Harley Is Still Doomed

June 26, 2014

All Posts, Editorials, Features

In January 2010 this page published an article titled “Harley Is Doomed.” If you missed it, or you are just in the mood to kiss the past’s ass, you can find that article here.

In case you just got paroled by the Taliban, the good news is that Harley is still alive. The bad news is that Harley is still doomed. What has changed in the last four and a half years is that the motor company has largely betrayed its implicit contract with its workers; it has started to chase what the zombies who run the company call the “outreach” and “international” markets; and those zombie managers have cynically mistaken the key to Harley’s success over the last 30 years for just so much hollow rhetoric.

The success is a good place to start.

The Outlaw Machine

The secret to Harley-Davidson’s survival is summarized in the title of  Brock Yates’ book Outlaw Machine: Harley-Davidson and the Search for the American Soul. Harley became an “American cultural icon” because its motorcycles were symbols of “defiance and liberation.” And the company had some help from its customers along the way.

The depression era motorcycle clubs transformed into much edgier fraternities after the Second World War. World War veterans who bought cheap, war surplus motorcycles collected themselves into clubs that emulated small combat units. The clubs were seen as gangs of highly mobile, marauding mercenaries until the mid-sixties when they began to acquire a romantic glow. Harley-Davidson has been living off that romantic glow for the last 50 years.

As hostile as clubs may be to one another, all of the motorcycle club world endorses the same world view and lives by the same set of rules. In the beginning, in the 50s, clubs insisted their members ride heavy motorcycles built by America or her allies. The first motorcycle outlaws might have flaunted their war souvenir swastikas but they refused to ride German bikes. Within a decade, club patch holders were required to ride American motorcycles with engine displacements of 1000 cubic centimeters or more. And, that meant if you were going to ride with a club you had to own a Harley.

Cultural Icon

The symbiosis between outlaw motorcycle clubs and Harley-Davidson intensified when the United States was flooded with cheap, light Japanese motorcycles and when Harley became a division of a bowling alley supplier called American Machine and Foundry. The Japanese bikes were fun and hip. The AMF Harleys were poorly made and notorious for marking their spots but Harleys were made by American workers who fed American children and the outlaws were stubbornly patriotic. Harley was the last American motorcycle and for decades it seemed worth saving if for no other reason than that.

The iconic outlaw image was further embellished in the 1960s and 70s by Hunter Thompson, by the proliferation of motorcycle clubs founded by Vietnam veterans and by dozens of biker movies culminating with Easy Rider. By the time AMF sold Harley in 1981 the outlaw biker had become a stock character.

The new Harley-Davidson commoditized that independent, fearless, dangerous, self-reliant, patriotic, anti-authoritarian outlaw image. The company started its own motorcycle club called the Harley Owners Group. Harley-Davidsons became symbols of both an earlier America and a waning style of masculinity. Prosperous professionals could redefine themselves by posing on a Harley. Poorer men could redefine themselves by putting on a Harley tee shirt.

The image of the motorcycle outlaw on his outlaw machine is more potent now than ever but it is exactly that image and that set of values that Harley wants to discard. The company seems to think that image is growing stale as the baby-boomers, who most enthusiastically embraced it 30 years ago, grow old. The outlaw image is certainly at odds with Obama era ideals about how the world should work and who Americans should be. But then how do you explain the Devils Ride or No Angel by Jay Dobyns. Apparently, the people who run Harley are the last to notice who actually watches Sons of Anarchy. The “core” customer base Harley wants to replace isn’t nearly as inclined to watch Kurt Sutter’s show as are young men and women.

The Demographics

The smart money is betting against Harley. A report released this week by an investment company called RBC Capital Markets adds some details about why Harley is doomed.

The people running the motor company think the outlaw appeal of their machines is limited to baby boomers. In other words they think mostly old white guys watch Sons of Anarchy. And, those old white guys aren’t getting any younger. In 1990 only ten percent of Harley’s customers were 50 or older. Today 38 percent of the company’s customers are at least 50. Twenty percent of them will be dead by 2030. Fifty-nine percent of Harleys customers are over 40 which is double the percentage in 1990.

Only 11 percent of Harley’s customers are in their early 30s. In 1990 a quarter of the people who bought Harleys were under 25 and 41 percent of Harley’s customers were under 30. Now about 19 percent are under 30. In 1990 most young men who wanted to do so could get blue collar jobs. Now not so much.

Hey Everybody, Let’s Commute

Anybody who has seen Harley’s ads for its new 500 cc and 750 cc “Street” bikes knows who the company wants for customers. The models who pose on those motorcycles are predominantly Asian, Black and female. They are anti-outlaws. They don’t have helmet hair. And they do not tour Monument Valley. They do not get their kicks on Route 66. They park downtown. They don’t have adventures. They commute. People who identify with those models are the people Harley wants to attract with its new electric motorcycle, grandly called “Project LiveWire.” The Street bikes are not outlaw machines. The LiveWire is not an outlaw machine.

What Harley is signaling with its new products and its new advertising is that the motor company now believes it will go broke if it continues to try to sell an independent, fearless, dangerous, self-reliant, patriotic, anti-authoritarian outlaw image. Maybe the company’s marketing geniuses are right. But there is a problem with abandoning what has worked up until now.

If Harley-Davidson doesn’t make uniquely American outlaw machines then what does it make? Does it just make motorcycles like Honda. Do you now “meet the nicest people on a Harley?” The motor company seems to be particularly keen on making commuter motorcycles. In order to do that successfully Harley will have to compete with other motorcycle manufacturers on price. The 2014 Street 500 has a suggested retail price of $6,800. Is that cheap enough?

One problem for Harley is that there are fewer Generation X Americans than boomers so the company’s potential market is shrinking. Another, bigger problem is that Americans are facing a declining standard of living. Harley is part of that problem because it has lowered its workers salaries and it has cut jobs. In the last seven years most American manufacturers have done the same thing.

Worst of all, the young, urban hipsters Harley is courting face declining job prospects and when they enter the job market many of them are already burdened by huge student loans. The University of Phoenix already owns the money the next generation might have used to buy a motorcycle.

So who cares if their commuter motorcycle is made by Harley? What makes Harley different from every other soulless multi-national? What is it exactly that Harley is selling now? And how is Harley’s next generation of customers going to pay for Harley’s next generation of machines? Harley doesn’t seem to know. And that’s why Harley is still doomed.


91 Responses to “Harley Is Still Doomed”

  1. JBNJ Says:

    Funny thing if the customer base is shrinking and there no buyers. Why are there so many Jap HD imitations out there? Why do all the Jap Co’s continue to imitate and copy HD? HD needs to innovate. That’s were they’ll find their new base. Make the best better.

  2. FF Says:


    Hey man, things didn’t work out between me and Juan Carlos Mendoza. I’m in the market for a new Life Coach.

    You interested?


  3. fayettenamhoe Says:

    ole man harley was doomed before he hit the gates, i take it for a ride, old man harley, that mutha can ride, now she hurts, now she is just another muther fucker, no mam it a’int you daddies ride, i ate some pussey last nite, yummy yum, maybe eat harley on saturday, when ever,

  4. Latigo Morgan Says:

    I’ll stick with Harley products. I may never straddle a brand new one, but there are plenty of low mileage used bikes out there that RUBs have been kind enough to break in for me and pay all the depreciation on before getting tired of them.

  5. ElleElle Says:

    Happy Fourth.

    Be safe all.
    Watch all those babies’ fingers and toes-
    Eat a burger for me.


  6. Phuquehed Says:

    I’ll keep the Harley…I’m too poor to buy cheap shit.

    Went to the dealership to get a new stator (yeah, it was $10 more expensive than what I found online, but didn’t have to wait for it to arrive at the house). When I got back home I happened to look at the box a little closer and saw ‘Made in the USA’.

    Blew my fucking mind, because if one is to take the headlight apart on any of the late model bikes you’ll see that the wiring harness to the bulb is ‘Made in Mexico’, so I figured electronics/electrical stuff was all going to be foreign crap.

    Since no one has yet put up *ANY* kind of list of everything that goes into making (let’s say) a ’09 Super Glide, so that we can see, count and judge for ourselves how much of all those parts and pieces add up to a percentage of the bike being American made and foreign, I’ll stick with it because it’s still American made, the money stays here at home. Yeah, yeah…some foreign jap shit has a factory here in the states. So what? Over half the money of *every* bike sold goes back to Japan (or whatever foreign bike maker).

    If I weren’t so fucked up physically, I’d still be able to work on my bike – computer controlled or not – whereas one can’t say or do that as easily with foreign-made shit. I see more foreign crap sitting and gathreing dust because the owners can’t afford the part, can’t find someone to work on it, can’t afford that someone to work on it, can’t work on it themselves without every special piece of equipment known to man in their toolbox, etc, etc. (I bet I can fix at least 50% of any problem I might have if I happen to break down on the side of the road with the tools I have in my little toolbag on the front forks).

    One shitty thing I hate about the Harley’s though, and I don’t know how long it’s been like this, it’s that there’s such a fucking mixture of metric and SAE screws/bolts ad nausea. I fucking hate that!

  7. ElleElle Says:

    JJS-you make very good points-all valid. My perspective is different. I have never been mesmerized by being a part of the HOG, however. It than it must be the 5 dollars they charge for the free idiot testing that is officially in full swing or people really do buy the bikes and therefore the gear. I don’t care to own H.D.-I never cared to have one. I did ride on the back of one for a week when I flew to Hawaii-a serious bone shaker it was. You cannot convince most of the HOG population of that-but I am always pleasantly surprised and educated when I read in here-It’s a bit more realistic in these parts.

    As to marketing-they are struggling to keep up with other very good companies-Polaris being one of them who actually did do something noteworthy-made a bike that out-handled, out-performed and didn’t require a ton of aftermarket anything to ride. It’s pretty sad for H.D. really, when they have always been pretty good at staying alive. They have always had too much-but now it’s a matter of doing too little too late.

    Revenue from motorcycle sales brought in $4.0 billion for Harley-Davidson in 2013, up 8.0% from 2012′s revenue of $3.8 billion. Sales of parts and accessories generated another $873 million in revenue, up from $860 million from the previous year. Not too slouchy H.D.
    I did not contribute at all to those numbers.

    I paid cash for my bike. I saved up the money until I had the money to pay cash for it. It still runs great!

    Even so, I still respect their history and how they have pulled themselves out of the gutter in the past. You could be right. They may have to do it again someday soon. They will be sure to market the HELL out of that, if they do.


  8. FF Says:


    It’s your money. You ride whatever the hell you want and fuck what anyone else thinks. Are you happy? Your old lady happy? That’s all that counts.

    Have a great weekend!

  9. Not important Says:

    In the world we live in “jap crap” no longer applies. Like HD, it meant something in the past but not anymore. If anything I’d say these days the crap is coming from Germany…

  10. Keith Says:

    Harleys impending demise may very well be the price. I just recently bought an 09 Suzuki Boulevard C109RT. Windshield, bagged, boards for me and the old lady, spent less than 7K. Looking at similar Harleys engine size and add ons the price was nearly double in most cases and in a few more that double.
    I have already heard all the jap crap, sewing machine comments ..I know I know I know. It was what fit my desires and budget. It simply boiled down to price. Make no mistake I would love to have a Harley but spending twice as much just to put an HD emblem on the bike just isn’t very practical for me. And hell im finally on two wheels so that has to count something right?

  11. Dave Says:

    All this talk made me think about Triumph again.

    For some reason, that new Rocket III Touring appeals to me.

  12. Dave Says:

    All this talk made me think about Triumph again.

    For some reason, that new Rocket III Touring appeals to me.

  13. Mojoman Says:

    PEAK OIL. All fossil fuel powered machines will be gone in the next 50-75 years. There just isn’t enough oil to meet the demand. Doesn’t matter how much we don’t like it, that’s what it is. The companies that begin making the transition now, will survive – maybe. Those which make no effort to change will assuredly be gone.

    Will an electric battery powered bike have the same soul as our beloved V-twin?

    The first Cowboy that traded his horse for a flathead was probably disgusted by the idea. In twenty years it will be normalized. We will a be riding an electric bike daily, with our old gas powered v-twin kept for special occasions to use our $25 a gallon gasoline we keep stored.

    I will miss the sounds and smells of the air cooled v-twin, but hey you know damn well we will be tearing ass down the road at 140 on those electric bikes!

  14. jj solari Says:

    dear LL: thank you for informing us that things change. one of the things that is going to change is the existence of harley davidson as a profit-making corporate enterprise. they clearly DONT know how to market, all they know how to do is utter corporate-speak banalities and bromides. time magazine ran five pages on the “new harley” company. when time magazine praises you its a damn certainty you are a pile of shit about to disappear into the murk of history. if they knew how to market they would not have created two new gasoline motorcycles that not only weigh as much as a sportster but cost about as much as a sportster and look really dorky besides. unless you think a beauty salon hair dryer over the headlight looks really swell and a handful of clumped wires appearing out of nowhere and disappearing back into nowhere like something a mental patient assembled in a frenzy just before he killed ten people looks kinda keen. harley is running on “mystique” and has been since it got extricated from the bowling pin factory and before that when the hells angels gave harley a nod of “hangaround” status and the “mystique” is gonna vanish when sonny barger does. and believe me if there aint no harley no one is going to want to wear their fucking t shirts. unless being associated with a loser is really really fun for them.

  15. ElleElle Says:

    And than there is true technology-which of course cannot compare at all to the classic of anything-but it has it’s moments and its benefits as well. It’s not just your grandfathers motorcycle world anymore. Phones have changed. Computers have changed. Televisions have changed, and well-fortunately and or not fortunately depending on your perspective…motorcycles and the motorcycle world has changed. Harley has an undisputable History and Story. It is just NOW beginning to incorporate some of the tech-ie changes that other companies have become very good at doing-including keeping most of their product American made-something else that Harley cannot really claim like they used to. Harley will never be DOOMED because of marketing. They know how to market and if they had to ever greatly reduce their motorcycle demand, they would stay in business selling T-Shirts and hats to people that don’t even own bikes and have never even sat on one.

  16. Grumbler Says:

    @Va.Bob – The ol’ Trumps did have soul. Owned ’67 TR6R, ’68 TR6R, ’72 T120R and ’73 T140RV back in the day. However, every single one of them, thanks to the HF vibes, killed my ass on longer rides.

    Then, during the mid-70s, took a demo ride onna black Norton 850 Interstate with that isolastic system (used rubber bushings to isolate vibration from the engine to the frame). Had everything anyone could want in british beef … personality, torque, acceleration, handling and range. Unfortunately, Norton went tits up within a couple of years.

    That was years before the MoFoCo debuted their first rubber mount engine/frame with the ’80 FLT. I still recall taking a ride onna FXR for the first time on CA-160 along the Sacramento delta. The FXR looked and sounded like a HD but sure didn’t feel like one.

  17. Phuquehed Says:

    If they *don’t* have any soul, the Harley’s have all the character. They were first at what they did and do. Everyone else, *everyone*, is a copy, and no matter what you do to your ‘copy’, it can’t have any character.

    Just like the 60’s and 70’s muscle cars. They had character, whereas absolutely *NOTHING* made nowadays has any character whatsoever. All these newfangled wannabe new style muscle cars don’t have shit as they all look the same as each other, and there isn’t anything else made that doesn’t look like some fucked up bubble with wheels going down the road these days. They *all* look like shit and can’t be told apart.

    *That* is the difference between shit and a copy of something, and ‘The Original’. Character.

  18. Va.Bob Says:

    Some bikes have soul.Like old Triumphs.

  19. Dave Says:

    A few facts should be explained/clarified;

    1) AMF no longer owns HD. Hasn’t for a while. I don’t think anyone would back AMF anyway as their product was the worse ever made.

    2) HD needed the tariffs as the imports were unregulated and dumped on the market below their cost. This tactic has been repeated several times since then, for other products, and history has proven that without such tariffs the American manufacturers ultimately pay the price and close shop. You can read all about it for free. Start by checking out how Walmart killed domestic production and read on how many times Sony has dumped product on the US market below cost just to harm competition.

    3) HD is the only American manufacturer of motorcycles that has been around since it opened doors.

    4) Numerous employees were present when Willie G organized the employee purchase of HD from AMF and several have repeatedly stated that he did it to preserve the company and keep it alive while giving more back the employees. I’ll take the word of employees who were there.

    And lastly, my bike had soul. Tons of it. I felt it and so did others who rode it. Maybe it was the tings I added to it, maybe it wasn’t. What I know, I know.

  20. Tooj Says:

    A motorcycle with “soul”? Somebody not only DRANK THE KOOL-ADE, but seems to be MAINLINING it as well.

    “Soul” is what YOU have. Anything that an inanimate object has came from what you put into it. Don’t care if it’s a Tonka truck, a motorcycle or a great recipe for whiskey. None of it has soul until you put it there.

    I choose not to devote myself to a company that is only concerned with the bottom line. Every manager sees management as “being successful”. Being someone who actually DOES or MAKES something is no longer in fashion. You make your bucks planning the work that “others” should do. And every member of elected politik has that view.

    Those of you that do actual work for a living will soon be a minority and folks will be wondering why we aren’t the producers we used to be.

    Rebel, thanks for an honest assessment of how it came down. It expresses well what I always considered after folks told me “don’t buy that AMF crap”. I never considered an H-D made after 1968 since.

    Here’s an additional bit:

    “In 1952, following their application to the US Tariff Commission for a 40% tax on imported motorcycles, Harley-Davidson was charged with restrictive practices. In 1969, American Machine and Foundry (AMF) bought the company, streamlined production, and slashed the workforce.”

    THIS is what you guys back so strongly? You honestly thing that Willie was really, really concerned with the reputation or quality of product when he bought back in? There was money to be made and fools to make it from and that equates to “easy money”.

  21. Jeff Diamond Says:

    HD’s marketing sucks; it’s been going down hill ever since the “dark custom” debacle where they tried to sell $15k+ bikes to new riders in their twenties by using the images of rigid shovels and pans. Or how about that cvo-chopper-wannabe known as the Rocker; or sprung seats on frames with swing arms (which is like wearing suspenders and a belt). That said, HD’s renewed interest in promoting the sportster to young people was a good thing, albeit a tad bit late; and the smaller bikes are a good thing because at least they’re aimed at a market that exists. And Willie G isn’t in charge of design, so I won’t see anymore FLs (or whatever they call them now) with skulls scribbled on them. The glass isn’t totally empty.

  22. Buddha Says:

    When Harley became a clothing company with a line of motorcycles, I walked away. Elton John was just added insult to injury. Fuck Harley.

  23. dirtyfxd Says:

    @Grumbler I was wondering if anyone would catch my unintentional subliminal message. But I totally agree!

  24. Meh Says:

    HD can make hay while the sun shines then change its emphasis.

    Yams always penciled out better, but Harley is hardly “doomed”. All they have to do is adapt. They might even take a cue from Force Protection whose management famously right-sized the company quickly to investor delight.

    The recent spate of very expensive HDs was wisely timed to sell to old rich folks. When they start croaking in droves HD can offer some better engines in their lineup and move to a broader line of vehicles. The relentless choice to fuck up model diversification in the past (from Aermacchi on) doesn’t necessarily mean HD will fuck up this time.

    At one time the average non conformist, drug inducing, alcohaul guzzling hard working man could buy a decent big twin.
    Same rules applied then as now with new bike purchases. Average working stiffs routinely buy new CARS costing more than a new HD. Those who are serious will find a way. New price in constant dollars hasn’t changed all that much and the used market is cheaper in many cases.

    I bought my Low Rider new in 1988 for $8400 which is $16,892.31 today per CPI inflation calculator. A new Low Rider lists on the HD site starting at 14,199.

  25. ap Says:

    I ride an older harley and what I cant wrench myself I take to a independent dealer. The I really cant stand the moco itself and try really hard not to give them a dime. Our local stealership has tried with outright lies and slander to run the indie shops out of business. This isnt the kind of thing I support. And of course maybe if a new hd didnt cost as much as a starter house younger people might be more inclined to buy one. If a young guy with 3 kids wants a bike a yamaha tends to pencil out better.

  26. Grumbler Says:

    @Mike 184 – There’s an indie shop just a couple o’ miles from my humble adobe who charged me $50 to mount the tires on both wheels off the bike. Sked the service by sending him a PM on FB.

    @Done – Was an avid reader myself thanks, in part, to JFK who was a speed reader. Managed to read 237 books from page to page at age 17 during my summer break. Was also working at a resort that summer. Why? Wanted to prepare for my freshman year at college. SMH

    @dirtyfxd – Your reference to the suits struck a chord with me. The stereotypical MoFoCo customer has changed from 3 piece patch holders to 3 piece suits.

    Am thinkin’ of maybe gettin’ a good used Triumph 900cc Scrambler as a 2nd bike so I can hit the dirt roads here in Ida-ho. Doin’ 80mph onna fire road is tons o’ fun.


  27. swampy Says:

    @Done, yes, I like the feel of a “real” book too; even if it’s in paperback.

    I hadn’t been to the MOCO website for more than a few months, so I moseyed along on over there and gave it a click. Holy shit! What’s the first thing that pooped up but that electric Live Wire what-cha-ma-call-it. For some reason I was reminded of an electric vacuum cleaner…and cell phone towers. Harley Davidson better do something quick. I mean just LOOK AT THIS VICTORY OPTION!!! LOL!

  28. dirtyfxd Says:

    Harley did this to them selves. At one time the average non conformist, drug inducing, alcohaul guzzling hard working man could buy a decent big twin. Now you have to knock off a bank to buy one. So the only folks who can afford one are old dudes who cash in a 401k. I’m still in my 20s, and the only reason I have one is because I sell drugs, just kidding. But it was a long 5 years of payments! And a lot of my friends in the same age group would love to buy a big bad ass Harley but its the same old story, the Kawasaki was way cheaper and leaves them with way more green backs to go trashing on the weekends. So the outlaw image is diminishing because everyone that can afford a Harley wears a three piece suite Monday through Friday, or there old and partied out. If they would at least drop there price to compete with the high end jap bikes they could survive. Just my cheap ass 2 cents.

  29. fayettenamhoe Says:

    –when i said –x– he still rides around the block with his dick in his mouth, has nothing to say but dollars for him self,

  30. carlos Says:

    I ride a Harley as all of you do..I am a “Gen-Xer” I believe..42 years old. I wouldn’t ride a Jap bike. LIke everyone says – no soul. I am also a “commuter”..I ride my Softail and park it downtown every day..365 days a year. Rain, snow, whatever. I would never ride an electric bike, regardless of who makes it. Problem H-D has now is the same one that Republicans have been having., You cannot out-liberal a liberal. McCain lost the election for that reason. If people have a choice of voting for a left-wing Republican, or a Demoncrat- they will vote for the real democrat. Same with bikes. If you try to be more like Honda, people will still choose Honda.- Duh. The young hipsters do not want the “image” Harley is selling and has been selling for 50 years. They may want to be a fake outlaw, but they don’t want to be riding their “grandpa’s bike”..and they care more what their “friends” think than themselves. Harley sells a bike with soul, too bad they cannot sell “soul” to the actual consumers.

  31. fayettenamhoe Says:

    — one of my x buddies told me, —reading is bad— he died in my heart that day, he is still clue less, riding his squeeky clean new harley, with a full face helmet, he wants to protect his hatred in that pee brain he has

  32. Done Says:

    I’m an avid reader and usually make it through two books a week. I was once given a Nook for Christmas and took it back to Barnes & Noble for store credit then bought more books. I’m not tech savy nor do I have any desire to be. I speak Spanish because I’m self taught through hard cover text books and I speak it as often as I can. An electric bike has about the same value to me as an electronic book. After I watched the videos posted here I’m even more convinced than ever that I’d be taking the Live Wire back to the Stealership should I ever be given one (not likely thank God) for Stealership credit on parts or a cash refund which ever they “allowed” me to get. I’ve never been “given” a bike of any kind but if that were to happen (When pigs fly) I would hope that the “gifter” would have enough common sense to leave it at the Stealership so I could take delivery there, not in my driveway with a big fucking red bow on it. The library I’ve amassed over the years (including Easy Riders when they had jj and similar quality writers) have taken over every room of my probably soon to be raided house except the kitchen and shitter. I read and reread them often. Moving to this last house brought groans from those helping me of “Why the fuck do you need all these books” and one “I bought him a Nook once you know, he took it back”! I’m just south of 60 so I can pretty much get away with being nostalgic, how the latest generation will especially if they have no other choice is beyond me but thankfully I’ll be dead and there will be, no doubt, a book burning that would make Hitler proud in my front yard. Peace Baby.

    PS. @Grumbler that website was right on the money. Thanks for turning me/us on to it. L&R.

  33. fayettenamhoe Says:

    —–the best way to buy a Harley– is one piece at the time– that way you can put your heart and soul into it, then and only then it becomes a part of you, blood sweat and tears, no chrome plated ego, it becomes my pussey, not some meglo machine that looks like another, wasting money on tee-shirts and fads, no mirror involved, just the reflections off their bumpers when i pass them by,

  34. Dave Says:



    I know people talk a lot of shit about their ride, but after 20+ years and riding Yamaha, Kawasaki, Honda, Ducati, Aprilla, Suzuki, and even an old Moto Guzzi, adding in several long rides on friend’s Victorys while swapping bikes – Harley is the only bike that has soul. I feel it when I start it, I feel it when I ride it, and I feel it when I am monkeying around with it.

    Yes all those other bikes are great too. I loved them all and would never trade all that experience with them for anything. I just test rode a new ZX-14 at a friend’s request and as I got off it I told the anxious, wide-smiling dealer who thought he had his next deal all locked up, “It’s fast and it’s pretty, but it’s got no heartbeat. No thanks.”

    A Harley is a Harley. There is nothing like it.

    You can imitate.

    Well at least those Harleys prior to the new Rushmore (aka “How to fleece preppies out of more money”) Project. I have to say that while the heartbeat is still present, the soul seems to be missing. It’s like some carbon-copy clone. An imitation to the real thing. Pepsi, not Coke. And after riding one of those $25,000 Street Glides I feel like a politician just anal raped me somehow.

    PS: If Polaris ever buys Harley, I will stop riding altogether. My loathing for Polaris comes from years of experience with their ATV products and their craptastic customer service. I love how the Victorys look, but I am leary due to the parent company’s long standing tradition of telling customers “Fuck you” repeatedly until the customer gives up.

  35. Sieg Says:

    Substitute “america” for H-D and you pretty much got it.

  36. Done Says:

    Iraq, the home of America’s longest War of sorts (if you don’t count the War On Drugs) is about to be taken over by a relitively new player on the Sand Nigger stage called ISIS and with that so goes their oil which while not a main supplier to the US, is a main supplier to Europe and Asia so the cost of gas is about to hit $5.00 and beyond a gallon. Motorcycles get good mileage so comuter types are going to be taking a second look at two wheeled transportation and given that their motivation is economic in nature they will gravitate towards whatever Consumer Reports and J.D. Power tells them to. Harley, for all it’s alleged innovation will not make the top ten on that list of values. If that unabashedly racist statement is correct Harley is just jerking off, here’s why: At some point in our lives we have all had to contend with somebody who, if the idea wasn’t theirs, the idea was no good & is and never going to see the light of day. With this sort of asshole you have to schmooze the Boss into thinking the idea was his and nobody seems capable of telling the latest Asshole In Charge at Harley anything of the sort. The Live Wire campaign is all over Twitter dropping clues as to where you can be at to test ride one of these new shit boxes on 2 wheeles. They show the interior of a 18 wheeler packed with these things and teasers as to where you should be on the look out to find them next. A look at the people who retweet or subtweet these tweets will reveal who is following this advertising campaign and unfortunately for Harley it’s not the new or rookie riders, it’s 40 somethings that are also big time Sons of Anarchy fans. Harleys and motorcycles in general have for the most part been seen as toys that men in the midst of their mid life crisis’ get because they have the liquid capital to do so at least that’s true in the Western world. In Asian & third world econimies they have always been regarded as regular transportation because those little fuckers don’t seem to care if it’s monsoon season or not when they ride. Americans in particular don’t like to get wet, so as a regular form of transportation they have never really caught on AND NEVER WILL for the masses. Americans will spend hours polishing their scoots so they can ride them within a 20 mile radius to look cool. Mother’s chrome polish sells more porduct here than it does anywhere else. Our counterparts in third world Nations don’t spend nearly as much time with a Q-tip getting at that last bit of dirt or rust. The next market then for Harley isn’t some kid whose bored with their X-Box or those who can’t afford to drive their low gas mileage cars, it’s men who are either entering their 40’s or returning Vets from Iraq & Afghanistan (both male & female) and I’ve yet to see Harley targeting that demographic. This demographic isn’t in the least bit interested in Harley-Lite / Honda look alikes. They want big loud Harleys that while in the middle of the shit storm they’ve told themsleves they are going to spend their mustering out pay on if or when they ever get home. Harley would be well advised to tailor thier marketing towards active military personnel with some sort of patriotic crap about how they’ve earned the right to enjoy the freedom they have fought so hard to preserve. Harley should have full page Ads in Stars & Stripes and be all over the current crisis in VA mistreatment of returning Vets. Armed Forces Radio should be saturated with Ads for Harley. These men and women aren’t afraid to get wet. Ford didn’t sell very many F-150 H-D Special Edition trucks to farmers or drivers who actually have use for a pick up truck, they sold them to 40 something RUBS. Plainly put, Harley is barking up the wrong tree, again. H.O.G. should be sponsoring fund drives for Vets ONLY and Harley should add a customized model or two for amputees. Google Freebird Cycle Sales in Rochester, NY. The owner has centered on bikes for guys missing limbs and these returning Vets come from all over the Country to buy his bikes. So far Harley hasn’t even explored that market but if their TV Ads did they’d see a resurgence in interest not to mention the good will it would generate from the nation as a whole. There are no coons in the tree they are currently barking up.

    The very best place to purchase a Harley-Davidson motorcycle is in the Cycle Trader or the classified Ads in your local fish wrapper. Trading in your current Scoot & financing it through Beagle Bank is going to be a rip off on both ends. If you must use a Stealership and finance you next bike, go to your local Credit Union and take the loan out there and sell your trade in yourself before you plunk down your hard earned cash at a place who sees you only as a means to an end but before you do all that, at least test ride a Victory or Indian. Regardless of whether or not the MC that oversees your local COC rides only H-D, it’s your bike and you should ride and own what makes you happy not what impresses somebody else. The now 75 year old Patriarch of the World’s Largest MC is quoted in one of his books as saying he regrets that his MC didn’t accept and ride the bigger bikes Harley’s competitors finally came out with and owns/rides his Victory. Try telling that guy he’s a fag for not riding a Harley. Peace baby.

  37. Mike 184 Says:


    I couldn’t agree more. I recently carried 2 rims to harley and 2 new tires. I asked could they mount and balance and how long would it take. It was a Monday. He said “Welllll, we’re real backed up and I might be able to get them to ‘ya by thursday.” Now my buddy used to work at the place and would always take care of me right away. THey make like 80 bucks in 15 minutes…. WTF man. I am tired of dealing with the asshats at dealerships too….

  38. Grumbler Says:

    Here’s a related article from June 18, 2013:
    Why This Harley Will Be My Last
    I love my Harley-Davidson. But, thanks to poor customer service and an attitude problem at every dealer I’ve visited, it’ll be my last. Here’s why.

  39. Cap'n Bill Says:

    It is sad…BUT, we(old farts) can still get out there and ride when and how we want (for the most part). Although shit is getting progressively worse, I believe we will still be able to do what we want until we croak…thank you…

  40. steve Says:

    Polaris will buy out harley then all new harleys will have a red kill switch stamped gas tanks.a 54 degree vtwin motor. And no soul.

  41. Road Whore Says:

    Great article Rebel, and true!

    Ride Free (on whatever)

  42. newjack66 Says:

    I wouldn’t want to see Harley go under but ….

    IMHO Harley is more concerned about selling the ‘image’ than the bike.

    I mean how many Softails can be rejigged with different fenders, paint schemes & names, before you realize its essentially the same bike & technology tarted up?

    The VROD for all its faults was at least a recognition that the company might want to broaden its customer base.

    The Japanese have the non-outlaw image bikes stitched up. Its pointless now the HD to go after that part of the market.

    Interesting to see where HD goes as its customer base gets older. Wouldn’t be surprised in a few years if the company struggles, POLARIS makes a move on them.

  43. Dave Says:

    I don’t want to see HD go under.

    I’d like to see new management at HD.

  44. fayettenamhoe Says:

    me so sorry, harley, when they stopped, me love you long time, when all their machines parts worked together, we became another putdown of fake ego’s, and another mismatch of parts that used to fit, my apologies, Harley used to move me, me be antiquated, the corporation lost me, long time ago,

  45. Jim666 Says:

    Can you say Victory ?
    Indian ?
    & hopefully what Tony says will ring true,

  46. sherides Says:


    You nailed it. Its all a part of the vanishing of the American way of life.


  47. Nags Says:

    Unfortunately the people making these decisions are still the people that thought Elton John was a good idea for the biggest concert they’d ever be a part of planning. Until someone at the top of the food chain gets a clue the ship will continue to take on water.

  48. Tony Says:

    Let em go under. I don’t want any new harleys anyway, and with no place for the rubs to buy chaps and t-shirts, which are required for riding, the market will flood with clean low milage harleys for the rest of us.

  49. jj solari Says:

    haha i agree.

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