Some people say that Harley-Davidsons are like marmite: you either love them or you hate them. Whatever your personal feelings about them, there is no doubt that the Harley-Davidson brand has captivated American biker imaginations, and those around the world, for over a hundred years.
The bike and the branding
There are two reasons why Harleys have continued to be so popular: the mechanics of the bike itself, and the social branding that saw the company make a successful turnaround after a decade under the control of AMF (American Machine and Foundry).
Whilst the bikes that were produced under AMF were of poor quality, especially in comparison with the imported Japanese bikes that were making their way to the States in the 1970s, there remained enough patriotism attached to the Harley that a group of dedicated investors bought the company. It was the goal of these investors to resurrect Harley’s image.
After the buy-back, the new management deliberately kept the retro design, but with modern engineering. The classic look of bikes like the Road King is a big part of the appeal of Harley-Davidson motorcycles.
Aside from the engineering, another appealing aspect of the Harley-Davidson is the sheer number of the bikes. The majority of Harleys are designed to be customised, and to allow multiple rebuilds. They are often considered to be mechanically fairly simple, but the parts are plentiful and relatively inexpensive, which means that customising your bike is an achievable goal for many owners.
The biggest success of Harley-Davidson has surely been in their marketing. They have emphasised the patriotic appeal of their American-made bikes, as well as the adoption of the Harley motorcycle as the bike of choice to many motorcycle clubs the world over.
A quote attributed to ex-Harley-Davidson VP John Russell suggests that the company know this all too well, “We sell [bikes] to 43-yeaer-old accountants the ability to dress in leather, ride through small towns and have people be afraid of them.”
The association with motorcycle clubs like the Hells Angels (no apostrophe) and the Bandidos has done no harm to the Harley brand at all. When you combine this image, with the particular level of comfort offered by riding the cruisers and tourers like the Dyna series, or the Fatboys, you can start to understand why many people choose to ride a Harley.
There’s no getting around the fact that a Harley is expensive. Not only to purchase. If you’re buying a Harley you will have to be prepared to put more money into it; for servicing, maintenance, customising. You are buying one of the most prestigious names in motorcycling, but if you have the know-how there are some ways to stretch your budget a little, like buying an 883cc bike, and changing the barrels, pistons, and cylinder heads to convert it to a 1200cc.
One cost you don’t want to face is that of an accident that was not your fault. If such an accident has happened to you, get in touch with us at Carry on Biking.