We finally get to swing our leg over the much-awaited Harley-Davidson X440. This is the first product to be born out of the collaboration between Hero and Harley-Davidson.
Story: Azaman Chothia
Photography: Apurva Ambep
When you first think of a Harley-Davidson, a large cruiser hogging up miles on the highway is what comes to mind. But this Harley-Davidson X 440 is a different story altogether. It’s a bike that has been developed specifically keeping Indian conditions in mind and won’t be classified as just a cruiser. We got to experience the motorcycle at the CIT in Jaipur at their performance track as well as the handling track and these are our first impressions.
Starting off with the design, a lot of inspiration has been taken from the older XR models which is evident from the styling of the 13.5-litre fuel tank. The bike sports a round LED multi-projector headlight at the front with the DRL running through the middle. Towards the rear, the bike gets a single-piece seat which keeps a rider sitting inside, tapers upwards towards the rear, and flattens out for the pillion. When we first received pictures of the motorcycle, the bike sported a main stand but the unit we received for the review now has a bash plate at the bottom and the main stand has been removed. There are three variants of the bike on offer and the main distinguishing factor is the use of spoked wheels on the entry-level Denim model, alloy wheels on the mid-tier Vivid model, and diamond-cut alloy wheels on the highest S variant. The top-spec variant also gets a 3D-embossed Harley-Davidson logo on the tank, bronze highlights on the engine, and connectivity features as well. What we had for this review is the S variant which is available only in this Matte Black colour scheme. The entry-level model gets a Mustard Denim colour scheme and the Vivid variant is available in two colour schemes; Metallic Thick Red and Metallic Dark Silver.
As soon as you swing a leg over, the riding position is really commanding and it does not really feel as heavy as it is on paper. The wide and flat handlebar provides good leverage and the footpegs are set in a way where my legs were placed at a 90-degree angle. The seat height stands at 805 mm which is not too tall and the bike has a kerb weight of 190.5 kg.
Sitting within the steel tubular frame is a 440-cc, air-and-oil-cooled motor churning out 27 hp at 6,000 rpm and a peak torque of 38 Nm at 4,000 rpm. 80 per cent of the peak torque is made from as low as 2,500 rpm. As I started off on the performance track, I could immediately feel the low-end torque, followed by a strong mid-range which is where the bike feels the best. The bike pulls strongly from as low as 2,000 rpm. The motor is quite refined and can easily sit at over 100 km/h without feeling stressed. The clutch action is light and the bike is paired to a six-speed gearbox which is slick to use. All this should translate to good rideability in the city. The bike picks up easily from speeds as low as 54 km/h in sixth gear. I was able to get to a top speed of around 135 km/h in fifth gear and sixth gear is essentially an overdrive gear which will allow it to cruise on the highway without stressing out the motor. So this naked roadster will double as a cruiser when the need be. The exhaust unit isn’t the prettiest but this was the only way that they were able to achieve emitting a Harley-like sound, which must have been quite a challenge considering that this is a single-cylinder motor.
Suspension duties are handled by 43-mm, KYB, USD front forks, and twin, gas-charged shock absorbers at the rear. This variant rides on an 18-inch diamond-cut alloy wheel at the front and a 17-inch diamond-cut alloy wheel at the rear. The wheels are wrapped in new MRF Zapper Hyke tyres that have been developed especially for this motorcycle. On the track, this bike was just so enjoyable to ride, firstly because of how effortlessly it handles and how stable and confidence-inspiring it feels through a set of corners.
Just two laps into my experience, I was scraping the footpegs at almost every corner which goes to show just how much potential the bike has in terms of handling. A little later as I got carried away with the confidence-inspiring nature, I began to push harder which is when the edge of the exhaust unit also scraped the ground a couple of times. Opening the throttle mid-corner won’t upset the bike as it chugs along in a planted manner. Usually while riding a Harley, you have to really use some strength to steer the motorcycle, but this one feels nimble, tips into corners, and changes direction quickly while spending time in the saddle does not tire out a rider. Also, these MRF tyres are really grippy and properly complement the superb handling characteristics of this motorcycle.
In the braking department, the bike makes use of a 320-mm disc brake at the front and a 240-mm disc brake at the rear with dual-channel ABS. The feel of the front brake lever is not as sharp as I would have liked so I did have to get on the front brake a little earlier than usual. The ABS kicks in gradually and does a good job of preventing the wheels from locking up. In terms of features, the bike makes use of a 3.5-inch TFT screen which is easy to read and displays ample information. All of the variants also get a USB charging port near the dash. This S variant also gets more connectivity features via the Bluetooth-enabled system.
In conclusion, riding this Harley-Davidson X440 on track was a great way to experience all that it is capable of. Priced between Rs 2.29 lakh and Rs 2.69 lakh (ex-showroom prices), this is sure to appeal to many Harley-Davidson enthusiasts that have been waiting for an affordable motorcycle to own. The X440 is a really enjoyable motorcycle to ride because of its refined motor and neutral handling characteristics. Hero and Harley have managed to achieve building a motorcycle that has a do-it-all character which will make it great to tackle Indian conditions and at the same time, appeal to a varied range of riders. A lot of people online seem to be disappointed with the specifications on paper and I would only suggest that they actually test-ride the motorcycle before making any assumptions as it is surely an effortless and fun motorcycle to ride. With the X440, Hero MotoCorp and Harley-Davidson have a good first product on their hands and we hope to see what the future of this joint venture has in store for us.