The last three years have been a product blitz from the evolutionary norm of Harley-Davidson. The new RUSHMORE line of touring motorcycles, the Livewire electric motorcycle and the Street 500/750 have barnstormed the industry. However, 2016 sees a return to evolving key models of the product line to keep existing customers happy with some simple but significant improvements.
For 2016, every step of the Harley line, from entry-level to the highest end, received tweaks. We went to Portland to experience all the changes made throughout the line.
The Sportster and Street 500/750 are absolutely critical to Harley-Davidson’s success. Both are entries into the brand, expanding the brand in overseas markets and responsible for bringing new customers into the fold. Key changes were made to improve refinement and riding quality, but very little revolutionary changes were implemented.
The Sportster Forty-Eight, a stalwart of their Dark Custom Line, and Iron 883 both received new, more comfortable seats, revised paint and cast wheels. The Forty-Eight also received 49mm front forks.
These changes made them markedly more friendly to ride on the pockmarked roads of Portlandia. When the going gets twisty, the lowered rotating mass of the wheels has a minimal but appreciated improvement in turn-in, and the seat makes bouncing around a bit more comfortable. Still the same Sportster, now with a bit more comfort and value added.
The Street 500 and 750 have crushed it in international markets and had reasonable success in the States, but to fire it up, Harley instituted changes heard from both existing and prospective customers, namely aesthetic changes to bring it more in line with the rest of the family. This means more metal trim, rerouted wires and an overall cleaner routing scheme to decrease the frump. We didn’t have a chance to ride this one, so a verdict will have to wait.