Suddenly, there’s a lot of choice in the American bagger category.
The name sounds familiar
It seems crowded in the luxury bagger and touring segments—especially so, as you read through this issue. While only a few years ago there was only one major US-based manufacturer within the segment, now there are two—or three depending on how you look at it: Harley-Davidson and the Polaris-owned Indian Motorcycle and Victory motorcycle companies. Like Harley-Davidson, Polaris has chosen the late summer to officially roll out the new models for the following season, hence the flurry of cruiser news. The timing makes sense for a market so heavily reliant on North American sales as it allows dealers to sell new models before the cold hand of winter clamps down on the front door.
I have been told that one year both Harley and Polaris held new model events in the same spot at the same time with various groups of journalists passing each other on the road. Even though Polaris held press events for both Indian and Victory in Sturgis this year, beyond that cooperative venture, the company still insists upon trenching a vigorous line in the sand between the two brands. Why this is true is open to contemplative straw chewing. Perhaps it’s better to hit two segments than one— that is, if “new” American and “heritage” American can be considered different segments. Polaris can do unusual or unconventional things with one brand without negatively affecting the other. In this case the unusual things mentioned could be done to the Victory machines. Or perhaps people won’t realize the relationship unless they read it somewhere. But there was a flaw in the camouflage these past few months as Polaris named both new models featured in this issue after two of the more interesting wagons of the past 25 years: the Dodge Magnum and the Buick Roadmaster. Unrelated to motorcycles? Not entirely. Both came with prodigious motors (the 5.7-litre versions), an excess of luggage space and unabashed styling that was either love it or hate it. Neither machine was for the introvert.
The same pretty much carries over to both motorcycles: those who love them really love them, which will be true for owners of the Roadmaster and Magnum bikes. The Indian Roadmaster had the more daunting styling challenge as it attempts to integrate both heritage and modern design themes. This can go right or wrong with success being in the eye of the beholder. Styling aside, and evolutionary, hopefully both these motorcycles will have longer runs than the last two iterations of the four wheeled Roadmaster and Magnum.
In Harley-Davidson’s case, bringing back the revised Road Glide as seen on the cover was obviously inevitable. Iconic and right back where it belongs with a few improvements included. But thrown into the lineup is a new trike. Interesting and, as you will read, a different approach to the purpose of a trike—a segment that will only continue to grow in the short-term with a variety of offerings from more manufacturers. However, if we are going to talk about the names of new models, I have to admit to being a touch confused by the nomenclature of Harley’s lithe new trike, the Freewheeler. I realize it rhymes with three-wheeler. Or is it actually like freewheelin’—as in wild, without boundaries, riding to your own internal music? Or is it freeriding as in the snowboarding and mountain biking sense—riding followed by intense expression of creative freedom? Maybe there’s a little bit of all of it.
But names aside it seems as though the big cruisers are a very healthy segment of the market. If you take a look at the inside cover, you will note that BRP is embracing the cruiser riding position with its new Spyder model which we will be reviewing in an upcoming issue. It’s called the F3, and that probably means something to do with three wheels. I best stop postulating.