The Harley-Davidson LiveWire® model is an exhilarating electric motorcycle that pushes the boundaries of performance, technology and design in the two-wheel world. When an opportunity presented itself to Harley-Davidson to showcase the LiveWire motorcycle’s capabilities and performance in the most extreme conditions, H-D seized the challenge for the unheralded 13,000 mile off-road trek. The process to accomplish this journey is documented through Harley-Davidson’s podcast series.
Listen to the H-D Podcast on Apple Podcasts and Spotify and subscribe to get new episodes of the show automatically each week.
This six-part series documents how near-production LiveWire models were modified to shred dirt roads, single track, and desert trails over 13,000 miles of extreme off-road conditions.
“Harley-Davidson stands for the timeless pursuit of adventure,” said Jochen Zeitz, Chairman, President and CEO, Harley-Davidson. This podcast series is a premier showcase for how Harley-Davidson’s talented staff of engineers and designers go above and beyond in their mission to create motorcycles that unlock adventures wherever they may lead. These efforts can be experienced in the 2020 LiveWire – a shining example of how Harley-Davidson innovates to lead in the electrification of motorcycling. It’s an experience that can only be truly understood after riding it.”
Utilizing the same talented Harley-Davidson engineers and designers that developed the LiveWire motorcycle, a select group was assembled from the broader development team to modify near-production LiveWire models to complete the journey.
Together, this team designed, modified, and assembled a motorcycle in under 30 days. After initial testing, the team incorporated feedback to finalize ergonomic and storage systems on the bikes. In 60 days, the motorcycles were headed to the southern tip of Argentina.
The modified LiveWire motorcycles used production specification RESS (Rechargeable Energy Storage System) hardware, chassis, and Harley-Davidson Revelation powertrain components. In addition, the motorcycles were modified with prototype rotors, wheels, and tires from the upcoming Harley-Davidson Pan America adventure touring motorcycle, and custom windshield, rear shock, and triple clamps made specifically for this project.
Before delivery, both modified LiveWire motorcycles were evaluated at Harley-Davidson’s Willie G. Davidson Product Development Center for initial testing and ridden under similar development validation conditions at Harley-Davidson’s Proving Grounds facility.
Harley-Davidson invites you to experience the thrill and seamless acceleration of the motorcycle at the center of the adventure, the 2020 LiveWire motorcycle. In celebration of the global premiere of “Long Way Up,” available to stream now exclusively on Apple TV+, with every test ride a rider will receive a complimentary LiveWire t-shirt and limited-edition LiveWire poster. The poster is only available to those who test ride LiveWire models while supplies last.
A Harley-Davidson® LiveWire® motorcycle set all-new records for elapsed time and top speed by an electric-powered production motorcycle on a drag racing course on September 4. Harley-Davidson Screamin’ Eagle/Vance & Hines rider and three-time Pro Stock Motorcycle champion, Angelle Sampey stepped off her Harley-Davidson FXDR Pro Stock competition motorcycle to pilot the LiveWire bike to capture world record-breaking runs on the quarter and eighth-mile, covering the eighth-mile distance in 7.017-seconds and the full quarter-mile course in just 11.156 seconds at 110.35 mph. The 2020 LiveWire motorcycle’s top speed is limited to 110 mph.
The records were set during exhibition runs at the Denso Spark Plugs NHRA U.S. Nationals at the Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis. This is another great pass at a bold future In Harley-Davidson’s quest to lead the electrification of motorcycles.
“Let me tell you what’s amazing,” said Sampey. “That was the first time I rode the LiveWire.” said Sampey, “I could not wait to get it on the track. The LiveWire is so easy to ride. Just twist the throttle and go, and you really go!”
Sampey and her Harley-Davidson Screamin’ Eagle/Vance & Hines teammates, Andrew Hines and Ed Krawiec, made a number of head-to-head drag race runs on stock LiveWire models, with Sampey posting the quickest times. Sampey is the winningest female in motorsports history with three-time Pro Stock Motorcycle championships (2000-2002) and 43 Pro Stock motorcycle wins.
The Harley-Davidson LiveWire motorcycle is an all-new, all-electric model designed to offer riders a thrilling and high-performance motorcycling experience infused with a new level of technology, and the premium look and feel of a Harley-Davidson product. The LiveWire motorcycle is capable of rapid acceleration with just a twist of the throttle – no clutching or gear shifting required.
As Sampey proved at Indy, the instant torque provided by the H-D Revelation powertrain delivers exhilarating acceleration from a stop; the LiveWire motorcycle can rush from 0 to 60 mph (0 to 100 kph) in 3.0 seconds and 60 to 80 mph (100 to 129 kph) in 1.9 seconds. Because maximum torque is always on tap, roll-on acceleration for passing from any speed is outstanding. An optimized center of gravity, rigid aluminum frame and premium adjustable suspension components give the LiveWire motorcycle dynamic handling. With up to 146 miles of range*, performance is optimized for the urban street-rider.
The H-D Revelation electric powertrain produces minimal vibration, very little heat, and minimal sound, all of which enhance rider comfort and creates a unique riding experience, even on the drag strip.
Licensed riders can take a complimentary test ride on the LiveWire motorcycle at select Authorized LiveWire Harley-Davidson® dealerships in the United States, Australia, Canada and most European countries.
*Riding range estimates provided following SAE J2982 Riding Range Test Procedure and are based on expected performance of a fully-charged battery when operated under specified conditions. Actual range will vary depending on riding habits, ambient weather and equipment conditions.
Apple TV+ has announced a trailer for Long Way Up, starring Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman. McGregor and Boorman have two other critically acclaimed motorcycle adventure series, entitled Long Way Round (2004) and Long Way Down (2007). The Long Way Up covers 13,000 miles and spans over 100 days as the two travel from the tip of South America to Los Angeles, California. In the past, the duo has relied on motorcycles featuring internal combustion engines. This time, McGregor and Boorman made the entire trek on Harley-Davidson LiveWire electric motorcycles.
From Press Release:
The trailer for “Long Way Up,” the epic, new Apple Original series from stars Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman is now available. The first three episodes of the 11-part unscripted series will premiere globally on Apple TV+ on Friday, September 18. New episodes will roll out weekly, every Friday.
“Long Way Up” reunites McGregor and Boorman for the ultimate adventure in travel and friendship after more than a decade since their last motorbike adventure around the world. In their most challenging expedition to date, the two cover 13,000 miles over 100 days from Ushuaia at the tip of South America to Los Angeles. In order to contribute to the sustainability of the planet, the duo travels on modified electric Harley-Davidson LiveWire® motorcycles.
Using cutting-edge technology, they travel through 16 border crossings and 13 countries along with their longtime collaborators, directors David Alexanian and Russ Malkin, who follow in the first two electric Rivian trucks ever made.
“Long Way Up” was created and executive produced by Ewan McGregor, Charley Boorman, David Alexanian and Russ Malkin.
Apple TV+ is available on the Apple TV app on iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, iPod touch, Mac, select Samsung and LG smart TVs, Amazon Fire TV and Roku devices, as well as at tv.apple.com, for $4.99 per month with a seven-day free trial. The Apple TV app will be available on Sony and VIZIO smart TVs later this year. For a limited time, customers who purchase a new iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, Mac or iPod touch can enjoy one year of Apple TV+ for free. This special offer is good for three months after the first activation of the eligible device.*
Harley-Davidson’s latest riding initiative, the “Let’s Ride Challenge,” is offering several of prizes, including a custom 2020 Harley-Davidson Low Rider S. Riders can participate in several ways, from logging their rides on the Harley-Davidson app, to demo rides, or taking new rider courses. First and foremost, participants will need to sign up for the “Let’s Ride Challenge.”
Through riding-related activities, participants earn Let’s Ride Challenge entries for a chance to win prizes celebrating the community and spirit of two wheels including a custom 2020 Harley-Davidson Low Rider® S motorcycle and weekly drawings for additional prizes.
“More than building machines, Harley-Davidson stands for the timeless pursuit of adventure,” said Jon Bekefy, General Manager of Brand Marketing. “The Let’s Ride Challenge is Harley-Davidson’s invitation for all riders in this challenging time to rediscover adventure through socially-distanced riding to find freedom for the soul.”
Let’s Ride Challenge
Riders can earn entries by participating in the following:
Ride 601-1200 miles to earn an additional 5 entries
Demo Harley-Davidson® motorcycles
Demo a Harley-Davidson® motorcycle for 5 entries
Take a second demo ride for an additional 5 entries
Take Harley-Davidson Riding Academy New Rider Course and learn to ride to earn 15 entries
Ride Epic Rides
As part of the Let’s Ride Challenge, Harley-Davidson has curated rides from passionate members of the Harley-Davidson community and dealerships to provide new ways to get out of the garage and start riding again.
There are three types of rides to explore through a dealership or through the app, all while promoting safe and socially-distant riding:
Short Rides: It may have been a minute since the last ride around the block or seeing something new. These short rides can help mix up the daily routine.
Day Ride: Nothing helps seize the riding season more than a full day of riding. These day rides help plan an epic day trip.
Overnight Ride: Take a ride to celebrate what it means to get on the open road, all without crossing state lines. These rides will help plan an epic ride while riding responsibly.
We invite all riders, and riders of all skill levels, to celebrate life on two wheels:
Ask a local Harley-Davidson dealership about rides with fellow motorcyclists to experience new ways to interact with the riding community and discover new rides.
Download the Harley-Davidson App to plan a route, share it with friends, track a ride, and find epic rides nearby.
Win a Custom Harley-Davidson Low Rider® S Motorcycle
California resident Diego Cardenas has completed the first known U.S. border-to-border ride aboard a Harley-Davidson LiveWire electric motorcycle. Cardenas’ journey began at the U.S. Mexican border and ended at the U.S. Canadian border, covering over 1,400 miles on his H-D electric motorcycle.
From Press Release:
In the past few months, the world has found new ways to celebrate momentous life achievements. Riding motorcycles has been one such outlet – especially new motorcycles that are groundbreaking, like Harley-Davidson’s first electric motorcycle, LiveWire.
Diego Cardenas, a California resident, was hoping to spend June 30, 2020, in Spain celebrating his 50th birthday. This Spring, he knew he was going to need a new plan, but he wanted it to be something he was passionate about — a trip he could do that allowed him to maintain social distancing but also be memorable and unique. So, he set on a new plan, riding his LiveWire motorcycle from the U.S. Mexican border to the U.S. Canadian border using the West Coast Green Highway, WCGH. The WCGH is a network of electric vehicle DC fast charging stations located every 25 to 50 miles along Interstate 5 and other major roadways in Washington, Oregon, and California.
“I wanted to be a part of Harley-Davidson history and have my future grandkids be able to talk about how their grandfather was the first H-D electric motorcycle owner to do such a ride,” said Cardenas. “I wanted to show the world that electric charging infrastructure is growing and be an inspiration for others to try riding electric motorcycles like the LiveWire.”
On June 22, Diego started his epic trip from San Ysidro, CA. He rode over 1,400 miles and on his 50th birthday, June 30, he reached his goal by making it to the U.S. Canadian border town of Blaine, WA. Along the way, he did live social media reports of his progress and fans following along on his journey were able to meet him in person and cheer him on. He also made plenty of stops along the way to do a bit of sightseeing with his wife and eight-year old daughter who were along on the trip in a car.
“The trip was unbelievable, such a great journey,” said Cardenas. “The West Coast Green Highway is a really good idea, there are so many options that you can be confident you will get to where you need to go. Also, if you pull up and cannot use one charger, you have additional ones super close by. It’s darn awesome! Please spread the word, this is so doable. If you have an electric motorcycle, or any bike, just get out and ride during these challenging times. Do a road trip, it helps during these stressful times to free your mind and body to see new things.”
Cardenas’ journey can be found at this link, he also is the founder and creator of this page. His mission for the group is to bring together electric vehicle and non-EV riders to ask questions, get ideas and support the EV motorcycle riding community.
This week Harley-Davidson wrapped up its first-ever weeklong motorcycle show hosted virtually on the brand’s Instagram page. Cleverly named “The No Show,” it featured builders invited by H-D and the postponed Mama Tried, Congregation Vintage Bike & Car, and Born-Free Motorcycles shows. More than 60 contestants from around the world participated, posting images and videos of their custom builds that varied radically in style– with three standout builds grabbing titles.
When the dust settled and the votes were cast, three winners rose to the top in three distinct categories:
Media Choice Award: chosen and presented by a journalist panel from industry-leading motorcycle publications.
H-D Styling & Design Award: chosen and presented by Brad Richards, vice president of styling & design at Harley-Davidson and long-time garage builder.
Harley-Davidson Museum Award: chosen by museum staff and presented by Bill Davidson, vice president of the Harley-Davidson Museum and great-grandson of Harley-Davidson’s Co-Founder William A. Davidson.
The winner of the “Media Choice Award” is Ben Zales of Burbank, California for his custom 1963 Harley-Davidson Panhead motorcycle. Journalists approved of the bike’s unique take and its ‘60’s era influence. Zales fabricated the bike in his home garage, building the tank, pipes, seat and controls from scratch. The interesting tear-dropped oil tank is designed to match the fuel tank, kicker-pedal and seat, visually tying it all together. Zales is no stranger to the custom bike scene, as he is a Born-Free 10 and 11 invited builder, as well as carrying the esteemed title of being a Mooneyes Hot Rod Custom Show 2019 invited guest. Check out a full walkaround of Zales’ build on Instagram.
Picking up the “H-D Styling & Design Award” is Michael Lange of Waukesha, Wisconsin for his customized 1921 Harley-Davidson Banjo Two-cam Board Track Racer. Lange cleverly converted a single-cam Harley-Davidson into a twin-cam and also fabricated the cam chest, cover and gear rack – not to mention the camshafts, gears and oil pump. Notable features include H-D factory racing cylinder casting from a board track racer, and the gas tank is hand fabricated. Brad Richards of Harley-Davidson’s styling and design team said, “The custom build stood out for its beauty, but also as a pure racing machine with a re-engineered motor that keeps the bike performing.” Lange has been an invited builder to the Mama Tried Motorcycle Show since its inception. Click here to see a walkaround of the build.
Taking home the “Harley-Davidson Museum Award” is Christian Newman of Buffalo, New York for his svelte, all stainless-steel custom 1940 Harley-Davidson Knucklehead motorcycle that he designed and fabricated. H-D Museum staff chose Newman due to the thoughtfulness of attention to detail that his build showcases. Particularly interesting elements of the build include narrowing the transmission 2 inches, running the oil through the frame, feed, return and vent. The bike also boasts a sprocket and brake rotor mounted on the exterior of the frame, girder fork, open rockers, and vintage glass lenses in handmade housings. The handlebar, grips and controls are handmade as well. Newman is a Born-Free 12 invited builder and to check out his latest creation, click this link.
To check out all the entries into the The No Show, visit Harley-Davidson’s official Instagram page and scroll through the dizzying array of bikes on display, accompanied by a personal video of each builder, describing their custom motorcycles in detail. Limited edition merchandise from The No Show is available for purchase, with all proceeds benefitting the invited builders directly.
Those who missed the show can visit Harley-Davidson’s Instagram page to scroll through the array of bikes and tap into their favorites where they’ll see a personal video of each builder walking them through his or her masterpiece. A virtual “stage” to listen to acoustic sets is also still available as well as a “merch booth” featuring ultra-limited-edition The No Show t-shirts that can be purchased while supplies last, with 100 percent of T-shirt sales going directly to benefit invited builders.
Here is an attractive little trail bike, built by Harley’s former Italian subsidiary, Aermacchi. Oddly, virtually nothing has been written about this model in the American moto-press. Your scribe has looked many places, and could not find a single road test. More than a dozen Harley histories are on my shelves, some of which never even mention the Italian connection, which went from 1960 to 1978. There is reasonable reportage on the four-stroke Sprint models, less on the two-stroke Rapido 125 and Baja 100, so I am making do with what we have.
Harley should be proud of the Italian connection, because it provided the company with four international GP racing victories when Italian road-racer Walter Villa won the 250 class in 1974, ’75 and ’76, doubling up in 1976 by winning the 350 class as well — riding a parallel-twin two-stroke built by Aermacchi with Harley-Davidson writ large on the fairing.
The name Aermacchi comes from combining the two words from the previous company, Aeronautica Macchi, with which Giulio Macchi began producing airplanes in 1912. However, being on the losing side in World War II, the company had to stop making airplanes and instead moved into basic transportation — the motorcycle. Early models used a four-stroke single from 175cc to 350cc with the cylinder lying forward, almost flat.
In 1960 Harley, aware of the popularity of bikes like Honda’s small OHC twins, looked at its own small bikes, a couple of rather antiquated 165cc two-strokes that had begun with the 125 Model S in 1948. Which was based on a German DKW bike, the designs for which had been given to the U.S. as part of war reparations. Now the Milwaukee suits tapped on the door of another WWII foe and cut a deal for half the company. In 1961 the first 250 models, called Wisconsins, arrived at dealers — shortly after which it was noted that this bike had nothing whatsoever to do with Wisconsin, and the name was quickly changed to Sprint.
In 1965 the first Italian-built two-stroke came into the country, a little 50cc model that the Harley dealers really objected to. Two years later that grew to 65cc, which did not help much, while the last of the DKW-based two-strokes vanished. Then the 125cc Rapido two-stroke came along in 1968, which was anything but rapid.
1969 was an interesting year for Harley, as an outfit called American Machine Foundry bought the motorcycle company. AMF was best known for selling golf carts and bowling equipment, and thought its sporting knowledge would work well with a motorcycle company. It did not. We won’t get into the Harley-Davidson snowmobile.
For 1970 the little Baja 100 two-stroke appeared, an off-road bike that appealed to quite a few riders. And it won its class in the 1971 Baja 1000 race. This was a serious effort by Harley to build a great desert racer and enduro machine, and they got a lot of help from the racers themselves. The engine was a Rapido cylinder sleeved down to 98cc. An automatic gas-oil mix was developed to simplify fueling.
Obviously AMF thought that this two-stroke connection was good, and bought the entire Aermacchi Company in 1974. Aermacchi could still pursue its European market, with Walter Villa’s racing, while the profits would go to Milwaukee. The following year was the last for the lone remaining four-stroke, a 250 Sprint.
And it was the first for the SXT-125, a well-designed trail bike that was meant to appeal to the rough-and-ready folk who had liked the Baja 100. The engineers at the Aermacchi plant in Varese built a slightly oversquare engine, with a 56mm bore, 50mm stroke, using piston-port induction. The cast aluminum cylinder liner had a chrome-plated bore, which was quite useful considering the rather serious 10.8:1 compression ratio, providing some 13 rear-wheel horsepower at a little over 7,000 rpm. Kickstart only.
An oil container under the gas tank held a little more than three pints; this had no sight window and the rider had to look carefully into the opening up by the steering head to see if more needed to be added. A Mikuni pump pushed the oil into the intake to mix it with the gas flowing through a 27mm Dell’Orto carburetor. Oil metering was controlled by the throttle, with one cable running to the pump, another to the carburetor.
Electrics were simple enough, with a flywheel-alternator charging a 12-volt battery, and easily adjusted points. Turn signals were mandatory. Up on the dash were two round instrument cases, one being the speedometer. The other, which did not hold a tachometer, served to house the ignition key and lights for high beam and ignition.
Gears took the power from the crankshaft to the wet clutch, then through a five-speed transmission with its own oil supply. The transmission sprocket had 14 teeth, the rear sprocket, 61. A useful primary starter allowed the bike to be kickstarted in gear after pulling in the clutch.
The frame used double downtubes, with a cradle running beneath the engine and serving as a sort of skid plate. A Ceriani fork did a good job up front, with Betor shocks at the back, adjustable for spring preload. Wheels were a 3.00 x 19 at the front, 3.50 x 18 at the back, both with five-inch, full-hub drum brakes. Wet weight was a respectable 240 pounds.
Seat height was almost 30 inches, with a saddle long enough to move about comfortably. No passenger footpegs. Good-looking machine, with an upswept muffler and 2.7-gallon gas tank. But dealers were not pushing them, and sales did not meet expectations. So what did AMF do? Sell the whole shebang in 1978 to an Italian company called Cagiva. And the “Cagiva HD SXT 125” became a bestseller in Europe.
P.S. Should any readers have information about this bike, please contact us at [email protected]
In addition to the weather phenomenon, the word lightning means fast, as in the speed of light or 186,000 miles per second. This motorcycle is not quite that fast; its speedo only goes to 140 miles per hour. But the X1 does get up there in an earthbound way, with a top speed close to that 140 mph, and a quarter-mile time in the 11s. Not bad for a bike powered by Harley’s 1,203cc Sportster engine.
Erik Buell, a longtime chassis engineer at Harley-Davidson and a serious racer, decided to go off on his own in the mid-1980s. His last accomplishment at Harley was the frame in the FXR series, which was greeted with great enthusiasm when introduced in 1982. Eric was a dyed-in-the-leather Harley enthusiast, having talked his way into a job in Milwaukee after graduating from the University of Pittsburgh.
In 1987 he began producing the RR1000 Battle Twin, building a drastically new frame holding leftover XR1000 engines, which had been used in those sporty Sportsters that did not sell well. When that XR supply ran out he moved to the 1,200cc engine, and did quite well with the Battle Twin line. Harley was so excited by this turn of events that in 1993 it bought 49 percent of the Buell Motorcycle Company, which gave Eric financial comfort.
In 1996 he came up with the S1 Lightning, a return to his basic concept of a “fundamental” sportbike — a bit too fundamental for many riders. He built 5,000 of these and had to listen to praise and damnation concerning its performance and appearance. Late in 1998 he elected to make it a little more pleasant to ride and change the look slightly, hence the X1.
The chassis is the most interesting aspect of the bike. The frame, a bit stiffer than that on the S1, was made of tubular steel in the form of a trellis, with sections coming down on both sides of the cylinders. A backbone connected to one of the most notable aspects of the bike, a subframe that was perhaps the largest aluminum casting seen on a bike. And it carried a modestly improved seat that held two riders without too many complaints. Beneath the seat a large rectangular aluminum swingarm helped the belt final drive get to the rear axle.
Buells had often been criticized for their limited turning radius, and on the X1 the steering head was moved forward slightly, giving an extra four degrees in steering lock. Still tight, but better…says the photographer who had to turn this bike around. A 41mm upside-down Showa fork with a rake of 23 degrees gave 4.7 inches of travel — and trail of 3.5 inches. It was fully adjustable, with spring preload along with compression and rebound damping.
The rear end used a single Showa shock absorber, which wasn’t really at the rear but was laying flat under the engine. There wasn’t room for the shock anywhere else, as the bike had a rather short wheelbase of 55 inches, five inches less than on the stock Sportster. Most shocks rely on compression as their standard, but this one used tension, pulling apart in response to a bump rather than pushing down. It had full adjustability, including ride height, with adjustments being best left to experts.
Cast wheels were 17 inches in diameter, with Nissin calipers, 6-piston in front and 1-piston out back, squeezing single discs. Because the Showa fork was already drilled for it, this bike’s owner added a second front brake disc and caliper.
And the engine? A mildly modified Sportster, an air-cooled four-stroke 45-degree V-twin displacing 1,203cc with an 88.9 x 96.8mm bore and stroke, and, yes, hydraulically adjusted valves, two per cylinder. The trick here was Eric’s Isoplanar rubber mounting system for this shaker. A standard Sportster shook like Hades when even mildly revved, and none of this was felt on the Buell machines. The engine was actually part of the chassis, with all the vibes going into a single longitudinal plane, and apparently this increased frame rigidity. Which requires understanding beyond the limits of this scribe.
Buell had developed his Thunderstorm cylinders and pistons for the S1, with better porting and 10:1 compression. A dynamometer rated the rear-wheel output at 85 horses at 6,500 rpm, an engine speed no rider on a stock Sportster would ever want to attain. For the X1 Eric tossed the 38mm Keihin carb and bolted on a 45mm Walbro throttle body using a VDO injection-control computer, labeled Dynamic Digital Fuel Injection. There was no increase in power; the system just made the engine run more smoothly. A triple-row primary ran power back to a 5-speed transmission and belt final drive.
The look was pretty sporty, beginning with the abbreviated front fender and a very small wind deflector over the headlight. When this bike came out of the factory it had big black boxes on both sides of the 4.2-gallon gas tank, the right one feeding the airbox and fuel injection, the left intended to keep the rear cylinder cool enough to not roast the rider’s leg. Underneath the engine was a spoiler intended to protect the shock and conceal the huge muffler. However, the owner of this X1 prefers the “fundamental” look and removed the black boxes and spoiler. He is careful about jumping curbs, as there are only five inches of ground clearance.
Dry weight is 440 pounds, 50 pounds less than the stock Sportster. People still complained about the seat, the vibration and a number of other things, but they were just pansies. The bike was intended for seriously sporty riders who didn’t mind a little discomfort as they kicked butt with an old-fashioned engine in a new-fashioned chassis. In 1999 the X1 and the Ducati 900 Supersport cost about the same; take your pick.
V-twin baggers are as American as baseball and apple pie. Big, stylish and built for our wide-open highways, they embody the self-expression and freedom that make motorcycles objects of obsession rather than just vehicles. America’s two major bagger manufacturers — Harley-Davidson and Indian — are well-known brands from coast to coast, even among folks who’ve never ridden one, and their histories and rivalries stretch back more than a century. Being so steeped in tradition, Harley and Indian take great pains to satisfy their base, building motorcycles that conform to the expectations of loyal cruiser riders.
Modern baggers must strike a delicate balance. On the outside they need to look a certain way — a big V-twin front and center, a long, low profile and muscular styling with bodywork covered in rich paint. But on the inside they need to meet increasingly stringent emissions, sound and safety standards, provide modern levels of comfort and reliability and deliver an engaging riding experience in terms of performance, technology and features.
These two 2020 baggers, Harley-Davidson’s Road Glide Special and Indian’s Challenger Limited, strike that balance remarkably well. Being the latest incarnation of a model family that’s been in Harley’s lineup for 40 years — starting with the 1980 FLT, then known as the Tour Glide — the Road Glide is the seasoned veteran in this comparison, and its signature feature is a frame-mounted sharknose fairing with dual headlights. Powering the Road Glide Special is the air-cooled, 114ci (1,868cc) version of Harley’s Milwaukee-Eight 45-degree V-twin with pushrod-actuated overhead valves. The Challenger is Indian’s newest model platform and the first to be powered by the PowerPlus 108 (1,768cc), a liquid-cooled, 60-degree V-twin with valves actuated by single overhead cams. Like the Road Glide, the Challenger has a frame-mounted fairing, a first for Indian.
As head-to-head competitors, the Road Glide Special and Challenger Limited are similar in many ways. Their fixed fairings have bright LED headlights and large vents that bring fresh air into the cockpit, and both have long floorboards and protective highway bars. Their rumbling V-twins have hydraulic valve adjusters, throttle-by-wire and rear-cylinder deactivation, and both send power to their rear wheels through 6-speed transmissions with assist clutches and belt final drive. Both have cruise control, electronic rider aids (cornering ABS, cornering traction control and drag torque slip control — standard on the Indian, optional on the Harley), keyless ignition and touchscreen infotainment systems with audio, navigation, Bluetooth and USB ports. They have low seat heights, 6-gallon fuel tanks, cast wheels with tire pressure monitoring, top-loading lockable saddlebags and a pair of non-locking fairing pockets. Even their as-tested prices are separated by just $45 and their curb weights differ by a single pound—the Road Glide Special costs $28,794 and weighs 847 pounds; the Challenger Limited costs $28,749 and weighs 848 pounds.
Despite so many similarities, these bikes are anything but clones. Specs and features are one thing, style and personality are quite another. With nearly every component bathed in black, a tinted shorty windscreen, minimal badging and foregoing traditional metal flake and gloss in favor of matte Barracuda Silver Denim paint, the Road Glide Special is dark and brooding. (The FLTRXS is available in five other colors, all with gloss finishes.) The Challenger Limited, on the other hand, grabs your attention with Ruby Metallic paint, plenty of chrome and multiple Indian logos visible from every angle. (It’s also available in two other gloss colors, while the Challenger Dark Horse comes in three matte colors.)
More differences between the Harley and Indian emerged after logging hundreds of miles in their saddles. Cruisers are tuned for low-end torque, helping heavy bikes — especially those loaded two-up with full saddlebags — pull away quickly from stops and make brisk passes. These baggers deliver ample torque, sending more than 100 lb-ft to the rear wheel, but they go about it in different ways. The Road Glide has great engine feel, with crisp throttle response, right-now thrust and a deeply satisfying V-twin pulse. The impressive refinement that went into the Milwaukee-Eight V-twin — more power and torque, less heat, less vibration at idle and smoother operation — is why we selected the entire M8-equipped Touring family as our 2017 Motorcycle of the Year. On Jett Tuning’s dyno, the Harley generated smooth power curves with nary a dip or blip, torque rising to 104.5 lb-ft at 2,900 rpm and dropping off thereafter while horsepower increases linearly to 78.5 at 4,800 rpm. Due to its low rev ceiling (5,100 rpm) and narrow torque spread, short shifting the Harley helps it stay in its meaty midrange.
With its liquid cooling, oversquare bore/stroke and SOHC valve layout, Indian’s PowerPlus generates more output with less displacement and revs higher than the M8. Starting at 2,400 rpm, the Indian’s advantage over the Harley increases steadily, the gap widening to 28 lb-ft of torque and 27 horsepower by the time the Harley’s rev limiter kicks in. The Indian keeps going, hitting a peak of 108 horsepower at 5,600 rpm before finally signing off at 6,300 rpm. With a broader spread of torque — more than 100 lb-ft are on tap from 2,400-5,600 rpm, reaching 113.3 lb-ft at 3,300 rpm — and much higher peak power than the Harley, the Indian likes to be revved. The Challenger has three ride modes that adjust throttle response, with Standard mode being fairly soft (Rain mode is even softer) and Sport mode delivering the goods immediately without abruptness.
These heavy machines can be a handful when pushing them around the garage or negotiating parking lots, but they feel well balanced and easy to maneuver at speed. With much of their weight carried low they roll in and out of curves gracefully, and their generous torque propels them out of corners with authority. About 31 degrees of cornering clearance on either side means they can be heeled way over before anything starts to scrape, especially with some extra preload dialed into the rear suspension. Despite having “race-spec” radial-mount Brembo calipers up front, the Indian’s front brake lever feels vague and requires a firm pull to generate full stopping power. In contrast, the Harley’s front brakes have the perfect amount of initial bite and better response at the lever.
If you’re ready to lay down some serious miles, these baggers have nearly everything you need (except heated grips — a curious omission for premium models costing nearly $29,000). But they’re not created equal when it comes to touring comfort. With a lower laden seat height (25.9 inches vs. 26.5 inches on the Indian), you sit deeper in the Harley’s cockpit, with hips rolled back in the dished seat. Because the seat is U-shaped front to back and has a slick finish, it’s difficult to sit farther back; hit one bump and you slide back down.
And bumps can be a problem on the Harley. Most of the time the Road Glide Special provides a comfortable, compliant ride, but its rear shock, which is firmly damped and allows only 2.1 inches of travel, responds harshly to pavement ripples, cracks and seams. Big bumps and potholes send shock waves right up the spine and can bounce a rider out of the seat. Also, the Harley’s fairing sits much farther forward (it’s a long reach to the infotainment screen), its windscreen offers no adjustment and the two large vents flanking the headlights cannot be closed so a high volume of air always flows into the cockpit. This comparison took place in December, and testers always felt colder and more buffeted by the wind on the Harley than on the Indian.
The Challenger Limited provides a more comfortable and enjoyable riding experience. Its seat is flatter and has more grip and support, its long tank is narrower between the knees and its fairing provides more wind protection. The Indian’s fairing is closer to the rider and its windscreen is electrically adjustable over a 3-inch range — raising the screen all the way up and closing the fairing vents creates a calm, quiet space for the rider. With 5.1 inches of suspension travel in the front and 4.5 inches in the rear — 0.5 inch and 2.4 inches more than the Harley, respectively — and more compliant damping, the Indian is much better at insulating the rider and passenger from rough roads. Even at a sporting pace with riders well over 200 pounds in the saddle, the Indian never bottomed out nor reacted harshly.
The Road Glide Special was clearly Indian’s benchmark for the Challenger Limited. At the press launch last October, Indian provided a side-by-side comparison of their performance and features as well as a Road Glide Special for us to ride. With Indian’s sales being about one-tenth of Harley’s, one way to improve its market share is to offer more bang for the buck on competing models. Indian has done so in terms of performance with an all-new, liquid-cooled engine that makes more power and torque and offers the flexibility of throttle-response modes. It has done so in terms of convenience with a more modern and user-friendly infotainment system with higher audio output (100W vs. 50W on the Harley) as well as extra features like central saddlebag locks and a keyless locking fuel cap. And it has done so in terms of comfort with a more supportive seat, better wind protection and superior ride quality, all in a package that costs and weighs nearly the same.
Healthy competition is good for the industry and good for riders because it provides us with better motorcycles. Since the launch of Project Rushmore for 2014, Harley-Davidson has continuously raised the bar with improvements to its engines, chassis, comfort, convenience and other features. The 2014 model year also happens to be when Indian launched its all-new Thunder Stroke V-twin and Chief lineup, reigniting an old rivalry and spurring a feverish pace of innovation from both companies. The 2020 Road Glide Special is better than ever, but the Challenger Limited surpasses it.
Keep scrolling for more detailed photos after the spec charts….
2020 Harley-Davidson Road Glide Special Specs
Base Price: $27,299 Price as Tested: $28,794 (RDRS, color) Warranty: 2 yrs., unltd. miles Website: harley-davidson.com
Type: Air-cooled, transverse 45-degree V-twin Displacement: 1,868cc (114ci) Bore x Stroke: 102.0 x 114.0mm Compression Ratio: 10.5:1 Valve Train: OHV, 4 valves per cyl. Valve Insp. Interval: NA (self-adjusting) Fuel Delivery: Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection Lubrication System: Dry sump, 5.2-qt. cap. Transmission: 6-speed, hydraulically actuated wet assist-and-slipper clutch Final Drive: Belt
Like the stripped-down Electra Glide Standard introduced for 2019, the Softail Standard was designed to deliver an essential, no-frills cruiser experience. With a lean bobber profile, a Softail chassis and a Milwaukee-Eight V-twin, the Softail Standard is a back-to-basics Big Twin.
Offered only in Vivid Black, it has a solo seat that exposes
the chopped rear fender and a smooth, 3.5-gallon fuel tank that shows off the
frame and engine. The all-black Milwaukee-Eight 107 V-twin engine is
highlighted with polished rocker, primary and timer covers and a center-bolt,
round air cleaner. With chrome shields and mufflers, the 2-into-2 offset
shotgun exhaust enhances the Softail Standard’s long, low profile.
Classic laced wheels (19-inch front, 16-inch rear) with
steel rims are finished in brilliant chrome, and the front end features
clear-coated fork sliders, polished triple-clamps, polished top clamp and
riser, and chromed headlamp bezel and turn signals. A mini-ape handlebar adds a
touch of attitude.
With the look of a classic hardtail frame, the Softail swingarm is stout for dynamic handling and the rear coil-over shock is hidden under the seat. Removing the seat allows access to the shock for easy preload adjustments. The Softail Standard has a Showa dual bending valve fork, front and rear disc brakes, and standard ABS.
Priced at $13,599, the 2020 Softail Standard is affordable and provides a solid foundation for customization. Harley-Davidson has created four Genuine Motor Parts & Accessories packages for the Softail Standard model, and they’re offered at a discounted price when ordered as a package (price does not include labor for installation by an authorized Harley-Davidson dealer):
Day Tripper Custom Package ($1,409.95): Combine classic bobber style with next-level versatility by adding a pillion and a 21-inch detachable sissy bar with pad so a passenger can come along for the ride. This package also includes passenger footpegs and mounts, forward foot controls, and a black leather Single-Sided Swingarm Bag designed to hold essentials.
Coastal Custom Package ($1,599.95): Capture the elements of the performance-oriented, West Coast style. Components include a Softail Quarter Fairing, black anodized aluminum Moto Bar handlebar and matching 5.5-inch tall riser, a Bevel two-up seat and passenger footpegs, and BMX-style foot pegs from the rugged 80GRIT Collection.
Touring Custom Package ($1,699.95): This package outfits the Softail Standard model for the long haul, with a comfortable Sundowner two-up seat and passenger footpegs, a 14-inch-high light smoke quick-release windshield, classic black Detachables saddlebags, and a 14.5-inch detachable sissy bar and backrest pad.
Performance Custom Package ($1,299.95): Amplify throttle response and mid-range acceleration with a Screamin’ Eagle Stage II Torque kit for the Milwaukee-Eight 107 engine and a Screamin’ Eagle Pro Street Tuner to dial it in. Complete the package with a free-flowing Screamin’ Eagle Heavy Breather Performance Air Cleaner and Screamin’ Eagle Street Cannon mufflers for a deep-bass exhaust note. It’s a 50-state street legal, factory-engineered performance upgrade that retains the original equipment factory warranty when installed by an authorized Harley-Davidson dealer.