Harley-Davidson have just thrown the wraps off their 2021 models. And while the updates are little more than bold new graphics and a few spec tweaks, the reveal speaks volumes about the Motor Co.’s strategy moving forward.
For this particular model launch, the focus is on two Softail models and a handful of touring models… and that’s it. Exciting prototypes like the Bronx and multiple electric concepts that Harley were working on are nowhere to be seen, and the adventure touring Pan America’s only officially breaking cover in February.
The biggest news is that the Softail Street Bob gets a capacity boost from 107 ci to 114 ci, and now has a passenger seat too. It seems frivolous, but it’s actually a smart move. That’s because it now sets the Street Bob apart from the 107 ci Softail Standard, which until now was just a Street Bob with different finishes.
The 114 ci Milwaukee-Eight power plant is a peach too, and the Street Bob is the most stripped down Softail out. So the upgrade makes it a great pick for customisation
Elsewhere in the Softail range, the Fat Boy gets new chrome for 2021. All the parts that used to be finished in a satin chrome, are now sporting a polished chrome finish. But for the rest of the bike, the Fat Boy remains unchanged.
On the touring side, Harley-Davidson have updated the Road King Special, Road Glide Special and Street Glide Special models with nominal visual and spec tweaks. They all run with 114 ci Milwaukee-Eight motors, and now feature new low-profile engine guards. The Road Glide and Street Glide Specials come with various two-tone paint and black or chrome finish options, and the Road King and Street Glide Specials are now equipped with Daymaker LED headlights.
H-D have also updated their Boom! Box GTS infotainment systems with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility, which should mean better smartphone integration.
Harley’s eye-wateringly expensive CVO models have been updated with new Rockford Fosgate audio systems for 2021, along with new paint and styling options. And they now feature Harley’s ‘RDRS’ electronic rider aids, which include linked braking, cornering ABS and traction control and a handful of other features, all of which are now commonplace on most street motorcycles.
There’s no news on when any of these models will hit South African showrooms—or when we’ll have local access to the long anticipated LiveWire.
So why the limited release? It’s no secret that H-D’s been through a massive corporate restructuring over the past season, starting with the appointment of Jochen Zeitz as their new CEO. Zeitz wasted no time in scrapping the company’s plans to expand their model range into new segments.
Instead, Zeitz’s new ‘Hardwire’ strategy has the American manufacturer scaling back on new models, in a bid to increase exclusivity and desirability. In other words, they want to focus on their core customer—which is the exact vibe that this model launch conveys.
Time will tell if Harley-Davidson’s strategy to close ranks will pay off, or if it will simply alienate potential new riders.