Harley-Davidson hasn’t had a good 2020 so far. The departure of its CEO had elements of boardroom drama, and the COVID-19 outbreak has stifled production. In addition, the much-anticipated LiveWire electric motorcycle hasn’t really taken off. And bikes like the $41,000 CVO Road-Glide aren’t exactly affordable. However, recently-uncovered documents hint at more Harley-Davidson bikes in the development pipeline. And surprisingly, they’re not cruisers.
Harley-Davidson café racer bike
3 of them, as Jalopnik explains, have already been revealed: the Pan America adventure bike, Bronx streetfighter, and un-named ‘High-Performance Custom.’ In fact, I saw prototypes of the Pan America and Bronx at the 2020 IMS in Chicago. However, there were 2 more bikes in these documents that haven’t been seen before.
The first is a café racer-style black and gold bike, seen above. Note the minimalist headlight fairing and twin rear shocks. In addition, this bike would allegedly use the same liquid-cooled V-twin engine found in the Bronx and Pan America, either in 975cc or 1250cc form.
In terms of timing, this Harley-Davidson bike would be somewhat late to the party. Retro-style café racers have been popular for some time. Manufacturers like Triumph and Royal Enfield have already introduced models to compete in the segment. As such, a Harley-Davidson café racer would face significant competition. However, such a bike wouldn’t be without precedent.
As Motorcycle Classics explains, Harley-Davidson once made a café racer, the XLCR. Made from 1977-1979, while the bike was stylish, its handling and overall build quality were somewhat behind the best from England and Italy. Harley traditionalists also didn’t quite take to it, a problem the company still wrestles with today. In addition, the bike cost the equivalent of $15,345; the contemporary Honda CB750, meanwhile, only cost about $9,200.
Also shown in the investor documents is the blue-tanked bike shown above. Although the high-mounted exhaust pipes make it similar to a scrambler, this is actually a flat-tracker. These bikes are made for skidding around circular dirt tracks, with their riders controlling their slides using their left feet. This particular bike, as with the café racer, would also offer the 975cc and 1250cc V-twin.
And again, Harley-Davidson has made bikes like this before. However, unlike the café racer, Harley made quite a few flat-trackers. And they were very successful racing bikes. One of the most successful, Donut Media reports, was the XR-750.
From 1970-2008, the bike won 29 of the 37 AMA Grand National Championships in that time, Silodrome reports. It’s the most successful bike in AMA history. It was also the signature bike of stuntman Evel Knievel. Harley-Davidson still uses a version of the bike, in XG750R form, in flat-track races.
When could we see these Harley-Davidson bikes IRL?
According to the investor documents, these two Harley-Davidson bikes would be released sometime in 2021. However, with COVID-19 affecting the entire motoring industry, it’s unknown when Harley will officially release the Pan America or Bronx, let alone these two bikes. And as of this writing, Harley-Davidson hasn’t officially responded regarding these bikes. Although there is reason to believe these bikes are indeed going to be released.
Motorcycle.com reports Harley-Davidson has filed EU patents that show bikes strongly resembling the café racer and flat-tracker. Unfortunately, the patent doesn’t provide any new information about an expected release date. But Harley-Davidson does have some incentive to keep working on these bikes.
Indian has already released several bikes inspired by flat-trackers, the FTR1200 and FTR1200 Rally. Roadshow and Jalopnik both found the FTR1200 Rally to be a stylish, approachable, well-made motorcycle. Considering the success Indian is finding with its Scout Sixty, as well as Harley’s history and current state, here’s hoping the development work continues.
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