With Harley-Davidson announcing a handful of motorcycles radically different from the Bar & Shield's current lineup, many reactions have stirred from the masses. From fire and brimstone hatred to the optimistic rejuvenation of the brand, riders are picking sides on what the Motor Company is doing with its 2020 lineup.
I would describe myself as "motorcycle fluid." I like all motorcycles and understand that all brands and all types have their purposes and character. Being opposed to a brand or technology is not only narrow in thinking, but robbing yourself of the experience of motorcycling. The more often you ride and the more machines you do it on will enhance your appreciation for the sport and the machine. This said, I am in the optimistic camp and looking forward to riding what Harley-Davidson has branded the Bareknuckle Streetfighter. While I do not expect to be blown away from this machine in terms of category performance, I am open to being converted into a believer. Here are five reasons why...
#1 New Motor- The "Streetfighter" category is not one for the faint of heart or limited riding experience. H-D has some very stiff competition in terms of performance and outright power. KTM and Ducati both offer a 160+ hp bike out of a "Twin" motor, while other brands like Aprilia, MV Agusta and the Japanese big four all offer high power naked rocket ships. The rumors to the Bareknuckle having a dual overhead cam, 60 degree, 975cc liquid-cooled motor tells me two things; This won't be the horsepower king in the category, but may be one of the most usable in terms of power. Another tip-off is the belt final drive. I know that belts perform surprisingly well and are really great for maintenance. I also know that any real performance machine either comes with or is converted to chain drive for extra strength.
With the speculated engine specs, I know that this motor has the potential to rev fast (60 degree V-Twin) and high (DOHC). If this is true, and with almost a liter of displacement, I would hope for a bike in the 120-130 hp range. If you can give me that amount of horsepower, somewhere around 100 lb-ft. of torque and smooth fueling, I would not only be happy, but be able to use it all very effectively on the street and at the track. Give me those numbers on a bike that handles, and I will guarantee fast lap times.
#2 Geometry- Like the rest of this article, all I have is speculation. With an opportunistic view on the new motor, I am hoping the chassis can make up for the smaller engine size and make the Bareknuckle razor sharp around turns. From the photos, the motor sits forward and there appears to be a front bias weight distribution to the overall bike. The more weight up front means the more reaction you will get from front end inputs. The wheelbase doesn't look terribly long, which lends me to think that this bike should be fairly quick transitioning from side-to-side.
#3 Suspension and Brakes- With limited photos, it is easier to speak to the brakes first. Brembo monoblocs and black stainless brake lines are top notch and I'm sure will provide plenty of bite. My area of concern is the front brake master cylinder power and feel it will provide. From the photos, it looks like an off-the-shelf H-D master cylinder, which would really suck, unless serious changes are made. With a machine like this, the brakes should be crisp and deliberate. I really hope it doesn't give a mushy, weak feel, negating any performance benefit from the Brembos. The rotors do not look to be free floating either, and while this isn't a deal breaker, it leaves me to wonder about the braking performance.
Again, with limited visuals, it is difficult to decipher what H-D is using for suspension, but I would assume an off-the-rack Showa manufactured fork and shock combo. The bike has an overall nice stance, and the front fork has plenty of visual travel length and I really hope it has some adjustment. From the looks of the fork, I do not see the screw-type preload up top. Let's pray it is a big piston fork with adjustment. This bike deserves to a great handler, especially when it starts going head-to-head with other brands.
#4 Body Style- The Harley-Davidson Bareknuckle is what I imagine the Shakespearean love child between a Ducati Monster 1200R and an H-D XR1200X would turn out to be. The "Streetfighter" look is simplified down to a few design elements: muscular tank, exposed engine, single headlight, bars with a slight bend and a minimalist tail section. For me, the Bareknuckle fits that category well and overall looks like a riot to ride. The traditional V-Twin engine is great to look at, and even better to listen to when giving it hell. I really like the tank, it gives off an angular, muscular look, and looks to have deep, cut-in knee pockets for complete control of the bike when leaned over. Overall, I like the lines of this bike. Even the blunt tail section does it for me and just screams muscle bike. Stylistically, I believe the Motor Company has executed a great example for those shopping in the naked sport segment and with aftermarket parts guaranteed to become available, riders will be able to strip down or build up this Streetfighter to become more practical or more wicked.
#5 Vs. Other Brands- This is going to be the true market test. The naked sport bike segment in the motorcycle market is stacked with serious heavy hitters, all with defining characteristics in the power, performance, electronics and style department. While I applaud Harley-Davidson for stepping way out of their box, time will tell if the new (to H-D) bike segments will reach new riders or riders loyal to already established sport brands. Will this alienate the core H-D rider? There are many questions left unanswered about Harley's new bikes, about performance, technology, and price, but one thing is for sure, I want to ride it.