sent the Street 500 and its larger 750 sibling into demise and now the attention is on the just-announced, Chinese-built X350 (above) as the new contender in this sector.
The badly-kept-secret cooperation with Chinese manufacturer Qianjiang (QJ) Motor has long been anticipated and is now official. QJ also owns the venerable Benelli brand and industry observers are already drawing parallels to the existing TNT300 model.
Initially for the Chinese market only, once road and rider tested, it is conceivable that the spritely, flat-track inspired roadster will creep into wider markets in Asia and possibly beyond. It has been suggested that a modified variant known as the X350RA will be used in Harley-Davidson Rider Academy programs in the USA. A 500cc version will also be available.
While Harley-Davidson’s big twin machines will always hold aspirational value in Asia, Milwaukee is clearly intent on having a greater share of the massive small-capacity motorcycle market that dominates the Eastern hemisphere.
For more Auto inspiration click here.