“Custom” used to mean a customizer actually built a unique, one-off motorcycle just for you. Then it morphed into the oxymoronic “factory custom,” with thousands of identical bikes rolling out of factories in America and Japan. For 2011, Harley-Davidson is introducing a customizing program for its mid-year release 2011 Sportster Custom that could shift the word back to what it used to mean.
Even if you just want the basic bike, the 1200 Custom gets a lot of changes (for a Sporty) for 2011. New five-spoke cast-aluminum wheels get fat 16-inch tires front and back. A wider fork with polished triple clamps further accents the wide stance. The venerable “eyebrow” over the headlamp is restyled, and the front is matched by a smaller, reshaped tail lamp. MSRP is $10,299, a $300 bump over the 2010 1200 Custom.
Harley Davidson is now offering its “H-D1” factory customization program to buyers of the 2011 Sportster 1200 Custom. Through a tool on its website, customers can choose wheels, bars, engine finish, paint and graphics and other details in over 2600 possible combinations. Once the prospective buyer is satisfied with how his new bike will look, he or she can go down to a participating dealer and get “fitted” for the bike, with dealership personnel recommending bars, seats, controls and accessories that will ensure a perfect fit for the rider.
According to a video on the H-D site, radical adjustments like suspension and seat-foam alteration can be made to make sure everybody (read: even very short people) has a bike they can safely manage. The order is placed, and within a month or two the built-to-order bike is delivered to the waiting customer. Victory actually started this program for 2011 as well with its Cross Roads tourer, and it’s not just good for the consumer—dealers can keep less inventory in their showrooms and warehouses, a key advantage these days.
I’m looking forward to a time when buying a new bike is a more involving experience, where a motorcycle is tailored to the individual like a suit of leathers. Modern “just in time” manufacturing and communications makes this not just possible, but inevitable. But will it mean the end of the days of snapping up last year’s leftover models at steep discounts? Probably not—no amount of computer power or slick marketing will eliminate the foibles of human error.