Harley-Davidson is planning to temporarily put aside its big-displacement bad boy image and produce a learner-friendly, entry-level bike to replace the Buell Blast. Intended to give the company a Harley-branded bike to use in its Riders Edge training program and to give new riders an unintimidating, affordable way to enter the Harley family, the bike sounds like just the sort of thing Michael Uhlarik called for in Motorcycling's Missing Link.
Harley's director of corporate communications, Bob Klein, told us, "While the company generally does not comment on future products, we have indicated to our dealers that the Harley-Davidson is developing a motorcycle for use in the company's Rider's Edge rider training program, as a replacement for the Buell Blast. We have not provided specifics about the motorcycle currently in development or the possible timing of its introduction."
In a communication to its dealers, The Motor Company wrote, "Harley-Davidson has a motorcycle under development for use in the Rider's Edge program that will be a Harley-Davidson motorcycle that Rider's Edge graduates and other riders seeking a smaller displacement motorcycle will want to buy.
"Because the decision to discontinue the Buell product line was made in a relatively short period of time, the timing of the launch of this new (Harley-Davidson) motorcycle did not coincide with the discontinuation of the Buell Blast."
The key phrase in all that, at least to our minds, is, "will want to buy." While the Blast was a worthy motorcycle, its styling left a lot to be desired. As Uhlarik said in his op-ed, the key to making a successful entry-level product is to make it desirable.
The other interesting implication in all this is that, by making this product, Harley is tacitly acknowledging that it needs to pursue a new, younger audience outside its traditional pot belly pirate demographic and that to do so, it needs a different type of product. As one of the most recognized brands in the world, Harley has the opportunity to utterly own young people's imaginations with credible, accessible products that depart from the chromed excess its decided to focus exclusively on for the last twenty years or so. Could this be the beginning of a new Harley-Davidson, one that serves people's needs instead of pursuing their be-chapped fantasies? We sincerely hope Harley is able to recognize the potential it has here.