Harley-Davidson on Tuesday unveiled a new brand that will focus exclusively on the electric, or e-bicycle, market.
Known as Serial 1 Cycle Co., the new brand takes its name from “Serial Number One,” the nickname for Harley-Davidson’s first motorcycle.
Entering the electric bicycle business underscores efforts to remake Harley-Davidson into a more nimble company that reacts quickly to market conditions and consumer preferences.
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The e-bicycle market is going gangbusters right now, largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, said Aaron Frank, brand director for Serial 1.
“Serial 1 Cycle Co. combines Harley-Davidson’s world-class product development capability and leadership in two-wheel electric propulsion with the agility and innovation of a start-up brand dedicated exclusively to the e-bicycle product and customer,” according to a statement from Serial 1.
The new brand was “born as a skunkworks deep inside Harley-Davidson’s Product Development Center,” according to the statement. “The decision was made to structure the e-bicycle business into a new entity …”
The global e-bicycle market was estimated to be over $15 billion in 2019 and projected to grow at an annual rate of over 6% from 2020 to 2025. Last summer, local bike stores reported strong sales and said some bikes were hard to find.
“With the pandemic, people were looking for a safe way to exercise and get out of the house, and people in cities were looking for a way to safely commute that didn’t involve a subway or a bus,” Frank said.
“Bicycle sales, period, are just through the roof right now.”
According to The NPD Group, a market research company, bicycle sales in June were up 63% over the same month in 2019. Those gains “primarily stemmed from higher-end bikes typically purchased by enthusiasts, including road, gravel and full suspension mountain bikes, as well as electric bikes,” NPD said.
“Sales of bikes with average selling prices above $1,000 experienced impressive growth in June 2020 compared to the same month last year,” NPD said, with e-bicycles posting a 190% gain.
Serial 1 is a relative latecomer to the e-bicycle market.
“Most of the major manufacturers have already had e-bikes out on the market for several years,” said Matt Geib, general manager of the Wheel & Sprocket store in Brookfield.
That said, the market remains strong for e-bikes, Geib said.
“The last three years, the e-bike growth has been immense,” he said. “It’s a popular category.”
The Serial 1 products are known as pedal-assist electric bicycles, Frank said.
Pedal-assist is considered a bicycle so you can ride it in bicycle lanes, on bicycle trails — anywhere you would ride a bicycle.
“Fundamentally, it is a bicycle,” Frank said. “The difference is it has a small electric motor and a battery that will give you power assistance from 1 to 4 times what you are putting into the pedals.
“Depending on what assist setting you select, you are going to be 1 to 4 times stronger than you would be,” on a regular bicycle, Frank added.
A rider has to be pedaling in order to get the electric assist.
The e-bicycles are selling well across the world right now, with the U.S. as an emerging market for the products. Even before the pandemic, local stores such as Wheel & Sprocket said electric bikes were a strong growth area.
“That is definitely motivating us to get to market quickly,” Frank said. “We’re trying to get to market as quickly as possible.”
The power-assist is limited to 20 mph.
The e-bicycle is likely to appeal to city dwellers who are looking for different modes of transportation.
“You’re going faster, you’re going further and you’re riding with less effort,” Frank said. “So if you want to (ride) to work without being covered in sweat, just tone down your pedaling and have a nice easy cruise and get to work fresh.
It charges with a regular household current. It charges from 3 to 6 hours for a full charge. Range from 20 to 70 miles.
Sales through online, dealers
The e-bicycles will be available via direct-to-consumer sales online and select Harley-Davidson dealers
“Direct-to-consumer has really become the standard in the bicycle industry,” Frank said.
If you want to try it out first, then you can visit a Harley dealer who carries the e-bicycles, Frank said.
They will not be sold at independent bike shops or other retail outlets.
Look for the products to hit the market in early 2021.
Serial 1 bikes are designed and developed in Milwaukee and are manufactured in Taiwan.
Prices have not yet been disclosed.
This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Harley-Davidson launches e-bicycle brand, Serial 1 Cycle Co.