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Harley’s Street

street 750The latest Harley motorbikes "look nothing like the chrome-heavy cruisers they’re known for," reports Kyle Stock in Bloomberg Businessweek (6/2/14). Nor do they "have bulbous fuel tanks swelling in front of their seats, or panniers and voluptuous fenders bulging behind them. They are almost entirely devoid of silver — as black as a cocktail dress" — which is as it should be because these new bikes are not designed for "burly Hells Angels" or "doughy guys" in midlife crisis. They are designed for women.

It’s not an unlikely move, given that a lot of women "are already riding Harleys anyway, just not at the controls." Harley actually "has been working to cultivate women bikers for some time. Almost eight years ago, it started hosting ‘Garage Parties,’ a nod to 1970s-era Tupperware parties in which women gather to learn some motorcycle skills." Harley is also providing riding instructions to some "10,000 women a year" via special programs. Harley’s Claudia Garber says independence and freedom, not testosterone, are at the heart of Harley.

The new bikes, the Street 500 and Street 750, are set to go on sale soon. Currently, women "accounted for 12 percent of US heavyweight motorcycle sales last year, according to the Motorcycle Industry Council. That’s a market share increase of 30 percent over the past decade." Harley says it has "62 percent of the market," which would mean "7 percent of Harley bikes," or "almost 20,000 hogs, if the company’s sales forecast is accurate." As Harley’s John Olin puts it: "A lot of women, I guess, like to be bad asses as well."