Serial 1 E-bikes (Harley-Davidson) Looking Porky And Eurocentric – UPDATED

UPDATED January 6, 2021: A rather lively-worded opinion piece by Cleantechnica’s Jo Borras proved me wrong on at least one assumption made in November’s Harley-Davidson e-bike story. My story asserts that the “web will be filled with gushing reports from websites hungry for Serial 1 advertising dollars.” Jo called my bluff on that one! His scathing take on the new e-bike line will not make it easy for the Cleantechnica sales rep to call on Harley’s advertising director. 

Got to admit, I’m surprised and impressed that Cleantechnica’s Chief Editor, Zach Shahan, allowed the piece to run. At a time when most postings (especially about e-bikes) read like press releases or advertising copy, it is refreshing to read something so objective and honest. Kudos, Cleantechnica and Jo Borras. 

UPDATED November 24, 2020: Just spoke to a good buddy who used to design and market bikes for a major bicycle company. He (or she) remains anonymous because it was a private conversation and I’m not sure if they want to be quoted, but the conversation changed my thinking on the Serial 1 e-bikes. I’m still not impressed with the four bikes offered. They don’t get my batteries charging, but that’s me and I doubt any e-bike company would stay in business long trying to make me happy. 

What my friend pointed out is that e-bike companies don’t know what potential customers want or even who these “people” are. It may be people replacing their cars with utilitarian offerings like the Serial 1 bikes. It could be neo-hipsters (who never learned to drive) trading in their scooters. There are the golf cart drivers in retirement communities who love the assist. You have fans of off-road motorized activity downsizing from motorcycles. And you’ve got kids stoked that they don’t have to pedal a bicycle anymore. 

E-bike companies are throwing a lot against the wall and it isn’t clear yet what is sticking. These COVID-19 times don’t help because anything an e-bike (or bicycle) company makes is sold out. Once the vaccine takes hold and we start living in the real world again, companies will find out who best identified the potential customers. 

So, I’m still not impressed, but that doesn’t mean Serial 1 won’t hit its target. The Specialized is still the e-bike on my short list. 

Serial 1 E-bikes (Harley-Davidson) Looking Porky And Eurocentric.

November 18, 2020: After teasing with a wicked-looking electric-powered motorcycle and scooter (neither were e-bikes), Harley-Davidson reminds us why it is a bad idea to get too excited about concept vehicles. Serial 1, Harley-Davidson’s e-bike brand, has debuted (sort of) four models that appear targeted for the European market and they don’t resemble the electric-powered motorcycle or scooter in any way. This could mean that the two concept vehicles are still in the pipeline and that would be awesome because the Serial 1 offerings are uninspired, porky-looking, run-of-the-mill urban/commuter bikes.

Am I being a little harsh? I don’t think so. The Serial 1 bikes are so utilitarian-looking that I can only imagine them being operated on the bike paths of Munich, Amsterdam or Moscow (and maybe Portland). Comparing the Serial 1 bikes to say, the Specialized Turbo Vado SL (now there is a bike made for American riders), shows a first effort that is four years behind in terms of design and style (and isn’t that what counts when performance is limited in most states to 20 miles per hour?). But if a frumpy, black-and-white commuter is what you are looking for, don your ushanka and saddle up. 

I tried using the company’s find-a-dealer link but there weren’t any. I’m guessing here, but don’t expect to see Serial 1 models stocked at your local Harley dealership (or Specialized, Giant or Trek dealers). Who needs dealers anyway? Serial 1 will take your order (you don’t have to speak German) and direct ship the bike on some undetermined date in the “Summer” or “Spring” of 2021 depending on the model.

Why am I being so hard on this new brand? Because the inter web will be filled with gushing reports from websites hungry for Serial 1 advertising dollars or “influencers” stoked to get a free bike. I’m not looking for either. I’m looking at four, not-yet-available bikes that can be trounced by what is already available. I was expecting more.

The October sneak-peek of this Serial 1 model didn’t show up in the company’s first official offering. That’s too bad. This unreleased model outshines all the current offerings.
Looking closely at the elevated belt stay (a design feature that shows up in a lot of bicycle-frame-design blooper reels) reveals “powered by Harley-Davidson.” I’d be looking for a new industrial-design team if I was the CEO at Serial 1 (I keep typing “Series 1” but I think I caught them all). 

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