Harley-Davidson adds Roadster to 2016 lineup

New bike looks to draw on racing heritage

Harley-Davidson's Dark Custom Roadster.

Last updated on July 7th, 2019 at 02:32 pm

Harley-Davidson unveiled the Roadster on Monday, a new addition to its Dark Custom lineup described as “a minimalist, fastback design inspired by classic racing motorcycles.”

The Milwaukee-based company is looking for the bike to “inspire a new generation of riders to take to the streets” and has included it in the third commercial in its “Live Your Legend” campaign.

“We’ve watched our customers take the Sportster in so many different directions,” said Brad Richards, Harley director of styling. “The Roadster is a mash-up of styling genres, but the intent was to build a rider’s motorcycle, a Sportster that’s lean and powerful and connects the rider to the road.”

Harley-Davidson Dark Custom Roadster
Harley-Davidson Dark Custom Roadster

The company says the goal is to combine modern performance and retro-inspired with premium suspension components, an air-cooled 1200cc V-Twin engine that delivers a strong pulse of mid-range torque and a profile reminiscent of vintage racing motorcycles from the 1950s and 1960s.

“We wanted to give the Roadster some DNA from the high-performance KHR models of the mid-’50s, and later Sportsters tuned for the drag strip,” Richards said. “Those bikes had fenders cut to the struts, the small fuel tank, and were stripped to their bare essentials to achieve a singular performance purpose.”

The 19-inch front and 18-inch rear Offset-Split 5-Spoke cast aluminum wheels were designed specifically for the Roadster and feature interlacing spokes shooting outward toward the opposite side of the wheel.

“The wheels were inspired by classic laced wheels, and are the most intricate cast wheel we’ve ever created,” said Ben McGinely, Harley industrial designer.

The Roadster is included in “Cut Loose,” the third commercial in Harley’s latest marketing campaign. Harley launched the campaign during the NCAA men’s basketball tournament and has made getting more people into motorcycle riding a core part of its strategy to grow sales.

Harley’s sales have come under increased pressure as new competitors, including Polaris Industries’ Indian Motorcycles, have entered the market. Some Wall Street analysts have predicted the company’s sales would come up short of expectations in the traditionally slow first quarter, but others have since predicted the company will beat expectations. Milwaukee area dealers reported seeing a different picture than the analysts with a negative view.

Harley is scheduled to report first quarter earnings tomorrow.

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Arthur Thomas
Arthur covers manufacturing for BizTimes. He previously was managing editor at The Waukesha Freeman. He is a graduate of Carroll University and did graduate coursework at Marquette. A native of southeastern Wisconsin, he is also a nationally certified gymnastics judge and enjoys golf on the weekends.