There is a Presidential campaign going on and the result of that, in about ten months, will be an inaugural parade in Washington. The parade is always led by local motorcycle police.
D.C. cops ride Harleys. Police in this country have been riding Harleys since 1908. The D.C. cops have been riding Harleys since 1917. The capitol has about 75 motorcycle cops and 40 of them are assigned to the Presidential Motor Unit. The Pridential Unit has been around since 1921.
The motorcycle cops in the Capitol, as opposed to most other northern cities, ride year round. Sometimes it snows and sleets in D.C. So, every year around Columbus Day the local motorcycle cops bolt sidecars onto their bikes for stability and leave them on until spring. Pittsburgh police, who have been riding Harleys since 1909, also ride year round and bolt on sidecars in the winter.
Since 1933, the inaugural parade every four years in January has been led by police motorcycles with sidecars. And therein lies a brief tale about the changing, American motorcycle industry.
Harley-Davidson hasn’t made sidecars for five years. It is worse than that. Peter Hermann of The Washington Post reports that District police do have spare sidecars but they are incompatible with newer Harleys.
D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier told the Post “the problem now is finding enough older-model motorcycles with hardware to accommodate the sidecars.” Lanier said, “the most significant issue is that the automatic braking systems on the new motorcycles is not compatible with the brakes on the sidecars.”
“We’re going to make what we have work as long as we possibly can,” she said.
There are about 20 United States Park Police in Washington who ride Harleys in the winter and they face the same dilemma as the District cops. They ride in the inaugural parade too, and since they couldn’t get sidecars from Harley that force bought six, custom made sidecars from a small Seattle company called Liberty Motors.
The Post reports, “Liberty has designed a bracket that can fit its sidecars onto the newer Harleys,” and Harley has assured the Park Police “that if this is done correctly, the alteration would not void the Harley warranty.”
Until less than three months ago, the only sidecar motorcycles for sale in the United States were either Urals ( which started as a Soviet knock off of BMWs) and the current nostalgia incarnation of Royal Enfields.
Then around Christmas, Victory Motorcycles, a company that is headquartered in Medina, Minnesota and makes its bikes in Spirit Lake, Iowa, announced it was going to manufacture a police sidecar motorcycle.