01 April 2018

The Kids on the Street: Harley-Davidson's grab for the youth market



There’s a common misconception in the motorcycle industry that so-called ‘millennials’, or typically 20-somethings, are not riding or buying bikes.

While most of this noise seems to be coming from the USA, the market here in Australia inevitably reflects marketing strategies employed for overseas markets

When the GFC hit in 2007, the motorcycle market tanked as people’s disposable income evaporated. This hard reset resulted in a major swerve in demographics among the motorcycle riding and owning community. In 2003, only about one-quarter of U.S. motorcycle riders were 50 or older. By 2014, it was close to half. ^

Across the industry and particularly at Harley-Davidson, there was a pressing need to create machines for younger, first-time owners that still preserved the allure of the high-value Harley-Davidson marque. The bosses at H-D embarked on a massive customer feedback campaign that shook up the 115-year-old brand and resulted in the arrival of such smaller and radical models as the all-new, liquid-cooled Street 500 and 750 V-Twins.

Newly arrived Street Rod 750 features a special high output engine for Australia

While Australia may have weathered the onslaught of the GFC much better than the USA, persistent high real estate prices have burst many property dreams for the under-30s.

“We’re seeing younger customers in our showroom now,” says Craig Smith, dealer principal at Harley-Heaven Western Sydney at Blacktown whose ‘catchment’ includes many districts with ‘greenfield’ housing development zones like Penrith, Windsor and Dural.

“It seems these younger buyers may have turned their back on the punishing real estate market, for now at least, and have decided to enjoy themselves instead,” surmises Smith.

Some of the early reviews for Street 500 were not altogether flattering, but many overlooked the purpose of this Indian-built, liquid-cooled bike, engineered expressly to keep the cost down and be less intimidating for entry-level riders.

“When it arrived here in 2015 for under $10,000, it was hard to keep up with demand, but that's settled and it's become an ongoing sales success for us now and we're doing special events aimed at Street riders, like shop rides and sales incentives.

"Our Street 500 customers see it as instant 'street cred'. Going through the learner process on a Harley is something special compared to their mates."

Smith also points out that while Harley-Davidson Australia may have been a bit cautious initially, overwhelming customer demand was such that they have now released the up-rated and more aggressively-styled 750cc ‘Street Rod’ version along with further variants in paint and accessories for the 500. In fact, Harley-Heaven Western Sydney is even throwing in helmet, jacket and gloves with every new Street 500.

So rather than waiting for new buyers to reach that critical ‘mid-life’ point or even retirement, riders can embark on their Harley-Davidson journey 20 years sooner for a fraction of the price of a full-size Softail or Sportster.

Meet the team at Harley-Heaven Western Sydney

Come in and see and ride the full Harley-Davidson range, including Street 500 and Street Rod 750 at Harley-Heaven Western Sydney, 70 Sunnyholt Rd, Blacktown or call (02) 9621 7776. http://www.harleyheaven.com.au/harley-heaven-western-sydney

^ Bloomberg, July 5, 2017


24 March 2018

AC/DC's Malcolm Young is 'Back in Black'



When one of your idols passes away it can be a very moving event, to say the least.




And so it was when AC/DC guitarist and co-founder, Malcolm Young, struck his last chord in November. The elf-like Young with his wild guitar antics had given the guys and gals at Harley-Heaven Western Sydney so much fun and good times during their misspent youth, they felt a tribute was in order.

As so it came to be.

“We were already working on this customised 114 Fat Boy when the news broke,” recalls Craig, “we just looked at each other. Speechless. One or two of us even went for our own quiet moment somewhere private. It was still a big shock even though we all knew he wasn’t well.”

The big black Softail was an obvious choice, so the team decided it was worth some extra effort and set about installing some seriously dark kit.

This unique 114 Fat Boy 'Back in Black' is Harley-Heaven Western Sydney's tribute to Malcolm Young


“With the song ‘Back in Black’ all over the airwaves, it just kind of spoke to us, so we thought ‘let’s go all out’.”

“Initially we were looking to do something in contrast with the satin chrome without going too far, but we just couldn’t hold back. Harley’s gloss black components are beautifully finished so we utilised what we could there with available OEM engine components and what we couldn’t source genuine, we had custom-finished by Marc at Sydney Customs Spray painting whose work is absolutely faultless. The wheels were the subject of much discussion and we think what we went with works quite nicely. It gives the casting some depth and allows a pleasing contrast to the centre and hubs.

click to enlarge

“From the rider’s seat we ran with Harley’s Street Slammer bar in satin black and finished it off with Airflow grips and profile custom mirrors also in satin black. We left some chrome components like the headlight trim, pushrod tubes and lifter blocks as touch points. The foot controls are still standard which could be finished off with Airflow collection in gloss black or Defiance collection depending on the new owner’s taste.”

And it wouldn’t be finished without some musical ‘tuning’ and Craig reckons Mal would approve. They even thought of calling this trick set-up the ‘Malwaukee’ treatment.

“Performance-wise, the 114 Milwaukee 8 is ready to rock’n’roll with a TBR 2018 Comp-S 2-1 in Cerakote Black, Screamin’ Eagle Extreme Flow air cleaner with Calibre cover and Screamin’ Eagle Race Tuner.”



Just like the boys in the band, this tribute bike will certainly turn heads, even bounce 'em perhaps!


Meet the team at Harley-Heaven Western Sydney


Come in and see and ride the full Harley-Davidson range at Harley-Heaven Western Sydney, 70 Sunnyholt Rd, Blacktown or call (02) 9621 7776. 

20 February 2018

Suzuki Adventure Ride with V-Strom and friends




I’ve been on a few so-called ‘shop rides’ now with Harley-Heaven and Victory and I can’t help thinking what a great idea they are for brand and community-building. It’s all well and good to swap yarns and happy snaps on Facebook, but nothing replaces a good ride in the fresh air with like-minded guys and gals.

As fortune would have it, I was in Adelaide for Suzuki’s now annual Adventure Ride where riders of all bikes were invited to Wirrina Cove down the coast almost to Cape Jervis.

Adelaide Hills roads have to be some of the best in the country for bikes

All the Suzuki bigwigs were there and I found myself chatting to the GM of motorcycles, the urbane Paul Vandenberg, quite by accident at dinner as well as state manager, Vivienne Hoffmann (we went to the same schools!) and National Marketing manager, Lewis Croft.

Just the right amount of dirt 

“Some brands like to try and make a profit from these sort of rides,” Lewis told me as we waited for our steaks, “but I like to see them as a value-add for customers and a way to keep them in touch with our brand.”

Riders paid for their own meals, fuel and accommodation, but the legwork, route planning, guiding and support was provided by Suzuki, making the whole event feel very professional.

En route to Wirrina Cove

Of course, product placement was a key feature and a fleet of new V-Strom XTs in both 650 and 1000 models joined the entourage, with test rides for all out of Wirrina Cove to Second Valley.

The 2017 ‘Standard’ V-Strom 650 (right) comes with cast wheels, while the V-Strom 650XT (left) gets tubeless wire-spoked wheels, hand guards with larger bar-end weights and a protective lower engine cowl as standard equipment.

I joined the fray on a brutish Triumph Tiger 1200 Adventure and swapping to the lighter V-Strom for the test ride showed me how light and easy to ride these bikes were. For anyone wanting a jumpstart into proper adventure riding, the 650XT has what you need for under $12k and the big 1000 is less than $19k. Japanese reliability, adequate power and torque, selectable ABS and away you go. The 650s also come in LAMS-approved guise and can later be re-mapped.

Stu taking a break on his V-Strom 650 somewhere in the wilds of Laos.

Riding pal Stu, who lives in northern Thailand, has been singing the praises of his 650 for the last 18 months, taunting me with snaps from his rides in Burma and Laos.

Our ride through the glorious Adelaide Hills stopped at the Collectable Classic Car showroom in Strathalbyn as well as the popular bike pullover at Mount Compass on the way down and the surf club at historic Sellicks Beach and fun little schoolhouse cafe at Meadows on the way back. All the while, the route was mixed with just the right amount of sealed and unsealed roads to let us experience a taste of adventure.

In a forthcoming issue of Australian Road Rider, I will detail the Fleurieu Peninsula and its many attractions for motorcycle touring enthusiasts. Stay tuned.