Harley-Davidson takes a new turn with its Street

Harley-Davidson (HOG), a name synonymous with big, powerful motorcycles for more than a century, is making a huge bet that a smaller, more nimble bike line will appeal to younger riders who live in urban areas and people outside the U.S. who don't want large bikes.

Called the Street 500 and the Street 750, they're the first new cycle line the Milwaukee-based company has made in more than a decade. And as Reuters notes, the Street is the first U.S.-built small bike under the Harley brand in about 50 years. Priced at $6,700 to $7,500, the Street is far more affordable than other Harley models, some of which go for more than double that price.

In an interview with Reuters, Harley CEO Keith Wandell said the Street was "symbolic" of Harley-Davidson's efforts to win over new riders. The new bike will also pit Harley against Japanese cycle companies that are able to price their bikes competitively because of the weak yen.

The Street has won some fans among motorcycle enthusiasts, which bodes well for Harley.

"Street 750 features a low seat height, smooth suspensions, premium brakes and broad handlebars," says Top Speed.com. At MotorcycleUSA.com, the word is the Street "is a good-looking bike, and it has a presence worthy of the HD badge on the tank."

Cycle World also praised the new bike, describing it as "a shot sure to be heard around the world. ... and the 750 delivers with spirited roll-on performance, a muted exhaust, low mechanical noise, and confidence-inspiring handling."

The Street is due to be released during the second quarter. More specific information wasn't available on the Harley-Davidson website, and a company spokesperson couldn't immediately be reached for comment.

Shares of Harley-Davidson, have gained about 30 percent over the past year, to around $66.70 now. The company, which gained about 13 points of market share over the past five years, is due to report earnings April 22. It will take many more quarters, though, before Harley knows if the Street is heading down the right road.


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    Jonathan Berr is an award-winning journalist and podcaster based in New Jersey whose main focus is on business and economic issues.