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2020 Harley-Davidson LiveWire Ride Reviews Rolling In – Good Bike, But Performance Numbers Don’t Justify High Price

LiveWire 2018

Branding is critical to many buyers, and, not surprisingly the 2020 Harley-Davidson LiveWire relies heavily on the Harley cachet to justify the starting price of $29,799.

MD is not at the press launch, but we note the publication earlier today of a riding report from friend, and talented motorcycle journalist, Basem Wasef for Autoblog.

With 105 horsepower and 86 pound/feet of torque, acceleration to 60 mph in 3 seconds flat, and a combined range of 98 miles, the LiveWire performs well, but is thoroughly out-gunned by some much less expensive competitors, such as Zero’s SR/F – more powerful, significantly greater range, lighter and more than $10,000 cheaper.

Take a look at Basem’s full report, and you can follow this link to Harley’s LiveWire web site.


See more of MD’s great photography: Instagram

135 Comments

  1. bmidd says:

    I think they will sell every one of them they can contract to be produced. I also think that most owners will never have range anxiety, because their local hangout is less than 10 miles from their house. Like most 10 year old Harleys with less than 10K miles that you find littering CL, you’ll be able to pick one of these up with almost no miles on them in a couple of years. Facts are, the majority of Harley riders just don’t ride farther than a short commute to the bar, unless it’s a Poker Run and they visit several bars, that’s called touring.

  2. Ward Bond says:

    Harley failed like so many others, but not in the motorcycle dept. They followed the same poor rules of the auto industry. If you come out with an all new product, be a leader. Harley had the chance to work a bit harder to bring a bike with a range of at least 300 miles. Harleys are known for road trips, not getting groceries. The style is great and aimed at the younger demo, but that demo doesn’t spend $30K on motorcycles. I want to see their upcoming adventure bike and new nakeds coming out. The new bikes with gasoline engines are perfect for the younger demo. Electric is here to stay, but as BMW (auto) learned and failed, the name of the game is RANGE. The public wants range when it comes to electricity.

    • Anonymous says:

      Great screen name. You and WS Hart have western actor themed names. Good post too.

    • Dave says:

      Harley is known for a brand and a curated style. As bmidd points out, about the same majority of HD’s are under-ridden as Japanese bikes. Many see electric range as unlimited as it can be “fueled” at home, nearly for free. Those riders who are legitimately concerned with max range usually wouldn’t choose a bike of this style, be it electric or ICE.

      By and large, cars are tools, bikes are toys. Nissan has out-sold everyone up to this point, with their sub-100 mile range Leaf, though it will surely be eclipsed by the Tesla 3.

  3. Shoeman says:

    Daytona demo rides offered me the opportunity to compare multiple models back to back between Harley and Indian. Bottom Line: Indian offers greater value. My favorite Harley test rides (Fat Bob, Breakout), lack Cruise control and power modes. Both feel like $15k bikes, yet retail for $20k. Indian feels much more modern (cruise, power modes). I arrived looking to buy a Harley, yet came home and purchased an Indian.

  4. arrowrod says:

    Nice looking chassis. Cut away the electric drive junk, install a 1200cc counter-balanced DOHC water cooled engine. WINNER.
    I have to point that my style tastes are poison. Bikes that I think are beautiful, don’t sell.

    • TimC says:

      Late to the party because Don’t Care, but I have to say this makes the Svart Pile look goddamn sexy.

  5. Jose says:

    This is a halo product, designed as much as a marketing and rebranding tool as a motorcycle or profit maker. High profile, low volume to show what the Motor Company is capable of and to get attention from customers who would otherwise never go into the HD showroom or even read about one of their bikes on the internet. In this it is a success already.

    I will also add that the Livewire is by far the best looking electric vehicle I have ever seen.

  6. Reality check says:

    You’re an engineer for hd aren’t you?

  7. Inquiring Minds says:

    Since this forum is full of savvy business people, engineers, and motorcycle experts, lets hear some proposals for a business plan for HD. Everyone seems to agree that the hardcore Harley demographic is aging out, and the company is going to have to take a different tack if they’re going to survive.

    We’ve heard plenty of noise about what WON’T work, so how about you chime in and tell us what WILL work. My popcorn is ready, and I’m all ears………

    • HS1... says:

      Your sarcasm aside, it’s a very good question. I’d focus on a few things.

      1) keep the cruiser and touring lines current and interesting to traditional customers as these are still viable segments that bring repeat business to Harley.

      2) make a bike that competes directly with the retro-standards from Triumph and Moto Guzzi. Avoid peanut tanks, raked suspension, foot forward stuff, and any other things that signify the Harley rut (Grand Canyon) to people less than 40 years old. This is the class of bikes new and returning motorcyclist are buying, so listen to what the market is saying.

      3) hit it out of the park with the PanAmerica, and avoid all Harley cliches when trying. This is a class that is premium priced and popular with experienced riders who aren’t into the cruiser segment.

      4) continue with the electric line and avoid Harley cliches when doing so.

    • Tom K. says:

      Why should I spend any time and effort in fixing Harley’s problems for them without getting paid for it?

      That being said, Harley is in the same position as many of the buggy whip manufacturers of the 1900’s, they are a leading manufacturer in a shrinking industry, there aren’t a lot of good options for them except to:
      1) Change the culture that has driven the decline in motorcycle sales, which is admittedly next to impossible – young people currently prefer safe, comfortable, cheap and virtual, which motorcycling is not. Technologies like self-driving cars, political pressures demanding an ever-safer world, etc., ever-higher insurance costs, etc. will probably be the end of “our” industry – but how can we put that Genie back into the bottle? Motorcycle deaths per billion miles driven are something around 220 – while cars are what, fifteen? And airplanes much less than one? The only argument for that disparity is “personal freedom” which is, sadly, less and less important to people.
      2) Quit chasing growth, and focus on their shrinking, but still sizeable base. They may have to purposely shrink their projected sales to some sustainable number, and work on maximizing their profit within those brackets. The market for Ferraris and Rolexes is rather finite, but it is a market.
      3) The Livewire is not the answer to either of these points.

    • Tank says:

      Make a Harley scooter with very little plastic. Something that will appeal to new riders and older riders that don’t want to deal with heavy bikes.

  8. Elam Blacktree says:

    I think most of you are missing the most important thing about the LiveWire and Harley-Davidson: The R&D expense involved in bringing this (and other models) to market. Figure $100 million for the LiveWire. I think they will be lucky to sell a thousand of them per year. Add in the cost of production and they will NEVER recoup the money invested. Harley says they have put $800 million into R&D for new products. That also is highly unlikely to ever be recouped. So the bottom line is that all of these new models will do NOTHING to make the company more profitable – ever. Yes, they are an American company, but they have been shooting themselves in the foot for years, and their current profit margins are razor thin. It will take one short recession and they would be in deep trouble. Enough trouble to end up in Chapter 11 bankruptcy. I am not anti-Harley. But the reason the Japanese and others have not brought an e-bike to market yet is simple: It won’t make money! Workers can’t be paid in virtue!

    • todd says:

      Remember, Harley paid someone else (Mission Motors) to design and manufacture (all out of house) this bike. Harley has not yet invested in the production of electric motorcycles. It also appears they are likely using the substantial profit from the sale of each LiveWire to fund their new tiny “LiveWire Labs” design studio in Mountain View, California. If the LiveWire fails to sell, LiveWire Labs (not Harley) will suffer and have to lay off all their fresh design interns.

  9. Uffe says:

    I wonder which new demographic HD thinks will buy this. Converting their current customer base would be as easy as converting Raptor buyers to a Prius.

    • Jeremy says:

      Harley has a huge, huge customer base. They only need to convert a very small percentage of their base to hit what I think would be a fairly low volume target for the Livewire.

  10. mickey says:

    Value, is in the eye of the buyer..same with looks. There are a lot of bikes that might very well be excellent motorcycles but I will never own one simply because of their looks. A lot of KTMs come to mind, or the Svartpilen, for example or a Honda CBR1000R for that matter.

    There are also bikes that currently reside in my garage that others would reject because of looks, performance or price that I simply love. My CB 1100 for example..some say dated looks, not enough horsepower, weighs too much, cost too much, but I love mine. I have put 45,000 trouble free miles on mine and it puts a smile on my face every time I take it for a ride. Every single time, I think man, what a great motorcycle.

    I also have an FJR Yamaha 1300 sport tourer. Some say overweight pig, costs too much, looks like a scooter coming at you down the road, but for me it fills my need for a two up sport tourer superbly and the model has a 16 year track record, and a good dealer network backing it up. In 2015 5 out of the top 6 Iron Butt rally riders were riding an FJR and one won the Iron Butt Rally again this year. I think it’s a great value. Sure the KTM 1290 GT is lighter and faster. Doesn’t matter to me. Don’t like the looks, don’t like the lack of dealer support. I like my FJR. It does exactly what I ask it to do, reliably, while getting 50 mpg out of a 1300cc I-4.

    So even though one person may not like the looks of the Livewire, and another thinks it’s too expensive and another thinks it’s too heavy, and another thinks it doesn’t have enough range, there are going to those out there, that don’t find those issues big enough or important enough impediment to keep them from buying one.

    I understand that.

    • Kermit says:

      Gotta agree with you on the CB1100 Mickey. Even after almost 6 1/2 years of ownership, I still get a good feeling just looking at it in the garage. And the yellow Monkey I recently bought is the same but in a different way. It really hits the giggle button.

  11. Kermit says:

    I would be willing to bet all this negativity would turn to positive if everything was the same EXCEPT a different shade of orange, the sticker package and country of origin. If you hate HD, you hate HD. No matter your misconceptions about the brand, the people, or the bikes. As far as this bike goes, I don’t like the styling. Not because its an HD, but because I don’t care for this particular style. If I look at it though with more of an open mind and compare it to bikes with the same modern styling, it looks just as good if not better. Now, if you want to talk about ugly, don’t get me started on the Diavel. Now that bike is fugley!

    • fred says:

      You are entitled to your opinion, but you are wrong. The problem with this bike is the price/value equation. One could argue that that is a common problem with HD’s, but no change of color, brand, or origin would make this bike a bargain. As for looks, it’s not bad. Some people will like it, and others not. IMHO, it has a few good styling points, and is not particularly attractive nor unattractive.

      • Kermit says:

        And you are entitled to yours however wrong it is. If you’ve been paying attention and I’m not sure you have, more often than not, the comments on this site towards anything HD is negative. And there is no changing that. Just the opposite of the brand I was eluding to.

        • fred says:

          Fair enough. What you see as an anti-HD bias, I see as an anti-cruiser bias. Cruisers tend to be slow, expensive, heavy, and ill-handling. Note that I said “tend to be”, not “always are”. Cruiser riders, and HD riders in particular, often belong to the loud pipes crowd, which also helps to stir up antagonism.

          Harley controls a vast portion of the U.S.A. motorcycle market, even though I see them as way upside down on the price/value equation.

          They don’t need my money nor my opinion to be successful, so my views on the LiveWire shouldn’t worry them, or you.

          I have no objections to anyone else buying a LiveWire, but I see it as a poor choice.

          • Kermit says:

            Your views and opinions or those of others on the LiveWire or HD don’t worry me. Or the misconceptions or prejudices. Had them myself at one time. I suppose I should dislike every squid on a “Ninja” because THEY ALL ride wheelies and do 120 mph on the main drag half a mile from my house. But I don’t. Used to be one of them. But now have owned some Harleys and get their passion also. Preconceived notions are what bother me. How can you dislike something if you have no experience with it? I’d like to see Honda bring out a Spencer replica but I’d also like to have another FLHRC. Go figure.

          • fred says:

            Kermit, we’re past the reply limit, so I’m “replying” to my own post. LOL

            I started riding motorcycles 40 years ago. I could be wrong, but my opinions comes from experience, not misconceptions or prejudices. I’ve ridden Harley’s, with Harley’s, and spent time in the dealerships and around the riders. Same with cruisers, sport bikes, tourers, sport-tourers, dual-sports, etc. My experience with e-bikes is limited to research and one test ride. You say that preconceived notions bother you, but you have a preconceived notion that I don’t know what I’m talking about. No reason to agree with me, but it is inconsiderate to assume that people who disagree with you do so because of ignorance, prejudice, or stupidity. Life experience leads many of us to different conclusions.

    • John says:

      Why would one buy this at almost 30k when you can buy a better performing Zero for 10K less. The Zero looks similar and beats the pants off the livewire. Had this same talk with a friend who sells Harley’s and posted an article touting its release.

  12. Provologna says:

    I deal w/ultra high end audio gear. Last weekend’s client spent about $100k on his double wall sound room (just the room, if I listed the component SRP’s you’d not believe them). Another of my favorite clients offered his Lear jet to pickup one of my other clients across the county.

    If you think persons with disposable income as I describe above do not pinch pennies like you and I do, you are wrong. Such clients are as value driven as anyone else, regardless of income level.

    If H-D’s old model was working (selling a “brand” with less performance for higher cost), why exactly did they close a plant last year?

    • fred says:

      Perhaps my imagination is weak, but I can’t imagine dropping $100k on a sound room in the same category as my own penny-pinching escapades. LOL

  13. DaveA says:

    Quoted from the top of the article:

    “Branding is critical to many buyers, and, not surprisingly the 2020 Harley-Davidson LiveWire relies heavily on the Harley cachet to justify the starting price of $29,799.”

    You could replace “2020 Harley-Davidson Livewire” with every single Harley made in the last 30 years, and you’d have an equally accurate statement. All that is needed is to adjust the price for whatever model you want to point out isn’t worth the cost. This isn’t news.