There’s no question Harley-Davidson motorcycles have one foot––sorry, one wheel in the past, what with their slavish devotion to nostalgic styling and the big-inch, bright-chrome profile that made H-Ds the kings of the road for much of the company’s existence. But it’s a new world out there, full of potential customers with exotic currency burning holes in their pockets, and Harley not only knows an opportunity when it sees one, it knows what to do with it––in this case, come out with an all-new 500cc bike targeted at beginners and emerging markets overseas.
H-D’s president and CEO Matt Levatich set jaws dropping and tongues wagging at the recent 110th anniversary bash when he said the bike is not only in the final stages of development, but that he’d ridden one, as well, pronouncing it light and nimble with a low seat and good throttle response––and an attractive price.
The new 500 will probably be built in India, where H-D already has a factory assembling Big Twins from complete knock-down kits, and where the growing Indian middle class is clamoring for cheap transportation with a bit of flair, such as a genuine Harley-Davidson bar-and-shield on the gas tank.
While Harley won’t confirm or deny the actual layout of the bike, it’s likely to be a liquid-cooled V-twin of 500cc or even 750cc; if we had to guess, we’d call it a mini V-Rod engine in terms of general configuration. We’d also guess that the majority of the initial production run will go to Harley’s in-house rider-development program, so who knows when this machine will get off the range and into American garages.