And that’s not necessarily a good thing. I read a review comparing the Ducati Monster 1100 and the HD XR1200. (Motorcycle.com review). There was some empirical data in the review such as horsepower and torque rating at various rpms. But there was a lot of talk about “style” as well.
While the XR1200 nipped at the 1100’s heels, it never quite managed to catch the Italian bike in anything except price. It came in a bare $1,200 less than the Monster. The Harley is a heavier and longer bike with less ground clearance in a turn. It has a bigger engine, producing less horsepower. Given equal riders, it won’t keep up with the Ducati.
It seemed to me that the Motorcycle.com review tried hard to make excuses for Harley. It referred to the “American viewpoint,” and gave Harley credit for the “Cool Factor.” I’m not sure a rider stopped at a stoplight in the middle of the summer, sitting atop a Harley engine vibrating so bad it blurs his vision, would think of the word “cool.”
No doubt Harley produces very good classic American cruisers. But if you’re going to try something different, then don’t do things the same way. I’ve got the image in my head of an engineer at HD, trying to make a faster, lighter, cooler and less noisy engine, slapping his forehead in frustration when he realizes that he’s stuck with a 45-degree, air-cooled V-twin design.
If Harley is happy making “cool” bikes, then arguably it is there and no one can touch it. If HD wants to make fast bikes, then it’s time to acknowledge physics. Doing something different means it won’t be like it was.
— Guy Wheatley