Zien Versus Harley

May 27, 2014

All Posts, News

Dave Zien the former Wisconsin politician and loco long rider who once put 31,000 miles on his motorcycle in 31 days is feuding with Harley-Davidson.

Since the photo above was taken Zien has grown a John Brown beard. He has not yet raided the federal armory at Harpers Ferry to arm the slaves but that might come next. Zien’s other hobby, besides riding insanely long distances is to engage in interesting public arguments with people and corporations who annoy him.

Clutch Warranty

Zien is currently arguing with Harley-Davidson about his clutch.

After recovering from a near fatal motorcycle accident in Florida that cost him his lower left leg in March 2011, Zien started riding trikes. His current, 2014 Harley tricycle has about 15,000 miles on it and Zien thinks it is still under warranty. But when the clutch went out in Dallas two months ago Zien says he was told that the seven flags he flies on the back of his Harley voided his warranty. “They tell me ‘because you fly flags, you’re blocked. You’re black ball listed. You could never get any warranty work – which is unlimited mileage for seven years because you’ve been flying flags,’” Zien told Milwaukee television station WITI.

The idea is that the flags cause drag that stresses the engine and transmission. Harley also denied the warranty claim because “the mounts that hold the flags aren’t Harley-Davidson products.”

“For heaven sakes! They were put on by a Harley-Davidson dealer and technicians” Zien argued. “So that null and voids that argument.”

Last week Rick Barrett of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel quoted Harley spokeswoman Maripat Blankenheim as saying  “The issue isn’t that the flags are heavy, but they provide terrific drag on the engine and the transmission, especially when the bike is at highway speeds.” About the flag mounts Blankenheim told Barrett, “When you alter a motorcycle with non-compliant products, that does impact your ability to make a warranty claim.”

“We recognize that it’s a very cool thing to (mount flags) on your bike, and we want our customers to be able to personalize their bikes in that way,” Blankenheim continued. “We also understand, especially with Memorial Day coming, there are lots of riders who want to show not only their pride in America but other things as well. We have products designed specifically for that, and they won’t negatively impact the motorcycle. But because of what’s been done to (this) motorcycle, and how it impacts the motorcycle’s performance, we just didn’t cover the warranty claim.”


Harley knows Zien. In April 2009, Zien rode an FXRT with 1,017,000 miles on it to Harley headquarters in Milwaukee. The motor company declared it to be the only known Harley with more than a million miles on it and gave him a new FLHXR in return for the old bike, which Harley then donated it to the Motorcycle Hall of Fame in Sturgis. At the time, friends of Zien were offended that Harley hadn’t put Zien’s old bike in the new Harley Museum.

Zien has said that he began riding motorcycles in 1962 when he was 12-years-old and has logged more than two million miles in the saddle since then.

In June 2011, Zien was accused of assault after he ran his wheelchair over the toes of members of a group of liberal activists called Solidarity Sing Along.


40 Responses to “Zien Versus Harley”

  1. Ol'Goat Says:

    Dont chime in much anymore. Had to on this one: FUCK YOU HARLEY DAVIDSON!!!

  2. Ken Says:

    Dave, some (not all) clubs state Allied bikes in their by laws, which may permit Triumph and others. Certain chapters may have issues just because the vast knowledge on Harleys and it may be harder to find parts for those other bikes on the road. However I have not heard of nearly as many stator and clutch issues from the other brands.

  3. Dave Says:

    So since Tooj brought all this up, I had to start making calls to get my ducks lined up.

    Polaris IS an American company. I was wrong in that regard.

    Polaris initially launched Victory with the intent to have two manufacturing locations, here in the US and in Canada. Polaris dropped all info from their site indicating where the parts of the Victory line where actually made in 2000. They still indicate that the final assembly is in Ohio. Many owners argue that the cycles are made fully in the US, however some owners wonder why they have parts that indicate that those parts come from Mexico or Canada. Polaris will not comment, not even to many owners. Polaris maintains the cycle is made in the US, but they use the term “assembled”, not made. That’s a very clear indication that something is being hidden. Phone calls to them get the same answer ‘assembled’. Owners of the first Polaris motorcycles have plates indicating “Made in Canada, Assembled in the USA”.

    That said – who cares?

    What matters is what you want and what your club expects.

    I like Victory. It’s not as zippy as a Harley, or as comfortable for wind protection (to me), but it’s a nice product. It’s solidily built, true. There’s a lot of aftermarket parts for them too. However there is vibration in the handlebars, something you don’t get from a Harley tour-type motorcycle (Road King, Street Glide, Road Glide, Electra Glide). Its not a great amount of vibration, but after 30 minutes my finger tips are numb.

    I also like the Stratoliner Deluxe, though it has less “stuff” than either the Victory or Harley and for the price it should really include a radio or a girl to jerk me off while I’m riding down the highway. They ride ok, but I get a lot of buzz from the motor that you just don’t get in the Harley tour bikes. More than the Victory.

    But… Some, not all, MC’s have in their by-laws that you must ride a Harley. Some say “An American made motorcycle” and you should ask if they consider Victory and Indian American-made. Some do. Some don’t.

    “Kawasaki Heavy Industries (USA)” indicates that your Kawasaki was made in the USA using MOSTLY parts made here, but with some parts made elsewhere. The bulk of the motorcycle, including the engine, is made in the USA. I have yet to meet a club where it’s allowed.

    Yamaha began the ‘Star’ brand to design and build motorcycles for the US market. In order to do this, they opened a factory here and began production in 2006 here. Again no clubs accept them, that I know of.

    So ride what you want, for why you want, but just remember that some MC’s are not going to look kindly upon certain brands, regardless of where they were made. If you’re like me and just want what you want, it doesn’t matter.

  4. Austin Says:

    Duck – RE: “…because these days the internet can turn a small disagreement into a crowd of 500 kids in masks camped on your lawn overnight or something….”

    LOL Point taken!

    @Tooj – Yeah… few & far between = http://www.freestufffinder.com/hot-4-for-10-worth-gasoline-car-washes-and-snacks-at-shell/

  5. Road Whore Says:

    Oh, and John?…it’s TOO dumb to understand physics, not “to dumb.” As in…For all of you who are obviously too dumb to understand grammar…deffinetley…

    Ride Free

  6. Road Whore Says:

    I wasn’t aware that one could just stomp one’s feet and get stuff for free! Damn…I’m off to the stores!

    Ride Free, those who have the sense to do it.

  7. Tooj Says:

    Just a thought: I’ve been buying gasoline for a very, very long time and those damn petroleum companies don’t give me shit; no rallies; no freebies; nothing.

  8. Tooj Says:

    Probably hard to find any vehicle that is completely sourced/produced in any one country but some are closer than others. And for the few companies left that ARE American, it’s funny when some folks don’t appreciate an American company providing some competition. But it is relatively easy to provide erroneous information on the web, rite?

    Polaris is an American company. The first production snowmobile rolled off the line in Minnesota in 1956. Check my link, Polaris is owned by Textron (as of 1968). Quote:

    “Textron is an American industrial conglomerate. Textron includes Bell Helicopter, Cessna Aircraft, and other components. It was founded by Royal Little in 1923 as the Special Yarns Company, and is now headquartered in Providence, Rhode Island.”

    I’m with JMacK’s sentiments regarding choice, and I’m the sort to research what I buy. I’ve had nothing but positive experience dealing with Victory as a company, as well.

    Bombardier/SkiDoo is the Canadian snowmobile company.

  9. John Says:

    Wow I’m surprised no common sense is being used here. First off he bought the bike in March 2011 the warranty is up, secondly clutch are wear items which can wear differently due to many factors 99% is user error. This being said I have seen many manufacturers do the same thing and and the only reason they give you is that the clutch is a wear item and tell you to piss off. At least Harley came up with a legitimate reason. For all you who are obviously to dumb to understand physics, get one of those big flags jump in your car get up to 75 miles an hour and try to hold on after you throw it out the window. Wind drag is real and depending on the snout and size of flags this is deffinetley a real possibility for the clutch failure. Now on the flip side since this is a higher profile customer who obviously had history with Harley they should have done a 1 time goodwill repair or offered to pay for half the repair. But something tells me common sense escapes this group and people don’t want to hear true facts they just want to stomp there feet and get stuff for free. America home of the entitled.

  10. Dave Says:

    I kind of agree guys.

    I don’t care what you ride or what your patch says. If I see you broke down on the road, I’m stopping to help you. We’re all bikers, even if some want to say we’re not.

  11. Road Whore Says:

    @ JMack:

    Sonny also said, in his autobiography, that if the Angels had had any sense they would have gone to Hondas instead of Harleys, but were hide-bound by tradition. Look it up. :)

    I say if it’s got two wheels enjoy it and ride it ’til the wheels go square, but it is a shame that we don’t have a truly 100% American motorcycle anymore, USA born, bred, with 100% USA parts. That’s the part that’s disappearing that we lament.

    Ride Free

  12. JMacK Says:

    I don’t ride a Victory for any other reason than when I finally went to buy a new bike, it was the best riding and most powerful. Simple. And I don’t get into Canada vs USA as I look at us more as North American. Truth is there is more more American parts built into a Victory than a HD. I don’t care, but it is fact.

    And Sonny himself rides a Victory. If that’s not someone in the MC world embracing it, then I’m not sure what is.

    I like HD just fine and won’t say a bad thing about em.

    But when the time comes to give up my current ride, they’ll be prying my Victory from my cold, dead hands…


  13. Dave Says:

    Damn, Duck… I remember that Heinlein line, but I can’t recall the book.

    Anon & Duck… I will probably get a Victory at some point. Maybe within the next year. I’m not upset with Harley for anything other than I simply do not believe that the new bikes are worth the money they are demanding. I enjoy the bikes, and I like how there is a plethora of aftermarket parts to customize them, but that’s not worth $25k of my money. Victory has a large following in aftermarket parts, so it won’t be too bad to find some stuff to dress it out with apes, bars, pegs, pipes, and custom chrome. Plus you save about 8 grand…. So.. you know… I’d like to say “fuck Harley”, but it’s more like “fuck you, Harley” as I buy a used RK. lol

  14. Duck Says:

    “Does this make anyone more likely to try a Victory?”

    In my case, that ship is sailed. Already setting up to snag one as my next get-around. The roots of the co may not be strictly All-American (but hey, HD is having their wheels built in china now so how much can we flex there?), but they’re building them in Iowa and staffing the factory with Americans. Good enough for me.

    Also, there’s a saying from a Heinlein book: “I don’t trust a man who talks about ethics when he is picking my pocket. But if he is acting in his own self-interest and says so, I have usually been able to work out some way to do business with him.”… That’s how I feel about The moco. Having been (un) fortunate enough to have had a family member who’s former employer was one of HD’s partner companies, I got to get up close and personal with some of the co’s more “important” people, as well as dealer bigwigs who thought I was one of their own at the time- and I wasn’t impressed with their attitude towards customers, quality, or any of the things I’d expect them to. I don’t know how things run at Polaris but they seem more on-the-ball when it comes to quality control, Jump to correct post-production problems, and don’t (to my knowledge)shit talk their customer base when no one’s looking. They just want my money, and offer a decent product in exchange- Also good enough for me.

    As to Mr. Zien- If this situation gains more attention, it won’t take more than a day with an independent lab to determine that those “non-standard” flags created no more drag than say, riding a passenger, or (Guessing here) riding into a headwind well within the “national average”- with less than the maximum recommended cargo weight on board. For anyone here not familiar with magnesun-moss, If it comes to a legal head it won’t be enough for the MOCO to just SAY his aftermarket equipment created the fault- they WILL have to prove it. The only common problem with that is cost. Usually companies have more $$ to spend trying to prove those things… but in the case of a clutch I’m guessing it’ll be a lot smarter (cheaper) to just go ahead and fix it, because these days the internet can turn a small disagreement into a crowd of 500 kids in masks camped on your lawn overnight or something.

  15. anon Says:

    Dave – Thanks for the information. I did know that Polaris is the owner, and I had some doubts that Polaris is and “American” company. It is difficult to get sensible “owner” details. Hell, Toyota and Honda cars are probably more made-in-the-USA than Ford when it comes to production and assembly and employment of US citizens, even if Toyota and Honda are “Japanese” companies while Ford is “American.” These days, most of the nationality of companies is really just about where the official paperwork is filed. That said, I do support buying American, but I try to buy legitimately American instead of American-in-name-only. I appreciate you setting me straight.

    I didn’t say that a 1%er MC was supporting or open to Victory. Sorry if that was unclear. I meant a specific individual. Sonny Barger has openly talked about this in at least one of his books, and he used Victory bikes in his “Dead in 5 Heartbeats” film. He’s only one guy, but his opinion does seem to carry some weight.

  16. cwb_j0ker Says:

    In Houston it was nothing but HD and chops .the runs ride victorys ,but now that I’m back over in GA ,its seems to be alot of talk about the models that victory made been MC worthy or not .now that you see more idians on the road its getting the talk very two sided.but it usually comes down to Irish supporter getting the harley supporter on the fact HD is over seas now. So does international export and import have the major say on the worthiness of Irish or victory models been in a MC? The future has made this logic very fucked up

  17. Dave Says:

    Victory is not “American” in the sense that HD is. It’s Polaris, a Canadian corporation that lept into the motorcycle market with the Victory brand after their failure with the Polaris motorcycle. Now they’re jumping in again with Indian. Doesn’t make it American, but it does make the market more interesting.

    Victory is still a good bike though, if that sort of thing doesn’t bother you. The Victory I wanted to buy they don’t make anymore – the Hard Ball. It was dropped after 2013. I don’t know of anyone in the MC community who supports Victory though, not in my neck of the woods. lol You can ride it and hang around an RC, but I don’t know of any MC loving them.

    But Star (Yamaha) is also good, and as “American” as Victory, and their Strotliner Deluxe is a very nice ride. But there’s some RC’s that don’t care what you ride, and MC’s that do.

    If anyone knows different in the Texas area, please inform me. :)

  18. anon Says:

    As someone who doesn’t ride… does this make anyone more likely to try a Victory? The strongest argument I’ve heard in support of HD is that it is an American company but, to my knowledge, so is Victory. There is at least one big supporter of the brand in the MC community, and I suspect that you all know who I mean.

    Glenn S – You found one of the few decent people left in this world, who both goes above the expectations AND charges less money. And I would bet that he pays a higher wholesaler price than the HD dealer, meaning that his profit margins are even smaller than you see based on retail sticker price.

  19. Glenn S. Says:

    Oldskewl said: “It’s good to hear that we still have a few good dealerships left.”

    Don’t get me wrong, I’ll always prefer the small, independent local bike shop that I’ve come to love. The owner/operator has worked on Harley Davidson motorcycles since before he was old enough to legally ride one. I learn something new about motorcycles every time I go there. The owner is a friend and I’d a whole lot rather spend my money at a friend’s place of business. I get reverse sticker shock when I get the bill. And I might be wrong, I’ve yet to have to find out, but I think this man will come if I break down on the side of the road after business hours and can’t get going.

    I’d advise anybody to skip the extended warranty and patronize their local independent bike shop.

  20. cwb_j0ker Says:

    Heard harley just voided warrantys for IOC bikes with to much police gear not harley installed.other warrantys voided for to many SOA stickers on fender welds of trikes and stickers on wheel spokes

  21. sherides Says:

    It is getting a lot of coverage. Now the world knows that flying flags on a Harley will tear the clutch up.

    I think HD should be embarrassed by all of this. Stealerships indeed. No more shall they be considered a place of refuge for the broken down while under warranty.

    Does anyone know where I can read more about this man’s 31K in 31 days ride? The OM doesn’t think its possible. I believe its possible and also exhausting. Did he do this on the million mile bike?

    This guy is a legend. Hard to believe he’s a former politician.


  22. Vikingtrotter Says:

    Well, it looks likes this story just hit the big time. It made it to the front page of Yahoo.com I expect this to start to get local and national TV coverage soon.

  23. Oldskewl Says:

    Glenn S.
    It’s good to hear that we still have a few good dealerships left.

    Harley has a monopoly, people shill out thousands like pez candy to buy a lifestyle and an image regardless of the product, guarantees or reliability.

    Face it, the old school tramps are dying off and so is the lifestyle we live everyday.


  24. Paul Says:

    Re: Warranty void, I learned from the small print any modification, to include but not limited to, stickers, voided the helmet warranty.

    Never thought a sticker could adversely affect a helmet’s protective measures (or lack thereof).

    I was forced to buy a rear wheel from HD for a quick fix with my shop guy, and he still had to jury-rig some supplies because HD sold all things separate.

  25. Glenn S. Says:

    A friend of mine bought Vance and Hines 2 into 1 custom pipes and had them installed on his new Road Glide at Harley of Greenville. Then he wrapped them in heat resistant tape. Then they cracked. He took the bike back to Harley of Greenville, they sent the pipes back to Vance and Hines, and Vance and Hines voided the warranty because he wrapped them in tape. Harley of Greenville said that because they sold him the pipes and installed them and did not tell him that wrapping them in tape would void the warranty, they (not the moco, not Vance and Hines, but the dealership) would make it right and they did.

    I think that was the exception and not the rule, and I personally bought my V&H pipes through a local bike shop and paid a whole lot less, but credit where credit is due.

  26. popeye Says:

    I’m surprised they didnt say his beard created too much drag on the motor. The new bikes were designed for clean shavin with aero dynamic leasure suits

  27. cwb_j0ker Says:

    Now that’s just fuck up. Talk about a whole nother topic reasons why harley is going sell out .fucking greedy corp fucks . Glad I dont own a independent shop rite bout now

  28. Latigo Morgan Says:

    Harley screwed up.

    If I were the head honcho at Victory/Indian, I would have Arlen Ness pay a visit to Mr. Zien and offer him a bike if he’d be a spokesman for the brand.

    A lot of people I know hesitate to buy a Victory because they are afraid there is a lack of customer support. Well, what the hell do they call the lack of Harley’s customer support?

    A savvy competitor could turn Harley’s fuckup to their own advantage.

  29. rookery Says:

    The MoCo has also recently instructed all dealerships to eliminate any kind of discounting on original harley parts to independent motor repair shops. The idea being of course to force them to raise prices so HD dealerships can siphon off more of the available cash. Our local dealer showed us the raft of letters complete with the threat of heavy penaltys for failure to comply.

  30. Dave Says:

    I spent some time today after reading this, then re-reading it, contacting some dealers and asking about this stuff. And you know what I found?

    Harley Davidson sucks ass when it comes to their warranty.

    It’s true. If you mount flags on your ride, even if done by a local dealer, it will probably impact parts of your warranty.

    For shits and giggles I called the Honda shop I buy my chrome polish from (works better, and is cheaper, than that HD store crap) and they don’t take issue with flags or anything placed upon the motorcycle as long as it is installed by a dealer.

    Yamaha? Same.
    Kawasaki? Ditto.

    Seems all three state that if the dealership performs the installation of parts, and as long as those parts do not directly void the warranty (such as headers, or a larger wheel on a shaft drive) then the warranty covers the installed part and everything else. In fact, the guy at Kawasaki said they have to VERIFY this prior to doing any work just to make sure the owner is not voiding their warranty.

    So WTF is going on at HD?


    I can tell you that even if you are coming head on, in daylight, with your triple-tree lit up, horn blasting, radio turned up and with a set of Rineharts that you can’t miss for about a mile – a texter paying more attention to her iphone and the 3 girls in the back seat can do a MASSIVE amount of damage. She bent the frame of my Electra Glide Classic just at the neck, crushed my highway bars, destroyed my lower frame, and threw a 300lbs man 35 feet THROUGH his batwing, handlebars, and fuel tank.

    And she gave me some titanium in my legs to remember her by before she high-tailed it out of Texas and back to New York.

    She took her shot. She failed.

    I may not be able to jump, run, or climb, or even get down on my knees anymore, but I can still get the wind in my hair when my dad is silly enough to hand me the keys to that 1200

    Never let them win, man! ‘Never give up until you’re dead’, is what I say.

  31. BMW Says:

    The Moco will use damn near any argument to try to avoid a warranty fix Even parts from Harley Davidson, installed by a Harley dealer, can be used to justify a loss of warranty. But the drag from flags? Who are they kidding?

    Despite the refusal to perform work under warranty, the Moco has a long list of items that just don’t work on their very expensive imported* motorcycles (*but assembled here). The hydraulic clutch was one, but how about the “electric reverse” for sidecars or the fact that most of us have to add numerous accessories just to get the bike to function as a safe or efficient motorcycle these days?

    Several after-market companies exist just to FIX the Moco’s executive-level design screw-ups! Look at the rear-end lighting on the FLHX, for instance. It is almost impossible to see at night. One company makes a $500.00 fix that includes real rear lighting, so the drunken texters in their cages can see a motorcycle at dusk or night! How many bikers have been lost from this problem alone?

    Look at the companies that fix oil/cooling problems — Feuling makes any number of parts to get a decent oil feed. Jagg makes an oil cooler with a fan (duh…), Baker makes a deep oil pan to hold the proper amount of oil, and Jims makes a head cooler to reduce temperatures. Why is the “mid-frame deflector” otherwise known as a heat shield an extra-cost option on touring bikes?

    I could go on for days. The current Harley corporate management has been screwing American riders so long that they think they can get away with anything. And you know, they just might be right!

    On a tear this week for some damn reason, I guess I’m still pissed about the disrespect for bikers, veterans and Memorial Day.

    L,H&R TO ALL 1% RIDERS!!!

  32. FF Says:

    Dude’s a character, I love him.

    Fuck the corporation.

  33. cwb_j0ker Says:

    Haha well said rvn69 , watch him win the dumbass lawsuit then go ride a victory for 1 million miles , harley dealerships are turning into RUB coffee & T-shirt supply depot already

  34. rollinnorth Says:

    Typical bureaucratic b$ from the MOCO. Nitpick a warranty claim, never thinking about the backlash a man like Dave Zien could cause. Bunch of $tupid, callou$, cluele$$ idiot$, with a we-could-care-le$$ attitude.
    Go Dave!


  35. sherides Says:

    This is just not right.

    Who knew that flying flags would void a warranty. I would never have thought it possible.

    I would think that the Motor Company would treat a customer like him better. I hope Mr Zien prevails in this lawsuit.

    I hope this goes to court and he rides over alot more than someone’s toes.


  36. swampy Says:

    Fuck the MoCo. I guess they never got that hydraulic clutch issue worked out. So, their product(2014-tri glide) wouldn’t tow a 215lb. trailer with 80lbs. of shit in it either? I think this Nation needs 100,000 Dave Ziens that want(if not out of need)to ride trikes. Maybe Victory would take note of that.

  37. RVN69 Says:

    How can the MOCO be so fucking stupid, they managed to shoot themselves in both feet while they were in their mouth. Just fix the bike, or give him a new one. I can promise that HD will lose much more money because of the bad press and possible switch to another brand by Zein, than they would have experienced by replacing the transmission every 6 months if necessary.

    If this was just some asshole Service Manager then he should be fired, and maybe the dealership should go to someone with better customer service instincts. If it was the MOCO proper then some rich bitch asshole there should be publicly flogged and then fired.

    “I came into this world kicking, screaming and covered in someone elses blood, I am prepared to leave it the same way.”

  38. Cap'n Bill Says:

    The factory, I believe, will be hard pressed to offer any viable apology. They DO NOT appeal to the people that kept their asses in Rolex’s for the last 30 years.
    This whole deal is really just bullshit.
    Fuck The Factory
    Fuck The Police

  39. Magoo Says:

    This could be resolved so easily if someone had just thought it through. Their apology letter should go something like…

    Dear Mr. Zien,

    If we weren’t total dicks, we could take this opportunity to advise you that we feel your flag waving may be causal to your clutch failing and, in the future, may be reason to refuse a warranty claim. Said warranty may also be voided spending excessive time going uphill. Or sitting in traffic. Or using less than premium gas. Or riding around a fat woman. Or a nasty crosswind.

    However, your obvious love of riding and loyalty to Harley-Davidson is the reason we build and sell motorcycles. [Of course, it’s bullshit but they could be kind and say it.] In respect to your dedication, we’d be pleased to provide you with the clutch, any labor to install it and a loaner while the work is being done. For the inconvenience of needing to get it replaced, we’d also like to extend one year of free service to you. As you can see, it’s not just about selling image and clothing for us. Motorcycles and lifestyle aren’t just marketing terms.

    Thank you for your business.

    [problem solved]

  40. Austin Says:

    Ride on Mr Zien – glad to read that he is still kicking & hope to hear he has kicked some *$$ over this one.
    Thank you Rebel for your coverage. I am thinking a letter/email to corporate might be in order.
    Not seeing the logic in withholding a clutch after giving him en entire bike for free!

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