Several months ago, Harley-Davidson announced plans to reduce its model lineup by 30% as part of its Rewire and Hardwire business strategies. More recently, the company revealed it will announce its 2021 models online in a “ virtual launch experience” on Jan. 19. The question, then, is what current models are on the chopping block, and which models will return?
Picking out underrated Harleys is tough, sort of the moto equivalent of writing up the five least-attractive Playboy centerfold moles, the five least-cute puppy breeds, the five least-popular iced beverages at the Death Valley Golf Club in August. Even the most ignored Harleys have their own loyal and possibly violent contingents. But fearlessly tackling this type of project is why they pay me the big money. And thanks to the miracle of social media crowdsourcing, it actually winds up being kind of fun. I learned some stuff. Sadly, none of my FB friends are much older than I am, so we’re not going all the way back to 1903 to pick five. We are going back to 1974 to kick things off.
Three years ago in its maiden season, the Yamaha FZ-07 came out with both 80mm pistons blazing to take the win from five other tasty middleweights (including the KTM 690 Duke) in our 2014 Middleweight Mash-Up Six-Way Shootout! Last year, we threw the Yamaha in with the Duke 690 again – also the reborn Suzuki SV650 (alongside Gabe’s old SV, because why not?), and watched as the Yamaha lost out to the Duke by the slimmest of margins (a different set of testers…), on its way to beating up (barely) the new Suzuki SV.
As a lifelong rooter for the underdog, I really wanted to like this one. Almost three years ago, I was a big fan of the original Street 750, which wasn’t so easy because it did have a couple of glaring shortcomings. But it was such a friendly little approachable motorcycle I liked it anyway – then H-D gave it a better front brake and cured its main malfunction. But the critics still panned its lack of cornering clearance, its mundane parts manifest and its frankly sloppy fit and finish. All legit complaints, but I always liked the little Harley’s potential. The cut of its jib.