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Is it time to give up on Harley-Davidson?

Harley-Davidson's latest announcement has us questioning whether it is time to give up hoping the American motorcycle manufacturer will change.

motorcycle outside a drive in
Harley-Davidson's new limited edition Hydra Glide Revival.

Harley-Davidson has announced its latest “new model” which will soon hit the streets - the 50s-inspired 2024 Hydra Glide Revival, which retails for $46,995 - and it got me thinking. Is it time to give up on Harley?

Now I'll freely admit this is obviously a rather inflammatory thing to say, but I feel so completely frustrated with what I'm seeing out of Milwaukee I feel like there isn't much other choice.

Harley has a cult-like following and has been making bikes non-stop since 1903. But after a period where they seemed to be turning a corner and teasing some cool modern bikes, with the Pan America debuting the brilliant Rev Max engine, lately, it seems all the Motor Co can produce are overpriced bikes with styling dating back to a time none of us can remember.

Ok, fine, some of us CAN remember the 1950s. I know my 74-year-old dad can probably remember some of it, but come on Harley! You’re latest bike design harkens back to bikes only people in their 80s will remember with any fondness.

I suppose I’m a bit miffed as under its previous CEO, Matt Levatich, Harley was making progress in transforming its business into a modern competitor on a global scale.

We saw not only the electric LiveWire surface, but also the Milwaukee-Eight engine that underpins nearly the entire Harley lineup debuted in 2016, and let’s not forget the Street platform which gave riders an entry point into the brand a stepping stone to those bigger bikes. Development of what was to become Harley’s first adventure-class motorcycle, the Pan America, also started in the 2010s. It was a time when Harley was thinking long-term and was actively trying to appeal to a wider audience of potential customers. 

It was working too, albeit slowly. After years of dismissal, I was starting to feel Harley was starting to shake its old man image and there were some incredible-looking concepts in the pipeline - the ill-fated Bronx streetfighter being one.

But all this innovation meant it was expensive times for Harley, and the result of this bright period of innovation and broadening of horizons was that Levatich was forced out and sneaker expert Jochen Zeitz stepped in and quickly culled everything back to Harley’s core business - bikes for old men with lots of spare money.

It has been bitterly disappointing to watch the good work Harley did in the 2010s developing new platforms and ideas be squandered. Yes, financially Harley is looking better, but just take one look at the current range and you see a lot is lacking.

H-D’s entry point is now a pair of badge-engineered, Chinese-made bikes based on a pair of Benellis with about as much Harley DNA as a beach ball, while the rest of the range are expensive behemoths. The price difference between the X 500 and the Nighster Special is nearly $10,000. But look at the Benelli Leoncino 500 - the bike Harley badge-engineered to make the X 500, and it is at the time of writing a whopping $3,260 CHEAPER.

Maybe I’m cynical, maybe mid-30s guys simply aren't who Harley wants interested in their motorcycles, or maybe I’m just burnt out from seeing so many expensive “special edition” motorcycles touted by manufacturers rather than any genuine options to bring a spark back to motorcycling.

I’ve already given up on some manufacturers - I have long lost any faith in MV Agusta - and it looks like Harley-Davidson could be the next on my list of bikes I’ve lost so much faith in I will simply not bother looking at.

But what do you think? Has Harley almost lost your interest with their lacklustre offerings? 


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