Only a few weeks ago, The Motor Company announced it would scale back production and scrap the ambitious “More Roads to Harley” expansion plan to replace it with a new, far more conservative strategy. One of the new strategy’s main focus is to reorganize the new models' launch schedule and potentially ax some ongoing projects that don’t fit the company’s usual scope.
What that means is that models like the Pan America and the Bronx have been pushed back to 2021 while some, less-advanced projects have been indefinitely put on the backburner. The line was seemingly drawn at the upcoming, unnamed “high-performance custom model” that pretty much looks like a beefy XR1200 flat-tracker. All the other anticipated and/or patented models such as the café racer will likely have to wait—if they come at all.
There’s one model we weren’t sure about, however, and that’s Harley’s new tool of seduction for the Asian market—the HD350 Project. Considering H-D teamed up with Chinese giant Qianjiang to develop the small-displacement bike, it was easy to assume that production would move forward as planned but we had yet to see any proof of it. Now, there apparently is, and here’s what we know.
Our colleagues at Cycle World were first to report on the story, quoting “leaked Chinese documents” as their source of information. According to them, said leaked documents detail an all-new 353cc motorcycle, the QJ350-13. Who is QJ? It's Qianjiang’s recently-launched brand of high-end-ish motorcycles based on Benelli’s designs. You see where this is going.
The QJ350-13 is expected to be the elevated version of the soon-to-be-updated Benelli 302S—the very bike the HD350 should be based on. According to Cycle World, the documents suggest that both the QJ350 and the 302S—supposedly renamed 352S—will use a new 353cc parallel-twin engine rated at 36 horsepower. This could mean that the new mill will also underline the HD350, a confirmation that the bike will be a 350 and not a 338 as certain documents and sources suggested earlier in the development process.
This understandably revived the baby Harley storyline. The trail had gone cold since January, 2020. At the time, a leaked Benelli launch timeline scheduled the “HD338” to launch in June. With July just around the corner, we can safely assume that the timeline has changed, what with the pandemic and Harley’s rocky state of affairs.
It’s hard to say whether these “leaked documents” are a factual marker of Harley's intention to stick with its plan and slap its badge on the HD350. After all, Qianjiang and Benelli aren’t facing the same hurdles as Harley (as far as we know) so the two brands moving-ahead with a new 350 model doesn’t mean their American partner will follow (depending on the nature of the agreement, of course). That being said, a successful launch on the Asian market could result in a much-needed stimulus for the brand so maybe Harley will stick to its Asian offense plan after all.
With the QJ350-13's designs recently patented, we should probably keep an eye out for a little Black and Orange bike.