The Greatest Threat To The Harley-Davidson Brand Is…

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HD-top

Harley-Davidson is one of the most evocative brands in the galaxy. It has an aura and loyalty almost unheard of in any other industry. Even Apple should be jealous. But the brand is not the name; it is not the bar-and-shield logo, nor the black-and-orange color scheme. The brand is the experience, the soul of the product, the ideas, stories, and feelings that it evokes. For a motorcycle – especially Harley – the brand is captured in one thing above all: the engine.

The engine is the heart of the bike, in this case with a literal cardiac beat. Change everything else about a bike, and the engine would still be the part that gives it its identity. You could make custom tins, seat, bars, frame, wheels, everything, but you would still refer to the bike by the year and make of the engine.

Harley engines in particular are designed around continuity of lineage, or, in marketing speak, “heritage.” The generations of Harley engines bring to mind the cultural waves of The American Century. The Knucklehead is the Greatest Generation of bikes. Panheads are the countercultural revolution. Shovelheads are the bikes of malaise and stagflation. Even today’s big twin cams reflect neo-retro post-modern supersized America in all its beautiful excess; they could almost be designed by Jeff Koons.

Of course, H-D is keenly aware of this and has carefully sculpted and protected the engine look, sound, and performance to provide this unique rider (and bystander) experience. That’s why, in 1994, when other brands were overtly trying to copy that experience more and more explicitly, they tried to trademark the sound. Some have derided this unsuccessful attempt, but it was a savvy move at a time of dwindling market share, and not without precedent.

For a long time, we have felt instinctively that the biggest threat to H-D’s brand strength were these imported imposters, which at one time were cheaper and (heaven forbid) more reliable. On the contrary, I would argue that every imitator on the market only strengthens Harley’s brand and fuels the fire of customer loyalty.

No, the real threat is coming from a different horizon: ever tightening emissions standards. These standards will inevitably increase the pressure to move toward water-cooled engines. This is already starting to happen with the liquid-cooled heads on the 2014 Electra Glide Ultra Classic Limited, Tri-Glide, and CVO Limited. You’ll notice (or, more importantly, not notice) that the radiators are carefully concealed in leg fairings, making this more advanced engine still look like its fully air-cooled brethren, a tacit admission of the importance of air-cooled design.

The future water-cooled engines will necessarily become more compact and less skeletal and articulated, and the vestigial cooling fins will eventually wither away. In short, the iconic Harley engine will inexorably become less and less distinct, more and more like all the other cruiser engines. If you think this will not be a loss to H-D, consider the V-Rod. Inarguably their most sophisticated, technically advanced bike, it should logically be their brand leader. It should have launched Harley into a higher level of orbit. Instead, its sales have dragged, and it’s easy to forget that it’s even in their lineup.

In an age of sameness and predictability, Harley-Davidson is still unique, but how much longer will this emblematically individual design icon hold out? Hopefully a long time, but there are external forces pushing everything into the same mold. If those forces win, there will be one less interesting, beautiful, and unique thing in our world.

  • Paul Mitchell

    Change is inevitable , , I go past my local HD store every day on my way to work , and the one thing that always strikes me is the advanced age of the vast majority of riders I see in and out of the store , and I do mean advanced ! I am talking about people who are at least mid fifties and sometimes a lot older , the point is these Harley customers are not going to be around for much longer , who will HD sell to when this current older generation are gone ? . Where will Harley get new riders and new sales from ? Where is the Harley that will get younger people hooked on the brand , younger people DO NOT !!! want to be seen riding what is seen by their peers as an old mans bike . I will not be holding my breath waiting for Harley to surprise me any time soon . And I have owned and enjoyed a couple of Harleys in my time .

    • luxlamf

      So you base your “Opinion” on a Drive By and looking at the people who Hang out at a dealership? I have owned an HD for 8 years now, know how many times I have “Hung out” at a dealership? Well just long enough to buy a filter or plugs. You want to come a ride out herein SoCal and see who is buying what instead of your little “Observance” from your vehicle? Well most the people I se under 30 who are NOT on sport bikes are on Sporties and Monsters and over the last 2 years Bonnies and Scramblers have been over flowing the streets. I actually spend more time hanging out at the local Ducati dealership and they have no trouble with me weather I ride up on my HD or Triumph.

      • Smarmy

        8 years and an expert. I’d bet you have all the garb and tattoo’s too.

  • William Connor

    Harley is actually doing quite well in both younger riders, and they are the best with women riders. You only see older folks on your way to work because they are retired, everyone else is well working. I work with a lot of new riders as a Civilian Motorcycle Mentorship Program Coordinator for the Army at my unit. Most of the young riders either go full sport bike or HD. Not a cruiser, specifically HD. The HD guys outnumber the sport bike people 3 to 1.

    • markbvt

      Question is, what part of the country are you in? It’s very much a regional thing. Here in Vermont, for example, it’s pretty rare to see younger riders on cruisers of any kind, let alone Harleys. Sportbikes are popular, and dual sports and ADV bikes are getting pretty big. If you hear a young rider extolling the virtues of a V-Twin, it’s very likely an SV650 or Ducati or even KTM or Aprilia twin, not a Harley.

      • William Connor

        I live in MD currently. One of HD assets in attracting riders is it’s training program as well. The Riders Edge courses capture a lot of new riders with the HD lifestyle.

        • Justin McClintock

          Based on my experiences with Maryland, some of that might have to do with the fact that anything but a cruiser is likely to be stolen in short order.

          • William Connor

            Haven’t had to many issues on the Fort but yes in other parts of the state theft is an issue.

      • 80-watt Hamster

        William’s observations are mirrored by mine here in the Midwest. Harleys don’t just outnumber sportbikes 3:1, but EVERYTHING 3:1*. Not just old guys, either. That Street Glide or Road King that you just passed? Money’s good that it’s a guy in his 30s or early 40s. Maybe not strictly young, but not the 50+ types people like to talk about when H-D bashing. If macho culture didn’t largely prevent 20-something males from settling for Sportsters, it’d probably be closer to 4:1.

        *Citation needed. All numbers pulled primarily out of my ass.

        • Gonfern

          I would have to agree. Among my young (late 20s-mid 30s) age group here in the NY area, “Sport bikes” (bikes designed for some sort of sport, be it enduro, supermoto, race replicas ect) combined may outnumber cruisers….just! But while those sport riders are evenly split between honda, yamaha, ducati, triumph and so on, 99% of the people who buy a cruiser, buy a Harley. Thats HUGE as far as “market share” economics is concerned. And the remainder 1%? they cant afford the high price of a Harley, or are dirty Hipsters on vintage honda twins.

        • Justin McClintock

          I think that may be a byproduct of the environment. I live in Atlanta, and the only younger folks you see on Harleys are here are on some slammed, hipsterized Sportster. The touring bikes and cruisers? Only older folks. BUT….we have great roads up in the mountains just a short hop from town. I love my SV1000S, but it would kinda suck in, say, Iowa.

        • ThruTheDunes

          In Massachusetts, 45% of bikes are Harleys. Honda is next, at 15%. Kawasaki, Yamaha, and Suzuki are each about 9%. BMW is at 3%, with Ducati and Triumph each at about 2%. These marques account for 94%. I am afraid I cannot divide up each brand by bike type (adventure, cruiser, touring, dual-sport, etc.)

  • di0genes

    “In an age of sameness and predictability, Harley-Davidson is still unique”
    You are joking aren’t you?

  • ThinkingInImages

    I agree about the emission standards being an issue for air-cooled motorcycles.

    What puts me off HD is the “image”. It’s gone way over the top to cliche, almost caricature. Enough with the “Easy Rider”, “rebel”, and the “lifestyle” references. They’re beautifully made motorcycles, I’ll give them that.

    I actually thought about HD in the Buell days. I wasn’t prepared for the local dealership. It was like walking into the 1970′s. Very strange.

    • Braden

      “Almost caricature”? I would say you don’t go far enough. I see the HD image planted firmly in cartoonish at this point.

      • Mr. White

        Cartoonish indeed. Seeing a 50-something guy pretending to be a bad-ass with ridiculous ape-hangers and obnoxiously loud pipes is a sad – and annoying sight. He might think he’s a bad-ass, all I can think is a–hole.

        • Rameses the 2nd

          If a 50-something guy feels happy riding a HD and feeling like he is a bad-ass, I have no problem with that. If that will make me happy when I get to my 50s, I will buy a HD regardless of what logic says.

          • Michael Howard

            If being obnoxiously selfish makes someone happy, I DO have a problem with that. Placing your happiness and enjoyment over others’, going out of your way to be loud and taking pleasure in disturbing other people makes you a fucking jerk.

            • Rameses the 2nd

              Going out of your way to be loud… Sure. If you take baffles out or put extremely loud pipes on your bike to make things annoying, unintentionally or intentionally, for others, you are a jerk, but riding a sports bike on a public higway at 100+ mph is equally annoying and more importantly dengerous to other people; I have witnessed this with my own eyes at least half a dozen times. A jerk is a jerk. Riding a HD got nothing to do with it.

              • Michael Howard

                Half a dozen times? I see/hear multiple obnoxiously loud HDs in my town every day – well, at least when the weather’s not too cold/windy/wet. And here in the midwest, where I live, riding an HD has EVERYTHING to do with it.

  • aircraftmech

    How much was Ride Apart paid for this HD love fest of an article? The threat to HD is from every other motorcycle manufacturer. But even more so, the threat from the independents, building motorcycles out of their garages or small shops for the individual. Now that HD is having add water cooled models to their line up, it’s a breakthrough idea? To me, HD is playing catch up to the rest of the pack.
    My 0.02 of course.

    • E Brown

      I can see disagreeing with the article, but there’s no reason to insult the author’s or RideApart’s integrity when you do.

    • Tim Watson

      You are entitled to your opinion but to accuse RA staff of taking money for an article is pretty low.

    • Braden

      I don’t see a love fest here. I see a respectful treatment of a brand (whether deserved or no) that clearly lays down the fact that said brand can no longer rely on its rigid adherence to antiquated design principles no matter how much its loyal base may clamor for it. It very well might become its biggest detractor from a business point of view.

    • moto_sapiens

      One of the reasons I like writing for RideApart is that they let me — they expect me — to be honest about my opinions and ideas. Yes, I have a genuine affection for HD bikes, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be critical of them or their trouble keeping pace. The real problem is, can they keep the brand alive and stay up-to-date, or is that a contradiction? And will HD’s customers let them evolve?

    • Guzzto

      Well that’s the first time I’ve ever heard Ride Apart / HFL being accused of sucking up to HD, take a look through the archives. So many comments from Harley owners accusing RA/HFL of having a grudge against the company/brand. Oh and how many Harleys do you see listed in their recommended bikes list?

    • DerekB

      if there’s one thing rideapart can not be accused of is HD praise.

  • Slowtire

    yawn, yet again.

  • Gonfern

    As an admitted HD hater, I must admire their ability to spark a religion. Just like religion, most of it is completely illogical. The quality is terrible, the components are decades out of relevance and the price is laughable. However they continue to push t-shirts with eagles on them, like “jesus saves” bumper stickers. I think they will always find a way to sell t-shirts. If they can push the current POS bikes, adding some pipes and a cooler will make no difference. People will continue to flock to HD, while Honda, Yamaha and Victory continue to make a more dependable, better quality product that gets no respect from the cattle herders.

    • Rameses the 2nd

      In most western markets, motorcycles are more about emotional connection than logical connection. The day Honda, Yamaha, etc… understand this, it will be over for HD. I didn’t buy my motorcycle because it was the most reliable and most bang for the buck motorcycle out there. I bought it because once I looked at it, I couldn’t get it out of my head.

      • Gonfern

        You will get no argument from me there. Same goes for me…to a certain extent. It explains why I bought a Street Triple instead of a Daytona675. But you couldn’t convince me to buy a more expensive, outdated bike just based on looks alone. I guess it depends what you think of motorcycles…if you have one only for the object of having one, then sure bleeding heart emotion is excusable. I see my bike as a tool to make “FUN”…thats its only purpose. I buy the best tool can afford, that produces the most amount of fun. not the shiniest one.

        • Rameses the 2nd

          I agree with you, but the definition of “FUN” is not universal. You have fun on your fast street triple. I am sure HD guys have fun on the way their bikes sound and feel to them. Motorcycles are relatively cheaper and HD knows its target market. They are charging more than their Japanese bretherns and yet still selling more motorcycles. Not all HD guys are idiots. There is more to motorcycling than just Torque and HP numbers.

          • Guest

            I remember talking to a Harley guy and he declared V-ROD as fake Harley or something, because it was designed by Porchse. Needless to say, I was totally confused.

            • Richard Gozinya

              The engine was designed with the help of Porsche, but that’s all. Mostly in regards to water cooling, if I recall.

      • Piglet2010

        Disagree – Anti-Asian bias means that the Japanese will not truly be able to compete with US and European brands, unless the bikes are much, much better (as was the case from the introduction of the CB750 to somewhere in the 1990′s).

        Most H-D buyers do *not* cross-shop other brands.

  • Street Kore

    I think the picture at the header of this article speaks volumes as to why HD still has the loyalty and sales year in and year out. They sell a piece of Nostalgia and Americana that no one else can reproduce. The Big 3 car manufacturers have been trying this angle for years now by bringing back well recognized name plates of the past, but are forced to modernize not only for stricter safety and emissions standards then motorcycles, but also to appeal to the current market trends. HD has been able to tip toe around that for decades and still keep brand loyalty as well as generate new customers. In that respect there is no need to update build quality and design any more then required to keep interest with it’s customer base and the current styling trends. I don’t see them changing much of that strategy anytime soon either. They have put off water cooling since 2008 when the EPA first started pushing the issue. They will continue to bend standards to their favor as much as possible in the future in order to keep that “Heritage” of the brand continuing. And that Heritage and Nostalgia will keep people walking into dealerships in the future. Just like Mustangs and Camaros keep selling some 50 years later to any lust filled teenager that can bankroll one, so will HD sell an American icon to those that still hold owning an HD as part of their American dream.

  • James Foley

    I was excited to see an article that wasn’t trying to make a point about Harley’s heritage or lack of reliability compared to Japanese or European counterparts, but surprised to see no one addressing that yet in the comments.

    Is there anyone who works in the field or who has technical knowledge/experience related to emissions who might want to weigh-in? I am curious to hear more about where the emissions standards are going. I get that Europe is usually leading the charge on strictness, but does anyone foresee it getting strict enough here to drive semi-air cooled bikes or even some configurations out of existence?

    • Piglet2010

      What would be a killer is a requirement for something similar to OBD II and EPA/CARB mandated emissions testing in poor air quality regions – no more Screaming Eagle Stage I and II upgrades, and no more loud pipes. Then people would have to live with the lousy stock performance, unless they wanted to spend really big money.

    • ThruTheDunes

      California proposed adding motorcycles to Smog Check as part of their 2007 air quality plan submittal to EPA. I have no idea how close the Air Resources Board and the Bureau of Automtive Repair are to implementing such a program expansion.
      California and EPA emission standards for motorcycles 280 cc and above from large manufacturers have been in alignment since 2010. The emission standard (0.80 grams/kilometer of hydrocarbons plus NOx) is an average of all the motorcycles sold by a manufacturer during a year (based on the emissions certification for individual engine families). This means some can be above the standard, and some below, as long as the overall aveage is met. There is also a maximum HC+NOx standard for individual engine families (don’t recall offhand – maybe 2.5 g/km?).
      The problem faced by air cooled engines is NOx – the higher the temperature of combustion, the higher the rate of NOx formation, and it is obviously more difficult to control the temperature of combustion with an air-cooled vs. liquid cooled engine (wonder why the air-cooled VW Beetle disappeared when cats came into play?). You can add more precious metals to your catalytic converter (to a point), or you can change your engine design and operating parameters (fuel injection, closed loop operation, cam profile, ignition timing, etc.), or any combination, to get to the emission standard you need to meet (realistically, precise air:fuel ratio control is the name of the game – sometimes this can get you a bucketload of reductions, but it is essential for your cat to be effective (because the richer the mixture, the more the oxidation part of the cat has to work to reduce the HC emissions, and the hotter it makes the cat; but, the leaner the mixture, the more NOx is created, and the harder the 3-way cat has to work to reduce the NOx)). At some point, going to liquid cooled becomes an economic decision. If the standards become more stringent (no California or EPA plans at the moment that I am aware, or could find in a quick search), then this might be more of a technical than economic choice. Sorry, I don’t know much about Euro standards.
      California requires approval of any device or system installed on a pollution controlled vehicle that has the potential to affect emissions. Their online database shows Screaming Eagle StageI and StageII systems approved for some model years of Harley Davidsons – I did not research them all, but this means that if/when Smog Check starts to apply to motorcycles, it does not necessarily mean that these kits become taboo. Harley knows the game, and if they want to sell these kits, they know enough to get them aproved for California. Admittedly, I have no idea whether the Screaming Eagle kits approved for California are different than the kits they sell outside California.
      Sorry this was so long-winded…

      • James Foley

        Thanks, very informative! I wonder if other manufacturers are preparing for this.

  • Guest

    Too many roll-your-eyes moments in this editorial

  • Mark Vizcarra

    The real threat is that the old timers are dying a lot faster than they can produce bikes.

    • Theodore P Smart

      Their demographics are already getting long in the tooth — eventually the boomers will buy all the toys that can fit in the garage. Perhaps by then HD will be churning out 500cc singles to the Indian market?

  • wayne krafft

    I always thought the greatest threat to Harley was that the demographic they cater to is getting too old to ride. Sure there are a few younger riders that go for nostalgia, but generally, younger generations are more fickle when it comes to long-term brand loyalty than the boomers. Then they started selling to women and minorities and the sales boost. Then they target Asia, South America, and other developing nations and sales boost again. While Harley’s engineers have not had an original idea since Elvis bought his, their marketing team is nothing short of genius.

    • DerekB

      at least in my circle of friends (early 30′s) 95% would never entertain the idea of buying an HD. It doesn’t seem like they care either.

  • David Kent

    I’ve owned over 50 bikes in my 57 years. The only major brand (Europe included) I’ve never owned is a Harley. Why? Because I want nothing to do with the image. I wouldn’t care if they sold their bikes for half price and their performance and reliability were at the pinnacle of industry standards. So long as the company promotes their F U exclusionary attitude both in advertising and at their dealerships, and a significant number of their customers does their best to emulate it, I have no interest in seeing the company succeed. Sure, there’s a few nice people on Harleys. But experience has taught me to bet against it, just like my experience has me betting against someone with their drawers at their knees and their boxers blowing in the wind being class Valedictorian. People choose what they want to identify with, spend their money, and gather accordingly. I have enough difficulty convincing the non motorcycling public that I’m a responsible, law abiding, considerate motorcyclist. I have no desire to identify with what Harley Davidson is trying to represent.

  • Jorn Bjorn Jorvi

    I’d never buy a Harley because all the females in the Harley scene have bad skin.

  • Randy Singer

    I note that Indian just released a new-from-the-ground-up engine, and it is an air-cooled engine, not terribly dissimilar to a HD engine. They must have been aware of emission requirements, now and in the future, when designing this engine. So one would have to assume that they expect to be able to meet those requirements without water cooling. If they can do it, then likely HD can do it too. (Though it might require them to design an all-new engine to do so.)

    It seems to me that if a motorcycle manufacturer isn’t in a performance war (and Harley’s haven’t been about absolute performance in over half a century) then having an air-cooled motorcycle engine isn’t really a huge problem. There are plenty of examples of air-cooled motorcycles today, but they mostly aren’t performance-oriented: Triumph Bonneville’s, Moto Guzzi’s, some BMW’s, some Ducati’s, etc.

    • http://www.racetrackstyle.com/ Racetrack Style

      Agree. If HD doesn’t want to deviate from the 45 v, then give up the displacement race & build a solid 88 or 96 inch and figure out ways to keep it air-cooled while developing other styles.

      There’s plenty of power to keep the bulk of the readers engaged but there’s no chassis platform for these readers. This is where a shop like BTR Moto comes into play using the big twin in a chassis that has the same geometry specs as the liter race bikes. It’s big, simple, air-cooled fun. When these readers reach an “advanced age” of 50 (ha!) then they can decide if they want to put their feet forward using the same type of motor or just keep riding in a sport or cafe position

  • http://twwhlspls.com/ Anders

    to continue the headling: … Harley Davidson

  • Ken

    I’m never clear about this HD nonsense because I’m a New Zealander. However, I am 53 and approaching the target market for a pair of tassled saddlebags. Also, believe it or not my own country is the largest market per capita for slow, under-braked, air-cooled American motorcycles outside their native land.

    Accordingly I should hanker after one of these lawnmowers. But I don’t. My own nostalgia looks like this: Honda CB750, Kawasaki H1 and Z900, Norton Commando and (be still my beating heart) Laverda Jota. When I grew up the Japs were IT and exotica was European. I can look at a Honda CB1100 today and have adult feelings. Harley’s are nothing.

    To me, HD’s whole nostalgia trip feels as fake as the cooling fins will be on their next generation twin. Baby boomers anxious to hang on to some personal “outsider” identification that dates back to Jefferson Airplane have been exploited by one of the 20th century’s more sophisticated marketing snow jobs. They were TOLD that this was their God given heritage because… um… Easy Rider and…. Wild One and…. something. Except that was a Triumph.

    Was there once a genuine time when today’s fat stock broker rode a Panhead Harley from Phoenix to Salinas with his old lady on the back? I need to know. Or was that in fact a CB750? Who actually rode these damn things back then?

    • Mr.Paynter

      Same here in South Africa, we had no outlaw-gangs rolling around on Harleys, no major history of the brand and so it’s definitely not nostalgia. They do however sell a lfiestyle that all the mid-life-crises flock too. I’ve seen Harleys I liked for one reason or another, but most I dont.

      My idea of a cool older bike are the old CBs etc. and much older Brittish bikes, because those are the bikes my grandfather and all 6 of his brothers rode around on, and those are what I took my first few under-geared-ride-on-the-backs of.

      I know Harley sell bikes around the world, but here they are for the dentists and other well-to-dos looking for a hobby/lifestyle change and I dont blame them, if I got to 40/50 and realised what I’d be missing out on, I would also flock to it and if I were looking for similarly aged people in the same boat, that’s where I’d go to.

  • Mr.Paynter

    Dear HD,

    Stop production on everything, and make us a bunch of XR750 trackers, and then continue on your way with less people hating you.

    Thanks,

    • Reid

      I don’t know if they would sell many of them, but they would sell one to me if it was light, powerful, stopped (flat track RACING bikes and their no-brakes being the exception of course, because you don’t want it to stop) and looked cool. I know I sound like a broken record, but I would absolutely buy an American bike if they made a bike that wasn’t a big old pirate machine.

    • Big_Mowth_E

      Yeah, they probably won’t do that either. The XR1200 is being discontinued in the states because of low sales. When people think about buying a sport bike, that last thing that comes to mind is H-D.

  • Chris Cope

    The giant bottle of Becks in the window of the house in that picture. Why is no one commenting on this? It’s messing with my mind. What’s the story on it? Am I the only one seeing it?

    • Randy Singer

      I don’t think that it is someone’s house. I think that it is an inn, or a bed & breakfast. They are advertising that they sell beer.

  • Jeff Henderson

    I can confirm, as a former V-Rod owner, that the overwhelming majority of H-D riders I encountered were less than kind regarding my VRSCD. I, however, was happy to agree with their “that’s not a real Harley” comments.

  • Richard Kimes

    Harley had to bring in Porsche to engineer the V-Rod which suggests they don’t really have the brain trust and infrastructure to evolve their product to satisfy the feds and their loyal followers at the same time. Perhaps they are doomed…

    • luxlamf

      Ah yet Another Genius, HD has teamed up with Porsche Engineering before while developing the EVO motor, long ago and Porsche did Not “Engineer” the motor, they came in to help make the VR1000 race bike motor into a street friendly version. The Motor existed but why should I try and explain Facts to the Sarah Palin of the Forum here with your water cooler education? Just keep standing around pretending you know what you are talking about, it’s a very popular hobby in the MC world I have discovered there “Richard”.

      • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

        Potato baby, potato?

  • Troyg150

    I’m from Australia, I’m 36 and a proud street glide owner, all these comments just show how true “If I have to explain, you won’t understand” really is.

  • Michael J. Beggs

    I own a “fake Harley”, aka the VRod, and I love it. You can keep your “real Harley”, along with the bandanna and the rest of the pirate getup.

  • luxlamf

    Lots of HD “Pros” around here from these responses apparently, so how many of you Tea Party like idjits Actually have owned or do own an HD product that brought you to these Brilliant opinions?

  • Chris Davis

    Greatest strength: building bad machines. Greatest threat: declining population of sweet hitch-hikers.

  • DerekB

    Hey harley, make a competent sport bike to appeal to people under 55 = problem solved.

  • Smarmy

    “It’s very popular in the MC world”? Who do we have here, Sonny Barger? Not once, but twice.

    I’ve never seen more complete drivel and useless observations born from simple hate or jealousy. It’s just a harmless article. Read it, laugh, and go back to being supoerior.

  • Smarmy

    The article was as you would expect. The responses are worth the time. All this over a pile of metal, the founders themselves would have to laugh hysterically. Harley Davidson has been what it is forever and a day, you people, evidently newer than new, get in line on the old hate train. It’s what the company is built on and you serve them very well.

  • Thatmanoverthere

    I’m a newcomer to motorcycling and I really, really wanted to like H-D because it is the iconic American motorcycle company. But the more I learn about motorcycles, the more I don’t want to buy an H-D. Yes, H-D style is awesome but the technology behind the bikes is lagging behind other brands. I wanted my first bike to be American but I ended up with a 1982 Honda Gold Wing GL1100i as my learner bike and by the way, the GL1100 was built in Ohio. I paid less than 10% the cost of a new bike yet I found that the 32 year old GL offers me comfort, features and performance on par with some 2013 models. I had to do some maintenance and minor repair to make the bike road worthy but once that was done, the GL has been a very good bike and people who are not motorcycle enthusiasts don’t know whether the bike is new or old because it looks that good.

    Next year, I plan to buy a new bike and I looked at H-D, Victory, BMW, Kawasaki, Star and all the other brands. I’m looking hard at the Kawasaki Vulcan 1700 Voyager ABS. I would like to buy an American made water cooled bagger but sadly, it doesn’t exist in the 2013 lineup. For 2014, H-D has the liquid cooled Electra Glide Ultra for $26k and the CVO Limited for $39k. No way would I pay those prices for a motorcycle when I can get the Kawasaki Vulcan 1700 Voyager with ABS for far under $20k.

    I support American brands even when I don’t agree with the product planning. When H-D, Victory or Indian decides to turn the corner and build a liquid cooled bagger with ABS and and sell it at a competitive price, I will be in line to buy one. By the way, I’m keeping the ’82 GL1100i for backup because it’s too good a bike now that I have done the maintenance on it.

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      Good for you for using your brain. I’d encourage you to look outside of cruisers too. You can find all day comfort, good performance and plenty of character for less than half the price of that Vulcan. Check out a V-Strom 650 Abs or CB500x and I think you’ll be amazed at how much motorcycle they represent. No chaps required.

      • Thatmanoverthere

        Thanks for the positive feedback. I have looked at the V-Strom and I liked it. Also I just looked at reviews of the CB500x. I see what you mean about how much motorcycle is represented for the price. Either one of those would be a great buy. I also looked heavily at the FJR and it is calling me. The FJR is at the upper end of my price range. I don’t see a need to spend more. If I bought a smaller adventure/sport type of bike, it would probably be the V-Strom. The thing that has me shying away is the foot position. I feel most comfortable with knees stretched and feet forward rather than knees bent and feet back. That’s the primary reason that I like cruisers…that and the styling. I’m mid-40s and use the motorcycle for commuting and generally getting away from it all. I do a lot of highway cruising and after experiencing the GL, I don’t think I want less than 1000 cc. I like being able to cruise at 70 mph and still have the hp to pull away from just about anything else on the road without straining my engine.