Issue 162

Matt Levatich on a LiveWire

Matt Levatich on a LiveWire

Happy New Harley Year and I hope Santa was good to you. Now in 2019, “What’s the Buzz? Tell me what’s happening, and What you want to know,” paraphrasing Jesus Christ Superstar back in 1971, some 48 years ago.

The year that Harley introduced its first factory custom the FX Super Glide. It was the marriage of the FL Big Twin and the XL Sportster. Only 4700 were sold while the Sportster itself sold 10,000. I can hear then all the traditional Harley owners saying how much they hated the rear fender with its foreign café racer style. That said the Super Glide FX was the father of all the FX’s that we know and love.

Jesus Christ Superstar video:

The Electric Era

Today, the bad buzz is all about the new Harley FX Drag Racer 114, and even the electrification of the whole transport industry. See more via our website.*

What I am saying as an ole timer is learn from the past and be ready for the future. All manufacturers are having to plan for the future if they want to stay in business. Harley’s answer is simple: “More Roads” while building new riders and keeping us petrol-heads happy.

What I see as the future? Harley is and will stay loyal to “the base.” But it will strive to build innovative and exciting motorcycles and trikes for the future. Me, I’ve put my money where my mouth is. Keeping my tried and true Street Glide Special and looking forward to a city lane-splitting LiveWire.

Harley, like others, will get the costs down and the range up on its batteries.

Is the LiveWire family the answer, a Hail Mary pass or just a diversion until the Millenniums start buying Harleys?

Why am I so bold in thinking that electric bikes may play a part in our future? First of all, look at all the old antique bikes still being loved and ridden. Pre-World War II. They were small and fun. Like the new electric bikes. Then it is easier to name the companies that have not announced that they are into electric cars and bikes than naming the vast majority that are going to make electrics.

The biggest of the motorcycle trade shows is the EICMA which was just held in Milan, Italy. Every major manufacturer had an electric bike there including Harley with its production ready LiveWire (the one Matt Levatich rode at the Milwaukee 115th Anniversary Parade).

At EICMA, the writing was on the wall for not only Harley but all American produced motorcycles. Be it Harley, Polaris, Indian, BMW or even Zero. Let me sum it up with just my three core categories of future street bikes: 1) sub-1000cc; 2) our beloved Big Twin cruisers; and 3) the Electrics.

1. Royal Enfield Continental GT 650 and Interceptor 650 are all new and to world class standards but they keep the old world look and simplicity at a lower price … beating their rival the Harley Street 750 hands-down. These are the bikes that will give beginner riders great value for their money.

In stock trim they are nibble and fast enough. In race trim an 18 year-old Cayla Rivas from Fresno, California clocked 150 mph on a modified Continental GT650.

What blew me away next from Royal Enfield was the Concept KX V-Twin. It will give More Roads modular class a run for its money. At 838cc its not a giant killer but it is in the sweet spot for the new rider market.

Inspired by the 1930s Model KX side-valve V-Twin, its girder front suspension, mono rear shock, single-sided swing arm is so appealing.

The KTM 790 Adventure R will kill the competition if only they can make enough of them. With the black and orange colours maybe you could sneak a ride with your Harley mates. This is the size and performance bike for everyone. Like the 4WD trucks crowding the city streets and parking lots that never see the dirt, this trail bike ticks all the boxes. Sorry, Pan America, you may be too late and too heavy.

2. The Indian FTR 1200 is the nibble FXDR 114 go getter and exemplifies the future of big twin cruisers. Lighter, easier to learn on and city nibble. Yes the Harley Tourers will rule in the heavy cruiser category with Indians nipping at their toes for years to come. But the FTRs and FXes will be the bread and butter for both Polaris and Harley.

3. LiveWire Competition. As of this writing, there is one nine-minute video that compiles all that we know about the LiveWire and even the sound.

In January Harley will release the USA price, range, and actual performance. Maybe in March at the Daytona Bike Week there will even be demo rides?

The number one competition and performance/price target for the LiveWire has to be the Italian Energica Eva EsseEsse9 with a base price of US$21,000.

For that you get a range of 150kms, a top speed of 205kph, and a reverse gear. A true super bike and available now in the US and Europe.

One thing for sure, Europe is ground zero for electric motorbike sales especially at the top end.

The number one best selling performance electric bike in the USA today with 13 years of history is the Zero DSR. It can hit 165 kph and has a realistic range of 160kms, again for US$20,000. This is the bike that the Millenniums in California are buying.

Just for grins I think, Zero and Ural teamed up for a sidecar version using Zero electrics and Ural running gear. Makes sense for a city delivery Servi-Car like Harley had all those years ago. Maybe Harley will come out with an e-Wheeler?

Our contributor Motorbikewriter found Dennis Savic at the Melbourne Moto Expo with his electric DESav2 prototype. At AUD$20,000 it is a city competitor.


Finally, I’d like to leave you with some late night viewing on YouTube with everything Harley Davidson. Just search: My favourite series now is “Taming the Road in Style” from the Harley-Davidson Museum.

Part 1 starts with the first suspension, Part 2 the new M8 Softails and, Part 3 the pursuit of comfort.