For a lot of the reasons we’ve talked about in these pages over the years, Harley has its challenges. An aging ridership, changing manufacturing, and a question of direction versus tradition.
None of those answers are easy and the questions aren’t going away. Harley, though, has taken it all in stride and, at a time when many companies would decide to shrink, H-D gets … bigger?
You got it. Retail operations, financial products, a new engine a few months ago, and the lofty goal of introducing 100 new bike models in the next decade. At the very least, they are going to go down swinging.
Earlier this month, Harley introduced the new Sport-Glide model and, at first glance, the reaction is “okay, that’s nice.”
With a deeper look, though, and you see how this can be a game-changing idea for the Milwaukee-based company. See, the Sport-Glide does what a lot of us riders want our bikes to do – fill more than one role and look good doing it.
If you’ve been around bikes any length of time, you can remember that the Harley has a pretty good record of listening to what riders want (or are doing anyway) and then offering it in a factory package that costs more. Don’t believe me? Look at the Road Glide – basically a Tour Glide with a smaller fairing, which was a popular swap “back in the old days.”
Enough of that, what’s cool about the Sport-Glide is that it is built to be flexible. We’ve all tried to make a Cruiser into a Tourer (or vice-versa) and failed, but Harley took some notes at our discomfort and did just that.
…They just did it better than most of us did in our garages.
The Sport-Glide has all the new goodies that you’d expect on a “big” Harley, including the Milwaukee 8 engine, but what makes it different is that the fairings and the hard clamshell bags can be easily removed to let you cruise or easily replaced for a longer ride.
Even better? When you have them off, the mounting points don’t look terrible, something that has always been the problem with taking off hard bags or fairings. (Although removing fairings is usually a real pain in the ass so once is usually enough before we come to our senses.) Before you ask, yes, the Sport-Glide has all the other goodies that a new Harley should sport – LED, USB port, ABS, keyless ignition and a security system.
I guess the one fault I have in it is this – it sits low. I know, I know, that’s all the trend these days, but on a cruiser, I’d like the pegs to be a little higher. Now, bear in mind that I haven’t physically been able to compare the overall height of the pegs to other H-Ds, and it may simply be that the “lower” seat makes it look like the bike sits lower, but on a cruiser that may get slung around a corner or two, I’d have to sit on it and take it for a spin before I could jump up and down about it.
On the other hand, it is a damn good-looking bike and I really hope that it is only the beginning of some great new stuff from H-D.