While Harley continues a century-long romance with motorcyclists, research showed that younger potential buyers think sportbikes and cruisers are difficult to drive, expensive, and intimidating. Seeing an opportunity, Harley-Davidson asked Erik Buell to develop an entry-level motorcycle that was hip, fun and easy to use. The beginner bike could be used for Harley’s safety courses and to entice a new generation to the sport of motorcycling.
Working with a small team within Buell and Harley, Design Concepts hit the ground running. Within 12 weeks, the team went from project launch to an operational prototype engine. Our industrial designers worked directly with Erik Buell to develop the engine’s aggressive styling, which enabled the initial prototypes to reflect a production design intent. This interdisciplinary collaboration and early vision setting prevented potential engineering re-work as the motorcycle took shape.
After the feasibility phase was complete, Design Concepts designed a powertrain, working with Harley engineers and production support through multiple prototype builds. Our engineers participated in the first online powertrain builds and eventually helped move the engine into production.
The team took several innovative approaches to ensure the engine was a strong performer while being efficient and inexpensive to manufacture. The integrated chassis mounting used the engine as a stressed member. A low-cost, lightweight, noise-reducing polymer pushrod tube system created an aesthetic that was distinct from mainstream Harley bikes. The team also developed the oiling and primary drive systems as well as a lightweight, optimally balanced crankshaft that Harley later adopted for some of its models.
At the end of this substantial project, the Buell Blast had an innovative 492cc single cylinder (“one lung”) engine/transmission platform. The engine used existing Harley components as well as a newly designed crankcase, crankshaft, piston, connecting rod, primary drive system and gear case. In spite of all the new parts, the engine was designed so that it could be built on the same production line as Harley’s Sportster engine.
The team also created a dynamic, lightweight, low wheel to complement the bike's styling. The wheel was designed to be cast instead of CNC machined. This inexpensive manufacturing process challenged the industrial design team with strict design limitations. The resulting design had style and function and Hot Rod Bikes Magazine said, “These are possibly the coolest stock wheels ever offered by a major manufacturer, and they are inexpensive, to boot!”
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