Harley-Davidson, likely the most well-known motorcycle manufacturer, is venturing into a new two-wheeled transit endeavour. The Harley-Davidson ebike series, announced in Fall 2020, will be sold under the “Serial 1” brand, named after the first Harley-Davidson motorcycle.
Harley-Davidson joins the many vehicle companies, including BMW, VW, GM, Audi and Jeep, that are dabbling in the ebike world. The ebike industry is booming, and if it continues on a similar trajectory researchers have predicted the motor-powered bikes will soon become a major form of urban transport.
The Serial 1 ebikes are specifically designed for urban commuting. Targeted towards urban millennials, it’s clear the Serial 1 brand is distancing itself from the classic, but ageing, rough biker Harley-Davidson marketing.
Motor bikes to ebikes
Does it make sense for a motorcycle manufacturer to get into the ebike business? When car brands make ebikes they normally outsource the actual production of the product, partnering with another company with ebike experience. These bikes, on the other hand, were designed and engineered by Serial 1, the company recently filed for them.
Harley-Davidson has a bit of experience with electric vehicles. The company sells the LiveWire, an electric motorcycle featured in the latest season of Ewan McGregor’s show The Long Way Up, and electric balance bikes that come in sizes (surprisingly?) small enough for a three year old.
As for the bike design, the Gates carbon fibre belt drive is the strongest indicator of the Harley-Davidson influence. The company transitioned from chains to belt drives in the 80s. Other than that, the flat bars, disc brakes and general upright position could be read as motorcycle-inspired, but also fit within the standard of other urban ebike designs.
Though Serial 1 started as in-house ebike development, Harley-Davidson will only be a minority shareholder—venture capitalists will own the majority of the new brand.
Serial 1 bikes
There are four models of Serial 1 ebikes: Rush/Cty Speed, Rush/Cty, Rush Cty Step-Thru and Mosh/Cty. The bikes’ Brose motors put out 90Nm/66 ft. lb. torque and the fully enclosed hubs automatically adjusts the gear ratios. Other now-standard ebike features such as integrated lighting and a companion app round out the list of features.
The bikes won’t be cheap, but they fit within the market standard, raging from $3,400 USD to $5,000 USD. While buyers will only receive their ebikes in summer 2021, the bikes are now available for pre-order (but Canadians will have to pay extra for shipping.)
In 2020 Harley-Davidson laid off 700 employees. With the current bike boom and rise of active transport, ebike could be the win the struggling company needs.