Xr338 The Compact Street Tracker That Harley Needs
It’s strange times at Harley-Davidson. Earlier this year, rumors and spy shots of a small capacity bike for the Indian market started surfacing. But H-D has just announced a distribution and manufacturing deal with India’s Hero MotoCorp—leaving the future of the ‘338’ uncertain.
Meanwhile, an Italian industrial design house has seen potential in the idea of a small, single-cylinder street tracker—so they’ve built their own, fully functioning prototype. And just like the bike that H-D have teased, it uses the Benelli 302S as a base.
Based near Bologna, Engines Engineering was founded in 1979 by Alberto Strazzari. They specialize in motorcycle design and development, and have worked with OEMs like Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki, Ducati, Benelli and many others. They also have a staff complement of around a hundred—so they have both the know-how and manpower to pull off jobs like this.
Dubbed the XR338, this plucky little street tracker is aimed squarely at the US market, and with younger riders in mind.
It was a passion project for EE’s man in North America, Michael Uhlarik, who’s also an award-winning designer in his own right. “Most US bikers had their first motorcycle experiences on the dirt, in a farm field or on a flat track,” he says.
“This year is the 50th anniversary of the legendary Harley-Davidson XR750, not only the most successful flat tracker in history, but also one of the most beautiful motorcycles ever made. It was past time that an accessible tracker was made that captures that, and makes it available to a new generation.”
“Small motorcycles are the future of urban motorcycling,” says Sig. Strazzari. “With more than 40 years experience helping top brands in Europe and Asia, we know how to inject passion and desirability into small motorcycles.”
The XR338 more than just a design exercise though. The custom and OEM worlds are littered with renderings and clay sculptures that never see the light of day—but this is an actual working prototype. What’s more, it’s a prototype that could go into production.
E&E designed the XR338 with current regulations in mind, including the Euro 5 standard, and the USA’s DOT and CARB certifications. It took them 120 days to build this prototype, which they reckon is 70% ready for mass production. And it would take less than six months to make up the last 30%, if green lit.
The Benelli 302S that it’s built on is an affordable 300 cc twin-cylinder naked, which makes around 29.6 hp and 25.6 Nm. But this donor’s not quite stock.
E&E have made changes to the main frame, trading the Benelli’s trellis design for a more flowing affair. It’s also got a new ECU and exhaust muffler, and a pair of 18” wheels that were machined specifically for this project. The suspension’s been tweaked to account for the new wheel sizes, and the bike’s revised mass.
But the team was careful not to change the base machine to the point of being impractical. Chief engineer on the project, Daniele Alvisi, explains that the team “worked very hard to preserve the fundamental performance characteristics of the Benelli, to reduce cost and maximize reliability.”
Sitting on top of the modified Benelli base is a full set of new bodywork pieces. E&E used the same process any major manufacturer would: sketches, renderings, clay sculptures, and then final prototyping. The actual parts were then 3D printed in ABS plastic, but designed so that they could be produced on a bigger scale, using injection molding.
Under the tank panels is a steel reservoir, which was also designed with mass production in mind. The yokes, handlebars and risers are all new, and the speedo is a KOSO unit in an aluminum housing, with a CAN-BUS interface that lets it run seamlessly with the Benelli. The design is finished off with neatly-integrated LED lighting at both ends.
The XR338 is a stellar design—visually light and pared-back, with a cheeky solo rider setup that begs for shenanigans. If there’s a right way to design little bikes, this is it.
Now let’s just hope the big OEMs are paying attention.
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