Harley-Davidson is not just one of the world’s oldest and most successful manufacturers of motorcycles, it is a global brand known to all. The company’s apparel sales earn more revenue than a lot of fashion brands, and for too long, the only part of a Harley many in the world could own was the t-shirt. But now that is all about to change, as the Milwaukee-based outfit has teamed up with the world’s largest two-wheeler manufacturer, India’s Hero MotoCorp, to produce a true Harley-Davidson for the globe’s masses. Welcome to the world of the 2023 H-D X440, the motorcycle set to drastically expand the Harley family, and its price point is as impressive as its spec sheet.
Collaboration between Indian motorcycle manufacturers and their foreign competitors is not a new thing. In fact, Hero MotoCorp was born out of a partnership with Honda Japan, and Hero has previously owned a large stake in Erik Buell Racing. Since the re-emergence of Royal Enfield as a worldwide powerhouse, and with India offering an enormous market, most of the major players have established themselves in the country. From Italian giant Piaggio to most Japanese brands, KTM, Triumph and many more. But there has been a yearning amongst India’s enormous motorcycle community for a Harley-Davidson they could own themselves, so it had to be affordable and capable of handling the nation’s extreme climate and often terrible roads.
The H-D X440 represents one of the closest collaborations between two major players in the history of the industry. Milwaukee HQ wanting to ensure the integrity of its brand and Hero bringing its enormous resources in India and Germany to the party. The team of individuals behind the project hail from the US and India, but also some of the most talented designers and engineers from Germany, Spain, Italy, the UK and elsewhere. And yet despite all of this investment and talent onboard, the X440 is priced between US$2,773 and US$3,257, depending on the trim level you choose; and that my friends is an absolute bargain!
So, what has this team come up with and what do you get for the money? Two key components were front and centre of development, the chassis and the engine. The frame itself is a trellis item, chosen for its excellent strength characteristic that could hold up to the challenging conditions of India’s roads, but also the fact that many motorcycles in the country are used to literally carry a family and their shopping home. Similarly, the suspension had to cope with the same rigours while delivering a smooth and somewhat sporty ride. So to achieve this, Hero worked with KYB to come up with a set of 43mm USD forks just for the job.
The rear end was a concern, two-up and luggage in extreme heat is a good way to kill a shock. So to solve the problem, the twin unit setup features a pair of gas-filled shocks to help aid in cooling and reduce sag, and seven stages of preload allow for all manner of riders to get the bike dialled in to suit. All of these factors meant that braking couldn’t be left to chance, and for the size of the bike, a 320mm front disc is huge and pressure is applied thanks to Brembo’s Indian collaborative effort, the Bybre caliper and master cylinder combination. There is a 240mm setup at the back, and the ABS is 2-channel, again, very impressive at the price point.
Now the all-important engine, but it’s not a V-Twin I hear you scream. Well, neither was the HD Model 1 and from 1903 to 1972, with just a small break for the war, the company always offered singles; like its other major overseas collaboration with the Italian firm Aermacchi. This particular power plant, however, had to give that famous sound and to achieve this, Hero’s engineers have come up with a 440cc air/oil-cooled single with just a two-valve head. The result is a true little thumper, with 27bhp, and an incredibly impressive 38nm of torque, and all sent to the back tyre via a six-speed gearbox.
You hear a Harley before you see it, and while the X440 won’t burst your eardrums, the idle is definitely nice and lumpy. But speaking of looks, this was another hugely important part of the project and both companies are quick to stress that the tank and side covers are all metal, no plastic fantastic here. The fuel tank is the statement piece, it is unmistakably HD and has deliberately been inspired by classics such as the XR1200. The big back guard, the engine protection bars, the front license plate holder and the exhaust serve their purpose, but they seem the first obvious components for a customiser to attack.
And they’ve already been thought of, with our friend Vijay Singh of Rajputana Customs brought in to examine the bike and ride it at Hero’s incredible test facility. Racers from Europe were also chosen to test the bike and help with setup, and the machine was subjected to incredibly harsh testing to ensure it will hold up. But there is also some cool tech onboard, with the full-colour TFT dash offering Bluetooth for phone and music connectivity, turn-by-turn navigation, smart light control and even a battery health monitor.
For just over US$3,000 you get the top-spec S model, in matte black, with 3D badging and contrast cut wheels. All of which makes this bike an absolute steal in my book, and although it’s only available in India for now, H-D licensed importers from around the globe are begging for their own showroom stock!