The big news at Harley-Davidson is that there is no news at all except for the scary pricing of the 2020 LiveWire. All we know of importance is the US$29,799 price and its performance with a top speed of 110mph (182kph) and zero to 60mph in 3.5 seconds. About the same as my Stage 1, 107cid Street Glide Special. And the LiveWire only has a range of 110miles/180kms under ideal city riding conditions, essentially needing regenerative braking to help recharge the battery. Its USA release will be at the Harley Dealer Meeting before the Milwaukee Rally on 29 August 2019.
One thing is for sure, Harley can keep a secret. Because of that I think that the real news will not be the LiveWire and electric bikes but that there needs to be several other new petrol models in the next year or two that are more important to the Motor Company’s bottom line.
Judging from past new model releases – so many that have been a total surprise – I think the next big one will be the “Sportster” replacement.
It was actually shown at the 2018 Dealer Meeting but Harley has stopped talking about it. When Harley goes quiet I get suspicious.
The new Sportster replacement will be a “Modular” engined “1250 Custom.” Sound familiar, like the name of the current Sportster 1200 Custom? And of course Harley has said the Pan America 1250 and the Streetfighter 975 will be 2020s.
The good news is the new “Modular” motor has four overhead cams, is liquid cooled, has a 60 degree v-twin configuration and is sized from 975 to1250cc.
Knowledgable people think the Modular design can be sleeved and or made into a single cylinder with sizes from 250cc up to 1250cc like in the Pan America Adventure bike. That is, unless Harley wants to spend a lot of money reengineering the historic 883-1200 Sportster engine to meet EURO 5 environmental standards mandated for calendar year 2020.
Say goodbye to the Street 500/750 too. Its sales have even flat-lined in its home country of India, perhaps because of the introduction of the less expensive and totally modern Royal Enfield 650s. I think that could be good for Australia with LAM bikes from Harley being based on the V-twin Modular motor and downsized to 500/660cc.
The next big surprise may be the all new Touring model frame with a single rear shock like the Softail. The history of the Touring family updates has been a small update followed the next year with a major update. How do I know, I’ve always seemed to have bought my Touring bikes a year too early as in 2006, 2011, 2016, now maybe in 2018 with my wonderful MY18 Street Glide Special.
In 2006, I fell in love with the MY06 Street Glide 88 that the Motor Company lent me for a few weeks to ride around Jindabyne and then down to Tasmania and back along the Great Ocean Road to home in Adelaide. I had to have one! When I did the math on getting a stripped down Street Glide, I decided to get the hamburger with the lot MY07 Twin Cam 96 Ultra Classic and make it a convertible with detachable everything … a Street Glide in Ultra cloths. That was the start of my pour timing on Touring model buys.
In 2007, Harley upgraded the MY08 Touring bikes with a six gallon fuel tank. So people bought the bigger tank thinking that was the smart time to buy. But the very next year at the 2008 Sturgis rally, Harley brought out the MY09 Touring frame that is still with us today. In 2011, I bought a MY12 Road Glide only to see in 2013 Harley release the MY14 Rushmores with a new vented Batwing and the Boom! Box Infotainment System. I hung on to my Road Glide and in 2015 bought a MY16 Ultra Limited with the 103HO engine. What a nice bike! But again I was a year too early for the big updates when in MY17 Harley came out with the completely new Milwaukee Eight, four-valve, single cam 107 and Showa suspension upgrades. So I held off for two years with my Limited and in 2018 I got my MY18 Street Glide Special. Soon I will know if again I bought my Touring Harley too soon.
Why do I think a new Touring frame is needed? The MY09 Touring frame is now 11 years old and completely outdated by the likes of all other heavyweight touring bikes. Most importantly a new frame will be cheaper to build and assemble on the same production line in York, PA as the Softails. While they are at it, Harley should make the Touring M8 motor a 100 per cent twin balanced like the softail … having a common solid-mounted motor in all big twins. Just by installing the new tiny sized Harley “Lithium LiFe” battery alone for the Touring models will save 17.66 pounds in weight.
Ideally Harley will keep the old plastic bits we know and love like the Batwing and panniers (with more luggage space) on the new frame and will look exactly the same.
The new Touring framed models could share the same infotainment design with the MY20 LiveWire Panasonic OneConnect “telematic control unit.” That would kill off the 2019 Boom! Box GTS Infotainment System.
The Panasonic has a Head Up Display (HUD) capability built in which could give the dealers a new $2000 Harley/Panasonic helmet option with HUD to sell to all the LiveWire and Touring buyers for years to come.
The Harley-Davidson LiveWire electric motorcycle with its high price and premium components is the loss-leader that Harley has to make to show the world that it is the top dog in the new heavyweight electric motorcycle industry. That said the competition is humongous by any standards.
The LiveWire is already out of date, even compared to the two year old $10,000 cheaper Italian Energica EGO with a 200kms range and top speed of 240kph.
It commands the Euro high end market and is the FIM chosen single manufacturer for MotoE electric support races during the European MotoGP events. Energica’s CEO recently said in a CNN interview that they “are already studying the new powertrain that will be used from 2020.”
Not just Harley but almost every motorcycle manufacturer is on the band wagon, not to mention every four wheel manufacturer, bar none.
China has even limited the number of electric vehicle manufacturing licenses it will issue. They have too many already.
Ducati’s CEO Claudio Domenicali just said “The future is electric, we’re not far from starting series production.”
Zero and Lightening are just two other experienced and class-leading electric bike manufactures that are coming out with brand new and cheaper top-tier models that exceed the LiveWire’s performance.
In the previous issue of HD I said I had ordered a LiveWire. But with the important numbers in, I pulled my order for a LiveWire for one simple reason, it didn’t have the range for my typical day ride of 250kms.
When I did the math on the price of a LiveWire, I saw the US list price of $30,000 and then added on 10 per cent GST (list price in the US doesn’t include any taxes), multiplied that by today’s exchange rate at about 72 cents US to the AUD, and your get an Australian price of a LiveWire of (sit down) AUD$46,297.
For that price I could get two of Harley’s greatest bikes: a four cam Sportster 1200 Custom with a 17 litre long-range fuel tank, and a Softail 107 M8 Sport Glide with removable bags, windscreen, cruise control and an 18.9 litre tank.
Both of these bikes could certainly do the Great Ocean Road in comfort on a day ride. Then too, either one of them would make a great lane splitters in the CBD and also commute to and from the city on one tank of fuel.