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Harley-Davidson invests in EV bike company Alta Motors, wheelies ensue

A motorcycle company famous for resisting the tide of tech buys into the hottest electric motorcycle maker in the US, seeking stability for the future.

Alta Motors

Everyone's favorite dad-brand, Harley-Davidson, is getting serious about electric motorcycle technology and that's why it just bought a chunk of Alta, maker of probably the coolest electric motorcycles on the market.

Let's jump in the Wayback Machine for a minute and go back a few years to when Harley first started dabbling in electrics with its LiveWire concept. That bike was pretty great for 2014, but it's heavy and underpowered by today's standards. Harley kept at it though, and now it is on the verge of launching its first production electric motorcycle, which is cool.

Alta meanwhile has been building cutting-edge lightweight, high-powered electric dirt bikes, enduros and supermotos in Brisbane, California. In fact, it just released its MXR electric dirt bike, which not only has a lower cost but more power and torque and reduced charge times over its previous iterations. Alta, as a company, is trending up.

Harley's investment in Alta is a clear attempt to access younger riders, who in recent years have begun to eschew the heavy and expensive cruisers for which Harley is known. The motorcycle industry, in general, has been having problems attracting new riders, and the push toward electric bike development is seen as a way of bringing in new, tech-savvy people (with money, usually) to motorcycling.

The US is an odd market for motorcycles in general, despite being a huge one. In most of the world, motorcycles are widely thought of as being cheap transportation first, and exciting machines second. In the US they are mostly thought of as toys, with only the hard-core using them for daily commutes.

This means that cheap bikes don't sell as well here, for the most part, while demand for expensive, powerful bikes is waning due to the aging baby-boomer population reaching the point where they are physically not able to ride. Electric bikes are being looked at as a solution to this, owing to their lack of clutches and shifters.

Harley-Davidson has stated that it plans on investing $25-50 million in electric motorcycle development over the next few years, though it's unclear how much of that has gone into its Alta investment as both companies are being tight-lipped when it comes to hard numbers.