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Fast Forward to Big Changes

Massive changes are now coming quickly to the moto-industry.

“Where have you gone?” It is not as melancholy as the famous question posed by Simon and Garfunkel of Joe DiMaggio but changes they are a-coming to Harley-Davidson.

Occasionally you have to look past your personal preferences to see the future, and specifically what might be good for the future. The precept holds true for many aspects of life and work. Whoever came up with the phrase, ‘the more things change, the more they stay the same’ must have been trying to cheer up all the people who prefer the status quo. 

It is the speed of change that gets people. If change comes slowly, the increments aren’t noticeable. If change happens overnight or is mandated people tend to get very excited. The change to Harley-Davidson’s lineup came quickly and some aren’t going to appreciate the end of the Dyna models with the introduction of the company’s 2018 bikes. 

Dynas have been a staple if not the favourite line of bikes at Harley-Davidson for a long time, but as Bertrand Gahel notes in his story this issue the end of the Dyna was an opportunity to move cruisers forward into the future. 

The new platform incorporating both the Softails and some former Dynas will be undoubtedly an improved and better performing group of bikes. Of the many things I learned at the Rushmore launch years ago, was how passionate and purposeful Harley’s engineering and design team was in its commitment to always put a better product on the road. 

Is having one line rather than two going to make financial sense? Absolutely. But the end product is going to be cruisers that Harley-Davidson feels will carry the company into the future. Should some riders feel they still need a non-touring machine with dual rear-set shocks there are still the Street 500 and 750 models.

And then there are the missing V-Rods in the 2018 lineup. This is likely still a developing story as Harley is pretty good at keeping things under wraps. There has to be something developing behind closed doors somewhere. 

And what of the mothballed LiveWire? No change there? The electric motorcycle as an option—represented by the LiveWire —seems to be inevitable but it seems this particular change has hit a snag. But you must conclude that the snag will break free. 

France and Britain have announced that they are going to phase out the combustion engine, and more recently China (the world’s largest vehicle market) has announced that it too will do the same although a timetable is not yet in place. Looking at it from an entirely detached perspective, the rise of electric vehicles—provided they get their electricity from a clean source—is a good thing for the planet, even though many think it doesn’t sound like fun. But what is not fun today is tomorrow’s norm. You could argue that propulsion is propulsion and how you get it is irrelevant.  

Other countries are going to follow the lead of France, Britain and China. It is inevitable. Whether it will happen while any of us are still riding remains to be seen. Tesla has proven that there is a sizable market for an all-electric vehicle, and perhaps the LiveWire as a well-styled motorcycle could have done the same. But somewhere along the way, someone at Harley-Davidson must have concluded that here was a change that not enough riders are currently looking for. 

But for those riders looking for the other comforts of tradition, Yamaha has just introduced a good-looking bagger version of its massive air-cooled V-twin Venture TC called, kind of oddly, the Eluder. I get that the name suggests the bike is eluding or escaping something—conformity, the man, parking tickets, a sterile future—but maybe it is also just eluding change.

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