GRMA Day 37: Why Harley-Davidson?
As I sit in the customer lounge of Alef’s Harley-Davidson in Wichita waiting for a new front tire and front brakes to be installed on my Ultra Classic and with nothing particularly important to write about relative to my travels, I thought it might be appropriate for the traveler who writes hdriderblog.com to write about the hd part.
Why Harley-Davidson? Other bikes cruising the highways and byways go faster, ride smoother, last longer and have great reputations. So why do I ride a Harley? Riding a motorcycle isn’t just about speed (well, not all the time, anyway) or about comfort or about durability. It is about those things, of course, but it’s more than that. Those elements are part of a package that make up the total riding experience.
My Harley goes fast enough for me (more than 100 miles per hour according to my Zumo GPS and the bike’s speedometer). The Ultra’s saddle and suspension are comfortable enough to roll down roads that are in various states of repair and disrepair for 10-12 hours a day when I need to. Durable? I put 100,000 miles on my last Ultra-Classic and then sold it to my brother who’s going to join me for a few hours tomorrow as I head east toward home on my bike that has 62,000 miles on it. In the past 10 years I’ve ridden nearly 250,000 miles on Harley-Davidsons with no major mechanical problems and I’ve never been stranded on the road.
But in addition to evaluating a motorcycle on these criteria–speed, comfort, durability–riding a Harley makes me part of a very big family of riders, many of whom have been astride nothing but Harleys for 30, 40, 50 years and more. Harleys are everywhere, and so too are Harley riders. Wealthy riders and financially struggling riders. Working class riders and professionals of all stripes. 1%ers and Bikers for Jesus. Republicans and Democrats and probably a whole lot of Independents. Men and women. Young and old. Even some BMW and Honda riders are also Harley riders. We’re all attracted to Harley-Davidsons for different reasons and yet ultimately the same basic reason.
There’s a mystic about this 112 year-old American union-made iron horse, this icon of American industry, that keeps riders coming back year after year, bike after bike. Is it the sound of the flathead, the panhead, the knucklehead, the shovelhead, the evolution V-Twin engines? Is it the feel of a powerful bike hugging the corners, leaning into the twisties and flying down the straights? Is it the opportunity to ride with like-minded riders and then stop for coffee to talk endlessly about Harleys? Is it the ability to customize a bike in a thousand different ways so it is unlike any other but still a Harley at heart? Is it a history big enough to fill a state-of-the-art museum in Milwaukee? Is it the unique and clearly identifiable styling other brands try to copy but never can. Is it the looks of admiration and envy drivers in passing cars throw your way? Is it the 50 t-shirts from various Harley dealers and rallies hanging in the closet giving sartorial choices for a year’s worth of riding? Is it the ubiquitous bar and shield logo stamped in, sewn on or attached to just about everything Harley riders touch? Yes, it is. It’s all of these. They’re all part of the package.
Sometimes I think about buying a faster, smoother, longer-lasting bike when it comes time to replace my 2013 Ultra Classic. And I probably will. Because my next Harley Davidson will be faster, smoother and longer lasting than the one that’s taken me to Alaska and back, to Newfoundland and Labrador and back, to the Rocky Mountains (all of them) and back.
Why ride a Harley-Davidson? Because it’s a Harley. And because I couldn’t write hdriderblog.com if I rode anything else. Besides, even my mother rolls (walks?) with a Harley-Davidson.