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Harley-Davidson's new Sport Glide is a touring cruiser

Charles Fleming, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Automotive News

Harley-Davidson has added a new motorcycle to its Softail line. The Sport Glide, due in dealerships this week, is intended to attract riders who want a city cruiser with touring attributes.

Not as stripped down as a Sportster, but not as bulked up as an Electra Glide, the Sports Glide is trying to split the difference between the "naked" cruiser and the "full dress" touring machine.

"We wanted to offer people a touring motorcycle that isn't intimidating," said Dave Latz, senior product manager for Harley. "We wanted to offer something to the nontraditional touring rider that would allow them to get into the touring space, but also serve the need of touring riders who didn't want to ride a full-sized touring bike anymore."

The new motorcycle is powered by Harley's Milwaukee Eight engine, a 107-cubic-inch V-twin powerplant that makes 108 pound feet of torque and is shared by most of the new Softail bikes announced by Harley in August.

Like its brother cruisers, it features a 6-speed gearbox, electronic fuel injection, and standard ABS. It has a seat height of 25.7" and weighs in at 698 pounds when it's gassed and ready to ride.

But it departs from its fellow Harleys in key areas. The Sport Glide comes standard with a small, detachable fairing and a pair of small, detachable saddlebags.

It also features inverted front forks and a slimmer side case, which increase the pared-down look. Its "Mantis" wheels, the company said, are the first "directional" wheels Harley has ever put on a stock bike.

The Milwaukee company, like most motorcycle manufacturers, is struggling with declining sales, and is hoping to preserve market share by adding new riders to its shrinking customer base.

In October, the company said worldwide sales dropped 6.9 percent below sales levels for the comparable period in 2016, while U.S. sales fell 8.1 percent.

"The continued weakness in the U.S. motorcycle industry only heightens our resolve and the intensity we are bringing to the quest to build the next generation of Harley-Davidson riders," Matt Levatich, Harley president and chief executive, said at the time.

Paul James, Harley product portfolio manager, called Sport Glide "a conquest motorcycle," and said, "This is for people who aspire to Harley but didn't see anything in the catalog that was just right for them."

It will also be, James said, a trade-up motorcycle for riders who've been on other Harleys. Customers who might have started with Harley on the entry-level Sportsters might be interested in moving to something larger -- but maybe not something quite as massive as a 900-pound Ultra Glide.

The 700-pound Sport Glide offers a mid-range motorcycle.

"We think it has the ability to attract new buyers, and used bike owners," James said.

That Harley says the new Sport Glide will be available from $18,599 and, for now, will come in only Vivid Black, Twisted Cherry and Silver Fortune.

Like other Harleys, the new motorcycle comes with a vast collection of after-market parts and accessories. Included are performance enhancers that could push the engine horsepower and torque up to the level of the company's 114-cubic-inch engine.

(c)2017 Los Angeles Times

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