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.
Factory installation offers the customer an attainable
custom paint option that eliminates the need to either re-paint the original
components or install an accessory paint set that leaves take-off painted parts
on the shop floor. The Eagle Eye Special Edition Paint Option finish meets
demanding Harley-Davidson standards for quality and durability, and is backed
by the Harley-Davidson limited warranty.
The Eagle Eye paint option is executed on a brilliant yellow
base color with a glossy clear coat finish. A design highlight is a black eagle
graphic with spread wings that flows from the right side of the fuel tank to
the right side of the fairing. A simple Bar & Shield logo is on the left
side of the tank. Harley-Davidson script is aligned on the outside edge of each
saddlebag lid, and the saddlebag latches are color-matched. The special edition
paint is applied to the fairing, fuel tank, front and rear fenders, saddlebags and
Harley-Davidson has announced two mid-year additions to its
2020 lineup: the return of the CVO Road Glide and a limited-edition Fat Boy 30th
2020 Harley-Davidson CVO Road Glide
Joining the CVO Limited, CVO Street Glide and CVO Tri Glide
in Harley-Davidson’s ultra-premium Custom Vehicle Operations lineup is the CVO
Road Glide, with its distinctive frame-mounted sharknose fairing. Like other
CVO models, it’s powered by the Milwaukee-Eight 117 V-twin, which makes a
claimed 125 lb-ft of torque.
Standard features on the 2020 CVO Road Glide include H-D
Connect, the Reflex Defensive Rider Systems electronics package, Kahuna
Collection components, Boom! Box GTS with Premium Boom! Audio, a Boom! Audio
30K Bluetooth Helmet Headset, a low-profile two-piece fuel tank console with
lighted CVO logo, a Fang Front Spoiler, a Screamin’ Eagle Heavy Breather
intake, Knockout 21-inch front and 18-inch rear wheels and more.
For 2020 there is a single color choice: Premium Sand Dune
with pearl topcoat and subtle graphics highlighted by Smoked Satin Chrome,
Gloss Black and Black Onyx finishes. Front and rear wheels are finished in
Gloss Black/Smoked Satin, and the Heavy Breather air cleaner is finished in
Pricing for the 2020 CVO Road Glide starts at $40,999.
Harley-Davidson is celebrating three decades of the iconic
Fat Boy with a limited-edition 30th Anniversary model—only 2,500 will be built,
each serialized with a number plate on the fuel tank console.
Introduced for the 1990 model year, the “Fat Boy took the
look, proportions and silhouette of a 1949 Hydra-Glide motorcycle and
completely modernized it for a new generation of riders,” explains Brad
Richards, Harley-Davidson Vice President of Styling and Design. “Those riders
appreciated our post-war design DNA but also found themselves drawn to the
clean simplicity of contemporary industrial design. Each of these elements was captured
in the new 2018 version of the Fat Boy model. For this 30th Anniversary model
we wanted to create something very special, so we leaned into the popularity of
darker finishes and a limited run/serialized strategy to make the bike truly
unique and exclusive.”
The Fat Boy 30th Anniversary offers a bold reinterpretation of the original with dark finishes and a single color option, Vivid Black. The cast-aluminum Lakester disc wheels are finished in Satin Black with machined highlights. The blacked-out Milwaukee-Eight 114 powertrain is finished with engine covers in gloss black and subtle bronze-tone lower rocker covers and timer cover script. The exhaust finished in a Black Onyx, a durable physical vapor deposition paint finish that reveals the underlying chrome in bright light. A Vivid Black headlamp nacelle, handlebar and controls as well as a new bronze-tone waterslide Fat Boy tank logo complete the dark look that is distinctive from the regular production model.
Based on the Harley-Davidson Softail platform launched in 2018, the Fat Boy redefines an icon with power and presence. The entire Fat Boy front end is massive and topped with an LED headlamp in a newly shaped nacelle. The Lakester disc aluminum wheels update one of the Fat Boy’s defining styling features, with a 160mm front and a 240mm rear tire that deliver a factory custom look.
Pricing for the 2020 Fat Boy 30th Anniversary starts at $21,949.
Harley-Davidson made some waves at EICMA this week, showing off two models it teased in 2018, the Pan-America adventure-tourer and the Bronx streetfighter. Both are powered by a new liquid-cooled 60-degree V-twin engine platform called the Revolution Max — 1,250cc in the Pan America and 975cc in the Bronx. Harley also confirmed that both models will launch in late 2020.
The Revolution Max is a bold new step for a company invested so heavily in (air-cooled) tradition — although perhaps not as bold as its LiveWire electric motorcycle unveiled earlier this year and now on sale at H-D dealerships nationwide. (Read our First Ride Review here.) Harley says the Revolution Max is designed to minimize weight and maximize performance, with a narrow profile that integrates into the bike as a stressed member of the frame. It also features a counter-balancer for smooth and comfortable operation.
Harley claims performance targets of more than 145 horsepower and 90 lb-ft of torque from the Revolution Max 1250, and more than 115 horsepower and 70 lb-ft of torque from the Revolution Max 975.
A few other details about the new Pan America and Bronx were released as well, including a collaboration with Brembo to create a new radial monoblock caliper that complements Harley’s unique design, and a continuing partnership with Michelin to develop co-branded tires specifically for each model.
Thanks to a smattering of new images (scroll down to see them all), we can also glean a bit more info about the new bikes.
The biggest news to come out of Milwaukee for the 2020 model year is the all-new LiveWire electric motorcycle, which we’ve already ridden and reviewed. Harley-Davidson has announced the wider availability of technological features that debuted on the LiveWire, as well as several new or updated models, including the Low Rider S, Road Glide Limited, Heritage Classic and three CVO models.
First seen on the LiveWire, H-D Connect is a subscription-based
cellular service that allows riders to connect with their motorcycle using
their smartphone and the Harley-Davidson app. H-D Connect provides key vehicle information
(e.g., battery voltage, fuel level, available range, riding statistics and
more) as well as remote security monitoring, including tamper alerts and stolen
vehicle assistance. H-D Connect is a standard feature on 2020 Touring (except
Road King/S and Electra Glide Standard models), Tri Glide Ultra, CVO models and
LiveWire, and it includes free service for one year.
Reflex Defensive Rider Systems (RDRS)
Also seen on the LiveWire, Reflex Defensive Rider Systems (RDRS) is a suite of electronic riding assistance features, including cornering enhanced linked braking, ABS, traction control and drag-torque slip control; hill hold control; and tire-pressure monitoring. All RDRS features are standard on CVO models (though on the CVO Tri Glide, nothing is “cornering enhanced”), and they are available as options on all Touring models except the Electra Glide Standard.
2020 Harley-Davidson Low Rider S
Chopper-style Low Rider models have been in Harley-Davidson’s lineup almost continuously since 1977. When Dyna models were rolled into the Softail family for 2018, the Low Rider got a new chassis and a Milwaukee-Eight 107ci V-twin. The last Low Rider S model, which we reviewed in 2016, was built around a 110-cubic-inch Screamin’ Eagle Twin Cam V-twin. For 2020, the Softail-based Low Rider S flexes its muscles with a Milwaukee-Eight 114 that churns out 119 lb-ft of torque at 3,000 rpm (claimed).
Radiate cast wheels (19-inch front, 16-inch rear) finished in Matte Dark Bronze, a 1-inch-diameter motocross-style handlebar on 4-inch straight risers, a color-matched mini-fairing, a high-back solo seat and black finishes on the powertrain and mufflers add plenty of attitude.
The Low Rider S also gets premium suspension components (including a 43mm USD fork) and triple-disc brakes with standard ABS. It’s available in Vivid Black and Barracuda Silver (shown above), and pricing starts at $17,999.
2020 Harley-Davidson Road Glide Limited
Replacing the Road Glide Ultra model for 2020 is the new Road Glide Limited, which offers premium luxury-touring features, including painted pin striping, a gloss-finish inner fairing, heated grips, Slicer II Contrast Bright wheels and new tank, front and rear fender medallions. The Road Glide’s distinctive shark-nose fairing has triple split stream vents that improve airflow and reduce buffeting.
The Road Glide Limited is powered by the Twin-Cooled Milwaukee-Eight
114, and features premium suspension, Reflex linked Brembo brakes with ABS, a Boom!
Box GTS infotainment system with color touchscreen, H-D Connect and dual
Daymaker LED headlamps.
A new Black Finish Option (shown in the photos above), which is also available for the 2020 Ultra Limited, includes Slicer II cast wheels finished in Gloss Black; fuel tank, front and rear fender medallions with a Gloss Black fill surrounded by a Charcoal border; Gloss Black powdercoat powertrain, covers and exhaust; black Tour-Pak luggage carrier hinges, latches and rack, console, footboards, handlebar, gauge trim rings, hand control levers, mirrors and foot controls; black LED Daymaker headlamp, trim ring and LED fog lamps (Ultra Limited only); and black fork lowers, fork covers, engine guard and saddlebag guards.
Pricing for the 2020 Road Glide Limited starts at $28,299.
2020 Harley-Davidson Heritage Classic
The Softail-chassis Heritage Classic has been re-styled for 2020, swapping the previous model’s blacked-out look for a generous helping of chrome. (The Heritage Classic 114 model powered by the Milwaukee-Eight 114 engine will retain the model’s original, blacked-out look.) The updated Heritage Classic has a bright powertrain with chrome air cleaner and covers; chrome steel laced wheels; chrome headlamp bucket and auxiliary light buckets, bright fork legs and chrome fork covers and nacelle; chrome rear fender struts and side covers; a chrome console; a polished stainless steel handlebar with a chrome riser and top clamp; and a full clear windscreen with chrome support hardware.
The Heritage Classic is powered by the Milwaukee-Eight 107 V-twin and is mechanically identical to the 2019 model. This touring-ready Softail features lockable hard saddlebags, a detachable windscreen, a two-piece skirted seat and pillion with black studs, and standard cruise control and ABS. Color options include: Vivid Black, Billiard Burgundy, two-tone Silver Pine/Spruce and Billiard Red/Vivid Black. Pricing starts at $18,999.
2020 Harley-Davidson CVO Street Glide
Returning for 2020 with a new look and new premium features, the CVO Street Glide is one of Harley-Davidson’s most popular limited-edition Custom Vehicle Operations models. Powered by the Milwaukee-Eight 117 V-Twin with red rocker covers, it gets premium custom paint, premium Talon wheels, custom controls and an all-new BOOM! Box GTS infotainment system with three separate amplifiers, 75 watts per channel and 900 watts of audio performance. It also includes the Reflex Defensive Rider Systems (RDRS), smartphone-linked H-D Connect and a wireless Bluetooth headset interface.
Pricing for the 2020 CVO Street Glide starts at $40,539.
2020 Harley-Davidson CVO Limited
For the ultimate in two-up V-twin touring, the 2020 CVO Limited offers the rider and passenger plenty of comfort, luggage capacity, style and performance. Its Twin-Cooled Milwaukee-Eight 117 grunts out 125 lb-ft of torque. Premium suspension, premium paint and finishes, premium audio, RDRS, H-D Connect, wireless Bluetooth—the CVO Limited gets it all.
Pricing for the 2020 CVO Limited starts at $44,039.
2020 Harley-Davidson CVO Tri Glide
Said to be the most-requested CVO model, a new addition to
the lineup for 2020 is the CVO Tri Glide, the ultimate Milwaukee-built trike.
Like its Custom Vehicle Operations stable mates, the CVO Tri Glide gets big
power from a Milwaukee-Eight 117 V-twin, big sound from the BOOM! Box GTS
infotainment system and big style courtesy of premium paint and finishes and
the Kahuna collection of grips, levers, pegs and floorboards, and Tomahawk
contrast-cut wheels. RDRS, H-D Connect, wireless Bluetooth, Daymaker LED
headlamps and the choice of two custom paint finishes round out the wish list.
Pricing for the 2020 CVO Tri Glide starts at $48,999.
This handy guide includes all new or significantly updated street-legal motorcycles for the 2020 model year. Organized in alphabetical order by manufacturer, it includes photos and links to details or, when available, first rides and road test reviews about each bike. This guide is updated regularly as more new/updated models are announced, and when we’ve had a chance to ride them and report our impressions.
Receiving updates similar to those that other models in the
R family received for 2019, the BMW R 1250 R roadster gets a larger 1,254cc
boxer twin with ShiftCam variable valve timing and valve stroke and updates to
its electronics package. It also gets a mild style refresh with a TFT display,
a DRL option for the halogen headlight and new color options. Although originally
announced as a 2019 model, the R 1250 R didn’t make it to the U.S. in time. BMW
says it will be available as a 2020 model with an MSRP starting at $14,995.
Receiving updates similar to those that other models in the
R family received for 2019, the BMW R 1250 R roadster gets a larger 1,254cc
boxer twin with ShiftCam variable valve timing and valve stroke and updates to
its electronics package. The RS also gets a style refresh that drops the
asymmetrical, winking look of the S 1000 RR in favor of a sporty twin-LED
headlight assembly, and an LED DRL (daytime running light) is an option.
Although announced as a 2019 model, the R 1250 RS didn’t make it to the U.S. in
time. BMW says it will be available as a 2020 model with an MSRP starting at
More power (205 hp), less weight (434 lbs), updated
technology and a new up-spec Motorsport version. The 2020 BMW S 1000 RR is at
the pointy end of the sportbike spear. Pricing starts at $16,995 and bikes will
be in dealerships in summer 2019.
Harley-Davidson’s new LiveWire electric motorcycle is seriously sporty, shockingly fast and whisper-quiet–everything a typical Harley isn’t. And that’s just the way Milwaukee wants it. It’s propelled by a liquid-cooled electric motor that makes a claimed 105 horsepower and 86 lb-ft of torque, drawing power from a 15.5 kWh battery that offers, according to H-D, a range of 146 miles in the city and 95 miles of combined stop-and-go and highway riding. Single-speed transmission offers twist-and-go convenience, and styling, ergonomics and components are the sportiest offered on any Harley-Davidson. MSRP starts at $29,799.
The 2020 Suzuki Katana features styling cues that pay direct homage to the 1981 original, and it’s built around the potent GSX-S1000 999cc inline-four. It features ABS, traction control, Easy Start and Low RPM Assist, as well as a twin-spar aluminum frame, braced superbike-style swingarm, KYB suspension, dual front Brembo monoblock four-piston calipers, 310mm floating rotors and a model-specific LCD panel. We got a chance to ride the new Katana in Japan last March, but pricing and availability are TBD.
Announced in the fall of 2018, we’re still waiting to see the
new Ténéré 700 (T7, for short) in the flesh–Yamaha says it will be coming to
the U.S. in the second half of 2020 as a 2021 model. We know it will be
powered by the 689cc CP2 parallel twin used in the MT-07, housed in a new
tubular steel double-cradle frame. Other details include a 62.6-inch wheelbase,
9.5 inches of ground clearance, a fully adjustable USD 43mm fork with 8.3
inches of travel and a remote preload-adjustable rear shock with 7.9 inches of
Yamaha has updated its flagship sportbikes, the YZF-R1 and the track-ready YZF-R1M, for 2020, with both featuring refinements to their CP4 crossplane crankshaft engines, an augmented electronic rider aids package, enhanced suspension and redesigned bodywork. MSRP is $17,300 for the YZF-R1 and $26,099 for the YZF-R1M (the latter is available in limited quantities through Yamaha’s online reservation system).
The first new model from Zero Motorcycles since 2016, the 2020 SR/F’s streetfighter look and steel trellis frame blur the styling lines between gas and electric motorcycles. Powered by a new ZF75-10 IPM (Interior Permanent Magnet) motor and ZF14.4 lithium-ion battery, it delivers a claimed 140 lb-ft of torque and 110 horsepower. It also features Bosch’s Motorcycle Stability Control System and Zero’s new Cypher III operating system. Pricing starts at $18,995.
telling the average Harley-Davidson or American V-twin enthusiast a few years
ago that not only would the Motor Company produce and sell a naked sportbike in
2020—certainly not an outrageous concept—but that it would be an all-electric one.
That last bit
would have not only raised an eyebrow or two among the faithful, it would have
likely burned a few clean off their respective foreheads simply from the heated
blowback of the responses. Just about any Motor Company fan will tell you: Harley-Davidsons
and electric-power EVs just weren’t meant to be talked about in the same
But as we all
know, that’s exactly what’s happened. Harley-Davidson has not only built a
naked sportbike that’s sleek, futuristic and sexy, with wide wheels, sticky
tires, sporty suspension and a lean-forward riding position, but one that’s electrically
powered, with not a molecule of internal combustion waste emanating from its
non-existent exhaust system.
It’s a simple
truth: Harley-Davidson can’t continue to exist solely by selling Big Twins to
aging baby boomers who, in a decade or so, will be mostly out of motorcycling.
Like the rest of the motorcycle industry, Harley needs new blood and new
markets, and feels very strongly that a line of electric two-wheelers led by
the high-end and high-price ($29,795) LiveWire is a prime way to reach them and
“It’s a bold
goal, helping encourage and develop the next generation of riders,”
Harley-Davidson CEO Matt Levatich told me over breakfast at the launch, “but we
think we’re on the right track with the LiveWire, our future electric
offerings, and our More Roads To Harley-Davidson efforts. Motorcyclists know
that nothing is more spectacular than two-wheeled travel, right? Spreading that
word among a more general population, and building riders in addition to
building great motorcycles…well, that seems like a pretty strong concept to us.
he continued, “we are not limiting in any way our emphasis on traditional
Harleys; if anything, we’re more energized than ever about Sportsters and
Softails and baggers and the like. But we do need to branch out, and see
electrification as a key avenue there. We very much intend to lead the way in
the electrification of the sport.”
the way means introducing the world’s most advanced electrically powered
motorcycle, then Milwaukee has very clearly put its money where its mouth is. I
was only able to get a few hours on a LiveWire during the July launch, but thanks
to a thorough tech briefing, and following that a morning and afternoon ride
around town and on some of the faster roads in the hills surrounding Portland,
Oregon, I got a pretty good idea of what it is and how it works.
First off, there’s a lot of tech here. Leading the list is an all-new electric motor that’s liquid-cooled, offers 105 horsepower (78 kW) and 86 lb-ft of torque, and produces 100 percent of that torque the instant the throttle is turned. It gets its power from a 15.5 kWh battery that offers, according to H-D, a range of 146 miles in the city and 95 miles of combined stop-and-go and highway riding. Level 1 plug-in charging (e.g., at home or work) takes 12.5 hours for a full charge via an included charger cable. Since the bike has an SAE Combo CCS connector like many American and European electric cars, it can also be charged at thousands of Level 2 stations around the country (but at Level 1 speed). Approximately 150 Harley dealers nationwide (with more to come over time) will also offer fast Level 3 one-hour charging and two full years of free charges.
The LiveWire also has ABS and traction control, a 4.3-inch color TFT touchscreen display centered just above the handlebar, seven selectable Ride Modes (Sport, Road, Range and Rain, plus three customizable modes) and HD Connect, which links owners to their motorcycles (free initially, then for a monthly fee) and offers tons of status and service information via a smartphone using the Harley-Davidson app.
Climb aboard and you’re
immediately struck by the riding position, which is more Ducati Monster or Suzuki
GSX-S than Sportster or Softail. Its ergos invite a slight forward lean, with
semi-rearset pegs, a mildly upward-bent handlebar and scooped seat locking you
into position—the reason for which will become apparent soon enough. It all
feels reasonably normal…right until you push the starter. The color info-screen
lets you know that things are ready to roll with a green light, but in place of
a chugga-chugga/potato-potato rumble you have silence (though the battery and motor give off a little “buurp” of movement
to let you know the bike is alive and running). Give the throttle a little twist and you’re off, the bike
moving forward smoothly and predictably to your right wrist’s commands.
In stop-and-go traffic I
found the LiveWire super easy to ride, which says a lot about the refinement
that’s been baked into it during eight years of development. Throttle response
at slower speeds was immediate, linear and controllable, the bike demonstrating
no lurching or driveline lash whatsoever. Steering was light and precise, and the
brakes crisp and predictable, both of which helped the LW feel considerably lighter
than its 540-plus pound wet weight might suggest.
Other than a low whine
under acceleration the LiveWire is totally quiet, eerily smooth and almost
completely unobtrusive in an aural and vibrational sense. The Harley folks call
this “Minimal NVH,” which means minimal noise, vibration and harshness.
Accelerating away from a light or tearing down a side street you find yourself
listening to wind noise and the tires slapping against the asphalt. It’s an entirely
new experience, and one that proved compelling all day long.
You’ll get that same feeling
when you ride the LiveWire hard and fast, too. I immediately found myself
running through turns faster, looking for pavement irregularities to hit while
leaned over to see how the chassis behaved, and then hammering the throttle at
the exit, trying—in vain, for the most part—to find what I figured would be mid-level
traction, suspension and handling limits. I didn’t find much of that at all,
which tells me that all the bluster I’d heard at the tech briefing about
chassis and engine refinement, optimized frame geometry, suspension quality and
power delivery wasn’t bluster at all. The thing is shockingly fast, amazingly
smooth, easy to get used to and ride quickly, forgiving and, most of all, big fun.
Nitpicks are few and far
between, unless you’re talking seat-to-peg distance, which for my multi-surgery
knees is a little tight. Suspension settings, which worked well for my XXL-sized
butt, are probably too firm for average humans in terms of spring rate and
compression. The bar could use a little more pullback and maybe an inch or two extra
in height, and the seat seemed a little thin on padding.
The larger questions, of
course, involve range and price. The first isn’t going to be quite enough for a
lot of folks, and the latter is likely to be too much. That’s just the way
things stand at this point in EV development. You’re either on board and
willing to accept the trade-offs for the bennies, or you’re a skeptic.
But EVs are coming,
like it or not, and despite one’s perspective on price and range, the LiveWire is
a superbly designed, compellingly competent, seriously fun and
fascinating-to-ride motorcycle…a Halo bike that should represent
Harley-Davidson well as it moves into the EV space in the coming years with a
wide range of electric two-wheelers, from mid-range EVs to mountain bikes to
kids bikes and lots more.
So while that futuristic fortuneteller
might have seemed pretty crazy a few years back, this time he was absolutely
Author Mitch Boehm is the Editor of Rider’s
sister publication Thunder Press and
a former Editor of Motorcyclist
2020 Harley-Davidson LiveWire Specs Website: harley-davidson.com Base Price: $29,795 Motor Type: Revelation internal permanent magnet synchronous motor w/ water jacket cooling Battery: 15.5 kWh lithium-ion Transmission: Single speed w/ spiral bevel gear primary Final Drive: Belt Wheelbase: 58.7 in. Rake/Trail: 24.5 degrees/4.3 in. Suspension, Front: Showa 43mm inverted SFF-BP fork, fully adj. w/ 4.5-in. travel Rear: Showa BFRC-lite shock, fully adj. w/ 4.5-in. travel Tires, Front: 120/70-ZR17 Rear: 180/55-ZR17 Seat Height: 30.0 in. Claimed Wet Weight: 549 lbs. Claimed Range: 146 mi. city, 95 mi. combined stop-and-go/highway
Raw and bare, stripped of all the arguably distracting bells and whistles that Bluetooth-connected, GPS-dependent riders have been coddled with, Harley’s new FLHT Electra Glide Standard is the epitome of simplicity. As a mid-year release, the bike signifies a back-to-basics, cut-the-fat approach geared to attract riders at a reasonable $18,999. Compared to the Electra Glide Ultra’s $24,589 or the Street Glide’s $21,289, the Standard is the lowest-priced offering in H-D’s touring line.
Described as a dressed down dresser, the Electra Glide Standard does away with the radio and instead depends on the ultra-smooth Milwaukee-Eight 107 V-twin to set the tempo. Importantly, the iconic batwing fairing with a clear, mid-height windshield and a single halogen headlight are retained, though its foam-covered speaker holes are empty as is the gaping slot for the LCD screen, which now serves as a phone or glove holder during pit stops.
The dished solo seat sits at 26.1 inches, which made it extremely comfortable for my 6-foot-3 build. With a minimalist amount of chrome, the bike maintains a sleek and intimidating look that will still turn heads with the purity of its black paint job (and it only comes in Vivid Black).
The Electra Glide Standard comes with large One Touch saddlebags. spacious floorboards and a standard shift lever in place of the usual heel-toe shifter. Its naked front fender covers a 17-inch black machined Impeller wheel that is accented by chrome fork skirts.
Handling was impressive at all speeds during a daylong press ride through Florida’s swampland near Daytona Beach. The fat 130/80 front tire meant I had to put a little more effort into steering it, but the still-nimble, 820-pound bike felt firmly connected to the asphalt. With 26 degrees of rake and 6.7 inches of trail, it provides stable, comfortable cruising for days, especially with the Showa Dual Bending Valve front fork and dual emulsion shocks in the back.
This no-frills bike is not for beginners, nor is it billed as such. It is an attractive and attractively priced piece of American iron that will appeal to a wide swath of financially conscious riders. It gives a rider the basics that matter to get them out on the open road or into a dealership. And it is prepped to be incrementally customized as riding seasons pass–a deliberate Harley marketing plan.
The streamlined beauty and Milwaukee-Eight power should hopefully make the Electra Glide Standard a lasting hit in Harley’s touring line.
Kali Kotoski is the Managing Editor of Rider’s sister publication Thunder Press.