This is long to bear with me. I was recently asked why Harley Davidson. Then, there was the topic of Harley bashing on a recent podcast episode and the mindset of the non-Harley rider. It was pointed out to me that the only people that are bothered by Harley bashing are Harley guys. Well…… yeah…. What did you expect? So in my defense and the defense of other Harley Loyalists out there. Here’s my story of why.
I was maybe 5 or 6 years old, so that makes it 1964 and I was with my mother in her 58 ford. I don’t recall where we were going but I recall hanging out the window at a stop light. This motorcycle rolled up and stopped behind the car in the next lane. I remember it being turquoise and white, chrome and shiny and it rumbled.
“Mom, that’s cool, what’s it called?” I asked.
“That’s a Harley-Davidson Motorcycle.” She said.
“Wow! That is really cool!” I couldn’t contain my excitement.
Then the light turned green and the bike rumbled off and I never saw that bike again. But I did see other Harley-Davidsons here and there and they were all really cool looking, sounded amazing and they just cruised on by. I wanted one.
Then these other motorcycles started appearing. They were called Honda’s and Kawasaki’s and Suzuki’s, obviously Japanese. They didn’t sound or look as cool as the Harley’s. I’d see them zipping by, zigging and zagging through traffic. They had this annoying sound to them and they looked goofy.
The Harley’s just cruised on by.
My uncle, my mom’s brother, got a Harley, a 1960 something Sportster. He loved that thing and everyone in the family hated it. I loved it too. I wasn’t allowed to ride on it with him but I wanted to in the worst way. He would stop by on it and when he’d leave I’d just watch him cruise away. “That’s going to be me someday” I thought. Then I’d hear this weird buzzing sound and I’d see some Japanese bike go by that didn’t have a name like Sportster or Hydra-Glide or Electra Glide, it was just a tag of letters and numbers that I couldn’t identify with.
The Harley’s just cruised on by.
Sorry but this:
Looks way better than this:
Who cares about going fast. Getting there in Style is just bad-ass to me.
As the years went on, my desire for a Harley grew and I learned about them, what they had, the design and what you could do with them. But the one thing that was evident to me in the 60’s was you got a Harley and just went. Anywhere, just get on the road and go. No need to get there fast, that’s not what it was all about. Just get out there and go. See the world, cruise. Back then, Bowling was big and the big Bowling thing everyone knew about was AMF. Then I learned in 1969 that AMF bought Harley-Davidson, I didn’t know why but I remember seeing AMF on the tanks of my favorite motorcycle. “What does a bowling company know about motorcycles?” I thought. I later learned, not a damn thing.
My uncle Johnny would say. “AMF bought them and now they are shit. You can’t ride them for more than 10 minutes and they are spewing oil everywhere.” He’d say. He’d tell me about his buddy who wasn’t allowed to park his bike in the garage because it leaked oil all over the place. No body wanted a Harley anymore.
The letters and numbers Japanese bikes zipped by.
I got my drivers license in October of 1975 but I wasn’t permitted by my parents to get a motorcycle endorsement. I graduated High School in 1976 and got a 65 Thunderbird. But I still wanted a Harley. In 1977 I joined the US Navy and was shipped off to Guantanamo Naval Air Station, yes Guantanamo, back when it was actually a functioning military installation. About 6 months into my deployment in GTMO, one of my fellow sailors at AIROPS bought a Harley Davidson Low Rider and had it shipped to the base. We’re in Cuba, it was nice 99% of the time, he rode it every day. Although it was AMF, he must have gotten one of the good ones because he had no trouble with it. I wanted one. I remember it was Silver and had this bad-ass rumble to it. One of my mates in the barracks was selling his Suzuki 125 so I bought it. It needed work badly and it was junk. I knew nothing of motorcycles and repairing them, but I fiddled with it, it ran, it moved but it sounded like crap, rode like crap and felt horrible under me. I sold it 6 months later for half of what I paid. It wasn’t a Harley.
The 80’s came, Willie G and some others bought Harley back and the bikes got better. The import bikes got better too and there were a lot more of them now on American roads. Honda this and Kawasaki that, BMW this and Triumph that, Yamaha this and Suzuki that. The word on the street was that Harley’s were crap but that wasn’t the case anymore.
The imports got faster, Harley’s still cruised. I still wanted one. In 1985 a new Sportster was selling for $3500. NEW! The thing is, back then, there wasn’t a Harley dealer to be found, they were few and far between. AND if you did buy a new Harley, you had to wait up to a year to have it delivered. There was only one factory then. I still wanted one.
I had this dream in 1985 of getting a Sportster, throwing on a back pack and riding across the country. But, I was post military, broke and only had a minimum wage job. My military training was useless on the outside. But I still wanted a Sportster to satisfy my dream. I got my motorcycle endorsement finally after I broke up with my then girlfriend and left the “No you’re not getting a motorcycle!” pointing finger behind me. It was 1987, a step closer to my Harley. I got my license with the help of a friend who had an early Honda Goldwing. I hated it. I didn’t like the way it felt under me, didn’t like the way it moved, didn’t like its look or its sound. But it got me my license, that’s all that mattered.
Harley’s were much better by then and they had a purpose, Cruise. The imports still got faster and were everywhere. More letters and numbers, KZ1000, CB750 and the like that I couldn’t connect with. More ugly bikes that my eyes averted, more blenders and sewing machines on wheels. More bikes lacking style and appeal.
All I wanted was a Harley that had a name.
In 1994 a former boss ordered his Sportster 883. A year later it arrived. He wouldn’t let me ride it but damn, I wanted it. I looked great, sounded great and was just bad-ass. Ten years would pass and that very bike became mine. I bartered my part time employment for a 18 months working for free to earn it. Then I drove my truck from New Jersey to Del Ray Beach Florida to pick it up. I owned it for an additional ten years and rode the crap out of that thing and it never gave me a problem. One of the dumbest things I ever did was sell it when I got my 2003 100th Anniversary Softail Heritage Classic. I wish I still had that Sportster, it was just freaking awesome.
I love my Heritage. It’s 15 years old and still looks and sounds great and I ride the shit out of it. It gets me to where I want to go, it feels great under me and it’s just a pretty bike.
I’ve ridden other Harley’s and there are a couple that I want. I haven’t ridden any other bikes though, never a Honda, BMW, Yamaha, Suzuki or any other. I’ve had the opportunity at rally’s, but I passed on it. They just don’t appeal to me. I don’t like the way they look, I’ve sat on a lot of them but they just don’t feel right under me and I feel like I need to shower after sitting on them. Sure, they are apparently faster and apparently handle better but what’s the point? I’m not interested in getting there fast or zigging and zagging. That’s not me.
Now I know out there, there are people that are called posers. These are the guys and gals that buy a Harley just to say they own a Harley, they don’t RIDE it they, “take it out”. I’ve met these people and have had some very heated things to say to them. They are the ones that the rest of the world thinks we are and it’s so not true and really not fair.
I want to ride, see things, enjoy the view, be comfortable and just cruise. I like my bike to look good because I have great pride in my machine and my motorcycle company. Is Harley Davidson the best motorcycle? To me it is. It is my motorcycle, my motorcycle company. I do not disparage anyone for their choice of bike, you are free to ride what you want, how you want and I respect your decision. I will respect you on your bike as you should respect me on my bike. I will not talk down about your bike to you. It is your bike and your love, not mine.
I own a Harley Davidson not to say I own a Harley or so that I can dress like a pirate or be an SOA wannabe or because I want to “belong” to something. I own a Harley because it speaks to me and affected me so many years ago. It appeals to me and I feel a connection to it. This is what you should be able to say about your motorcycle. If it doesn’t speak to you and respond to you, it isn’t your bike and it never will be. You can’t make a motorcycle connect with you no more than you can make someone love you. I have seen three motorcycles in my life that have spoken to me the minute I laid eyes on it. They were screaming to me. One is my current Heritage, the others were the V-Rod when it first came out.
Most recently, Harley Davidson Sportster Roadster, that bike, just won’t leave me alone and beckons to me nearly daily. I have had the opportunity to ride both of these bikes twice and they are everything that thought they would be and we had an immediate connection the moment I sat on them. I am 6 feet tall and despite my simian proportions, I felt at home on the Roadster.
So, does your bike or any bike beckon to you? Do you feel a connection to your bike or any bike you have seen or sat on or ridden? Does any bike give you emotion? Does your bike do that to you? If it doesn’t, it’s not your bike.
So yes, to me, Harley Davidson Motorcycles are the best you can get.
Electric bikes…. well, they can go to hell.