This is the end of the old Harleys as we’ve known them. Last year we saw the demise of the Dyna and true Softail frames. We now hail the new so-called Softails for the Milwaukee-Eight engine. The new Softail is better in every way than its predecessors.Read More
Cruisin’ the Net with Mike ‘Tex’ Hess
Harley is entering the electric foray in 2019 with the H-D Revelation! What the heck is going on? After 100 years of crude oil ruling our lives, why would we even want to go “silent”, especially on a Harley?
So what is the importance of the e-Harley to the Motor Company? The 2014 LiveWire is old technology by any standard except style. Remember the Rushmores were MY14 and replaced by the MY17 Milwaukee-Eights. The new Revelation will have ten years newer technology over the LiveWire and will have Atlta Motors racing experience.
Heck, the MX motocross world is afraid of the electric bikes beating up on the public loving noisy dirt bike racers. And with the advancement in motorcycle batteries and cost reductions, the electric motorcycle may one day rule the urban commute as the last remaining one person means of transport.
Young people will literally jump on them and ride to work, across town and hit the dirt on the weekend.
One thing that is almost certain, Harley believes that electric bikes will be a part of its future and the growth of motorcycling in general.
I’m a petrolhead like all HD readers so let me stick to what I believe is going to be happening in the next year. The Motor Company starts its official 115th Anniversary Celebration in Prague, the Czech Republic in July and ends in late August in Milwaukee.
In between those two celebrations on 21 August is the Harley-Davidson Summer Dealer Meeting in San Diego, California. There we will see the release of the Millennium-targeted midsize Harley. This Sportster replacement will be the key to ending the ‘depression’ in sales in the home market. It may also kickstart all Harley sales worldwide.
The number one thing the Motor Company has to do is stay profitable for the stock holders and you and me the riders. Otherwise they go broke and nobody wins.
Again, the key will be the new midsize Harley and then the Revelation to capture the first-time motorcycle buyer.
What worries me in electrics is that there are so many manufacturers getting into the electric business. Only the best few will survive. First and foremost Harley better know what its customers want or think they need.
One person I follow is Matt Laidlaw at www.laidlawsharley.com. He and his family have been in the business a long time and they have seen the ups and downs, and more importantly, have stayed successful.
He has a Youtube channel with great reviews and opinions. His Top 3 Reasons why Harley-Davidson and the Motorcycle Industry are declining in sales is food for thought. Watch it at http://tiny.cc/x3i2ty and see what you think!
Like Laidlaw said, people now have changing priorities, aversion to risks, and only so much money.
Yeah, everyone still wants a Harley but just like it always has been, you gotta put food on the table and a roof over the family’s head. Harley makes the greatest bikes but can they make the numbers they need to sell profitably?
How does Harley do that? First with its e-Harley will be scale, cost cutting and assembling them somewhere in the world like Thailand.
Second, Harley took equity in Alta Motors in San Francisco to replace the designers of LiveWire. Unless Alta Motors steps out of its comfort zone, I think its e-Harley will be a fun bike that is not in direct competition with the Street 500 and above. Truly an affordable entry level road bike. Think of the money they will make with just the sales of the MotorClothes!
Third, what is the competition? The leader of the pack is Zero Motorcycles in terms of sales, products and longevity. But remember Polaris had the race winning Victory Empulse TTs. Polaris must still have something up its sleeve for Indian and the three-wheeler Slingshot. And then there is the pricy European “NICO Rosberg” Energica Ego. The Lightning lS-218 is named after its world record 218 mph speed and is a sleeper waiting for a takeover buyout. If your are filthy rich there is the Curtis Zeus which just won the “Most Innovative Motorcycle Award” at The Quail Motorcycle Gathering in Carmel, California. On the other end of the spectrum is the Vespa Electtrica. You can’t dismiss the BMW E-LisaBad, Yamaha PES2, Honda Riding Assist-e, and KTM Freeride. If those are too big for you then try the fastest electric push bike in the world, the SWIND EB-01. The Brutus V9 looks like a bat-winged tourer at about the price of a CVO.
The Big Picture
All the automotive and motorcycle companies are gearing up to go electric. The automotive trend is towards SUVs. I wonder if Tesla can hold on to its market share with the likes of the Audi e-tron, the Jaguar I-PACE and the BMW iX3, et al. Even Tesla, Bentley and Porsche are going SUV.
Now I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed but I have to wonder why is it that the greenies want us to convert everything we know and love to electric? First and foremost, electricity isn’t all that cheap when you “dig it up” to burn and produce the juice and green house gasses. Really!
Nor is it all that environmentally friendly when you realise electricity is generated by mostly non-renewable coal and oil; not wind and water. Things with wheels running on cheap petrol and diesel only produce a fraction of all of Australia’s greenhouse gases. Electricity generation emits 54 per cent!
Here’s my worry: the greatest advantage of electricity versus petrol now appears to be its lower cost per kilometre driven. But what happens to electricity costs when the “swamp” legislates petrol out of the market and the private electrical companies have no competition?
Anyone remember when Australian gas, electricity and water were relatively cheap and owned by government?
At the end of the day the winner will be the manufacturer which gets the economics, tariffs, trade unions and politics all sorted out first.
For me I would just like an inexpensive urban mauler with a couple hundred kilometres range. One that looks and sounds like the LiveWire. Seems too simple.
Otherwise, I’m sure the new Sportster replacement will fit the bill. Bring on the “100 new Harleys in 10 years” not with only a black paint job but with leading edge design and technology.
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.
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.
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 www.tolmotorcycles.com and Matt at:
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.
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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.
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Online 2018 USA Harley Street Glide Special Parts and Accessories
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
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San Diego Harley Davidson Annual Dealer Meeting 20 Aug 2018