Harley Davidson is betting big on India. The legendary American company, famous the world over for its big, burly machines is taking the Indian market more seriously than we ever imagined. The company plans to bring about 15-17 models from its lineup to India, with two to three representations from every Harley motorcycle family. Very recently Harley-Davidson organized a boot camp at Mahalaxmi Race Course in Mumbai. Motoroids were there, and were mighty impressed to see a lineup of about 15-odd Harleys. The company had called some its top tech and design guys from their US HQ for an interaction with the media. Anup Prakash, the flamboyant MD of the company (A US marine and one of the intelligence officers in the Bush administration at one time) was present at the boot camp as well, and took the lead in presenting Harley-Davidson’s history, heritage and product lineup to the media. Sanjay Tripathi, who did a splendid job at Yamaha Motor India and now leads the marketing division at Harley-Davidson was present at the boot camp as well.
Now, I am not a great Harley fan. I prefer sporty, revvy Japanese bikes to heavy cruisers. But an interaction with the Harley representatives, who, it seems could never get tired of finding pride in the brand’s legacy, heritage and its rather recent marriage with new-age technology changed my perception about those bikes quite a bit. By the end of the camp, there was a whole bunch of journos who had become Harley fans, after getting a taste of the legendary machines on Mumbai streets. As you would expect, I laid my hands on the best handling models of the lot – the 883 Sportster. Harley had the low-rider version of the bike for the ride. There were two reasons for choosing the bike. First, the Sportster series is the nimblest, lightest and best handling Harley Davidson family of Motorcycles. Secondly, these 883cc machines, priced at around 3.0 lakh rupees in the US market, are placed at a very attractive price point to lure the Indian bike buffs. We are expecting a price tag of about Rs 7.5 Lakh in India, which will make the Sportster the cheapest (and probably the best selling) big-bore machine in the country. So here’s a ride impression…
The Ultra Classic represents the absolute best in the Harley-Davidson touring range
The first thing that you will realize once you put you bum aboard the soft and cushy Harley seat is that these bikes are not as intimidating from the saddle as they look from a distance. Disengage the side-stand, bring the bike’s weight entirely on its wheels and your legs, and you’ll be greeted by a pleasant revelation. The low centre of gravity and clever design ensures that the bike can be lifted off the side stand effortlessly. And I am not talking only about the 883 Sportster here, the rule applies to all the Harleys, including the heavyweights like the Ultra Classic.
The level of equipment on various Harleys varies from just an analog speedo unit (like on the Sportster) to almost everything that you get in a car (like on the Ultra Classic). The handlebars are within easy reach, and the seating position doesn’t require you to straighten your legs too much either. Contrary to the common perception, even a female rider can ride the Harleys with ease, unless of course she drops it, in which case we have a good probability of finding an assortment of broken bones under the contraption.
Anup Prakash – the dynamic MD of Harley-Davidson India, giving the journos a taste of Harley’s legendary heritage
David Foley (L), Harley’s Asia Pacific marketing head, along with one of the top tech guys from the US
The engine fires to life without any fuss, and once that happens, the punchy motor comes alive with the world famous sound that somewhat resembles the utterance potato-potato-potato. We liked the sound of the Harley, but were not quite overwhelmed by it. It’s not until these machines pass by you on the highway with the engine on full song that they are loud enough to impress or intimidate you. It’s only when a group of Harley riders decide to ride in a formation that the combined roar of the Vees makes the traffic ahead bifurcate to give way.
There are vibes at the handlebars, but we would rather have them than otherwise on a Harley. It may sound a bit deferential, but those vibes really add to the character of the machine. With plenty of torque available from right down the rev range, a sonorous beat, an erect riding posture and tons of the highest quality Hex-Chrome reflecting every ray of light falling on your machine, you feel nothing less than a king.
Harley Management striking a pose with the journo crowd
We’ll need to ride these legendary machines over a longer distance, in an environment more conducive to them. Treading Mumbai streets with its chaotic traffic isn’t really what you would like to term as the real Harley experience. As Harley promised us, the opportunity will come soon, and as always we will keep you posted. In the meantime, we have plenty of stuff from Harley Davidson lined up for you, so stay tuned….