Harley-Davidson’s Project Rushmore Brings More Rush
There’s no better summer experience for many auto lovers than racing down a back road on a motorcycle with the wind rushing by and the engine roaring beneath you. Harley-Davidson has been synonymous with the visceral thrill of motorcycles for longer than most in auto careers can remember – in fact they are celebrating their 110th anniversary this year. This Labour Day weekend in Milwaukee, where the company originated, they are celebrating by making the largest new model launch in their long history.
“This is beyond anything we’ve ever done,” said Harley spokesman Matt King. The 2014 touring and trike motorcycles, developed under the name Project Rushmore, feature liquid-cooled engines and touch-screen electronics like we’re more accustomed to seeing in luxury cars. Eight new motorcycles were retooled and enhanced under the Rushmore initiative, including: the Road King, Street Glide, Street Glide Special, Electric Glide Ultra Classic, Ultra Limited, Tri Glide Ultra, CVO Ultra Limited and CVO Road King.
The family of bikes together is being called Project Rushmore, as part of a plan announced four years ago to bring new bikes and features to the marketplace faster. The project has involved obtaining and applying extensive customer feedback from “the real world” and then blending that with the company’s engineering and styling expertise to create bikes with better power, control, cooling, infotainment, automotive painting, feel and style. Gathering input from thousands of riders throughout the production process, from formal focus groups, employees, dealers, or just “that rider or passenger sitting on the next stool at a diner,” ideas for prototypes were developed, then sent out for more feedback before settling on a final design.
This is not the first time that Harley-Davidson has integrated its riders’ ideas in bike design. It overcame dwindling sales and Japanese competition in the early ’80s by deliberately exploiting the “retro” appeal of its machines, building motorcycles with the look and feel of earlier models and subsequent customizations of owners from that era.
The customer-driven enhancements on the new models include two versions of the High Output Twin Cam 103 engine, the first air and liquid-cooled engine for a Harley touring bike, which improves torque and velocity. Reflex linked braking – integrated front and rear anti-lock brakes – help the rider maintain better control, particularly in bad conditions, and new Daymaker LED headlights offer great “punch” into the darkness. Hand controls have been redesigned, with dash gauges reduced and moved to the electronic screen for better visibility. The infotainment system is voice-controlled with a touchscreen, high-quality audio and advanced GPS navigation, supporting Bluetooth and new text-to-speech technology. Wind-tunnel-honed aerodynamics reduce head buffeting by 20 percent. Seating is more comfortable and the style has been updated with a reshaped Tour-Pak, sleeker fenders and cast-aluminum wheels. Those with car sales training will be happy to learn that the new bikes will be priced comparably with 2013 models.
“We don’t do trend bikes or fashion-statement motorcycles,” said lead stylist Brian Nelson. “We try to make something that will last forever. But we also have an obligation to move the brand forward, to make it look and function better.” The company has been on a roll this year, already receiving the Pope’s blessing after donating classic white Harleys to the Vatican police as half a million bikers trekked to Rome. Globe-spanning anniversary events seek to celebrate the company’s freedom, rebellion and authenticity all year long.
Check out the new Harley in this cool video!