Fresh off a big year that saw the outside-the-box debut and huge demand for the Pan America adventure bike and a complete modern rethink of the venerable Sportster line with the hot-rod Sportster S, American motorcycling stalwart Harley -Davidson has revealed their 2022 lineup, which includes the return of a fan favorite.
There were no big bombshell announcements along the lines of the two new high-profile bikes that hit last year, but in a 30 minute online presentation Wednesday morning, CEO Jochen Zeitz also clearly indicated that there were more bikes to come as the year goes on, including models likely based around the new Revolution Max motor platform, which powers the surprise hit Pan America and the just-released Sportster S. The first Sportster debuted back in 1957 as a lighter-weight speedster and has been in the lineup ever since, but the new “S” design and motor brings the nameplate squarely into the present.
One rumored reveal that did come to pass is the return of the Low Rider S (above), a popular stripped-down power cruiser that briefly went on hiatus after being introduced in 2017. The “Low Rider” nameplate is a Harley icon and has been around since the 1970s, and despite the low-and-slow connotation of the name, the Low Rider has been a top performance choice in the Motor Company’s lineup for decades.
Now it’s back with a bigger motor and some other updates, but the biggest news of the day may have been the introduction of a stablemate for the S, the Low Rider ST (T for “tour”), which adds a sporty windscreen and quick-detach hard bags for long-distance duty. In the “Further Faster” reveal video, available below, Harley designers say they started to see riders showing up at events on Low Rider S models kitted out for touring and decided to offer a turn-key OEM solution. The Low Rider S will run $18,349 with the ST sport tourer coming in at $21,749.
Many riders and industry watchers were wondering if the Low Rider S would return with the hoped-for Revolution Max motor, but Harley stuck to tradition and the S and ST are instead powered by the latest 117-cubic inch air-cooled Milwaukee-Eight motor, which should be a potent performer but doesn’t quite rise to the level of the Revolution Max power plant. This author reviewed the 2017 Low Rider S, which had a 110-cubic inch air-cooled engine and I found it was plenty fast, so despite the new model not getting the RevMax heart, the new bikes, which are identical mechanically, should prove plenty powerful. Look a review later this year.
Power and performance was Zeitz’s theme of the day, and he also debuted two hopped-up touring bikes, the Road Glide ST and Street Glide ST, each for $29,999. Both bikes have received the same high-power 117ci Milwaukee-Eight motor as the Low Rider models, but feature larger carrying capacity and larger windscreens for rider protection, along with high-output Rockford-Fosgate audio systems and other touring amenities.
The ST-series “baggers,” as these types of bikes are known, have performance enhancements born of a unique racing series known as King of the Baggers (or “KOTB”), which began as a one-off sideshow race in 2020, but proved so popular that the race returned as a three-stop series in 2021 and will run six rounds this year. In the KOTB competition, skilled racers ride race-prepped heavyweight touring bikes – saddlebags and all – on road courses at triple-digit speeds. Here’s a recap of last season’s last race, with Harley taking back the trophy from Indian:
The racing action proved to be unexpectedly exciting and was also more relatable to cruiser riders than typical sports bike racing, as well as highlighting the rekindling of the Harley vs. Indian competition that marked American motorcycle racing from as far back as the early 1900s. Once-defunct Indian is now a subsidiary of Minnesota-based Polaris and has been eating into Harley’s market share since relaunching in 2011. They also produce a line of bagger-style touring bikes, so racing them was, perhaps, inevitable.
Otherwise, most of 2021’s models return, with the somewhat unique Sport Glide disappearing with the arrival of the Low Rider ST. The Pan America adventure bike, a new-market moonshot for Harley that turned out to be a breakout hit for the company in 2021, returns essentially unchanged for 2022 except for some new color options. While the Pan America did not gestate under Zeitz, it’s clear the company will be building on its success into the future.
Adventure or “ADV bikes” that can be ridden long distance, including off road, have been one of the hottest segments in motorcycling for years now, led mostly by BMW with their iconic GS machines, which were first introduced in the 1980s.
Entering the highly competitive segment with a brand new machine featuring a clean-sheet design and a new engine was a huge risk for Harley, but it has paid off handsomely, with the Pan America taking Best Adventure Bike honors over BMW and other contenders at prestigious industry publications like Cycle World and Motorcycle.com. Dealers report the bikes are selling quickly and long waits to receive new units have been reported by buyers due to high demand. Look for my full review of the Pan America soon here on Forbes.com.
There was no word on any updates or new models to Harley’s other breakout effort, the all-electric LiveWire motorcycle, which has now been spun off as its own brand and will go public in a SPAC deal eventually. The LiveWire One, as it’s now known, has seen a price drop from almost $30,000 to $21,999, putting it more in line price-wise with offerings from market leader Zero Motors. The final price for buyers can be thousands less thanks to federal and local electric vehicle incentives. Harley also offers a line of electric bicycles under the Serial 1 brand, but there were no updates or any news about them on Wednesday.
The splitting off of the Serial 1 ebike and LiveWire lines into their own brands has been a major move for Zeitz and Harley as they seek to bring new riders to the fold with forward-thinking designs, new market offerings like the Pan America and more products outside the usual cruiser and touring fare. While Low Rider fans are certainly happy with the news so far, it will be interesting to see what new machines Harley brings to bear as the year goes on.