Harley-Davidson has been in business since 1903. The brand has established a tradition of designing motorcycles that are built for street riding with comfort, handling, and performance in mind. The Harley tradition originally took a different path than the racing bikes manufactured by other brands. When someone asked, "does Harley-Davidson make a cafe racer" it seemed that the easy answer would be "no they don't." This, however, isn't the case. Although not known for rolling out racing machines, the Sportsters were released in a bid to enter the arena of track racing, in a chopper styling, but hold on...HD is also known for its customization.
A cafe racer is the opposite of a traditional Harley. It's lightweight and customized to generate the most possible speed with agile handling. This kind of bike isn't made for comfort, but rather, for making fast rides with shorter distances. It's not HD's forte, but there are aftermarket parts you can buy to make the conversion of a Harley to a cafe racer. People have been doing it for years, but we must get to the real question at hand. "Does Harley make a cafe racer?" We learned that they in fact, do have plans to release a new cafe racer. Here is what we know so far.
Keeping up with the competition
Harley-Davidson has made a habit of lagging behind the competition when it comes to diversity. Some HD enthusiasts would argue that it is this purism that makes the brand one of the most iconic in the United States. Others who don't prefer a Harley haven't been bitten by the bug yet. It is that group of riders that HD is targeting in their new bid to diversify their offerings. It comes down to a matter of competing in a global market. With their current ridership aging and beginning to thin out some the brand's investors have made a push for diversification to grab the attention of the larger global market, and reach out to a new consumer base in addition to the loyals to the HD brand. They're planning to release a more broad range of bike types including electric scooters, a flat tracker, and yes, a cafe racer.
Harley-Davidson's new Cafe Racer
Although it's still in the works, we've made some interesting discoveries about Harley's plans to design and build a cafe racer. Plans were set in 2018, when the "More Roads to Harley-Davidson" strategy was first announced. The cafe racer is set to received the Revolution Max engine that will be also seen in the Bronx, featuring 975 cc power for late in 2020. It is believed at a 1,250 cc edition could be released as a 2021 model, but it could come as early as later in 2020. This is not a best guess or a supposition, but rather, a confirmed fact.
Features of the new Harley-Davidson Cafe Racer
The cafe racer will be produced with a short tail and a small nose cowl. From drawings spied, it appears that the chassis is going to follow suit with that of the new flat tracker to be released about the same time, and the Bronx model. The major differences will be that the cafe racer will get a swingarm that is designed specifically for the bike with a straight and simple design. Instead of twin shocks. If you're wondering how far the bike will depart from Harley tradition, it's been confirmed that the bike will retain much of the HD DNA and that the styling will be easily recognizable as a member of the brand. The shape of the tank has been slightly borrowed from a Sportster, which makes sense, and the oval headlight will be encased with a trapezoidal opening. The design for the seat will give a nod to the XR1200, perhaps not quite as aggressive. The drawings show conventional mirrors and slightly higher bars.
A few other cafe racer components
The addition of a fairing over the headlight and a small windshield will be added, according to leaks from the patent illustrations. The tubular swingarm will have foot pegs mounted behind the pivot. They're further back and they sit higher. A 3-slot flyscreen and an inverted fork suspension were also observed with dual shocks in the rear. This is a feature that is shared with the new flat track set for release. This has been a well-kept secret, but it's hard to keep a good story to yourself.
Times are changing and Harley-Davidson's investors appear to be taking the company in a few new directions. Soon, the new cafe racer will take its place beside HD's new flat tracker bike. It's a move that will open up the brand for consideration to a couple of new consumer markets. It's no longer a question of Harley making a cafe racer, or a flat tracker, but rather, whether or not these new models will have the appeal to the kind of riders that they're hoping to reach. With Harley sales down in 2019, it became clear that a new marketing strategy was needed, and long overdue.
Only time will tell if their design of the new cafe racer will find a home with those who are more into down and dirty riding with less focus on comfort and more interest in speed and getting there fast. We don't know everything there is to know about the new cafe racer yet. Harley's been keeping secrets, and they're not making any full disclosures about the specifics of the model at this time. We'll be sure to keep you posted when more concrete details about Harley's new cafe racer are released.
Photo above is what a Harley Cafe Racer might look like
Written by Benjamin Smith
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