Reaction to H-D '21 Virtual Launch Event

Usually I would preface a blog like this with my history with the MoCo, and how I'm a fan, but after this "Event' my patience and fanhood are waning. Instead I'll preface this with, a question: Should I be surprised at this disappointing video presentation? The answers are coming so please read on.

First off, this was not a live event. Not that I expected it to be. This was a clear campaign to bring attention to, simply put, a bunch of commercials and infomercials strung together as an event. Of course, without all of the hoopla, that wouldn't bring the certain percentage of people in that are just curious, so that's frankly, that's all fine and good.

Give us your info, or you can't watch.

Coming into the event I was already skeptical. You had to "Register" online beforehand and that was not the end of it. Before you were even able to watch, you had to enter your personal info, and check a box of when you are considering buying your next motorcycle. That was enough for me to find the stream on YouTube (even though I already know HD has my info).

I'll add that it doesn't help that simultaneous to their event, you could already look at 2021 bikes on the site. Apple, for example will wait until after the event is over to publish content on their website, so as not to undercut their "virtual launch event". I've also seen YouTubers already "revealing" bikes on their channels and that also cheapens the event.

So, before jumping in, I'll just say, that this wasn't any different than the dealer meetings that they've done in the past. It was pretty much the same, only dumbed down. Presenters used super vague language, essentially sounding like dealer salespeople saying things like "this bike looks awesome" (seriously, I couldn't keep track of how many times they called something awesome). They also literally mentioned that a CVO model includes "technology". No joke one of the features they mentioned was technology. The meeting was chocked full of buzz words like "classic design". Now, I'm all for classic touches and homage to old style, but for me it's always about how motorcycle and vehicle companies are integrating tech, safety and quality into that style.

After the CVO and Special model presentations, it seemed obvious that there wasn't going to be anything actually new. I mean they followed these two presentations with paint colors. *SIGH*

The Street Bob video featured a rider, Ashmore Ellis (co-founder of Babes Ride Out). Her story was compelling and inspiring. But, personally speaking while watching a lineup reveal, I want to hear about the bike. The time they spent on the presentation and on the people presenting was distracting especially when the the details were so basic. They spoke of how excited they were about customization, but that rings extremely hollow when so many people right now are going to struggle to even afford a motorcycle, let alone decking it out with $1,000's of custom parts and performance upgrades. And really all that seemed new about the Street Bob was the 114 Milwuakee Eight now available in the Street Bob, and the new paint.

They moved on to apparel and gear, which I just frankly don't care about. I mean, I am a practicer of ATGATT (all the gear, all the time), but I would say 75-85% of the H-D riders I encounter on the road are not wearing protective gear. In my opinion it's overpriced, and after owning a bunch of H-D gear, there just isn't anything to warrant what you pay for, other than the brand name.

The Fat Boy roll-out, was what really put the nail in the coffin of this event. The big new feature is that the sleek brushed, or satin, finishes are now chrome. What this screams to me is that they're catering to the older crowd, but it was just contrasted against the presentation that seemed to be reaching out to a younger demo. I just don't see riders wanting a chromed out bike that are younger than 55 (and I don't mean any offense by that). My biggest concern for Harley-Davidson is about the future. So, when they make changes to seemingly appease older riders, I simply ask why?

To close the event CEO, Jochen Zeitz made a short appearance to say he's been in another country testing the Pan America, which we heard nothing about. Cut to a Jason Mamoa and the event was over. I'm actually a fan of Mamoa, but in this context, no thanks.

My gut reaction to the H-D Virtual Launch Event was, THAT WAS IT? Every other bike that I didn't mention was not talked about. I mean, these presentations didn't seem like they were overproduced or expensive, but they only made a handful of them. I understand that for 2021, the other bikes aren't going to have much (if any) changes, but the whole thing took less than an hour (including the 15-20 min spent on the rider stories) and for anyone that's watched a dealer meeting it was so underwhelming. And for HD that's bad.

Even for the bikes they "launched" during this even, there really wasn't anything new. Aside from paint jobs and chrome, they essentially are offering the exact same thing as 2020, but with fewer bikes in the line-up. No big surprise there, though, as the new CEO has been transparent about cutting down the model offerings.

I have to add that literally 15 minutes after the stream was over, I got an email from Indian with the subject "Ride more, for less". And that contrast seems stark. The HD presentations seemed really dismissive of the climate right now. It spoke of premium this and that, and upgrades and performance mods that will cost the rider $1,000's more than what they'll pay out the door. This while there are thousands of riders out there trying to decide if they need to sell their bikes to keep their homes or pay their rent. It just seemed really disingenuous.

I mean, I get it. They've got to sell their bikes, and the fact they can run this out there during this time probably means they know their base is not included in those who are struggling. But in that case, there was still nothing for someone to get excited about. What this boiled down to was this was an effort to sell motorcycles, and in my opinion, this isn't going to sell anyone anything.

Now, I know there is a fine line Harley has to walk between dumbing it down and appealing to a crowd that is well informed, but this bordered on insulting. This is coming from a guy who went to college, but I don't have an advanced degree. I do my research and I try to stay up to date with tech, cars and bikes and this was a whole lot of fluff and not a lot of substance.

So for anyone who isn't already a fan of Harley-Davidson saw an ad on YouTube or on TV and thought "cool. I'll watch that", and then got past the totally transparent grab at getting more people's info so they can spam your mail and email, I'm sorry. If you were expecting more, that was pretty much par for the course. I was hoping with Zeitz at the H-D helm, we'd see or feel something different, but it seems that the status quo will suffice.

Me on my 2013 Dyna Fat Bob

As for myself, who's owned three Harley's in my 12 years of riding, my chances of owning a fourth are dwindling. I don't make enough money to throw it at a bike and a company that is satisfied with what they displayed today. I'm more interested in progress than (in this case literally) a shiny new object. Give me something to look forward to, Harley and deliver on that. Make that your focus for 2022, and give me a reason to be a fan again.

Side note - right now on H-D's website it still has the Pan America and Custom slated for 2021, but that has to be a longshot. If they were that close, it certainly would've been a point of emphasis for this event. Also, I'll add that these bikes have been in the "Coming Soon" column for at least two years, so there's more than one reason to cast doubt on the delivery of these bikes.