2015 Harley-Davidson Parts & Apparel Launch | Review

2015 Harley-Davidson Parts & Apparel Launch | Review
2015 Harley Product Launch

2015 Harley-Davidson Parts, Accessories and Motor Clothing

Decades ago a Wall Street firm advertised by telling people “We listen.” Often, for companies as well as people, talking is easier. During the recent launch of Harley-Davidson’s 2015 lineup of parts, accessories and motor clothing we were given an inside look at how the Motor Company endeavors to refine their offerings and keep their line-up fresh and popular.

Let’s face it, refinement, rather than bold-and-new, is the name of the game for H-D. They make what many riders want to buy and that’s good business. Haters will criticize them for what they think is antiquated engineering but Harley is very busy wrapping the old look around new technology.

When people I meet find out that I ride, more often than not, they ask if I ride a Harley. This is a public relations dream come true. So haters, find something else to complain about – the V-Twin is here to stay because that’s what buyers want and Harley listens.

In a world full of noise, The Motor Company thinks of itself as the most customer-responsive company in the world and they go to great lengths, take much time and spend a lot of money and resources to find out what their customers desire. And it works. The acronym “VOC” (voice-of-the-customer) is something one hears often when in the company of their product managers.

They utilize every type of statistical method of gathering information including focus groups and surveys. They offer nationwide demos of bikes and apparel with exit surveys to understand what it is that moves and shakes their customers so that they can, basically, give them what they want.

This may be easy but few companies are this responsive. After all, they are in business to not only build motorcycles but to make money. This sounds simple but isn’t and, more often than not, manufacturers build and supply what they think customers want, or should want – often with disappointing results for both sides.

Their product managers visit dealers to “walk a mile with a dealer” and find out what they think and evaluate opportunities. They test everything and are proud of the “Hog Wash” which, as I understand, is like riding the bike through a high-powered car wash to check for parts that aren’t waterproofed properly and to see if all-weather gear really is. They judge products five ways; fit – function – style – performance and garage (how it looks in yours). It’s a down-to-earth approach that works and should serve as an example for other manufacturers, regardless of their business.

They listen like when riders expressed that taking the top case off the Ultra was too hard. HD relocated the stereo amp to the lower left bag and solved the problem. Riders also commented that the traditional placement of jacket vents didn’t match up well with air flow off their fairings. Their newest jackets now have new vent locations.

This recent launch dealt with company strategy, as relates to P&A and clothing, and focused upon their new sound systems, premium Dyna suspension and their newest FXRG Switchback jacket.

Also covered were the Men’s Heated Dual-Source 12V Jacket Liner and High Tail Colorblocked Hi-Vis Rain Suit which we will feature in a separate review. Interestingly, press launches are scheduled far in advance. The idea that they will highlight this inclement weather gear in Southern California, which hasn’t seen much rain (or cold weather for that matter) in years and, amazingly, have rain and cold weather, is a testament to the influence and power (or luck) of The Motor Company.

Boom Audio Stage II

Frank Sardina is an experienced product manager and charged with delivering more and better sound to H-D bikes. He succeeded and showed us several versions of their new model-specific, multi-driver, high-output, low distortion systems. With power outputs of 300, 600, 900 and 1200 watts they hit hard and sound amazing. Even in my full-face helmet on a ride, with only 600 watts, this system was better than the one in my living room. Pity the neighbors.

Some of the add-on amplifiers are hidden in the fairing and the Tour-Pak and up to 8 speakers are available to mount on your ride. Amplifier input is received from a pre-amp type signal to eliminate distortion. There is automatic EQ and most speakers are 3-way with what they call “high excursion bass” with long cone travel.

They are developed specifically for H-D motorcycles to optimize their performance in the positions and enclosures within which they will be mounted. The Boom moniker is accurate. Sardino says they are tuned for quality sound and when we listened to the systems in the quiet garage, with all kinds of music, they sounded as good as any I’ve heard. The systems do not support a Bluetooth link to your headset but do operate with Harley’s wired headset option.

Premium Dyna Suspension

The new suspension system was introduced to us by Jeff Strunk, P&A Portfolio & Channel Integration Director. This is a drop-in replacement for the left fork internals and triple-rate springs in both forks as well as replacement shocks for the rear on Dyna models only. They are said to be “developed as a system for optimum benefit with smooth and great handling.”

The fork kit offers better road contact and damping and absorbs bumps better while limiting bottoming resistance. The rear shocks have a larger piston and preload range. They also limit bottoming and make for an improved and more comfortable ride.

We did not get a chance to ride a bike with this upgrade but Dyna owners who like to push their bikes a little harder than average may be interested in this new kit. It is available as the Premium Ride Single Cartridge Front Fork Kit (MSRP $349.95) and the Premium Ride Emulsion Shocks (MSRP $599.95).

New FXRG Switchback Jacket

We also got a close-up look at the new FXRG jacket – their first upgrade to this jacket in five years. It was designed to put vents at the exact places where the wind flows on H-D faired bikes.

Since air doesn’t flow generously at shoulder height, where we usually see vents on jackets, the triple-vents are positioned under the arm for maximum ventilation.

The FXRG appears to be a 4-seasons garment constructed of fabric or leather and Scotchlite reflective materials. It has a windproof and waterproof membrane, mesh lining and a removable and breathable warmth liner as well as waterproof pockets inside and out. There are zippered cuffs and a removable kidney belt. There is removable armor at the elbows and shoulders and a pocket in back for an optional back protector.

This jacket has a unique way of unzipping and shedding its skin to turn it into a mesh summer jacket that really works and is not just another winter jacket with vents. The new FXRG is available in textile (MSRP $595) and leather (MSRP $795).

For additional information, visit Harley-Davidson.