Harley-Davidson is probably the most iconic motorcycle brand of all time, sitting on the top of the chain and ruling the industry with its iconic classic American muscle bikes. There’s a cool factor attached to a Harley that other manufacturers just can’t achieve and maybe that is the thing that makes a Harley every bikers dream bike. A Harley is loud, heavy, brash and has a bad ass vibe that makes the bikers fall in love with it even more.
Harley- Davidson was the brainchild of William Harley and Arthur Davidson, two young man of twenty at 1901, who first designed the Harley engine for use in a regular pedal-bicycle frame. Believe it or not, the first of the Harley engines, which were going to rule the whole world in the coming years, was produced in a small wooden shed of northside of Milwaukee, Wisconsin and the fact more astounding was that it was a failure.
The two friends found out their first motorcycle was unable to climb the hills around Milwaukee without pedal assistance. This was a valuable learning experience for the young guys who immediately started working on a second engine and by 1904, their first motorcycle competed in a Milwaukee motorcycle race where it placed fourth. This was the first documented appearance of a Harley-Davidson motorcycle in the historic records.
Harley and Davidson brothers built their first factory in 1906, a single story wooden structure on Chestnut Street. Now the Harley Davidson corporate headquarters stand there. About fifty motorcycles were produced that year.
Business bloomed and by 1914, Harley-Davidson was already pulling ahead of “Indian Motorcycle Manufacturing Company”, America’s first motorcycle company and the largest manufacturer of motorcycles in the world during 1910’s. During the World War I, the U.S. Military purchased over 20,000 motorcycles from Harley-Davidson, Making them the biggest motorcycle company in the states.
The Great Depression of 1929 hit the American economy hard and it had its effects on Harley-Davidson. In order to survive the depression, the company started manufacturing industrial powerplants based on their motorcycle engines. Eventually; Harley-Davidson, alongside Indian Motorcycle Company, was one of the two motorcycle manufacturers who survived the Depression.
World War II came as a fabulous business opportunity to the company, who like WWI again produced large numbers for the U.S. Army. More than 90,000 military motorcycles were supplied to the U.S. Army and the allies by Harley-Davidson and they received two “Army-Navy “E” Awards” (Excellence in Production) for their outstanding contribution to the war.
One constant of Harley-Davidson, since almost the very beginning, has been the use of 45-degree air cooled V-twins. One of the main attractions of a Harley is the distinct throaty growl of the engine, which is the result of the uneven intervals between the firing of the cylinder. The company even tried to trademark the sound at one point but were denied due to the high likelihood of other bikes having similar sound.
- Touring: Touring models use Big-Twin engines and are distinguished by their large saddlebags. The touring family includes some of the famous models like Road King, Street Glide and Electra Glide.
- Softail: Softail models use big-twin engines and a Softail chassis. They are visually similar to the traditional “choppers”. Harley offers Softail models with “Heritage” styling that follow the designs of the company through history.
- Dyna: Dyna frames also use big-twin engines and traditional styling. They can be distinguished from the Softail by the traditional coil over suspension. Some of the Dyna models are Super Glide, Wide Glide, Low Rider etc.
- Sportster: The sportster was first introduced in 1957 as racing motorcycles and are smaller and lighter than other models. Sportster is featured by models like XL1200, Sportster 48 and Sportster 833 etc.
Besides these model families, VRSC and Street are also some of the projects of Harley- Davison.
Harley-Davidson is now world’s one of the most sought after brands and it has attracted a loyal community through its years of service. There are Harley Clubs throughout the world and the oldest one was formed in 1928. Every five years, “Harleyfest”; the Harley Davidson ride home is held. It is a sort of biker pilgrimage to the motor company’s mother city of Milwaukee. The event features bikers of all sorts, from old school bikers to new enthusiasts riding side by side to a memorable ride home.
Harley-Davidson is one of the few manufacturing companies who has a museum of their own. Located in Milwaukee, the museum is full of motorcycles as well as other objects from the history of Harley-Davidson Motor Company.
In 2016, a TV show “Harley and the Davidsons” was released on Discovery Channel. The show is based on the true story of William, Arthur and other Davidson brothers working relentlessly and risking everything for the love of motorcycles.
Harley-Davidson has manufacturing facilities in York, Pennsylvania; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Kansas City, Missouri; Manaus, Brazil and Bawal, India. Harley-Davidson markets its products all over the world. Besides motorcycle, the company also market apparel, home décor and ornaments, accessories, toys and scale figures of its motorcycles.
1. Wikipedia: Harley-Davidson