Friday, January 29, 2010

The Harley-Davidson Edition Goldwing

Each year when Harley-Davidson unveils a "new" motorcycle, it seems to give me the sense that the Im-Co (image company) has a better sense of it's own direction.

We all know that this new Harley-Davidson 48 is just the same old Sportster but in a different skin. But yet, it seems like that's ok now.

We've come accept the fact that Harley no longer creates new technology. Even though I, and many others, have complained that their new motorcycles are not really new motorcycles, that point seems to fall on deaf ears more and more.

In fact somewhere I saw a video, maybe on YouTube, that showcased the designers that work at Harley. I got the sense that Harley is hiring more designers than it is engineers.

The whole "dark series" that Harley is doing right now is in response to the fact that black is now the new chrome. That XR1200 they launched a couple years ago was all about image as well, designing their Sportster with an image that Europeans seem to associate with.

Honda tried to do the same thing that Harley now does not too long ago with their "Fury". They took the same old VTX platform, and put it on a chopperesque chassis. Honda billed it as something bold and new, destined to take the motorcycle division into a new direction. But reporters and bloggers lost their lunches when they saw it wasn't anything innovative at all, just a hunk of junk.

The motorcycling public places different expectations on Honda than it does Harley. We come to expect innovation from Honda, while we come to expect image from Harley.

When either of those companies give us something else, we criticize them.

The last couple of times Harley tried to release something innovative, they were met with groans. Case in point, they replaced their Evolution engine with the Twin Cam, and they launched the V-Rod.

harley davidson 48But when Harley unveiled this new "48" Sportster, it got great press. People judge the 48 Sportster for its looks, not for its innovation. And indeed, it's looks cool.

At this stage of the game, Harley understands it doesn't have to build motorcycles anymore. We've come to accept Harley as an image company, not a motor company. Their motorcycles are just blank-canvasses with which they can splash on color and glitter and express a new idea in lifestyle.

You've all heard of "Eddie Bauer" right? That's a clothes designer that gives hikers and campers a softer look. Remember when they teamed up with Ford to make the Eddie Bauer edition Explorer?

And more closer to motorcycling is the Arlen Ness edition Victory motorcycles. They're Victory motorcycles, but with the design touches of Arlen and Cory Ness.

Well, at some point in time Harley should be able to stop making motorcycles altogether, and instead license their image to other manufacturers. So you can get the Harley edition Goldwing, or the Harley edition V-Strom.

7 comments:

  1. You’re pretty much right on this. There’s been no earth shaking advancements in years. But then with two wheels and a engine in between, how much can you do?

    What does the ‘48’ stand for? And why do they use that old 2.1 tank? Probably so they can sell you a 3.2 gal tank.

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  2. Willy D, the 48 stands for the year they introduced the peanut tank...and that pretty mcuh answers your second question as well.

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  3. Does harley get any credit for the innovations that Buell brought to the industry?

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  4. If Harley stood by Buell in tough times instead of letting 'em fall, they'd probably deserve more credit in my book. Obviously, they didn't consider Buell's input important enough to retain. With regards to the "image" department at HD, you're absolutely right Steve. I bought my Ultra because I think it's a beautiful bike and my wife was in a charitable mood one day. Most of the Harley riders I know are a fine bunch and not the marketed HD tough guys. I frankly find most of their marketing and image output to be childish and embarrassing. Didn't putting flames and skulls on everything stop being cool when you turned 15 years old? And you can bore out your Harley engines, re-map, and talk about power all you want, but that little 650cc Suzuki next to you at the stop light will still embarrass you in any race to any speed - so just please stop talking about "Harley Power". HD makes a lot of attractive bikes, but if they don't tone it down, they my find themselves evolving into a joke.

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  5. Image will always sell if it didn't car companies could use fat ugly women and sell just as many cars.
    The changes in Harley motors have been necessary mainly to comply with emission standards not innovation.
    A Harley is a big heavy crusing bike maybe thats all it should be. If it changed it might lose it's magic. It may lose it's magic anyway as our culture changes.
    Harley has been losing market share all along anyway and now with the down turn in the economy it's losing even more.
    I enjoy my Harley, they are over priced but a lot of fun.

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  6. Arlen Ness did not have anything to do with the design of the 2010 Cross COuntry and Cross Roads. Those are the bikes that have smoked hd on most every bike to bike comparison. And no, they dont look like hardleys, thank God.

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  7. Owned bikes since 1996 and have the scars to prove it. Recently owned 2 HD's, an 02 Classic
    reliable bike, comfortable. Traded for an 06
    Ultra, big mistake, hot to ride, top end rattled like something was loose. Installed the anti-vibration kit ($300) to correct HD's
    poor design, sold it. Got tired of 1950's
    agricultural technology. Bought a Honda Goldwing in Sept. 08 and have 27K miles on it with NO problems. The Wing has power to spare
    and it quiet, comfortable and cool to ride (mechanically speaking). Recently did the Iron Butt 50 CC run (coast to coast in 50 hours) in
    44hours and 36 minutes. What a perfect bike for the ride, turned West in I-10 and rolled on
    the power. Near Benson, AZ. a HD rider challenged me and he learned how much power the big Hondas have as my tail lights disappeared. It you want the tatoo, skulls and flames and leather vest immage, buy a HD.
    If you want serious power and reliabilty buy a
    Honda Wing

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About Steve

San Diego, CA-based motorcycle rider who likes long road trips, old rustic bars, craft beer, and tough women. Can often be found where there's free Wi-Fi, writing about the mysteries of life. (Read more...)