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H-D embraces the dark side

Dark Custom line targets 20-something demographic

By Motorcycle.Com Staff, Apr. 30, 2008
Harley-Davidson’s stripped-down Dark Custom collection aims for younger riders while taking a page from its past.

The Dark Custom bikes, which includes the Nightster, Night Rod Special, Night Train, Fat Bob, Street Bob and the new Cross Bones, takes vintage Harley-Davidson designs but removes the chrome and full fenders and blacks out the rims, engine assembly and handle bars. The result is a darker, grittier look that the company says has “deliberate under- and overtones of rebellious expression.”

“Like previous generations of bikes, Dark Custom represents an attitude,” says Paul James, director of product communications for Harley-Davidson. “We’d be kidding ourselves if we said history didn’t have an impact on the designs of these Dark Customs. The same sort of utilitarian attitude that drove bike design in the postwar years is alive and well today. Dark Custom is about stripping away the chrome and embellishments that don’t define a younger generation of riders and exposing the bike in a way that screams ‘make your own statement.’”

Reaching a younger demographic is an important step for Harley-Davidson, as the company faces a down-turn in sales that contributed to the laying-off of 700 employees. As reported in our State-of-the-Cruiser Address feature, Harley-Davidson’s traditional audience, the baby boomers, is aging and the Dark Custom collection is the company’s attempt to break into the maturing 20-something market.The Harley-Davidson Cross Bones features a black springer fork, rims and engine assembly.

Subtle features such as the stitched seats, punk color scheme and BMX-reminiscent grind pegs help add to the appeal.

But the Dark Custom collection isn’t just about image. All six models feature Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI), straight-shot exhaust, reduced clutch lever effort, high performance carbon fiber drive belts, more responsive engines and redesigned gauges.

“Dark Custom is raw and genuine, so young riders can make their own statement,” says Willie G. Davidson, vice president of styling and grandson of one of the company’s founders. “It starts where we began. Rebellious. Lean and hungry. Honest and familiar. It’s good to be home.”

Related Reading
State-of-the-Cruiser Address
2008 Harley Davidson Cross Bones
2008 Harley-Davidson Models
First quarter sales down for H-D