Harley-Davidson have taken the covers off their new learner approved bike range, with the official launch of the X350 and X500 held at Allianz Stadium in Sydney. Exhaust Notes Australia was among a contingent of local media given the chance to test them out.
Still undergoing the final stages of ADR compliance, our Harley-Davidson X experience was designed to acquaint us with these new learner legal models, which will fill the void left by the Street 500 when it was dropped from the range back in 2021.
Manufactured in China, the X350 and X500 give the American brand an entry point to entice novice riders to Harley-Davidson. It’s one they hope will allow customers to step up to larger bikes in the range, ensuring buyers stay brand loyal throughout their motorcycle journey.
For the launch, media were ushered into space under the stadium to check out both new models before a technical briefing by Australian Harley-Davidson officialdom. Here we would learn the specs, pricing and availability date (it’s December, for those following along).
Interestingly, both the X350 and X500 feature their own distinctive styling. The former instantly reminded us of the XR750, with its dirt tracker look, while the latter has more of a Sportster 1200 vibe. That’s thanks to its more rounded rear fender and thicker touring style seat.
There is some shared componentry, including the sexy LED headlight that sits out front of both bikes, the tachometer and switch gear, and some bits of the engine cover. Both models feature dual front disc brakes and a single rear disc brake, with ABS.
The X350 utilises a 41mm inverted fork with adjustable rebound damping, while the X500 comes fitted with a 50mm inverted fork, again with adjustable rebound damping. On the rear, both bikes come equipped with mono-shock suspension.
It features a coil spring with pre-load and rebound damping adjustability. Apart from the seat height and motor capacity, the bikes are pretty similar structurally, sharing a frame and chassis. Specs aside, it was time to jump aboard.
With a choice of Pearl White, Dramatic Black, Dynamic Orange and Supersonic Silver, we chose the X500 in the last of the four colours, for our first experience. Having picked out our ride, we headed for the carpark.
Harley-Davidson had set up an obstacle course not dissimilar to what makes up your L’s rider training. We were given around 25 minutes to have a crack at it, and managed speeds up to about 80km/h (mostly in first and second gear).
The X500 felt good, even for a larger rider, with a comfy seat, and neutral and user-friendly riding position. The 500cc engine feels smooth, with enough punch down low to be engaging, for a learner rider. It would even suit someone looking for a commuter or cafe/cruising bike.
Its parallel twin produces 35kW of grunt and is mated to a six-speed transmission, utilising a wet-plate clutch. The bike rides well, at least in our limited test, with the brakes doing an admirable job of stopping, particularly in emergency situations.
With the X500 ride under our belt, it was time to size up the X350, this time in Dynamic Orange. To be honest, we weren’t to sure what to expect when Harley-Davidson told us about the launch, but to this point it had been fun. That dial was about to get turned up to 11 though.
The X350 sounds more aggressive than its sibling and in our opinion has better styling. This bike is a hoot to ride and within half a lap of the circuit under the playing field, we found ourselves laughing quite loudly under our helmet.
It stops well too, with the dual front discs pulling it up well in testing. The slalom course also gave us an indication that the bike will be easy and very manageable to manoeuvre for newer riders. Combine with a 777mm seat height and there’s a lot to like.
Powered by a 353cc DOHC 4-valve liquid-cooled parallel twin engine that produces 27kW of power, the X350 left us intrigued. We really want to ride this bike on the road to test see what it’s like in real world conditions.
Fear not readers, Harley-Davidson have confirmed we’ll have access to both bikes for full testing closer to their local arrival in dealerships. When they do land, the X350 will be priced from $8,495 ride away, with the X500 hitting the road from $11,495 ride away. That’s regardless of colour choice too.
Overall, what Harley-Davidson have seemingly produced are two learner legal two bikes that are much better looking and easier on the eye than those which have come before them. There’ll even be a full range of X accessories to help you customise your ride, should that be your thing.
For more information about the 2024 X350 and X500, contact your local Harley-Davidson dealer.
Our test bikes were provided by Harley-Davidson Australia as part of the Australian media launch. Pictures courtesy of Incite Images.