My first motorcycle was a Honda CB 350. I’ve owned a Suzuki, a Yamaha, and two Harley-Davidson motorcycles. If you are new to riding or wondering which cruiser or touring motorcycle to buy, the Harley may be a consideration. Can I share with you seven things nobody has probably told you about the Harley Davidson motorcycle?
Two guys in their twenties named William Harley and Arthur Davidson started this in 1901. Before you can compare cubic inches, comfort or cost you have to realize its considered “the American Motorcycle,” even though the Indian has been around longer.
It’s a tradition.
It had some bad years. Any Harley rider will tell you that Harleys were suspect when the company was owned by AMF. Todays bikes are more robust, reliable and modern.
It’s a status symbol.
The Harley Davidson motorcycle logo is the most recognized motorcycle brand to this date. It has survived every war since WWI, the Great Depression, several ownership changes and competition from a plethora of other companies, and repped by veterans and tough guys everywhere. It’s the image that sells. People who want a Harley don’t want a -motorcycle-, they want a Harley. Someone who rides a Honda might get a Suzuki or a Yamaha next time, but for a Harley person it’s Harley or nothing. I fell into the culture and hoopla too with my first bike. It was more expensive than a comparable cruiser. It had the trademarked sound. It is still just a motorcycle. What’s special? It is the name. It’s one of the oldest, most famous bike brands.
They sell more shirts than motorcycles.
In 2015, Harley Davidson sold $292 million in non-motorcycle merchandise last year.
Celebrities like Rihanna, Kanye West, Kid Rock and Selena Gomez have all been photographed wearing their brand. Don’t think Harley Davidson are sending out freebies though, When trying to get a relationship with them for this podcast I got shot down. Their position is to be “snooty” like Rolex, Tiffany’s and other brands not for the working man/woman. It is working because that is who ends up buy the stuff. Leather jackets, biker boots, t-shirts and fingerless gloves are all coveted and sought after items. In full disclosure, I too, bought a heavy leather jacket off EBay before I even had my first bike. Over the past 100 years Harley Davidson has become more than just a brand, it has become a lifestyle, which is what makes this company truly unique.
These days you can buy a metric cruiser bigger than Harley. My buddy got a Honda and from the side, it looks like a Harley. I ain’t mad at him. Some argue about electronics, imparted parts and all of that.
The electronics are made in Japan. The wheels are made in Australia, Pistons in Germany. The transmission is made my Matsuba in Japan. Outsourcing brings down manufacturing costs, so that is why it’s done. The front end is made by Showa and they are owned by Honda. Remove the front fender and look at the left fork right where that fender bolts on SHOWA stamped in big letters. If you are a Puritan and you want one that was built here in the USA get a 1971 or earlier Panhead, Knucklehead, or Shovelhead.
What President Trump is doing.
Almost all parts are outsourced these days in both cars and motorcycles. That is why the tariffs discussed with the Trump administration is causing concerns. Mr. Trump says
“his trade policy is aimed at reviving domestic manufacturing, Harley-Davidson’s move shows how the White House approach could backfire as American companies increasingly rely on overseas markets for materials, production and sales.
Harley Davidson said on 6/25/2018,
“it would shift some production of its bikes overseas to avoid stiff retaliatory tariffs imposed by the European Union in response to Mr. Trump’s trade measures. The company said the move “is not the company’s preference, but represents the only sustainable option to make its motorcycles accessible to customers in the E.U. and maintain a viable business in Europe.”
Add to declining domestic demand recent headwinds from abroad, in the form of European Union tariffs, and from within, with President Trump criticizing the company’s plan to ramp overseas production, and the shares 2.1% in Tuesday morning trade, and 10% over the past three sessions.
Millennials aren’t buying motorcycles like the generations before them. Young millennials, according to statistics are only two-thirds as likely to ride motorcycles as their elders were at this point in their life. A source quoted on Marketwatch.com pointed to student debt as one potential roadblock to motorcycle adoption with this cohort. Compared to older generations, more of today’s young adults have college degrees, and that means more debt. In the stock market game, the motorcycle category has been struggling for some time. Shares of U.S. market leader Harley-Davidson Inc. HOG, +0.83% have tumbled more than 25% over the past year, with U.S. retail unit sales falling for the past three years. In comparison, the S&P 500 index SPX, -0.72% has run up 12% the past year.
I’m over the hyperbole. We live in the greatest nation and with that comes the freedom to choose. My 2005 Electra Glide Standard has caused me no issues. I’ve babied it, garaged it and kept it stock except for the radio system. I’m ready to sell it again. I’m saving for a Honda Goldwing.
What are your thoughts on Harleys? Got anything to add?
Podcast: Play in new window | Download