SWM Stormbreaker: What’s Up With The Chinese Sportster?

Back in late 2022, we told you the Harley-Davidson EVO Sportster lineup was done-ski. After 36 years of production, Harley-Davidson ended production of its Evolution-powered Sportsters, while keeping the name alive for a new series of liquid-cooled models, which share some DNA with the Pan America 1250 adventure bike. And, we also told you about a new made-in-China copy of the Sportster… and this bike is apparently no joke. It’s about to go on sale in Europe as the SWM Stormbreaker, and it even commands a somewhat surprisingly high price tag.

According to German magazine Motorrad, the SWM Stormbreaker will carry an MSRP of 9,990 euros, which works out to just under $11,000 USD. Yes, you read that correctly. SWM (aka Speedy Working Motorcycles, one of many long-established Italian marques that has been taken over by Chinese ownership) is now selling a copy of the Sportster 1200 for basically the same price that Harley-Davidson did. And they’re also getting the big air-cooled V-twin into Europe despite the continent’s restrictive emissions regulations.

I’m sure that some of you, like me, are filled with questions.

  • If SWM could pick up production, why couldn’t Harley-Davidson keep the Sportster going? Were profit margins too low, or is this part of Jochen Zeitz’s up-scaling strategy?
  • Just how can Shineray (who builds these bikes for SWM) manage to get this old design through emissions regulations?
  • How did Shineray kick-start production basically as soon as Harley-Davidson shut the production line down? Even if Shineray bought H-D’s old factory equipment, how could it get a production line up-and-running so quickly?
  • Who will even buy these bikes? To me, they actually look OK, but won’t they face an uphill battle against Americana purism?
  • What are the chances we’ll ever see these bikes in North America?

Actually, I think we know the answer to that last question, As inmate ScottFree commented when we first reported on these bikes:

I don’t think they’ll bring this bike to the US market. Here, it would have to compete with hundreds of thousands of used Sportsters that can be had for as little as $2500-3000. These used bikes are backed by a big dealer network, ready availability of parts (both from the factory and from a thriving aftermarket), and plenty of mechanics (dealer, indy and shade-tree) who are familiar with the bikes. And a used Sportster brings with it membership in the Harley “club,” which means no sneering comments about riding a “Chinese copy.

Pretty hard to argue with that logic; Sportsters are indeed available everywhere at reasonable asking prices. But maybe in Europe, the Stormbreaker 1200 will prevail?

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