Speed / October 2017

Omega and Alpha: How Harley-Davidson is Reshaping its Future

The Rake rides the last of Harley-Davidson’s Dynas and the first of its new 2018 Softails… and the results may surprise purists.

The 2018 Harley Davidson Fat Bob.

One of the most famous passages in Darwin’s Origin of Species, the book that first espoused his now widely accepted Theory of Evolution was immediately removed by him because of the public ridicule it received. In this passage he explained how he could imagine a land-based mammal like the North American black bear transforming through millennia of evolution into an aquatic creature like a whale. His exact words were, “I can see no difficulty in a race of bears being rendered, by natural selection, more aquatic in their structure and habits, with larger and larger mouths, till a creature was produced as monstrous as a whale," leading to expressions of outrage by the already scornful creationists that viewed his writing and scientific research as satanic. And not since Darwin attempted to demonstrate how brown bears wandering ever further into the water in an attempt to find a more plentiful supply of fish, could eventually adapt to their environment to become whales, has the world witnessed such apoplectic controversy until the launch of the new Harley-Davidson 2018 motorcycle line-up.

What was the source of all the furor, interweb rants and social media turmoil, that collectively felt like the equivalent of the denizens of Ingolstadt trying to batter the doors of Victor Frankenstein’s home and dispatch him and his ‘creature’ for their crimes against humanity? The fact that Harley-Davidson has merged their two most iconic Big Twin lines, the Softail – a configuration meant to evoke a rigid frame bike, and the Dyna – a more simple twin shock set-up. And what this really meant was that it had created an all-new mono shock frame, that in appearance resembled the Softail but in performance, lightness and rigidity elevated the Milwaukee Company’s game to an all-new level and in so doing eliminated the Dyna family.

Harley loyalists were incensed beyond belief. #RIPDyna rapidly became one of the most popular hashtags on Instagram. Everyone was shaken to the very core. Why? Because in recent years Dyna (such as the stripped down no frills Street Bob and Low Rider) had become the darling of the young ‘wheelie centric’ street stunt outlaw scene who modified their rides with inverted front ends, jacked up rear ends with Ohlins shocks, fairings and motorcross style handlebars.So the feeling was that the Motor Company had decimated its most relevant model, focusing instead on the Softail line, which is generally perceived to be the ‘old man’s’ model in the Harley family.

Indeed, anyone owning a Sons of Anarchy novelty T-shirt was wringing their hands, gnashing their teeth and vowing some kind of Old Testament retribution against Harley-Davidson. Well, everyone except for me. I often associate myself with the character Chauncey Gardiner from the Peter Sellers film Being There, who is profoundly simple minded, almost totally inept in all things but has a knack for being in the right place at the right time. And so it was that I somehow ordered the very last Harley Dyna to ever be delivered to Asia before I knew the Dyna family was to be no more. And that bike happened to be the very last Low Rider S to be sent to my tropical climes, the model that is commonly considered to be the very best Dyna ever made.

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Wei Koh

The Rake's Founder & Editorial Director.