When it comes to Harley-Davidson, for quite some time, a number of people have had somewhat of an aversion to the Milwaukee company’s bikes. We’ve seen them as being somewhat heavy and somewhat underpowered as well as being just that bit too pricey. While this hasn’t always been the case, some riders like air-cooled cruisers with cool custom styling and the like. Let’s not forget the Motor Company also has a formidable fan base for its Touring motorcycles. We cite the big, bold, iconic mileage eaters Road Glide, Street Glide and the super-iconic Ultra Glide to name but a few.
Unfortunately, in order to meet the newer and more stringent emissions standards – especially within the EU – the MoCo have had to do the unthinkable and add liquid-cooling to the range. For a manufacturer who used the fact that their air-cooled big V twins were such an important part of their identity this shift was a bold step. And one that might have seemed to be somewhat contrary to their ethos.
What has happened, however, is that these small changes have paved the way for some pretty big ones. While the current Milwaukee-Eight engine is definitely different, it’s still an evolution of what has come before it. Then there’s the all-electric LiveWire, a totally new concept for Harley that shows what the dudes at Milwaukee HQ can do when they want to. Such radical design and thinking has led to something else that’s new and shatters the traditional H-D Big V-Twin mould. It comes in the shape of the all-new Revolution Max engine.
What the Americans have done is build an entirely new engine from the crankshaft outwards. This new donk has all sorts of modern-day tech. Twin spark plugs on each cylinder, dual overhead cam cylinder heads with four valves per head and Variable Valve Timing (VVT). And it's very much liquid-cooled. This adds up to an engine that produces a rather impressive 150 HP while redlining at 9,500 rpm. The 1252cc block also produces 94 Nm of torque. Impressive figures for the first of a new breed from a company still using imperial measurements in its old-school range.
The Revolution Max first appeared, to great fanfare, with last year’s Pan America 1250 adventure bike launch. It’s now being woven into different models with differing engine capacity. In the Pan America, it was tuned as much for low speed work on a soggy Welsh hill as it was for blatting down a German Autobahn. And while the press releases were full of the usual Americana the bike was (and still is) hugely different to anything else that the company has produced before.
All of a sudden we were seeing modern bike technologies being weaved into the bike’s overall design. For example, the engine being used as stressed member of the chassis. In plainer English, the motor is so strong and yet light that it reduces the overall weight in whatever chassis they cared to wedge it in. Maybe the well established traditional design team in Harley had, perhaps, been replaced with a much younger and non-gender identifying forward thinking team. Whatever, we the riders, are reaping the rewards.
Sportster S followed the Pan America 1250. This modern replacement for the aging Sportster range was a genuine surprise. The raised exhaust hinted at how powerful this was going to be, while the nod to previous designs from the company were obvious.
Again, loaded with electronic tech and rider safety aids, Sportster S proved to be a tarmac ripper. Tuned for low-down drive, there aren’t many Harley bikes that cause the traction control to cut in with barely a half of turn of angrily abused throttle grip.
On the heels of Sportster S, is the latest offering featuring the Revolution Max engine.
Design. Say hello to the new Nightster. Ok, so this new model is a smaller capacity 975cc offering. It too is impressive in the way it delivers the horses and torque. And all neatly tucked in a very rider friendly, good handling chassis. Good in the sense it will make every rider smile.
The latest vibes from Harley-Davidson is that there are more motorcycles to appear using the Revolution Max engine and the accompanying new chassis. Awesome.
But the best news so far is that all three of the new generation bikes – Pan America, Sportster S and Nightster – will make up part of the Harley-Davidson demonstration fleet coming to BikeFest in Killarney this June Bank Holiday weekend, running from Friday June 3rd until Monday the 6th. If you haven’t yet ridden Harley’s latest then it’s definitely time to challenge your perceptions of the brand and take one, if not all, for a spin…