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|"QUANTUM SHOT" #703|
Link - by Avi Abrams
Back to the Basics: Lean as wire, hard as iron and dark as a tar road at midnight
This is Blackline, the newest motorcycle in Harley-Davidson’s Dark Custom family. Designed for our post-everything, back-to-the-basics times, Blackline adds more fuel to the Dark Custom movement that young riders have embraced in record numbers.
We've arranged for the exclusive interview with Harley-Davidson's Dark Custom team to answer questions about this amazing new motorcycle’s unique, authentic approach; and why young riders are gravitating toward the Dark Custom machines.
DRB: It seems this bike's attitude is rooted in Depression era; what are the bikes that inspired it, back in the Harley-Davidson catalogue?
Amanda Lee, Harley-Davidson Motor Company:
The Blackline motorcycle embodies an attitude of rebellion and defiance that takes its cues from the rogue roots of Harley-Davidson’s 108-year history.
(Photographs courtesy of the Harley-Davidson Motor Company Archives.)
Blackline is understated and yet classic; you’ll see styling elements inspired by many of its Big Twin predecessors from as early as the 1920s. For example, the Horseshoe Oil Tank was inspired by the original on the 1936 EL. The black rims on the wheels also hearken back to the 1930s. A unique styling element of the Blackline are the black cylinders with gray heads, topped with a black rocker top – this is seen on certain Panhead and Shovelhead models of the 1950s and ‘60s.
Minimalist styling, stripped-down, barely-legal and chopped elements
The black primary cover with chrome clutch cover is reminiscent of what appeared on the Big Twins in the late 1940s through the 1960s. The round air cleaner you see on the Blackline is also found on the Softail Cross Bones – this is a styling element that originated in the 1940s and was used all the way up to the Evolution era of the 1980s and ‘90s.
Up front and tucked into the frame, the black headlamp replicates the standard appearance on Harleys from the World War 1 years all the way up to the late 1940s, after which they were chromed. The lower black fork legs are slightly reminiscent of the 1949 Hydra Glide front end because that was the original, modern FL front end. The slammed speedo on the handlebars is pre-1936 and delivers a sporty look.
Other styling elements come from more than just Harley-Davidson history, taking authentic cues from motorcycle culture as well. The chopped rear fender made famous by post-WWII riders is bobbed high-and-tight over a slim 144mm tire.
DRB: I also notice some similarity to the popular British bikes from the 1970s, such as Norton Commando, Triumph T150, etc - powerful, youth-oriented freedom symbols. Is this intentional homage to these legendary machines?
Actually, no. The Harley-Davidson Blackline motorcycle carries forward many styling cues that are unique to Harley-Davidson’s 108-year legacy, as noted in the previous answer.
DRB: This is one beautiful lean, mean machine - many will notice design references to the 1930s and 1940s era of unadulterated rebel machines. Am I correct in assuming that Harley-Davidson designers tapped that stylistic niche to market machines to modern often-disillusioned post-everything youth?
Riders have always related to Harley-Davidson in ways that are authentic to their generation. Years back, we recognized a growing movement among young riders that reflected the “back to basics” mentality, focusing more on customization through minimalization. We were excited to see this happening because so much of what young riders were embracing came from the rogue roots of Harley’s history. So in 2008, we shined the light on this movement and we named it Dark Custom.
The Blackline motorcycle is part of Dark Custom. Dark Custom embodies minimalist styling, stripped-down, barely-legal and chopped elements, a rough and raw attitude and blacked-out engine components that are meant to be ridden hard and put away dirty. Basically, Dark Custom is about stripping away the embellishments that don’t define today’s younger generation of riders and exposing the bike in a way that allows riders to make their own statement.
The Blackline is basically a light-weight Softail, stripped down lean and raw. It is not a sport bike, but certainly is athletic.
A motorcycle for all those who run by their own moral code. It’s for riders who know who they are, and answer to no one.
In terms of the bike’s personality, the Blackline is a motorcycle for all those who run by their own moral code. It’s for riders who know who they are, and answer to no one. The Blackline celebrates a spirit of defiance and irreverence that defines Dark Custom – it’s pared to the bone, stripped to the legal limit, and is the perfect balance of allegiance and rebellion with a look that’s honest, functional and attainable. Simply put – it brings together a trifecta of mechanical beauty, internal combustion and the long black line of the road ahead.
DRB: What Dark Custom line consists of, and will there be further Dark Custom entries?
Six motorcycles make up the Dark Custom line – the Nightster, Cross Bones, Iron 883, Forty-Eight, Street Bob and Fat Bob (go to www.harley-davidson.com/darkcustom to learn more and see the bikes)
Of course the economic climate over the past few years has been challenging, but the incidence of motorcycling among young adults is growing, and Harley-Davidson has been growing its market share leadership among this age category. We are the leader among young adults ages 18-34 in U.S. street bike market share.
The Blackline is priced at an affordable U.S. MSRP of $15,499 in Vivid Black.
DRB: What is your favorite bike stunt / movie sequence?
Well, I have to say that Evel Knievel is my all time favorite motorcycle daredevil. I had the chance to spend some time with his son, Kelly Knievel, for an exhibit that we hosted at the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee last year, and it was amazing to hear some of Kelly’s first-hand stories about his dad’s rise to fame.
I don’t know if it’s considered a “stunt” scene, but the funniest motorcycle movie moment is when Pee-Wee Herman knocks over an entire row of motorcycles in the movie “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure.” The bikers run outside and grab him – he’s such a nerd, and he thinks he’s going down, but in the end they all end up being buddies.
DRB: If this bike had a character/personality, what would it be, and what are the best words to describe its typical rider?
The Blackline embodies a place and time in your life when you aren’t looking back and you’re not looking forward. You just ARE. You answer to no one. You run by your own moral code. And you have one helluva good time doing it.
(Photographs courtesy of the Harley-Davidson Motor Company Archives.)
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