What Harley-Davidson Mentioned in Its 2021 Launch, and What It Didn't

Dennis Chung
by Dennis Chung

What Harley-Davidson Mentioned in its 2021 Launch, and What it Didn’t

And what the heck is the Revival?

  • Harley-Davidson announced the bulk of its 2021 lineup in a virtual launch event last week, highlighting the updates to its Softail, touring and CVO models. The launch was different for Harley-Davidson in two ways. For one, it was held completely virtually in a 40-minute video, a necessity during a global pandemic. It was also unusual in that it was held in the middle of January instead of the traditional September. As outlined in Harley-Davidson’s Rewire plan, this looks to be a permanent change moving forward, positioning the new model launch closer to the start of the riding season.

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    While a January launch will be the plan moving forward, it meant there was a longer wait than usual for the 2021 model announcements. Combined with a stated goal of streamlining its lineup by 30% and the long-awaited launch of the Pan America adventure-tourer next month, this year’s model launch faced more scrutiny than in previous years.

    Harley-Davidson is putting a lot into the launch of the Pan America 1250, with actor Jason Momoa a big part of that. The Aquaman actor is pictured here riding the Pan America through the mud.

    One thing we noticed about the launch event was that the focus was entirely on the models that received changes. Harley-Davidson was oddly silent about the models that are returning for 2021 with just updated paint schemes. In addition to the launch video, the Motor Company sent out a total of six press releases on the day, and there was nary a word on the touring models returning with new colors, the LiveWire, the Street line or the Sportster models. Only the returning Softail models received a mention, with just a one sentence description for each of the six unchanged models (or seven, if you consider the Heritage Classic and Heritage Classic 114 to be different models).

    This is pretty unusual, as manufacturers usually make at least some mention of new color options for models that are otherwise returning unchanged.

    We’ve already covered the updates in separate posts, but we though it was worth looking at what else Harley-Davidson revealed. And what it didn’t.

    What other returning models were announced?

    If you only watched the launch video, you may think that the Road Glide Special, Road King Special and Street Glide Special baggers were the only Harley-Davidson touring models in the 2021 lineup. Not mentioned, but indeed returning for 2021 are the non-Special versions of the Road Glide, Road King and Street Glide, as well as the Electra Glide Standard and the Tour-Pak-equipped Road Glide Limited and Ultra Limited. The Tri-Glide Ultra and Freewheeler are likewise returning.

    The Ultra Limited is returning for 2021 with new colors and a mechanical clutch.

    All of these touring and trike models were in the 2020 lineup, and they return for 2021 with new paint options. That’s not the only change, however: they are all switching from hydraulic clutches to mechanical clutches. Harley-Davidson made no mention about this change, except in the spec sheets, and no explanation was provided.

    For the Softails, Harley-Davidson focused on the Street Bob 114 and Fat Boy 114, while noting the Softail Standard, Low Rider S, Softail Slim, Sport Glide, Fat Bob 114 and Heritage Classic (plus Heritage Classic 114) are also returning for 2021.

    Not returning, however, are the FXDR 114, Deluxe, and the non-S version of the Low Rider with the Milwaukee-Eight 107 engine. The 107ci Street Bob is also gone, replaced with the new 114 model, while the Breakout 114 will no longer be available in the U.S., though it will continue to be offered in some international markets.

    The Softail Standard (and the Milwaukee-Eight 107) is also returning for 2021.

    One thing that did surprise us about the Softail and Touring bikes is that Harley-Davidson is still offering models with the 107 engine. We figured that eventually, the 1746cc version of the Milwaukee Eight would be phased out in favor of the 114ci (1868cc) V-Twin motor. For the immediate future, however, it looks like Harley-Davidson intends to keep both engine displacements around.

    What about the 2021 Sportsters and Street models?

    Last year, Harley-Davidson confirmed that the Sportster and Street models would not be updated to meet Euro 5 regulations, which effectively means they are being discontinued in Europe and other markets that follow similar standards. They will live on in the U.S. and many other markets however, but not without some contractions.

    The Harley-Davidson Roadster is no more, leaving the Sportster family with just three models.

    Harley-Davidson’s launch event did not mention a peep about the Sportsters or Street models, but as we had previously reported, the Roadster model has been dropped, along with the Street 750 and Street Rod. The Iron 883, Iron 1200 and Forty-Eight are returning with new colors, so the air-cooled Sportsters will live on for at least another year. As for the liquid-cooled Street models, the only version remaining is the Street 500, but only for use in the Harley-Davidson Riding Academy.

    The Street model never took off, and it’ll primarily live on at H-D Riding Academy training schools.

    The Sportster as we know it may be on its final legs, but Harley-Davidson does have a replacement in the works. Some believe the Custom 1250 and its liquid-cooled Revolution Max engine will be the Sportster’s successor (more on that below), but we also know Harley-Davidson has been working on a new air-cooled V-Twin with variable valve timing that could be another potential replacement for the Sportster’s Evolution engine.

    Is the Harley-Davidson LiveWire back for 2021?

    Yes, sort of. The electric LiveWire was not mentioned in any of Harley-Davidson’s launch materials last week, and on the company’s official website, it is still listed as a 2020 model. Motorcycle.com can confirm that Harley-Davidson has submitted VIN decoder information for the 2021 LiveWire, and and it’s listed on Harley-Davidson’s press website as a 2021 model, but the colors, specs, and most of the photos are the same as for the 2020 model.

    Interestingly, there was one difference between the LiveWire’s press kit from 2020 and 2021. The page for the 2021 model removed this paragraph:

    “The LiveWire model is the first in a broad portfolio of electric two-wheelers designed to establish Harley-Davidson as the leader in the electrification of motorcycles. Its debut is a significant part of the More Roads to Harley-Davidson plan to accelerate building the next generation of riders through new products in additional motorcycle segments, broader access and a commitment to strengthen dealers globally.”

    Deleting the sentence about the More Roads plan makes sense because the plan has been replaced by the Rewire and the Hardwire (the press site also linked to the plan’s public page, which is no longer available). What’s interesting is the sentence about a “broad portfolio of electric two-wheelers.” As we have previously reported, Harley-Davidson may be rethinking its electric strategy, recently removing mentions of a future flat track-inspired electric motorcycle from its website. Deleting that first sentence provides further evidence that Harley’s electric plans have shifted.

    Based on this information, we believe that the LiveWire is returning for 2021, but suspect there may be further details to come shortly. The electric flat-tracker may not be in the mix any more, but Harley-Davidson’s website still shows its electric scooter concept. It’s possible Harley may be saving news on the 2021 LiveWire to go with a reveal of the scooter later this year.

    What future models does Harley-Davidson have planned?

    Harley-Davidson says it won’t comment on any future products, but that didn’t stop it from including some teasers at the end of the 2021 launch video. Those who kept watching after Chief Executive Officer Jochen Zeitz gave his closing remarks were treated to a few sneak peaks.

    Most of the footage was of the Pan America 1250, which will be launched Feb. 22, but there were a few other highlights, including the Custom 1250. Officially listed as being “planned for 2021,” we suspect the Custom 1250 will eventually be announced as a 2022 model, as all we’ve seen of it so far is an early prototype. The Custom was accompanied by a sketch of a bike with similar features, but more neutral foot positioning and a different rear shock layout.

    Whether this is an early draft of the Custom 1250 (the sketch is dated 2016, and the Custom was first shown in 2018) or an entirely different model is unclear. Until we hear otherwise, we will assume this is an early design for the Custom.

    Even more intriguing is a brief glimpse of a fuel tank console with the word “Revival” written on it:

    The Revival logo has a “™” trademark symbol, but as of this writing, we can not any evidence of Harley-Davidson having filed for the rights to that name. What exactly is the Harley-Davidson Revival? The fuel tank console suggests it is some kind of cruiser or bagger. We suspect to hear more about the Revival when Harley-Davidson releases details about the Hardwire on Feb. 2.

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    Dennis Chung
    Dennis Chung

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