H-D 500 Twin Appears in China
Harley-Davidson's project to create an entry level model in partnership with China's Qianjiang was officially announced back in 2019, and while there's been little official news since then, it now appears that two machines are now under development, with a larger 500 cc model joining the 350 cc model that was originally planned.
The plan was originally part of the 'More Roads to Harley-Davidson' strategy that then president Matt Levatich launched in 2018, and sketches of the initial model were shown the following year.
While the 'More Roads' roadmap for the company was dropped in 2020 when Jochen Zeitz replaced Levatich as CEO, and several new model projects - including the Bronx streetfighter - were closed, the Qianjiang partnership was retained.
The first Qianjiang-made Harley was originally intended to be a 338 cc parallel twin, dubbed 338R, and based on a chassis and engine that's already in production in the form of the Benelli 302S. Benelli is, of course, wholly owned by Qianjiang.
The chassis was directly from the Benelli, and the larger 338 cc capacity was achieved by combining the bigger 69 mm bore of Benelli's 500 cc twin with the 45.2 mm stroke of the 300 cc 302S model. Later in its development, the engine was enlarged to 353 cc, with a version of the twin that has since appeared, with the same Benelli-based frame, in some Chinese market models under the QJMotor brand.
Although near-finished versions of the Harley 338R were spied in China in 2020 (the name appears to have been kept despite the 353 cc engine), two years later (in 2022) the bike has still to be officially launched, but a second Qianjiang-made Harley has also been spotted in China.
The new H-D is a 500 cc twin, again based on existing Qianjiang components that are best known from a Benelli, but this time it's the Leoncino 500 that lends both its engine and chassis to the cause. Images of the new bike have circulated on Chinese social media and appear to be stills taken from a video of the bike undergoing dyno tests. The Bar 'n Shield is clearly seen on the tank, which is finished in the same grey paint scheme that was previously seen on the 338R. The bike's codename - HD500 - is chalked onto the swingarm-mounted licence plate bracket.
Mechanically, it looks like every component is identical to those on the Benelli Leoncino. The frame, engine, swingarm, forks, wheels, brakes and even the footpegs are the same. However, the Harley iteration has completely new bodywork, including a different tank, a Sportster-style rear fender and a small, circular headlamp with a single round instrument above it.
While the 'HD500' name and the similarities with the Leoncino suggest this will be a 500 cc machine, with a European A2-licence-legal 35 kW on tap, Qianjiang has also developed a slightly more powerful 550 cc version of the same engine. With around 37 kW, it's currently offered in QJMotor's 550 Scrambler model in China, which also borrows the Leoncino's frame, but features different wheels, styling, suspension and brakes as well as the enlarged engine.
The bigger engine is due to reach European markets powering the Qianjiang-made MV Agusta Lucky Explorer 5.5 - which combines the 550 cc motor with the chassis of Benelli's best-selling TRK502.