Harley MY21 Models:
Harley is describing its 2021 Softail range as motorcycles that "combine modern power and technology with authentic American styling to offer a pure riding experience."
The headline news in Softail terms centers as much on the models that are not now in the line-up as on those that are - at least in terms of anything new for dealers to be able to raise pulses with. It has been a necessary trimming, but one that maybe hasn't gone deep enough yet.
|Street Bob 114|
physically imposing motorcycles in the Harley-Davidson portfolio. Refreshed styling for 2021 brightens its look as brilliant chrome replaces the satin chrome finish on the powertrain and exhaust, the front end, the rear fender struts and the console.
The two 'hero' initiatives are the Street Bob receiving a displacement upgrade with the Milwaukee-Eight 114 engine ("in addition to its stripped-down styling and no-nonsense performance") and, entering its 31st year, "the 2021 Fat Boy 114 kicks sand in the face of its historically tamped down, mean streets, big and bad positioning with a "brilliant chrome" bling restyling.
"With its steamroller stance, the Fat Boy remains one of the most
"The Harley-Davidson Softail chassis offers the look of a classic hardtail frame but is underpinned by modern [monoshock] suspension for a smooth ride and outstanding handling." All the Softails feature the Showa dual bending valve front suspension.
"The chassis design is optimized to reduce weight without sacrificing stiffness. The rigid-mounted [twin counter-balancer] Milwaukee-Eight V-Twin engine further stiffens the entire chassis and contributes to a platform that delivers strong acceleration and responsive handling and braking performance."
Eight Softail models "range in style from classic to custom to gritty, and each is ready to roll the boulevard or chase backroad adventure."
There are four 114" Softails, one (the Heritage Classic) that is available with either the 107 or 114" M-8 and three with 107 inchers only - the Standard, the Slim and the euro-centric Sport Glide.
|Fat Boy 114|
Being heavily hyped by Harley as a new model (!), the "NEW" Street Bob 114 is described as a "tough looking bike that was intended to be ridden hard. The lightest-weight Softail model equipped with a Milwaukee-Eight 114 engine, the Street Bob 114 motorcycle is a quick and nimble ride with power to spare - 9 percent quicker 0-to-60 mph and 13 percent quicker 60-to-80 mph in fifth gear than the previous Street Bob."
The additional 2021 Softails:
Standard: "The essential Harley-Davidson cruiser experience: a lean Bobber profile steeped in attitude; classic Vivid Black paint highlighted with gleaming chrome and polished finishes; the most-attainable entry point to Harley-Davidson Big Twin ownership."
Low Rider S: "High bars and horsepower define this performance-first cruiser; premium suspension components are tuned for aggressive riding stoked by the power of the M-8 114 engine; styling cues inspired by the coastal build scene."
Slim: "A stripped-down, low-slung Bobber brings old school styling into the modern era; black steel laced wheels, tuck-and-roll seat cover, Hollywood handlebar, bobbed fenders."
Sport Glide: "Power, performance and versatility; an aggressive factory-custom cruiser outfitted with a detachable fairing and rigid clamshell saddlebags; ideally suited for light touring, cruising or commuting."
Fat Bob 114: "A burly street-eating muscle machine; inverted race-style forks, dual front disc brakes, 2-1-2 performance exhaust, M-8 114 power; a cruiser that thinks it’s a sport bike."
Heritage Classic: "All-American vintage style with modern performance; locking vinyl-covered saddlebags, detachable windscreen, chrome steel laced wheels and front hub covers; choice of M-8 107 engine with chrome styling or 114 with dark styling."
The Low Rider, Deluxe and FXDR 114 models will not be produced for 2021; the Breakout 114 will be available only in some international markets.
New Style Choices and Features for H-D Hot Rod Baggers
A trio of Hot Rod Baggers "with fresh swagger and new features is part of the collection of special motorcycles for 2021. With a slammed stance and muscular M-8 114 power, the Road King Special, Road Glide Special and Street Glide Special models combine commanding street presence with the long-haul capabilities of the H-D Touring chassis. These bikes are designed to rule the boulevard on Friday night and run for the border at daybreak."
|Road Glide Special|
For 2021, the Street Glide Special and Road Glide Special models are offered with new two-tone paint options, and with a choice of a blacked-out or bright chrome styling treatments, "giving the customer a choice of a look that’s dark and sinister, or brilliant and more traditional." All Special models are now equipped with the high-performance ventilator air cleaner with a washable filter element and a new low-profile engine guard.
Each Special model is powered by the 10.5:1 compression ratio 114 inch (1,868 cc) M-8. In the Touring chassis, the rubber-mounted and counter-balanced engine "delivers inspiring performance and classic Harley look-sound-feel. Engine features include four-valve cylinder heads, dual spark plugs, single camshaft (to reduce mechanical noise), advanced cylinder head design and dual knock sensors."
The Tourers feature Harley's 6-speed Cruise Drive transmission, but the troublesome hydraulic clutch has been dropped in favor of a traditional cable design - Harley has had no end of problems and recalls with the hydraulic clutch. The Tourers also use the Showa dual bending valve internal technology front suspension "for linear damping performance and a smooth ride"; emulsion technology rear shocks "are calibrated for touring and feature a single-knob pre-load adjustment that does not require tools or maintenance."
The lowered rear suspension gives the Special models a "slammed stance" and Prodigy cast-aluminum wheels (19-inch front, 18-inch rear) are exclusive to Special models; the Specials have standard reflex linked Brembo brakes with ABS.
With two models giving a debut to new Harley-Davidson Audio powered by Rockford Fosgate, Harley's Custom Vehicle Operations (CVO) models "represent the pinnacle of Harley style and design.
"Created for the most discerning customers [aka the ones with the deepest pockets], the 2021 CVO models offer show-stopping finishes, advanced technology, exclusive components and attention to detail that borders on obsessive, engineered and assembled to factory-quality standards and backed by the Harley-Davidson limited warranty.
"The M-8 117 powertrain - the most displacement and power offered in a motorcycle straight from the Harley-Davidson factory - is exclusive to four limited-production, premium CVO models - the CVO Limited, CVO Street Glide, the CVO Road Glide and CVO Tri Glide Trike.
"Each 2021 CVO model features new paint and graphics. The CVO Road Glide and CVO Street Glide models introduce high-fidelity Stage II Harley-Davidson Audio powered by Rockford Fosgate.
"Harley-Davidson and Rockford Fosgate have worked together to create all-new components that produce legendary sound - an advanced, high-performance audio system that pushes the bounds of technology, featuring speakers and amplifiers designed specifically for Harley. H-D Audio powered by Rockford Fosgate with Stage II tri-axial speakers is the exclusive featured audio system for the 2021 CVO Street Glide and CVO Road Glide models."
H-D LiveWire, Street 500 & Sportsters
The rumors are that unless there is a big uptick in demand or a good strategic reason to keep it in production, 2021 may well be the last year for "Project LiveWire". Maybe the fact that the MY 2021 text for the LiveWire is the 2019 launch press release tells its own story!
The 500 cc Street is the only one of the three models to remain in production - mostly as a Harley-Davidson rider training platform; both the 750 cc Street models are history.
Canned for Europe altogether (for reasons of Euro 5 emissions), the Sportster range is down to three models - the Iron 883 and 1200 and, seen here, the 1200 cc Forty Eight - and is also touted as likely on the chopping block for 2022 or 2023 latest. Reports of the imminent demise of the venerable model have been doing the rounds ever since Harley celebrated the 60th anniversary of the 1957 introduction of the XL ("Extra Light") three years ago. Those rumors are gathering pace now, though it looks like the remaining three iterations are a strictly time limited offer.
There is an argument to be said in favor of those who think that Harley shouldn't be continuing with the M-8 107" on Touring platform models - for 2021 there appear to be four of them, with the Electra Glide Standard as an "entry level" Tourer, if there can be said to be such a thing. While Harley continues in its "hunker down" conservative approach to re-establishing a survival platform from which to build out, that policy is not likely to change any time soon - and to be fair, survival is the worthiest of business objectives, the pathway to growth described as the “Dressed down Dresser” that provides a "raw, fundamental riding experience inspired by Harley-Davidson’s Grand American Touring roots," the Electra Glide Standard is "designed for the traditional touring customer, for the rider seeking through riding to disconnect from all the noise of the day-to-day - no screens, simply a motorcycle that provides and heightens the experience of the journey. This fundamental experience is a key element in the design and engineering of the Electra Glide Standard."
Along with the CVO TriGlide and the TriGlide Ultra, the 114 inch Freewheeler with easily adjustable rear suspension and the Showa dual bending valve 49 mm front forks makes it a three-Trike offer from Harley again for the year ahead - and if there can be said to be such a thing, is the "Entry Level" three-wheeler. Enhancements for 2021 include cornering-enhanced reflex linked brakes with ABS and traction control. Features include bobtail style fenders, slash-cut pipes, 12-inch mini apes, Enforcer aluminum wheels and enough cargo space to hold two full-face helmets plus extra gear.
Harley MY21 - Playing it Safe with Chrome,
Paint, Audio, Accessories;
Some Models Dropped, Nothing New at This Stage
In what is a massive outbreak of playing it so safe it is taking a huge risk, Harley-Davidson's 2021 Global New Model Year announcement event was heavy on hyperbole and light on initiative - despite what one assumes was its best efforts, inspirational, motivational and aspirational it wasn't.
Recycling 1980s style corporate promo video values and techniques, the presentation was entirely devoid of the kind of authenticity that new generations of consumers live for. The 'Grand Unveil' was basically just a 60 minute promo video that was clearly thrown together in November and December last year - not the kind of interactive live experience that contemporary marketing techniques require.
Which was probably just as well, because the Harley site serving the film had crashed, coming to life on a classic 'Just in Time Inventory' basis.
Carefully trying to annotate the number of times chrome, paint and audio were mentioned, it was simply impossible to keep up with the diet of lightweight, superficial cliches - in fact it is unclear if the word 'engineering' actually got used at all. If it did, then it was only a handful of times at best, and in connection with design, sound and finish, not in connection with actual, you know, making metal things.
The use of the English language deployed was grammatically poor in several places, with employees who look scared to death reading from scripts that had come straight out of the school of writing by people who have no idea what they are writing about - not the kind of scripts that one would expect from an institution with nearly 120 years of motorcycle industry institutional knowledge and empathy.
"devoid of authenticity"
The highlights of the announcement (if they can be called that) centered on the "new" Softail Street Bob 114, though actually the only thing that does appear to be really new about it is the upgrade from the 107" M-8 it should never have been on before.
In fact, the Street Bob aside, the elevation up the engine capacity ladder is virtually non-existent - and Harley still appears to think that leaving the burgeoning middleweight market unserved is still a smart play.
Okay, the new 1250 cc engine that will be in the Pan America will debut towards the end of February, and it is known that there are 750 and 950 versions of it 'in-play' at various stages of gestation, but the Sportster line-up is down one model (the 1200 cc Roadster), leaving the Forty Eight and 883 and 1200 cc iterations of the Iron - and by all reports these may only survive for one more year and have already been dropped in Europe - Harley has not been prepared to invest in making the existing XL engines Euro 5 (or BS6/India) compliant.
The other so-called big news is the audio upgrade with Rockford Fosgate now the branded Tier 1 audio vendor of choice and yes, the over-bloated number of Softails has also been trimmed with three 114" models dropped - the Low Rider (the Low Rider S is still in production), the FXDR and the Softail Deluxe. The less than stellar Street and Street Rod 750 have also gone, just leaving the Street 500 cc as a learner platform.
There are still three CVO models at the top of the range, and a CVO and two other Trikes, but when CEO Jochen Zeitz talked about cutting the model range offer by 30% or more, it had been widely expected that there would be fewer still Softails, fewer (not very many) 'Specials' and there certainly need to be fewer than the (still) nine Tourer options - three of which are described as 'Hot Rod Baggers'.
With the Pan America coming to market in a few weeks, it is to be hoped that there will be more mid-cycle initiatives to build some genuine momentum and excitement if the kind of dealerships and dealer groups that Harley is hanging its hat on are to prosper.
Time is short for The Motor Company, and failing to act convincingly and quickly could be a big mistake. In a chronic failure to "speak millennial", Harley remains steadfastly tone deaf. It continues to demonstrate that it wouldn't know an edge if it fell off one.