The HD X440 doesn’t feel like any other Harley and that is a good thing. A deep-dive analysis

Editor Sirish Chandran was on hand at the Harley-Davidson X440 global unveil at Hero MotoCorp’s CIT in Jaipur and then rode the bike on the CIT test track. Being a Harley owner himself, here is his opinion on the riding experience and thoughts on what the ownership experience might be
The torque on the X440 pulls you nicely to the exit apex and onwards.
The torque on the X440 pulls you nicely to the exit apex and onwards.Amit Thakur

Harley-Davidsons are massive, heavy motorcycles. I own a (very big, very heavy) Pan America & despite that the first time I rode a Street Glide I nearly dropped it. Pottering around the city on a Harley? Forget it, and I’m not even talking about the heat.

Riding the Harley-Davidson X440

In total contrast, the HD X440 is light, nimble and agile. No fear. No intimidation. You jump on and go full gas. So easy, the novice and born-again biker will immediately feel comfortable — and that’s not something you can say for the other metal you find in H-D showrooms today.

The HD X440 is light, nimble and agile.
The HD X440 is light, nimble and agile.Shot by Rohit G Mane for evo India

Engine of the HD X440

The all-new (Hero!) motor is smooth, refined, barely any buzzing. Revs so nicely and eagerly that you hit the rev limiter (around 6300rpm) surprisingly quickly. I’d have liked more power but, as the H-D India folk point out, you get 30% more power than the Classic 350 for 5000 bucks more so, yeah, they have a point. But still, no 4-valve head for a brand-new motor? Can’t say I am a fan of that.

The engine feels smooth and refined but misses out on a 4-valve head.
The engine feels smooth and refined but misses out on a 4-valve head.Shot by Rohit G Mane for evo India

Exhaust note of the HD X440

The new single-cylinder Harley has a surprisingly nice exhaust note, particularly when you gas it in 6th gear from 2500rpm. Most likely this is the best sound in this class. But does it sound like a Harley? C’mon. Big fat V-twin going potato-potato vs a single? There’s a limit to one’s expectations. (That said my Pan Am also doesn’t sound anything like a traditional Harley)

Quite possibly, this is the best sounding bike in this class
Quite possibly, this is the best sounding bike in this classShot by Rohit G Mane for evo India

Handling of the Harley-Davidson X440

Handles damn nicely. I got the pegs to scrape and the better riders will ask for more ground clearance. But it feels so stable and eager. Gets you into a nice rhythm and flow. The torque pulls you nicely to the exit apex and onwards. Looks big but doesn’t feel it, which is a big plus point.

Styling of the Harley-Davidson X440

Styling, now that we’ve seen it in the open? Pleasant enough. That 3-D logo on the tank should have been standard across the range because the base versions could be badged a Hero and nobody will think twice.  From the rear, especially while following it on the road, it’s not distinctive enough. I hate chrome but to cater to Indian tastes (moulded by Royal Enfields) maybe there should have been a chrome-laden one. Not to forget Harley Davidsons have always been chrome-laden monsters. And while following one, that’s when it struck me that the X440 doesn’t feel anything like all the Harleys I’ve ridden.

The X440 is quite different from the other Harley's that we have seen
The X440 is quite different from the other Harley's that we have seenShot by Rohit G Mane for evo India

Where do you buy the Harley-Davidson X440?

Hero MotoCorp and Harley-Davidson would have done well to clarify this. When you book it online (from 4:40pm today for Rs 5000) where will you take delivery? Existing H-D India dealers obviously, but also the Hero MotoCorp network (how else will you get 10% of Royal Enfield’s volumes?). But will that be only the top 40 Hero dealers? Or only the upcoming Hero Premiere network? Will there be a shop-in-shop within Hero dealers and what will that look like? And how on earth are you going to deliver a Harley experience (deafening rock music, chain cutters, the merchandise, all the razzmatazz and Americana) at a dealer selling 100 Splendors a day?

How does an X440 owner hang with the H.O.Gs? Look at the price gap. The next cheapest Harley is around Rs 17 lakh! The owner demographics are going to be wildly off the charts.

Hero MotoCorp’s premium bikes

Also, don’t forget, Hero will have 5 — yes FIVE — bikes on this platform. The engine will be downsized to 421cc. There will be a similar roadster (hopefully different styling to X440 and not just badge engineered), cafe racer, scrambler, ADV and one more that I didn’t quite get (I guess a street fighter). Hero MotoCorp is betting (very!) big on their premium bike portfolio! Won’t Hero (and their dealers) be more inclined to sell a Hero? This is a time-honoured problem that nobody in the automotive industry has been able to properly solve.

Harley-Davidson X440 brings glad tidings for Indian bikers 

The H-D X440 is a very good motorcycle. An excellent motorcycle in fact when you consider the pricing. With the X440 starting at Rs 2.29 lakh that means Hero’s premium bikes will be under Rs 2 lakh. And the X440 is very good. There’s going to be a price war and, to use Harley’s own phrase, everything’s gonna change for us bikers!

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