SHIFTING GEARS, by Buzz Kanter, Publisher
Over the years, the designers and managers in
Harley’s PDC have had thick skin
What does the future look like for motorcycling? The decision makers and corporate strategists at Harley-Davidson and Indian want—make that need—to know. I can only assume that both companies’ counterparts at Honda, KTM, and Triumph do too. Frankly, I also think about it a lot.
The future of motorcycling is being challenged on many fronts: riders aging out of the sport, millennials shunning vehicle ownership, increasing government regulation, more complex technology leading to increased costs, and distracted drivers on the road.
I suspect the most significant concern is where are the new riders coming from? If every year more riders drop out of the sport than join it, what’s the future of motorcycling? If you have comments or suggestions on this please feel free to share them with me at [email protected]
Okay, so what about Harley’s and Indian’s efforts to keep the sport fresh and alive? Starting in Milwaukee, over the years the designers and managers in Harley’s PDC have had thick skin. “Those motors are so ugly, they aren’t real Harleys.” “Not a Harley, looks much too Japanese. If I wanted a Honda, I’d buy one.” “Harley really screwed up their frame designs with this one.” Sound familiar? Well, in spite of all the keyboard commandos on the Internet slamming the impressive new generation of Softails—not to mention the end of the Dynas—these responses from the Harley faithful are from decades ago.
The first quote, from the 1980s, was from a Shovelhead owner about the “ugly,” radical new Evo when Harley first introduced it in 1984. The second quote was a few years later about the new rubber-mounted FXR, which was shunned by The MoCo faithful as looking too Japanese (whatever that meant). These now-cherished FXRD and FXRT motorcycles sat unsold on dealer showrooms for years. And the last quote referred to the new DynaGlide chassis when it replaced the FXR decades ago. Nothing new here. Get the idea?
As for Polaris/Indian, we can point accusing fingers for pulling the plug on Victory, or we can check out its exciting new Indian products, like the terrific Scout Bobber or the expanding line of high-end touring bikes (including our long-term Roadmaster Classic project bike). Now that Harley has shown its vision and plans for the future, don’t you wonder what Indian has in the works?
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