Win some, lose some. Right call, wrong plant closing. I predicted that the York Vehicle Operations Plant would close because it was old, had two strong labour unions and it was cheaper to move the Touring, CVO and Trike assembly to Kansas City where the new Softails and Streets were made. But in fact the York unions were already beaten and they had cancelled the contracts with the Motor Company. The legacy of the original 1981 leveraged buyout from AMF and a good working relationship with the York community were more attractive than moving to far-off Kansas City.

All this asks the question, what is Harley’s big plan? Today as in the past the international market is key to Harley’s survival during downturns in the US market. And with Trump’s tariff wars, Harley needs to insure its access to overseas markets. To that end the new Harley-Davidson assembly facility at Rayong, Thailand is big enough and tariff-free to replace all the Oceanic and Asian plants.

Harley sales

In 1993 when I bought my Dyna Low Rider, Harley only made 59,449 Big Twins and had a six month to a year waiting list. Even in the 100th Anniversary Year they only made 233,982 Big Twins. Today they are making about 240,000 bikes and continue to turn a profit for its stock holders. They made enough money in 1993, so why would one think they need to sell 300,000 bikes to make a living? Make them right, make them loved. 

Which leads me to anticipate two big 2019 Model Year announcements on 21 August. The mid-sized Sportster update or replacement and the electric or even hybrid bike/trike. Those should attract the needed new riders to the Harley family but must be competitively priced, yet be profitable.

Heck, don’t sell your Harley stock at its current low price. Do like the Motor Company is doing. It’s buying back its own stock. Some say it is preparing to privatise and buy the Company back or positioning itself with debt to avoid a hostile takeover.

Softail & Sportster Names

Names for the MY19  motorcycles and parts have been Trademarked as the 48X, Pan America, Bronx, Harley-Davidson Bronx, and H-D Revelation.

Whatever Harley does with the naming of its new models, I pray that they don’t make the same mistake they did with the “Softail” name for the replacement of the old Softail and Dyna models. They just confused or alienated the old loyal fans. The MY18 “Softails” deserved proper names even though they shared so much in common. You just can’t lump the Fat Bob in the same category as the Fat Boy or even the true sport tourer, the Sport Glide. None of them are soft in the tail. Like most modern bikes they have a single hidden adjustable rear shock. Up front the fuel tank, rake, wheel size, and chassis refinements make them different models. I think the new MY19 Sportster has to have a wonderful race-bred four-cam/valve engine. Plain and simple. 

Sparky is a Revelation

The H-D Revelation is trademarked for the new bike’s powertrain, engine, transmission and electric drives – a complete bike not just a motor. Harley just invested in Alta Motors which has some exciting electric bikes while the LiveWire is totally dead. I wouldn’t be surprised if the new electric bike is a hybrid or even a hybrid trike like the Service-Cars of old. Or maybe a leaning trike from 2011. There are already a few hybrid motorbikes out there. One thing that electric/hybrid cars have over two wheeled bikes is that they have a lot of floor space for the batteries and thus range.

Lowering system

Tex, Pineapple and a big harley…

Tex, Pineapple and a big harley…

Changing gear, while we were in Las Vegas recently, we met up with my wife’s friend Amy “Pineapple” Smith who is an amazing woman. Not only does she give of her time and love to many needy people and organisations but she showed me her fantastic customised Road Glide. I had always had difficulty parking my Roadie at six foot tall but she at five feet found the solution. With handlebar push-button controls she lowers the electric MRI Centre Stand as she tiptoes to a stop and then with the air shocks, she lowers the bike down onto the ground.

If you need a magic lowering kit for your touring or softail bike, get onto Sean at and Matt at:


Street Glide Special

Tex with his Street Glide Special

Tex with his Street Glide Special

Surprise, after only a couple years and 45,000kms, I upgraded my 2016 Ultra Limited to a 2018 Street Glide Special in Twisted Cherry red. I loved my Limited and it was the perfect bike with many more trouble-free riding years ahead of her.

But I made the mistake of riding a demo 2017 Street Glide while my Limited was being serviced. Don’t do that if you are not planning on buying a new Milwaukee-Eight with its fantastic new Showa Dual Bending Valve fork and easily adjustable emulsion rear shocks. That’s the big thing for me. Compared to the 2014-16 Rushmore Limited, the new Street Glides are 34kg lighter and the seat is 50mm lower making the centre of gravity much lower too.

In fighter pilot talk, the Special has a quicker roll rate that lets you change directions faster at both high speed and even in a tight roundabout. Simply put the new Street Glide handles similar to the new Softails but with more comfort.

Two Street Glide Specials Down Under

The running gear is essentially the same on both the 2017 and 2018 Street Glides with a few exceptions. We now have two Street Glide models in Australia/NZ, like in the USA. The Street Glide Special is all blacked out where as the Street Glide (Standard) is all chromed up like our 2017 Street Glide Special. With a higher price the 2018 Special has several premium parts off the CVO Street Glide: Stretched Saddlebags, bigger 19/18in Talon wheels, Turbine Floating Brake Rotors, and performance tyres.

The Special also has Boom! Audio Stage I High Performance 6.5in Fairing Speakers with a nice metal grill while the Standard has the 5.25in speakers.

Also, the instruments are black on the Special and white on the Standard.

The Milwaukee-Eight engine

The rubber mounted, single counterbalanced Touring M8 engine is mechanically quieter and smoother than the Twin Cam 103 and even the Softail 107 and 114 from my personal experience. I’d even have to say the stock Heritage 107 at idle sounded and shook like my mother’s 1950s Maytag washing machine.

Sound-wise, the bone stock Street Glide’s exhaust system is a bit louder than the 2016 Touring system and sounds like a Harley that your neighbours and I like.

Finally, a little thing I love is being able to set the cruise control in 2nd gear and at 40 kph; rather than the old Twin Cam in 3rd and 50 kph.

Funny isn’t it that the M8 107 is the only factory installed engine available on any Touring model with the exception of the 117s being standard on the CVOs. Even the great “little” Softail Heritage touring bike can be had with a factory installed 114 engine straight from Kansas City. That begs the question, when will the 114s be available on the Touring models and Softail Sport Glide tourer?

Kansas City Frame

First and foremost, I’d like to see Harley replace the 10 year old Touring frame with a modern one like the Softails. Single shock with the adjustment knob on the outside. Hey Harley, Touring bikes often carry one, two and even fully loaded two-up in a single day. The new frame can copy the neat new Sport Glide saddlebag single knob release system.

Importantly, I think they should keep the rubber mounted M8 engine and adopt whatever they did that makes the hairy Fat Bob bike’s transmission so smooth shifting and even finding neutral.

That said, get rid of the old fashion head stem bearing ignition switch and frame lock. Again the Softail shows the right way to do it. Surprisingly, the 2018 Street Glides don’t come with an LED Signature headlamp but the PR department slipped-up in its press video that is has one.

Next year! Finally, there is one really annoying thing. Replace the ADR fake key lock on the fuel door with a black or chromed push button one like on the USA bikes.

Thomas Edison’s Infotainment System

Okay, the 2013 Boom! Box Infotainment System is a dinosaur. Enough said.

Just ask the competitors where they got their full Bluetooth, stereo, handsfree social media, navigation systems or just do like many cars: let me use my smartphone to voice control all the displays on the dash.

Keep it simple, affordable and sync with any Bluetooth standard. Finally, why do all Street Glides and Road Kings have the old yellow Dual Bulb Halogen Headlamps?

7 Reasons to Trade In Now

While I’m at it, let me make a sales pitch for Harley and all motorcycle manufacturers. This is the right time to buy a new or even a used Harley. For me the decision to trade in my two year old Limited was made simple by the great deals that are out there.

Dealers actually want clean low mileage used bikes because those are the ones they can sell to a new first-time customer, one they will hopefully sell a new Harley to in a couple or three years.

Don’t ask the dealer how much the new bike costs or how much they will give you on your trade in. Ask what the changeover price is. Believe me, Harley and all the manufacturers want to keep the cash flow going. They want to make you a brand-loyal customer for life.

Here are some of the figures I used to calculate my decision to trade in “Now” on a new Special:

1. My Harley Assist was running out – $111.

2. I needed a major service in several thousand kilometres – $500+.

3. I need two new tyres sooner rather than later – $500.

4. It is the summer riding season.

5. My bike was becoming a generation older and would have less resale value in another year.

6. When motorcycle sales take off again, The Motor Company will raise prices.

7. The Australian dollar could fall if the world industrial nations slowed in buying our main export, natural resources.

Finally, with full disclosure, I feel confident that the new Bronx Sportster replacement will be announced on 20 August at the San Diego Dealer Meeting. In another two or three years the Touring bikes will get the cheaper to manufacture frame in 2020. The Kansas City plant will close with the consolidation of all US bikes assembled in York.


My Street Glide Special

Dark & Black

The Completion in Heavy 1,600+ cc Touring bikes: Honda Gold Wing, Indian Chieftain , BMW K1600, and Yamaha Star Venture & Eluder. 

Harley Owner Maintenance, Register with your VIN at

Harley Boom! Box Infotainment System

Harley branded Sena 20S Bluetooth Headset is only compatible with Harley-Davidson Original Equipment 6.5GT Boom! Box radio when equipped with Wireless Headset Interface Module P/N 76000768. Headset software update may be required for use with Wireless Headset Interface Module P/N 76000768.


LED Signature Headlamp

Harley Owners Group

Download the Parts and Accessories Online Store

Online 2018 USA Harley Street Glide Special Parts and Accessories

Saddlebags Stretched 

Turbine Floating Brake Rotors

Compare all the models three at a time at the Australia/NZ 

Harley-Davidson Touring 'Front & Rear Suspension

Totally re-engineered dual bending valve front and rear suspension with easily-adjustable emulsion shocks. The new rear shocks give you 15 to 30% more pre-load. They adjust with the turn of a single knob, no tools required. New, bigger pistons have more area than before for improved damping performance over the range of the suspension travel. This new fork technology improves the ride, especially over the harshest bumps, and reacts faster to keep the wheel planted for confident braking and handling. *Compared to the 2016 Touring Model engines

Current Harley Offers

Cruise Control Softail

Tour the Harley Headquarters, Museum, and Factory

Buy a Longblock, Shortblock or complete Crate Engine

Harley Factory direct News

San Diego Harley Davidson Annual Dealer Meeting 20 Aug 2018



Harley is running flat out with its 100 new bikes in 10 years goal. By my count with the new Sport Glide “Light Cruiser” touring bike, it has released 24 new bikes in under a year. I expect it to release six more totally new Sportsters this year in 2018. And then five or six new single shock Touring bikes when the York plant assembly moves to Kansas City. Perhaps as important is its aggressive senior management moves and goals that are being put into place.

Michelle Kumbier

In September 2017, Michelle Kumbier was appointed as Chief Operating Officer of the Motor Company. She is responsible for the global business operations in the US and International markets as well as leading Harley’s product design and development operations. Kumbier has 10 years experience as a Senior Vice President leading four different Harley divisions: Product and Operations, Operations, Product Development, and Materials Management and Quality. Put that in your pipe and smoke it you good ole boys! What she brings to the 100 models in 10 year party is experience, proven ability and most important she is not stuck in the past. Harley will continue to sell plenty of heavyweight cruisers to us old guys but the future sales growth will be with the new generations.

156_2018 Softails in Milwukee.jpg

Five Goals

I read in the mainline USA Today newspaper that Harley-Davidson has five goals to keep it financial well into its 125th year:

  1. Build around its huge range of models in the future.
  2. Heavily promote and advertise the new nine Softails, CVOs and a “new Sportster” in 2018.
  3. “Innovate while staying true to its heritage.” Keep the sound while cutting the weight on the new touring frames and balanced engines (Sportster and Street are the last of the full rubber mounts).
  4. Provide what Millennials want to get them into the Harley culture…an affordable LiveWire and or modern Sportster and Streets?
  5. Manage the international weakness in the heavyweight sales market. Hey, they are doing something right and are still returning dividends to the stock holders. Bottom line is, if they don’t’ make a profit we don’t have dealers or the Motor Company.

Mid-Weight Competition: The World vs America

The American Indian Motorcycle is not going to be the main rival of Harley-Davidson in the future with Millenniums; but rather, the Indian Royal Enfield Motors which has been around since 1901 as the oldest continuing motorcycle brand in the world. Now owned by Eicher Motors of India, in just ten years Royal Enfield has increased its sales from 32,000 to 800,000 in India alone. And now it has its sights firmly set on the US and Euro markets. Its new 650 models are going to be a direct competitor to the Harley Street 500/750s in the home market and an outreach model to the Millenniums around the world. Cost, quality, service and a legendary history will sell to the new buyers. 

The Winner & Still Champion

The winner and still champion of Cruiser sales is the Harley Twin Cam Softail Breakout. But now there is a real challenger, the new M8 Sport Glide. Let you the public and buyers prove who the new winner and champion is. My two cents worth is that the Glide can be optioned to look like a Breakout by taking the mini Batwing and panniers off in 30 seconds. Then too, the Glide has a five gallon tank, upside down front forks and plenty of single front brake. Flat Trackers have no front brake. Just down-shifting gears and a back brake. Have a look at the reviews and then schedule a test ride.

Sport Glide Review

Breakout Review 

American Flat Track Racing

But what about the competition within the USA for the midweight cruiser? The Sportster versus the Indian Scout. If you believe the hidden meaning of the results of the 2017 American Flat Track racing series, the Harley Street XG750R was dead on arrival having only one 3rd place finish in 18 races. Worse, the naming rights for eight of the races was “Harley-Davidson”. Double down on that, Yamaha FZ07 and Kawasaki Ninja 650s also placed ahead of the XG750Rs. The saving grace was the legendary Harley XR-750 with four podiums while the FZ07 got four, the Ninja 650 got seven and the Indian Scout FTR750s won hands down with 38 Podiums and 14 wins. All I can hope is that Harley saw the writing on the wall and is spending its money in 2018 with a new Sportster racing 750 engine and or frame. Meanwhile Indian is touting selling a street version of the FTR750 to the public as a street legal FTR1200 Custom.

Products I Like

A rear fender ‘trailer hitch’ eliminator for the 2018 Fat Bob & Breakout is made by Bikecraft. The Shoei Neotec II Modular Helmet is completely new with the built-in Sena Shoei Rider Link intercom system as well as new ventilation, redesigned noise isolating cheek pads and chin spoiler. If you have a 2018, 115th Anniversary Blue Harley, then there is a Neotec II colour for you.

2018 Bike Shows

We are finally into summer and the riding season is full on. Not just here in Australia but revving up all around the world. Motorcycle shows are extremely important to manufacturers as free publicity for new bikes and accessories. Harley waited for the EICMA show in Milan in November to release the new Sport Glide to the public. All of which highlights what we can expect and hope for at the five USA East Coast motorcycle shows starting in January and ending at Daytona Beach Bike Week in March.


155_115th Anniversary Models.jpg

In the previous issue of HEAVY DUTY, you got the lowdown on the new Model Year 2018 Softail lineup. Harley is well on its way to providing the promised 100 new Harleys in 10 years, or 10 new bikes a year. In MY18 we have eight new “Softails” with Milwaukee-Eight engines. The old Twin Cams are gone. In addition, Harley now has three sort of new CVO Touring models with the 117 engine and two fairly new Street and Road Glide “Special” models with only the 107. Thus Australia will have both the Road and Street Glide models in two versions: the Special with CVO treatment and the Standard which is essentially a 2017 in new colours. Therefore in MY18, there are 13 new models. This is fantastic as it bodes well for the future because it means we can expect big changes coming in the Touring, Sportster and even the Street models. I can see from the past few years that Harley has set a new model renewal goal to not only build 100 new bikes in 10 years but, if you look closely, at reducing the cost of building bikes and optimising its labour costs. Especially telling, is the fact that the unions have terminated a 22 year collaboration agreement with the Motor Company!

The tip of the iceberg is the new assembly plant in Thailand but that is not the whole story. The unions saw the new Softails and jobs go to Kansas City from York. In 2010 there were 2000 union members at the York plant while today there are only 600. In April, Harley cut 118 jobs at York as part of the Softail move to Kansas City. Earlier, the V-Rod production stopped in Kansas City. The current union agreement for York and the Menomonee Falls engine plants runs out in on 15 Oct 2022. So, what I am guessing is that the Touring line will move to Kansas City at the end of MY22 or sooner, and secondly, the modernised, better and cheaper to make Touring frame with a mono shock will arrive in MY22 or 23. That is, unless the Motor Company buys out the unions sooner. Remember, the MY09 Touring frame lasted only five years until the MY14 Rushmores. Now the Rushmore frame will be five years old in MY19, next year.


What is exciting to me is the elephant in the room that no one is talking about. The rubber mounted Sportster engine came along in MY04. In MY07 it got fuel injection and in MY14 it got new electronics, brakes and a catalytic converter. By any measure, it is long in the tooth. Most importantly, Harley needs to fill the gap between the Street 750 and the M8 1745cc. That is the Millennium rider gap where Harley needs to attract completely new riders to the brand. Not mentioning the Indian Scout’s free run in the sector and its near complete dominance of flat track racing where only a legacy 1972 XR-750 has made it to the podium this year. Again, the real reason for a new Sportster frame and engine is economy of production, just like the new Softail with 50 per cent fewer parts and 22 per cent reduction in frame welds. I’ll probably lose my HOG Life Membership for suggesting that the best engine Harley ever made, the 1986 XL Evolution, needs to be replaced.


Do you wanna see the prototype MY19 Sportster? Have a look at the 2018 Street Bob compared to XL1200 Custom. The Street Bob has a lower seat height of 680mm vs 725mm and only weighs 31kg more while having a Milwaukee-Eight 1745cc. So maybe Harley can shave off some weight on the M8 engine giving the Millennium rider a lighter 900cc to 1300cc to directly compete with the Indian Scout 1133cc and Triumphs etc.


One more prediction for next year. Donald Trump will appoint the Harley-Davidson CEO as the White House security officer as he seems to be the only one that can keep a secret! Now for the fun part: there are a bunch of reviews and videos of all the new Softail and Touring bikes.

First Ride Reports of the all Eight Softail Models:


Fat Bob:


Fat Boy:




Heritage Classic:




Low Rider:


Softail Slim:


Street Bob:


115th Anniversary Models:


Street Glide Special:


CVO Road and Street Glides:


PDF 2018 Parts and Accessories Catalogue:


Touring 107 M8 Engine: