Best Innovation of 2014 – Harley Project LiveWire

2014 President’s Picks: Best Innovation - Harley Project LiveWire
Harley-Davidson Project LiveWire
2014 President’s Picks: Best Innovation - Harley Project LiveWire
Harley-Davidson Project LiveWire

Best Innovation – Harley Project LiveWire

A lot of people would scoff at the thought of Harley-Davidson being “innovative.” Jokes still abound about parts dropping off bikes during a ride, and old, slow V-twins that have to “do their best” on 80 mph highways.

But actually, nothing could be further from the truth. Harleys are well engineered, reliable motorcycles that have for many years included complex electronics systems such as self-canceling turn signals, fuel injection, cruise control, and now ABS.

Truth is, Harleys are highly sophisticated modern machines, and millions of dollars has been spent to make them look like olde-worlde classics.

So it came as a bit of a shock (no pun intended) when Harley announced its Project LiveWire electric motorcycle project — something so far beyond what is currently produced by The Motor Company it seems to have blown past several stages of evolution in the process.

But if you think about it, the decision to “go electric” is actually not all that surprising. It is merely the answer to precisely who Harley thinks they will be selling to in 20 years—and maybe sooner.

The bike itself is typical of the several electric motorcycles currently out there — it works well, whines a bit and produces gobs of torque. It is also quite heavy and has minimal range. But those latter two detractions are merely a reflection of current battery technology, and as that technology matures, the weight will come down and the range will go up.

So kudos to Harley for flying in the face of its current market and brand perception, and opening its lab doors to the public’s gaze. LiveWire is undoubtedly the future; it is just a question of how long it will take battery technology to advance to the point where electric motor powered machines reach critical mass.

What I can predict, is that the kids (the so-called “millennials”) are not going to be buying the current crop of Dyna Glides and Ultra Classics when they hit their mid-life crises at age 45; so Harley’s innovation and forward-focus is both understandable and very laudable—at least they’re thinking hard.

About Ultimate MotorCycling 2014 President’s Picks:

As President of Ultimate MotorCycling, I am a fortunate individual. Not only do I get to ride a huge variety of machines, I am also privileged to be a part of this fascinating industry that so intensely fuels our passions.

As 2014 draws into its last quarter a picture has emerged of various developments that have happened in the past year. Don Williams, our Magazine Editor, has already published his Top Ten Motorcycle Picks and somewhat naturally I agreed with him. When Ron Lieback, our Website Editor, challenged me to come up with picks of my own, I naturally gravitated more towards the industry happenings, although I do have some machinery opinions as well.

I find myself interested in those manufacturers who have the best feeling for the current motorcycle buyer; those who are trying to listen to market demand and not just thrust their latest whizz-bang machine at us; those who are trying to encourage new and returning riders to the fold; those who are trying to make the pie bigger.

So this is what I’ve come up with. It goes without saying that these are my personal picks and you may or may not agree with me; of course you may feel I’ve left something out. Respectful discussion is very healthy and I’d love to hear everyone’s opinion—good, bad or ugly. Thanks for reading and being a part of the Ultimate MotorCycling family!

To read the others, visit 2014 President’s Picks.


  1. Some of the Harley loyalists say…No Way! I say hold on and keep it development just a bit longer. The loyalists may not want it or ever purchased it however, if Harley is to ever attract a new market. They will need to be strong and daring because, the youth of today want a name to go along with a modern design. Looking at future sales of the liquid cooled 750 and 500 will tell the story. That’s their market, only a bit more upscale.

    Hipsters wanting to make a statement about who thay are and their successes would definitely consider this bike, in my opinion.

  2. Thanks Frederick — I agree with you, especially that last point about quality. Funnily enough my first new bike was a Harley… It was actually a 1977 SST 250 (I think they might have been branded Aermacchi over here in the US) and although it was an entry level bike for sure, it was still very well built. Wish had it now!

  3. Wanting to attract a new generation means moving in a different direction. Yet, that doesn’t mean Harley Davidson doesn’t needs to loose it’s identity.

    Going modern and bold in some of their designs just opens the door to a wider audience.

    So, I would think yes, on both accounts.

    I also, feel it’s time for a modern Sportster. What Indian has done with the Scout, in my eye, was a good move. That bike has the potential to bring new riders to an American motorcycle yet, it still holds true to it’s roots. It has old stylIng ques yet, a modern flair and a reasonable starting price point. (For an American bike) The Scout, was the performance model of it’s day and had Indian stayed in continuous production, I believe Indian would gone that direction with it.

    The Sportster, was also ment to be the performance model and value leader of that brand. So, I see no reason why it to can’t be updated as well.

    Oops, went off track a bit.

  4. Innovation within their market segment. There are plenty of ICE manufacturers are several Electric. H-D are not quite the only ICE maker developing electric, (Yamaha, and as mentioned elsewhere, Hero in India) but they are the only ICE manufacturer in the US currently with an electric model that they are openly developing and allowing the public to try out.
    So the innovation pick comes from the view point of a manufacturer so entrenched in a certain type/style would go in such an disruptive direction that they can only be thinking way into the future. I applaud them for the nuts to do it and deal with the derision that they’ll presumably get from the die-hards.

  5. I agree with the shock value marketing being innovative. I would have lost a large sum of money betting against HD putting out an electric bike but…why put out one…not one but dozens…that have similar performance to a frigging Big Wheel? It was like the little kid that runs up to the tray of cupcakes and licks them all so you don’t take one.

  6. H-D simply produced a prototype and allowed the public to test it to gauge reaction. the final production model–assuming there is one–will presumably be a lot more advanced, but they’ll have to wait for battery technology to improve before they can really sell an EV.
    The purpose of my story is not to get into how good or bad the Livewire is, or even will be. The purpose is to applaud their forward thinking and their decision to develop a motorcycle that is far beyond what they currently sell; one that risks incurring the considerable derision of their loyalists.

  7. I think it’s more playing “catch up” than forward thinking. And as Rumsfeld said, “You go to war with the army you have not the army you want.” Why run the risk of double ridicule from either the adherent or the antagonist?

    Can’t believe I just quoted Rumsfeld.


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