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Harley-Davidson Announces It Will Build an Adventure Bike

But is it too little too late to pull the brand from its slump?


Harley-Davidson, long a purveyor of big baggers, cruisers and bikes generally perceived as mid-life-crisis-mobiles, has suffered from declining sales for years now. Problems seem to stem from the fact that the market for big bikes in the US has been shrinking for some time, while Harley’s core products have been a hard sell for the youths. Fresh competition from Indian doesn’t exactly help either. The answer, many critics have declared, is to expand the brand’s product lineup to bikes with appeal beyond the leather vest-wearing one-percenter cosplay crowd.

This week, that’s what the company has announced in its five-year future product plan which includes 16 new models. The preview of new products shows the addition of a few new bikes, including a production version of its LiveWire electric motorcycle concept, a streetfighter-style sports bike and, perhaps most interestingly, an Adventure bike. Dubbed the Pan America, the bike looks to be made in the mold of BMW’s GS1200 — that’s to say massive and powerful.

Harley-Davidson says the bike will be powered by a 1,250cc V-twin, configured in the same 60-degree angle you’ll find in H-D’s other V-Twin engines. That’ll feature liquid cooling, dual overhead cams and will be hooked up to a six-speed gearbox. That’s pretty much all we know so far regarding specs, but the bike certainly looks…interesting. Like the ’80s vision of what the bike of the future would look like. The Pan America is slated to go on sale in 2020.

But how much can this help Harley? The Pan America will go head-to-head with bikes from BMW and KTM that already have loyal followings. Further, most of the exciting releases in the ADV category have focused on smaller bikes which, naturally, appeal more to beginner riders. Given that much of Harley’s problem seems to stem from an inability to woo new riders, a massive adventure bike doesn’t seem particularly helpful.

That said, the future of the company doesn’t rest solely on the Pan America’s shoulders. The aforementioned production version of the LiveWire (and any other electric motorcycles) seem like a great start, given that the segment is still in its teething stages. Meanwhile, reports suggest there will be more middleweight bikes in the company’s future. Depending on how captivating those products are (and, say, a production flat tracker would be very captivating) that could be more of a boon. The fact that Harley is focusing on new product categories is certainly a glimmer of hope for those who want to see it survive but one has to wonder if it’s too little too late for a company that refused to change for so long.

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