H-D dealers haven’t offered a true lightweight since the '70s, when Aermacchimade two-stro
Heavy, expensive bikes aren’t good for beginners. Learning the basics is best accomplished on something lightweight that won’t cost an arm and a leg to repair if you drop it. For years, Harley-Davidson used Buell Blasts for its Rider’s Edge training program and offered the American-made 492cc single as a gateway to its bigger bikes. But when Erik Buell unceremoniously executed the docile “Be Last” in 2009, Harley dealers were left with nothing in the way of an affordable entry-level machine on their sales floors.
Frank White, CEO of ATK Motorcycles, is working to fill that void. White has partnered with S&T, the Korean manufacturer of Hyosung motorcycles, to import a range of affordable machines to be sold by Harley's dealer network. “The approach is simple: Get new and younger riders to go into the Harley-Davidson dealerships,” explains White. “We want to capture those customers who are initially looking for a smaller-displacement motorcycle at an affordable price. And then, over time, these new riders will develop the aspiration for a traditional Harley-Davidson.”
They say: “Affordable freedom for a new generation.”
We say: “This is going to piss off t
That seems like a logical train of thought, and the 375-lb., $4295 ATK GT250 we rode is certainly more affordable and manageable than the 565-lb., $7999 Iron 883 that is Harley's most modest current offering. At the moment, the 250 and 650cc machines ATK supplies to Harley dealers are re-badged Hyosungs, but beginning next year ATK will be receiving parts directly from S&T and assembling bikes in Utah. Overseeing final assembly means White can make select changes, which he says will include unique graphics, revised fuel maps and upgraded suspension and brakes.
That’s a good thing, because like other Hyosungs we’ve ridden, the ATKGT250 is severely lacking in stopping power. Aside from that, it’s an agreeable bike. The riding position is relaxed and upright, the engine responds well and the chassis is balanced and stable: perfect for the low-speed maneuvering required to pass your motorcycle license test.
While Harley-Davidson doesn't officially approve of his venture, White says dealers are on-board. "Dealers who have tested some of our first motorcycles are very satisfied with the overall quality," he says. "Our products -t the current Harley-Davidson dealer need, and move to offer both the dealer-and more importantly, the customer-a complete staircase of V-twin-based products, which only acts to complement the current Harley- Davidson product line-up."
With its air-cooled V-twin and simple styling, it’s easy to see how a neophyte could be swayed by the GT250’s lower price tag while still feeling like he’d bought something with a little Harley-style character. Cruiser fans will be drawn to the GV650, which bears a striking resemblance to a V-Rod but at a fraction of the price. It even comes in orange-and-black.
|Price ||$4295 |
|Engine type ||a/o-c 75-deg.V-twin |
|Valve train ||DOHC, 8v |
|Displacement ||249cc |
|Transmission ||5-speed |
|Claimed horsepower ||27.0 bhp @ 10,500 rpm |
|Claimed torque ||16.8 lb.-ft. @ 8000 rpm |
|Frame ||Steel twin-spar |
|Front suspension ||S&T 41mm fork |
|Rear suspension ||S&T shock with adjustable spring preload |
|Front brake ||Dual Hyosung two-piston calipers, 300mm discs |
|Rear brake ||Hyosung two-piston caliper, 230mm disc |
|Front tire ||110/70H-17 Shinko SR740 |
|Rear tire ||150/70H-17 Shinko SR741 |
|Seat height ||32.7 in. |
|Wheelbase || 56.5 in. |
|Fuel capacity ||4.5 gal. |
|Claimed curb weight ||375 lbs. |
|Contact ||www.atkmotorcyclesusa.com |
VERDICT: 3 out of 5 stars.
Easy there, old guard: At least it’s not Japanese!