Harley-Davidson Racing

Vance & Hines and the AMA Pro Racing series have teamed up to create a brand new racing series for the Harley-Davidson XR1200.  Granted, the XR is the only Harley that can be said to have any pretensions to being a racing bike…of some kind.  A&R has taken the press release of the big announcement, and helpfully translated it, line by line, as follows:

“We have racing in our DNA, Harley-Davidson has racing in their DNA and we are truly thrilled to bring Vance & Hines and Harley-Davidson back into AMA Pro Racing,” Terry Vance, a prolific champion as both rider and team owner, said of the new series. “The XR1200 has proven to be an exciting platform for spec racing in Europe and this class will be a perfect cost-effective platform to showcase new talent on a national stage. Many of the finest motorcycle racers all over the world got their start in the AMA Supertwins class of the 1990s.”

Translated: We’re going to just lie for a minute and then justify this series with some loose mentioning of racing in the company’s past, which an entire generation doesn’t remember because it happened before they were born. First one to mention flat-tracking loses the argument…

AMA Pro Racing Chief Operating Officer David Atlas welcomed the new series, “Adding another element to our events with a series of this caliber will be a great benefit to our sport. The specification of the XR1200 package will put the premium on the rider’s ability and will provide a great new class of racing that has ties to the past.”

Translated: We’re actually telling the truth now. This series will really showcase a rider’s skill, especially while they try and maneuver a 600lbs motorcycle through chicanes with some of Milwaukee’s finest engineering from the 1950’s.

Read the whole thing, it’s priceless.

Oh, by the way, the big purse for the winner is…$2,500.  So, building an XR1200 into a race bike will be, like, totally worth it.

Triumph’s Strength

Motorcycle Daily takes note of Triumph’s sales strength in the US, while other manufacturers’ sales are slumping.  They explain it as follows:

The advantage Triumph has is its heritage of triples and parallel twins. Virtually no other company has this heritage, and Triumph can therefore develop motorcycles that have very little competition in the market. “Competition” here means similar heritage and design.

When Triumph realized the folly of competing with the Japanese in the inline-four cylinder supersport market, and abandoned that format for the 675cc triple, it instantly found success. The triple gave it a different exhaust note, broader power curve, narrower engine and chassis, and, most importantly, a tie to its heritage of building performance triples.

While everyone else is building v-twin cruisers, Triumph cruisers are parrallel twins with a strong heritage that includes Marlon Brando, among other notable reference points.

Triumph Sprint ST
Triumph Sprint ST

I’m not sure that the “parallel twin” argument carries much weight.  The Big Four all have a number of parallel twins.  But the Bonneville, Scrambler and Thruxton definitely  have a certain recognizeable heritage, especially to people in their 40’s, like me.  We remember those bikes from when we were kids.  They were really–outside of the then-monster Harleys–the gold standard of style and power in an era where the 500cc motorcycle was the big boys bike.

Where MD really hits the nail on the head is Triumph’s dominance of the triple powerplant.  Other than Benelli, which is hardly a premier marque in the US–Triumph stands alone with a line of three-cylinder motorcycles.  Based on sales figures, a number of riders seem to be learning that the Triples have a unique performance advantage compared to the twins or I-4s.  Triumphs offer the low-end grunt of a twin, without sacrificing the high-end horsepower you get from an I-4.

They also have a distinctive look.  Triumph really has hit it out of the park in terms of styling, whether it’s the retro-cool of the Scrambler, or the smooth modernity of the Sprint ST–with a single-sided swingarm, no less. (Not all of Triumph’s bikes are a hit with everyone in the looks department, of course.  The agricultural engine of the Rocket III really divides opinions sharply.)

Triumph also competes aggressively on price.  For instance, the 2010 Sprint ST sells for $12.7k, while the big four are pushing their STs at $15K and up.  They really are an outstanding value for the money.

John Bloor really has done a fantastic job of bringing this venerable brand back to life.

Now, If he could just get the Sprint fitted with a shaft drive…