Harley Is Doomed

January 28, 2010

All Posts, Features, News

Harley-Davidson Incorporated, the iconic American motorcycle manufacturer is doomed.

The confidant pitchmen now running the company into the ground understand that something has gone terribly, terribly wrong but they have absolutely no idea what the real disaster might be. Not even Willie G. Davidson, who has often been lionized as the savior of the company, knows. So the company is doomed.

Harley-Davidson is a deaf and blind man in a minefield. And, if you are a sentimentalist, if you are one of those people who got Harley-Davidson tattooed on your arm way back in the long ago, now you get to watch. Just watch. You can also jump up and down and scream, “Oh no, Harley! Don’t do that! No! No!” But it does not matter what you scream. Harley cannot hear you anymore.

Latest Bad News

Last week Harley announced that it lost $218.7 million between Labor Day and New Year’s Eve. Last year, when the economic meltdown had everybody in a panic, Harley made $77.8 million during the same three months. Sales were 40 percent lower this autumn than last year. Retail sales of “authentic Harley-Davidson” overpriced stuff fell 28 percent in the United States and 10 percent overseas. Twenty-eight Harley dealers closed in 2009. The company expects 15 more dealers to close in the next three months. Earlier this year the company dropped its Buell sport bike line and announced it was laying off half the workers at its York, Pennsylvania plant.

But the problems are really much worse than that because selling you a motorcycle and plastic bags full of “authentic Harley-Davidson” overpriced stuff is only half of the company’s business. The other half of the business is called Harley-Davidson Financial Services or HDFS. HDFS is the friendly “folks” who lend you the money you need to purchase a new motorcycle or an “authentic Harley-Davidson” leather jacket or whatever it is that the dealer has that you want. And, as sales income drops interest income drops, too.

“As we look at the year in front of us, we expect 2010 to continue to be challenging,” Harley boss Keith Wandell told investors last week. This week Wandell very publically demonstrated his confidence in Harley’s robust future by buying a thousand shares of his company’s stock, which probably cost him something like one half of one percent of his annual salary.

Outlaw Machine

Back in the 1990s Brock Yates, the screenwriter who gave the world Cannonball Run, very memorably named Harley-Davidson motorcycles the Outlaw Machine. It was a brilliant and incisive turn of phrase that described both the motorcycle and the real subject of Yates’ book which was actually “the long ride of the Harley-Davidson into the mainstream.”

That long ride began after the Second World War when restless and edgy veterans bought war surplus Harleys. The bikes were dirt cheap, easy to work on, went anywhere, ran pretty good and they were American. Some of these edgy veterans joined or formed clubs. Hollister happened and the more freewheeling clubs came to be called outlaws.

Which was also a brilliant and incisive turn of phrase. America still loved the idea of outlaws in the conformist 1950s. Bikers became outlaws because that was what the rest of the country really wanted bikers to be. Our tolerance for “outlaws” was one of the things that separated the good, old US of A from the “totalitarian states.” And, in the 1950s America still longed for the days of the frontier. The predominant television genre until about 1965 was called the “Western.”

Americans also still adored the idea of personal freedom, of just being able to take off and go somewhere without being tied down. America was the land of the fresh start before it became corrupted into the nation of free credit report dot com. One of the iconic TV shows of that era that was not a Western was called Route 66. It was about a couple of drifters who collected a lot of stories and broke a lot of traffic laws.

One of the best known novels of the 1950s was called On The Road. In 1960 the last, great, American champion of the common man, John Steinbeck, went on the road with a dog named Charley. He announced he was looking for the “real America.” In mid-decade Simon and Garfunkel released a hit song about going to “look for America.” And, none of this was ever considered pathological.

Motorcycle outlaws were all part of that vanishing Americana and Harley-Davidson more or less tagged along with its customers. The rule for the first patch holders was that prospects had to own a bike “manufactured by one of the allies in World War II.” Beezers, manufactured by British Small Arms, Trumpets and Indians were all okay. The Pagans started as a Triumph club. Harleys were the cheapest. After the hated Japanese started selling cheap bikes in the United States in the 1960s the rule eventually became you had to ride an “American motorcycle.” It was common in the sixties to hear, “I would rather see my brother dead than on a Jap bike.” After Indian went out of business that more or less meant you had to own a Harley.

Don’t let people kid you. The first two decades after the Second World War were a great time. At least compared to now. People still long for the country that America was before Vietnam ruined everything. Some people born after 1980 are still trying to live up to 1965.

Subcultural Commodification

One of the things that fell apart after Vietnam was Harley-Davidson’s business. All those war surplus bikes got used up. The new bikes were no longer cheap or particularly good. Only the outlaw mystique endured and when Harley came back to life in the 1980s it was because the company was selling the idea of the outlaw as much as it was selling motorcycles. Harleys became the Outlaw Machine because that is what Harley-Davidson wanted you to think.

If you couldn’t afford a motorcycle, the official outlaw company would sell you a tee-shirt. They cost more than just ordinary tee-shirts but that was only because they included a magic ingredient. The magic was, when you put them on you became an outlaw, too.

The simple fact is, Harley stopped being a motorcycle manufacturer long ago. For decades Harley has been a company that sells magic on credit.

Anthropologists call this magic business “late capitalist subcultural commodification.” And they aren’t just talking about making some money from the “biker lifestyle.” “Gangsta Rap” is probably America’s most important subcultural commodity. A close cousin of the ‘biker lifestyle” called “the counterculture” has become a most excellent way to sell boomers everything from organic produce to investment plans. An MTV show called Jersey Shore is currently hawking the “Guido lifestyle.”

The problem is that “subcultural commodification,” the selling of an instant identity, is at heart a pyramid scheme. The American economy is now largely based on credit and magic. And, that is the economic minefield through which the deaf and blind Harley-Davidson Company is now wandering. This magic minefield is the big picture Harley cannot see. All of those layoffs and unemployment numbers and diminishing wages are the big booms Harley cannot hear.

What Blind Men See

In the mirror of its own mind, Harley-Davidson thinks you are the problem.

If you work for Harley-Davidson you are the problem because you make too much money, your health plan costs too much and you take too long to build a motorcycle. If you want a big salary and health benefits why don’t you get a job as a prison guard?

If you are everybody else you are the problem because you are exactly who Harley still aims its motorcycles at. So you are too old.

“The Easy Rider Generation Is Aging” an investment newsletter recently advised its subscribers. The “massive drop in sales underscores Harley’s main problem; the company’s key Baby Boomer customer base is aging to the point where they’re trading the experience of roaring down an open road on a ‘hog’ for something more sedate like tooling around the links in an electric golf cart.”

Harley intends to “streamline its manufacturing” and what that means is the company intends to put more people out of work and cut the wages and benefits of the workers it keeps. The company also intends to “boost sales” by exploiting two new markets.

The first new market is women, and Harley doesn’t mean your woman. The company means women like Carrie Bradshaw and all the gang from Sex in the City. It has to be those women because those are the women who can afford to buy a Harley.

And, the second market is India. Harley is going to introduce twelve models for sale in India. India, makes sense because that is where at least a million American jobs in engineering, computer programming, customer service, phone sales and even the law have gone in the last few years. On the other hand, India does not make sense because the average salary there is only about $1,000 a year.

So the company’s future would seem to boil down to the question of just how much middle class Indians and upper class career women will be willing to spend for 600 pounds of outlaw magic? And, the obvious answer is Harley is doomed.


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251 Responses to “Harley Is Doomed”

  1. Harold Eugene Johnson Says:

    I knew a man, with the mind of a child, in Kansas City, Missouri who quit the Cop Shop Garage, where most of his work had to be redone, and went to work for Harley Davidson. Was so pleased, later, when Harley announced they were going to Pennsylvania, and another country. He’s going to be out of work, and it couldn’t have happened to a more appropriate [email protected]#hole. Thank you. The quality of the oil leakers should improve a little, without him.

  2. redryeder Says:

    I am not rich by any means and I own a 2002 Fatboy that I bought new. I have ridden all over the West and Midwest and the Southern states. I expect to hit a 100’000 miles in a couple of months. Can’t complain other than the electronics are a bit above this old mans knowledge, but that’s where younger friends come in. I have owned two Harley’s before this one and it seems like every newer one is better. My first bike was a Honda in the early sixties then a Triumph. Many years ago a friends wife heard me say, that “when I had the money I was going to buy a Harley” and she told me that if I wanted one bad enough I would figure out a way to get it. She was right, I figured out a way. I just hadn’t wanted one bad enough. All I’m saying is I have probably ridden at least 300,000 and the majority of that was on Harley’s. When you can show me another motorcycle that will go the miles and still have a good resell value after they are twelve or fourteen years old, I might consider changing brands. How many Honda’s, or other rice burners do you see for sale older than a few years? They don’t last, sure there may be exceptions but overall, nada. If you can’t work a Harley into your budget, that’s fine, ride anything you can just to ride. I loved my Triumph back in 71, even if it vibrated my hands numb. When I rode my first big HD, I couldn’t believe how smooth and that my friends, is when I was sold on Harley. I’m sure other big bikes are probably as smooth riding but in the long run how many are still running? I never thought I would own a bike without spokes or a chain but here I am. I do miss the old school look of chains, spokes and other mechanical parts that made up a bike, kind of like a wind up watch, where you see the gears move and the spring rotate back and forth. But the reliability of the fuel inj and electronics makes for plenty of riding time..

  3. Bayman107 Says:

    I know all this shit is old as hell, and no one cares but it’s 2015 and HD is still here. I ride a 01 big dog husky and love it, i work on it cause i cause i love it, and they are gone too. It dont matter cause it was built from aftermarket parts and those companys are still in busness. I have a v4 shaft drive jap cruiser that i work on too, but in the 16 years i’ve had it i have not had to do much except service and tires. So ride what you want, think what you want, and don’t cry so much…..

  4. kaintuck Says:

    I used to love Harleys but I don’t like being played for a fool. Triumph makes a fine bike. The Rocket (roadster and touring) runs like a bat out of hell and isn’t a pain in the ass. In WWI about 800,000 Limey soldiers (population 45.4 million) died fighting for the Allies. In WWII 384,000 of them (population 48 million) died for the Allies. Triumph has metric fasteners but it’s not a “metric bike”. I’ll bet a Triumph has more “allied” parts in it than a Harley.

  5. WAR PIG Says:


  6. Freeman Says:

    @ Tooj

    Yup best times ive had too, that and playing guitar, those 2 things get me to a place where im alone and the world is far far away, still have the guits, dont have a bike, was a sad thing to let go of, but as it always did, it gave me back more than i put in, end justified the means, and the means are coming to an end. and yeah after this i will always have one up and running, ALWAYS!

  7. Glenn S. Says:

    A bike is like everything else: If you want one bad enough, you’ll find a way to get one. Whether that means learning to wrench and buying one in a box or selling the cage or working two jobs or giving up the needle (as I did) or making the OL get a job or…whatever. Today, if something happened to my bike, I’d sell the cage and get another one. Then when it gets too cold and rainy to ride every day, I’d get me some piece of shit cage at a buy here pay here lot.

    I got most of my leathers, etc. CHEAP from yuppies that buy bikes, keep them for a few years but never ride them, and then need the garage space for something new. They’ve bought all that overpriced Harley stuff (that is good quality most of the time, exception: the boots are shit) and they put it on Craigslist, like they did the bike. I’ll soon be in the market for a second bike, if things work out the way I hope they will. I’ll get me some yuppie’s credit glide, probably a 5-10-year-old Road King, maybe an Electra Glide, with less than 10K miles, complete with thousand dollar Reinhart pipes, tuner, upgraded air cleaner, chrome do-dads, and flashy old man’s seat for about $8K in the middle of winter. Shit, he might take one look at my tired ol’ tattoed and scarred white trash ass, decide he’s my kindred spirit in his dreams, and cut his price. Happened with the just broke in $800 leather jacket I picked up for $70. Nice old-school jacket, Harley brand without “Harley” emblazoned all over it (don’t think they make them any more), almost never worn, warmer and softer than most. Same with the chaps: $300 new, got ’em for pocket change, don’t think they were ever worn.

    Cons for yuppies riding: they’ve made the prices go up. Pros? The pigs know they might be pulling over somebody on city council so they’ve sort of changed their mindset. And the yuppies tire of the new toy, or their families bitch about it, and they sell it cheap.

  8. Snow Says:

    I see guys with Victorys on occasion, we have a dealership near by, the ones who have them seem to like them a lot. I personally think their cruising/touring line look a little strange with all the angles, kinda throws off my sense of balance. That said, ride what ya like as long as your in the wind.

  9. Tooj Says:

    @Freeman, glad the test went okay for you. You WERE warned. The best times I’ve had involved riding or wrenching on bikes. Always keep one up and running; ALWAYS.

  10. Freeman Says:

    @ Sieg

    True to that, but i spend 4 hours on the road every day to commute to work, couple that with the 8 hours spent on the job, week ends working on the house, it doesnt leave me much time to wrench at anything.

  11. Phuquehed Says:

    @Snow – The links on the nym that highlight used to be my website. I don’t have one anymore at the moment, so my nym doesn’t highlight for the nonce.

    @Sieg – That was my plan the day I found out sitting a bike is easier on my back than sitting in a p/u or car. Problem with that though was, the bank didn’t like the way my credit history looked and wouldn’t even loan me $1200 for an old beatup shovel I’d found.

    Still, I can’t really complain, this bike (’09 FXD) has done me pretty good so far and the only thing I’ve had to do with it myself that was a big job, was taking the primary cover off to look inside to check the compensator and behind the clutch pack. Went and got me a super dooper badass bike lift just for this job, sorta like this one basically…


    I figure once I pay off the bike, my credit should take a nice turn for the better and I’ll be able to put something together that I *really* want and keep this one for a spare.

  12. JMacK Says:


    I agree 100%. And i wrenched on a bunch of old junk from a wore out Dyna to a little Virago that was gifted by a friend to KZ1000 (was gonna be a drag bike project). My problem is I go up north to work, I’m gone from 14-24 days. Thats a lot of evenings to wrench and play. When I get home, I wanna ride the damn thing. I’m looking at getting another job closer to home for the fact that my kid is coming into his learning years and I need to have him out in the garage busting his knuckles instead of wearing out his thumbs on a goddamn video game controller. The by-product of that is we may finally get to go find that old shovel project finally…


  13. Sieg Says:

    Y’all realize you can get a running Shovel with all the parts for anywhere from 2-6K, right? Clean title and all. Even cheaper if yer willing to put it all together. Hasn’t been that cheap to get a running sled together since I was a youngster.

    Check it out…you pay, let’s say the full 6K for a Shovel, maybe an FLH, maybe an FXE. Tear that sucker down, spend another grand for all the shiny-shit that floats yer boat, performance upgrades, and cosmetics, then sell all the stock parts you pulled off it to some whacko gotta have stock parts for his latest resto project. You’re up and eatin cornbugs for maybe 5-6K, and ya got a stylin sled to do it on.

    Biggest benefit, an I know most of the riders here know this, is that you KNOW yer sled. Sumpin goes south out in the tules, ya pull over an fix it, no major.

    Just my .02. I came up figuring ya had to build yer own and do yer own wrenching if ya wanted to ride. Never had a reason to change my mind.

    5 to 1

  14. Snow Says:

    Fucking Louisiana, damn man I resemble that remark, lol.
    Any idea why your link works on some posts and not on others?
    Keep speaking the truth.
    Respect sent, Snow.

  15. Freeman Says:

    Rebel id say divorced 3 times on his way to a fourth marriage, running in circles on a flat earth.

  16. Phuquehed Says:

    @Freeman – The same happened to me at a dealership here in TN. I was in there walking around for close to a half hour and not one of those punks would even look at me. I had to go all the way to fucking Louisiana to get my bike. So long as the asshole salesmen who look down their noses don’t get any money from me, I’m happy.

  17. Base Says:


    You do know the world is not flat, right?

  18. Freeman Says:


    I believe everything you just told me, thing his coming back from my ride, at the victory dealer, i made a lil detour and dropped in a hd dealer, same clothes same attitude same everything (cept i was a lil high cause it was the first time i had ridden a bike all summer) i am dressed as i am 90% of the time beat up steel toe boots, jeans and a t-shirt, what i mean by this, is i dont ”look” like i can whip out my gold card and put 30k on it.

    No i did not believe the salesman when he was telling me his bullshit,(like i said i have always owned Harley) i dont like salesman, i find them annoying, but it really felt like house policy you know? either that or the fucker wanted to thicken up his comission, either way, i wont have any of it, and rebel’s article was dead on back then,even worst now, man i was offered with anything over 25 k a 50% rebate on all subside products, boots helmet, clothes, you name it, they have it.

    point his, and i have said this before i always buy 2-3 years late, that way i profit from the devaluation (just have to be careful with the millage on it, like sit wears,peg wears, winshield and headlight discoloration/wear to make sure the clock wasnt turned back, know what i mean?) and after 2-3 years you know what is a lemon and what is not.

    So in the end i will be buying the first new vehicule in my life, simply because this company makes something that i can afford and fits my needs, and i wont be paying extra for the logo, and for those that dont know victory is polaris, and polaris is american, and most probably as less asians parts in it then hd, and btw (not directed at you personnaly Phuquehed, thats my lil thing) boundaries and continents being what they are, though i live in canada, i am american too, north america is north america, and im just a tiny,lil bit jealous of your south states for i will be knee high in white flakes of doom in about 2 months.

    @ JmacK
    i checked out the indian too,(good move for polaris separating the brands) thunderstroke 111 motor seems awesome, and the bikes have a higher end finition, just out of my price range, that and im a minimalist at heart, what can i say…

  19. Rebel Says:

    Yeah Nikki.

    It’s an old story. I really like how stupid you are. Are you married? Recently divorced!


  20. Nikki Says:

    Now I know I am in America. Proof positive.

    HD has some stiff competition going on. It’s a welcomed change.

  21. nikki Says:

    Is this another one of those “my thing is bigger than your thing” things?

    This is certainly old news.

    HD could never be doomed. They will forevermore have their overpriced parts and their very overpriced tee-shirt sales that will net them as much profit if not more than their bikes ever have or will. Ask all the people out there that have one and have never owned a bike of any brand.

    The choices in “America” for bikes are becoming more plentiful. Gotta love that if your American-no matter what your brand.

  22. JMacK Says:


    Funny enough, it was the performance and reliability of my Sportsman quad as well as various quads and snowmobiles that friends and family had that even allowed me to crawl onto the seat of a Victory. And now I can’t get off. But like I said, I like some variety so I may have to just check out those new Indians….


  23. Phuquehed Says:

    @Freeman – Whoever told you “…at 13k at an hd dealer i have been told i would not be buying a very reliable bike and that i should go with the higher end models.”, is fucked up and high on something.

    My FXD in four and a half years has 57,000 miles on it and runs just as well as the day I bought it. It *still* gets 47 mpg and at 90 mph I’m still only using half the throttle.

    I’ve had two different problems. The first was covered by the warranty and has worked correctly since then (bad stator).

    The second was wheel bearings went out on it (I’m positive the weight it carries – me – constantly is the simple problem). A very easy fix and pretty cheap at my indie…and I get by month-to-month on $300 ($250 on the quarterly months because of the insurance payment).

    If I had a place I could put a nice concrete slab and be covered, I’d do 90% of any work on it I needed (I’d just have to svae up often to buy the expensive tools like a wheel bearing puller/installer, stuff like that). It’d kill my back if I had to do too much, but I have more than enough confidence in this bike not fucking up on me in any major way in the foreseeable future. Yeah, sure I’ll eventually have to put new pistons, rings and jugs on it, but I’ll bet the bike (the only thing I own other than 3 dogs and my computer) I won’t have to do that until I get around that 100k mark.

    Just my opinion is all, not ragging you for wanting a Victory, though I do have a problem with that company in that I’ve noticed that *every* one of their bikes that I’ve ever been around or passed, is obnoxiously and ear-hurting loud, yet H-D has to quieten theirs up more and more. Why is that?

  24. Freeman Says:

    @ JMacK

    Thanks man, yeah i thoroughly enjoyed it really, had trouble bringing it back to the dealer.

    I have a 2000 Polaris sportsman and that thing brought me deep in the woods and ALWAYS brought me back, very mechanically sound so i know victory have that part covered, i wonder when they are going to come up with a liquid cooled model they have been doing it for years on the quads.

    @ Meh
    I was talking about days of old, you are right modern bikes are not that much more difficult to work, cars well thats a whole other story.

    My point is in these times i dont have the time to learn all the new technology, in the position i am now i want i to put the key in it and ride,and at 13k at an hd dealer i have been told i would not be buying a very reliable bike and that i should go with the higher end models.

    i dont have the time that i used to have, and technology changes continually, what i want from it is start,ride,take me back and i dont want to spend a fortune and even less so because of a brand, wich is what hd as become a brand, when my 14 year old comes to me wanting this piece and this other piece of clothing, i explain to him this company in thailand makes those shirts, its the same damn shirt, 5 bucks without the logo 25 with the logo, you know?

    tools vs labor you are very right, but having the tools doesnt mean you know what you are doing, every craft has evolved and you have to be aware of everything, i am in the process of renovating a house i bought, and i can tell you the guy that built it had the tools but didnt know what the fuck he was doing, thats my craft, im a carpenter/site foreman worked in construction all my life.

    back in the day technology was much simpler to work around, nowadays its more complicated and no one can keep up with everything, so my point for hd is if i got to shell out 30 k for something reliable, i will go with the 13 k victory that is known to be reliable, and that leaves money in my pocket if something should go wrong with the damn thing.

    you are also very right about labor versus tools

  25. Meh Says:

    The folks who made HD aren’t the folks who buy new HDs, they are the folks who buy USED HDs then customise them.

    Same as “back in the day”. FTF isn’t new.

    In the day you could fix most of your stuff yourself, and you would because the end justified the means.
    Shit, it pays much better now to DIY so I do. Tool costs are pretty much flat, labor rates are high, so buying tools pays off very quickly.

    Working on any vehicle is much easier now. Instead of being bent over by local dealers or shops (not all of who were customer-oriented!), you can get damn near any parts you want with a couple of mouse clicks. Finding salvage or new parts is quick and easy, and finding information is almost instant.

    BTW, working on any modern motorcycle is easier than working on modern cars, and that isn’t really difficult. It’s DIFFERENT, but plenty of mechanics made the transition easily.

    The insane amounts of money and hassle you save over the years by learning to wrench what you own mean independence and more cash staying in your pocket.

  26. JMacK Says:


    Glad you enjoyed the test ride. You won’t be sorry.


  27. Grumbler Says:

    There’s no sporting models comparable to the XL1200R nor FXDX in the current 2014 model range. Dyna Fat Bob seems to come close although I’ve my misgivings about the forward controls, 16-inch front hoop and fugly rear fender with that giganormous tailight in the anus.

  28. Freeman Says:

    What harley has forgotten is the end justifies the means motto alot of us have lived by.

    I was never a good mechanic, but i had became somewhat of a mechanic back in the day because i could not afford to hire one, tweeking a beat up shovel just so i could ride to a party, changing the transmission on an old 77 oldsmobile, in the middle of winter, undoing the driving shaft in order to take out the transmission, undoing the bolts that attached it to the motor, bolts where wet, air was cold they would stick to my fingers with frostbite, and as im laying flat on my back, with the transmission right over my chest i start to wiggle the damn thing to pull it off so i can install the one i bought at a scrap yard, not knowing that i am about to receive a shit load of stinking, red transmission fluid on my face while wrestling with the transmission to get it off my chest and out from underneath the car.

    Nowadays i would be hard pressed to do anything on the old ladie’s pontiac g6, i still remember the first time i bought a new washer and dryer, barrel in the washer stopped turning at one point, im thinking to myself, no biggy probably just the strap, open the fucker up to find everything inside is sealed and there are a couple of blinking led lights…

    In the day you could fix most of your stuff yourself, and you would because the end justified the means.

    Harley stuck to selling something that doesn’t exist anymore, mystic or magic, whatever you want to call it, like rebel said, yeah put on that over priced tee-shirt, in my world if your a dick head, your a dick head, and if your a dick head wearing that shirt, to me it only means your an dickhead that wasted good money by buying that shirt, and should shove your head in your arse.

    Dont get me wrong i have always owned harley’s, loved everyone of em for what they where.

    Thing is i dont believe in magic, i believe in common sense, tried out a victory hammer 8 ball yesterday and a victory crossroads 8 ball this morning, both of them had awsome handling, power and stability, loved the narly look of the hammer but will most probably go with the crossroads because it fits my needs better, and im not kidding myself i know the black on black look of those bikes was designed with the current trend, soa lovers in mind, but the black on black look also drops the price compared to hd shined up chromed up overpriced machines.

    Right now i can land a brand new 2013 hammer for about 13 000, almost half priced for an equivalent hd, harley could learn a thing or two from that snowmobile, quad making company, harley davidson has forgotten who made them who they are today, us.

  29. Road Whore Says:

    An addendum to my comment above: I get that buying American supports American jobs, and I’m 100% for that…back when I bought my Honda they had a U.S. plant and were providing American jobs, so I accepted that as a reasonable alternative to Harley.

    Now…Honda closed their U.S. plant and moved all operations back overseas.

    I can’t wear the damn thing out but if I ever do get in the market for a new bike, it will be a Harley simply because I will buy American and support U.S. workers. (As soon as I win that damn lottery…)

    Ride Free

  30. Road Whore Says:

    Although I’ve never owned a Harley, I have nothing against them except their price.

    2014 Road King: $18,249

    2013 Honda Interstate: $13,240

    Back in 2005 went to buy my first new Harley. Dealership I went to, every salesman breezed by me like I was invisible; couldn’t get a soul to talk to me. Pissed me off, so I went and bought a brand new without a mile on her Honda VTX 1300…tax, title, license, gap insurance, helmet, gloves, the works: out the door for about $9,000!

    I’ve put over 88,000 miles on her without a hitch, and she runs better now than the day she was brand new.

    But…maybe Harley makes enough money selling to the rich movie stars, etc., so that they don’t need to consider the “common man” anymore.

  31. Gumbo Chaff Says:

    I have been riding Harleys for 30 years,I cant believe how many different models the factory produces and I wonder if this over production has contributed,along with the recession,to the present crisis.I have a 99 evo nightrain ,the new version of that here in the U.K. would be about 23,000 dollars ! I am not looking to buy a new bike ,I like the one I have got,I have had it for 10 years and will probably have it for another 10.I maintain it myself,I couldnt afford a new bike if I wanted one.

  32. DesertH-D Says:

    Rebel said: “I once had a ’76 XL. Piece o’shit. The engine blew up.”

    Now that’s some funny shit… As if there’s an Ironhead anywhere that ain’t blown up at least once. (Maybe two or three times minimum by now…) “That’s part of the charm!” Haha. Yeah. Right….

    Yeah, I’ve had a couple, they blew up a lot… Moved on. But I might have to build another someday, just to see if I can conquer that bitch… :-)

    Now then, apologies in advance, but I can’t talk about something “blowing up” without picturing a young Bill Murray: “Blooowwwed up, sir!”

  33. Phuquehed Says:

    I also thought it was the Road King that was dropped and said so in another post somewhere. Crap, sorry if it was me that caused any confusion.

  34. Latigo Morgan Says:

    Hey Grumbler – I went and checked their website, and you are right. I was given bad info from someone who should have known better.

    I reckon I’ll have to double check things like that before I get pissed off.

  35. Grumbler Says:

    @Latigo Morgan – The MoFoCo didn’t dump the Road King. The 2014 Touring Road King starts at $18,249. Maybe you were thinking of the Road Glide which went into hiatus for the 2014 model year.

  36. Latigo Morgan Says:

    I’ve been saving my clams to get a good used Road King, and now Harley went and discontinued it.

    Every bonehead with one for sale is going to raise the price because they think they now have a “collectible” Harley.

  37. Rebel Says:

    Dear Jed Clampett,

    I once had a ’76 XL. Piece o’shit. The engine blew up.


  38. JED CLAMPETT Says:

    I ride a 77XLCH,the last of the Kickstart IronHeads, “VIVID RED, LOVE the reaction of folks when I kick it over after filling the 2.2gallon gasTank & the 38″long XLR pipes ROAR thier way into life.
    was always told : “That bike sounds like a74 { a 1200 shovelhead} and it does , very deep, LOUD……
    Think BigBlock Chevy with open Headers!
    Set of 121” “A” Bars, a COBRA SEAT Polished stainless Spokes on super hi polished alloy {stock} rims
    EVERYBODY has a comment when they see it ,hear it
    HARLEYS do that to people,
    Wanted a XLCH from the time I was 4 and my DAD snatched me by the seat of my pants after leaning down and put me on the front of his saddle of his 52 PAN

  39. Kelly Says:

    I got my first ride on a Panhead. I was about Five. That is when I decided to get me one when I am older.
    I did.It was my third motorcycle, and my fourth.Okay, so I have been to both coasts and Canada several times.
    I do not need any stinking radio, or GPS to get there. I even Made it over Wolf Creek Pass on my first Harley. ’78 Sportster. 6800 miles and 18 days, loads of fun and Yes at the time we were thought of as Outlaws. Though I had a good job at the time. It was 1980. We were treated like it a few places, but mostly, old men approached me to ask about my bike and tell me of when they rode. Either in the war, or when they were young. I would never trade the trip for a million dollars, as I still have those memories. Are they over priced? yes. they are way too complicated now. I could tear down my Ironhead Sportster and have it back together in about forty five mins. Just so that I could change a gasket. My last bike I have had for 32 years. I can still fix things by the side of the road if I have to. And I have the parts with me.. LOL!
    They can put all the bells and whistles that they want on the bikes, but they will never beat the sound of the engine or the feel of the engine in the grips that let you know you are alive and kicking.
    I kinda feel sorry for those who have never felt the vibration of the engine. They know not what they miss!

  40. Wild Bill Says:

    I grew up on a Harley dad would take me riding with him on his old Shovel Head and his Trike! I started riding on mini bikes then dirt bikes then a Sportster at 18.
    Customized that Sportster myself had the pride and love for that old Sportster that comes from making it your own not a factory cookie cutter creation!
    Now years later and many more miles later and few more Harley’s later I still get the same feeling every time I throw a leg over my sled crank it up and fly down the road!
    That is the feeling Harley Davidson can’t sell they can’t manufacture the feeling of customizing your bike to your taste!
    They can’t sell the feeling of the open road wind in your hair and beard in my case!
    That is what Harley Davidson has lost they use to get it long ago it’s not about being a pretend outlaw it’s about freedom!
    And you cant sell freedom to people who are not free!

  41. Ines Says:

    I am a lady from Honduras, and I love motorcycles. I have an honda tornado and I was thinking of buyin a Harley D., to be part of the Honduran club, but I was wastonished to know some of the prices and I wonder if one of the bike’s parts has gold in it. Nice bikes but even though I have the money, it would be too harrd to give so much for a bike and the right to meet some people. Also, they look so heavy that for the kind of swift and fast riding required in my city, Tegucigalpa, it just would be so stressful. I don’t see my bike as a pet or a friend, yes it is an instrument I have to move and feel free but I won’t adore stuff. Want to be or not want to be, I just feel free and smart enough not to be cheated!!

  42. Tooj Says:

    arlen did, however, get a good gig going for corey and zack to do minimal design work for a good payday.

  43. Tooj Says:


    sorry, i’ve had my ’07 100 inch Vegas on my mind. Yes, they only put out 106 motors now from the Wisconsin plant. Now, I won’t argue pushrod or chain, but if a chain can drive your back wheel…

    i do my own work which includes having cut up the frame and currently have the entire back end pulled off. i’ve met some of their engineers and they love cycles.

    arlen wouldn’t make an ingrown hair on my ball sack.

  44. Grumbler Says:

    Had high hopes for the Triumph 1700 Thunderbird Storm given my old limey daze only to subsequently discover that it’s one heavy mofo at 746-lbs (wet). The Street Bob is 74-lbs lighter (wet).

  45. swampy Says:

    Tooj, first off, screw Alen Ness. Yes, the prices are very attractive for a 106 cu.in. motor and six-speed trans. However, I’m not too keen on a cam-chain motor. That HAMMER 8 BALL model with double 18-inch wheels looks like it would be a BLAST.


  46. Tooj Says:

    “Gosh, lucky for us ol’ Arlen is selling thos spiffy Victory bikes made by some snowmobile company. Next time I inherit a fortune I’ll be in line for one of those.”

    “I know that I’m gonna get slammed for this: I can’t seem to stay away from VICTORY’s web page lately.”

    It began with Victory comments and ends with Victory comments. That’s what I read. HD has them beat on price by producing the Sporty, but where else you going to get a new 100 cube bike for 14k?

  47. swampy Says:

    I know that I’m gonna get slammed for this: I can’t seem to stay away from VICTORY’s web page lately.

  48. Rebel Says:

    Dear Doctor Fine,

    P cams! I remember those!


  49. Doctor Fine Says:

    I rode ’em in 1964 because even a wet behind the ears 16 year old could fix the damn things. They were cheap and unbreakable. And fuckin cool as shit. Man what a sound with P cams and straight pipes.

    Nothing has changed except I got fatter. I do all the work on my Harley anyway so if the MoCo fucks up and goes through another period of financial meltdown (like the 60s) I could care less.

    I buy into Harley because it is an organic part of my soul as an American that can FIX things. Bury me with the damn thing.

    But care about “the vanishing of an ICON.” Don’t make me fuckin laugh… All that is going to vanish is ME, haha.

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