It is a fact that isn’t often discussed in the motorcycle industry, but roughly 50% of all on-road motorcycles sold in the United States come from a little company called Harley-Davidson. In 2012 for instance, the Bar & Shield brand sold 161,678 units here in the US, while for the same year the MIC reports 318,105 on-road units were sold nationwide, across all manufacturers.

In a way, the statistic is unfair. A cynical observer would say that Harley-Davidison is in the t-shirts, beanies, and trinkets business…and also happens to sell motorcycles as well. The more accurate critique is that Harley-Davidson sells a carefully curated lifestyle to its owners. A turnkey admittance to Club Cool and a subculture that breaks out of the doldrums of the suburban lifestyle.

You can hate the twenty-something flavors of the same machine that Harley-Davidson panders to dentists and accountants, and you can call the company’s products a number of nasty names, but the simple truth is that they sell, and even when sales aren’t that good, they still sell well. In 2011, the low-point in Harley-Davidson’s five-year sales tailspin, the Milwaukee company still accounted for 48% of on-road motorcycles sold in the US. Chewy.

It is easy to be critical of Harley-Davidson, and there are plenty of things to be critical about (I have had no problem in the past talking about the company’s greatest challenges), but one cannot deny the fact that if Harley-Davidson is responsible for the lion’s share of what we call in passing the motorcycle industry. For Polaris Industries CEO Scott Wine though, Harley-Davidson’s motorcycle dynasty is seen as a market opportunity, though a risky one.

I got this call a couple years back to do an industry consultation. It was a blind engagement, meaning I had no idea who I was ultimately consulting for (and still don’t to this day), but they asked a lot of questions about America’s sweetheart motorcycle brand, and what it would take to beat Harley at its own game.

Asked why a company like Victory or the plethora of metric cruiser makers have been unable to even scratch the surface of Harley-Davidson in terms of sales, my reply was simple, “they’re trying to beat Harley-Davidson at its own game, no one does Harley-Davidson better than Harley-Davidson.”

You see, like any high-end lifestyle company, Harley-Davidson’s true driving force comes from its brand, and not its products. The the latter helps, it is the chords a company’s brand plays on the heartstrings of its consumers that keeps them engaged beyond the initial sale.

It is not enough to make a better motorcycle, that part is easy and had been demonstrated on numerous occasions by Harley’s competition. Instead, one has to build a better customer experience throughout the entire ownership lifetime — one has to create product lust. This intangible yet palpable ingredient it the most difficult to visualize and achieve (and perhaps that is why so many brands fail in this regard), but like good pornography, you know it when you see it.

This gets my mind churning on Indian though. Touting a history that predates Harley-Davidson, Indian is one of the few brands that could lay siege to Harley-Davidson’s motorcycling zeitgeist. Acquired by Polaris in 2011, many of my colleagues lamented the news that Wine & Co. were not going to build a “modern” motorcycle company out of their purchase, but such a venture would have missed the point in buying an historic brand like Indian in the first place.

I called it the Indian Gambit back then, and while the first chess pieces on the board have been silently moving into place, Polaris is getting ready to make some bold mid-game moves. Debuting at Sturgis this year its first new machine since the acquisition, it is clear now that Indian hopes to be a better Harley, both in terms of product and brand.

It’s a risky game to play, but nothing ventured, nothing earned. When I see marketing pieces by Indian, like the one headlining this article, I can’t help but think that Wine is sitting at his desk in Medina, just 350 miles away from Milwaukee, saying, “your move Wandell.”

  • Richard Gozinya

    That was a good ad, and a fun shot at the competition. If nothing else, perhaps Polaris can finally shake Harley out of its complacency. I won’t speculate as to the odds of Indian’s success, the style of bike they’re building isn’t something I have any interest in.

  • Trevor

    This is unbelievably well-written. I’m losing patience for articles ripping Harley. Not because I love Harley Davidson, but because it’s too easy to rip on them. The author tells it how it is in a brilliant way. My favorite insight was of competitors trying to beat HD at their own game. HFL took me away from Asphalt & Rubber for my industry news, but RideApart is becoming very different than the site I fell in love with. Articles like these make me wonder why I ever left.

  • smiler

    Trevor. I think the reason why people criticize Harley is not because of what they do but because they are essentially selling a lie. One that really did not exist and if it did was not in the hands of people playing about in costume at weekends.
    The other reason and for me more important is the revealing in selling a form of transport that is as inefficient and therefore irresponsible as it is possible to get. In fact it is worse than that because they design out efficiency at every opportunity for the sake of vanity.
    But they protect their market well. Though they should never be forgiven for dumping Buell, which for me would be the same as Ford canning Caroll Shelby. Buell at least tried in a very conservative country to make innovative and striking bikes. No he has to rest that idea from the wreckage wrought by HD.

  • paulus

    No company is under any obligation to do anything more than give customers happiness/satisfaction.
    HD obviously give it in spades. Customers keep buying their vehicles.

    Whether their motorcycles are efficient, nasty or nice is irrelevant. The customers want to buy into the package.
    Until there is an alternative package… they will remain successful at selling their wares.

  • Starmag

    Never owned a Harley, but the endless sniveling about the lack of “performance” of their bikes makes me laugh. 50% ! 50% of road bikes sold in the USA! I’m sure the margins are high also. There’s obviously something about them the snivelers don’t understand. Motorcyclists loved Harleys long before the merchandising came about, Harley just wisely capitalized on their own popularity. The “posers” and “dentists” that I know personally are, in general, in the saddle and putting more miles on by far than my friends on their “performance” bikes.

    The thing about them I can’t stand is they are so popular that when attending most motorcycle events in the USA, 90% of the bikes in attendance are essentially one model, which is boring.

    I ride a ZRX1200 which I love. It certainly is no Panigale or ‘Busa power-wise. but even so, it’s so fast that I can never really open it up much on the streets where I do the majority of my riding without losing my DL/ life or both. The old saying about how it’s more fun to ride a slow bike fast rather than a fast bike slow has some truth to it.

    I hope the new Chief is as beautiful as the ’47 my dad owned. The new engine knocks it out of the park in this category.

  • Rico Bustamente

    Harley bashing is why I stopped reading motorcycle daily & came here. But I see some of the bashers came along as well. I do not begrudge anyone’s “opinion”… I have a bunch of them… & of course.. to my mind, they are all the “right” opinion & you should all share them. But that’s not the case & I can accept that. When it comes to critiquing Harleys…. yes.. they are what they are…incrementally updated/revised, rather old, V-Twin technology. Other than not being watercooled, BMW’s flat twins share the exact same description… rather old technolgy… Moto Guzzi too & how about all of the “new” parallel twins out….
    But let’s stick with Harley & discuss how to measure success which is why companies are in business…
    As stated in the article… despite the plethora of naysayers, Harley is a fantastic success. Look at the stock prices & dividends. People all over the world want a Harley… because it is what it
    Myself, I’ve had 13 bikes… from CBR 600’s to BMW 1200 R & RT’s…a 2000 Indian Chief, a Honda cruiser, 2 mid 90’s Triumphs too…. & 3 Harleys…. of them all, I prefer the Harley precisely for the reasons others HATE Harleys… I love them because they have tons oftorque & are in my opinion.. “like riding a tractor”…. determined & steady. I’ve ridden them all over the east coast & for me, Harley’s fit the bill.
    If I could afford to own multiple bikes, I would probably have a 690 KTM Duke or a Ducati Hypermotard…I wouldn’t mind a Moto Guzzi Griso either..or a Triumph Street Triple or a Honda CB1000R (not a CBR)…. but any of them would be a 2nd bike.. the Harley would be my 1st choice to ride…. like sitting on a Lazy Boy with cruise control & stereo… what’s not to like when you are tooling down the road…
    What gets me about some of the comments is that if you listen to what most bashers say… they say they want Harley to build honda or ducati- like bikes or something…as long as it is NOT a Harley.
    That model DOES NOT WORK… that is why the metric cruiser & Voctory cannot compete… like the article says.. they can not out-HArley, HArley!
    So…BASH-ON all you Harley naysayers & the 50% of us on Harleys will wave to you on your “other brand” bikes on the road….

  • Starmag

    Another thing for the Harley bashers is this: from what I can tell there are many people like Peter Egan, who own both a Harley AND a Ducati etc. Why in the world would they want ( by your estimation ) an outdated, archaic, inefficent tractor when they have a radical, cutting edge, techno-marvel sitting right next to it?

    It’s you who don’t understand, not them.

  • SquidleyMcSquidson

    Rico, you’ll wave to me when you see me on my Honda? You’d be one of a select few Harley riders that do. The only people on bikes who refuse to wave back are Harleys. Some of what has been said here is true, and Harleys are not as bad as people make them out to be. I personally would never criticize someone else for their choice of bike, as it is a highly personal decision and one you have to live with for thousands of lonely miles. But the disdain of Harleys is a two way street. When interacting with riders of any other brand, I find it easier to discuss general motorcycling topics, like touring, track days, etc. I’m quite often amazed when speaking to an older gentleman on a Goldwing or a BMW boxer at how knowledgable they are about motorcycling in general. Try talking to the average Harley rider about anything if you’re on a sportbike. You’re usually met with a combination of disgust and dismissal. Now I understand that there are some genuine motorcyclists out there who enjoy Harleys, and that’s awesome. Heck, I actually really like the XR1200X and wouldn’t mind having one myself. But when talking about how negative people are towards Harleys, lets not forget that some of it is born from the utter disdain that Harley riders as a whole show for people who have the audacity to ride anything else. I once was riding with some friends and we encountered some Harley guys at a gas station. After a tense exchange about how all these “rice burners” and “crotch rockets” were so stupid and how “jap bikes” are unAmerican, one of my friends says “my bike is not from Japan, it’s a Triumph”. Instantly he was somehow cooler to them than the rest of us, because apparently Triumphs are ok. This type of thing happens quite often. Literally every time in the last decade of riding that someone has refused to wave back to me, they have been on a Harley. So when wondering why motorcyclists in general don’t like Harleys, remember that respect is a two way street. A lot of us have never been shown an ounce of it by the average Harley rider, and perhaps that, more than raw performance data or price points has shaped our views.

  • JoeD

    Gentleman non-rider in line with me yesterday said “How about a Harley, they are the Cadillac of motorcycles, right?” He was aghast that I did not agree. Plenty of other bikes that perform better. HD is a motorcycle with flaws like everything. It has two wheels and an engine. The “Image” thing is the most revolting part of HD ownership.

  • Starmag

    I just watched the video. Indian marketing is going for the jugular, and in my opinion, unwisely coming perilously close to offending the 50% of American motorcyclists they covet. You know, those 6 billion Harley riders that show up every year at Sturgis where you intend to unveil the new Chief ?

  • cj

    There is only one other company that sells their brand like Harley and that is Ducati. One reason is that they dont make a million things like cars etc. They only make bikes and sell the lifestyle. If any other company wants to the same they need to build a lifestyle and promote that first.

    I have been to Ducati parties and Ducati riders call themselves Ducatisti. It is a bonding a form of pride to ride a Ducati and wear their brand on any clothing or accessory item they make.

    Build bikes, build lifestyle, sell your brand gear for bikes, throw parties = win.

    Good Luck.

  • Singletrack

    Good piece, but nothing really new – yet. Another contender (pretender?) that wants a slice of H-D’s pie.

    But is it too late for Polaris/Indian? Does anyone under 40 still want a ‘heritage’ cruiser?

  • DucMan

    “But is it too late for Polaris/Indian? Does anyone under 40 still want a ‘heritage’ cruiser?”

    Contrary to the image that Hollywood portrays of America, we’re a deeply conservative and traditional country and yes I think there is still a good number of people that would love them some heritage cruiser. Most of the population is rather ignorant, their sheep mentality makes them buy stuff like Harleys, MS Word, Coors Light and the list goes on…

  • fiorano

    Indian and heritage style bikes all have their place (how cool is the Forty-eight and that custom WarBoy?) and in a perfect garage wouldn’t we all have something like it along with 10 other bikes? I have a few motorcycles and the one that is competing with the sumo as all out wacko fun in the twisties and all around, is my Harley XR1200x.
    this is a great bike, trim some wieght and it is really great. HD can make a bike to go all around and meet peoples wants.
    Now Indian is running with heritage only – no flat track fan boys or even a pseudo sport bike and race series.
    They can capitalize on this, Victory is doing ok, and is certainly a HD alternative, Indian can pull out a couple of wizz bang ones like a sporty or dual sportish Scout model, and maybe even a longitudinal air-cooled 4 cylinder (like the Alma 4 banger- and more standard riding position than cruiser? their is a lot to go for and plenty of people who would buy one or two.
    if they weren’t as expensive as gold, and they did make a scout, or a 4, I might have one myself or 2.
    I might even pick up a forty-eight because it is that fun to ride. the sad bike in the garage to ride around town is the honda 929 it just doesn’t do the business as well as the others off the track- but then the sumo and XR are magic…

  • alexssss

    The only thing I hate about hd is they are referred to as Americas motorcycle but its the same general motors build quality as always – finding them leaking oil, broken down on the 15 fwy or with nearly 0 zero miles after a decade of ownership lends itself to this.

    The owners them self while seemingly largely a group of psuedo thugs, cigar smoking dbombs and guys who think a perfectly manicured facial hair is manly are not an issue to me, as the saying goes “it takes all kinds”

    And the fact is that HD does innovate but on a scale that doesn’t lend itself to the term “techno lust”.

    they are a mixed bag of faults to outsiders but I support them in there future endeavors simply because there is so much competition in the space for goods it’s actually breeding a superior leather vest and it employs lots of Americans too.

    Plus many of the people I have met from there corporate side have been nice, genuinely good people who love to ride and love there brand, yellow gold flake retro bobs and all.

  • Singletrack

    @fiorano – The Forty-Eight and XR1200 are the models that Harley has aimed at younger riders – aka the new rebels, without $40K (or even $20K) to spend on a bike.

    The bike in Indian’s ad is clearly ‘heritage’ as in Heritage Springer. Let’s just say that owners of those bikes will not be selling them to get an XR1200 or Forty-Eight alternative. Indian is still pitching the full-figured Chief as the lead dog.

    My question actually is; are today’s newer riders aspiring to a big, fat, fringed, retro bagger ? Presumably H-D has the market research to know where they’ll be in 10 years.

  • David

    Article has one major flaw.

    Didn’t take into account the successful attack by the Honda Fury that sent shock waves up the spine of Hardly Execs.

    Honda probably has sold hundreds of thousands of those mean machines…….huh…


    Oh okay, maybe thousands…….hundreds? A hundred…….10?

    Have they even sold one yet?

  • irksome

    My first year shooting the races at Daytona in ’94 I was standing with an old friend who’s a Panhead guy, looking at his buddy’s old HD with a springer front end and ape hangers and I told him I couldn’t imagine riding like that. I had an old SR500 I’d built into a cafe bike back then and he laughed and told me his buddy had just said the same thing about my clubman bars and rearsets. Go figure.

    Best of luck to Indian/Victory; they have the added burden of the previous failures/marketing schemes with the Indian brand. I ride a ’98 Triumph S3 now and lust after a ’00-’04 Guzzi V11 so I understand the brand-love thing. But I still don’t get the whole wanna-be-a-naughty-pirate bit in anyone else except my wife once in awhile…

    To each his/her own. But if you won’t acknowledge me with a wave, fuck ya.

  • outriden

    if Harley would take their top of the line cruiser, not sure what alphabet soup that model is, but anyway, offered it configured to the hilt with the latest technology, they’d sell a lot!
    and while we’re at it, offer models that are on par with the dirt track bikes they had would be a good addition to their lineup.

  • Tom

    Ducman makes a completely untrue statement like….

    “Contrary to the image that Hollywood portrays of America, we’re a deeply conservative and traditional country and yes I think there is still a good number of people that would love them some heritage cruiser.”

    No Ducman, America is a very Liberal country. Gay marriage, immigration reform, 90% supporting background checks as a form of gun control, interracial marriage acceptance for a few decades, freedom of religion and freedom from religion, support for a single payer health system, civil rights, Paula Dean’s empire cratering after racist comments…..the list goes on.

    The only people who lie to themselves that America is a conservative country are the same people who are slaves to FOX News and were so convinced that Romney was going to win in November 2012. Do Americans support traditions? Yes. Are we a deeply conservative country? Ask President Romney and Reince Preibus how things are going.


    As for the Harley critics, we simply point out that HD is the Scientology of motorcycling.

  • Variable

    Tom, we’re talking about motorcycles here, not progressive vs conservative agendas in America, k thanks.

  • Tom


    No, ducman wanted to inject his politics, which you obviously agree with, into this discussion. Complain to him. K thanks.

  • “Scientology of motorcycling” I might have to steal that one Tom.

  • Variable

    So wait, you mention Paula Dean, Fox News, Mitt Romney, Reince Preibus, and the 2012 elections, in a discussion about motorcycles? Then try to bring MY politic views into it? Wow, you’re considerably more delusional than I thought.

  • Joey Wilson

    One thing I have not seen any figures on, and which I think would be a fair barometer, is how many dealers have Polaris/Indian signed up, what is Polaris/Indian requiring of them (say, will they be required to build moto-Parthenon sized dealerships for Indian ala H-D, or will they simply be one more line in so many of the multi-line dealerships, or what?), and IF P/I is truly in giant-killing mode, are they in for the long haul with the money and resources it will truly require?

    While I truly respect H-D as a business, they’re not my cup of tea, and I have always felt about them the oft-repeated line vis-a-vis some of General Motors’ more ‘mature’ brands: After their core demographic ages, how do you get a younger demographic swapped in to keep volume up, knowing full well it may be a hard sell to get them hot and bothered about those cars (or motorcycles in this case) that their parents drove?

  • Tom

    Jensen, take it and run with it. You’re in a position to make the accurate analogy stick. HD doesn’t sell motorcycles. It sells an identity to people who do not have one of their own.

  • Joey Wilson, to answer your question, how to get the younger ones “into the fold”? I remember watching an old Guy Lombardo New Years show, one of his last, before he died. He was asked, “How does your music survive? The “rock n roll generation”, scorns you and when the “World War II generation” and slightly afterward, dies out, you’ll be left with old music that no one listens too.” He laughts, and said, “I don’t worry. Eventually, they come to me.” He explained that people’s tastes change, with age, saying that they will always like their rock n roll, but that, in time, they will slow down a bit, with age and will enjoy his kind of music as well. He closed by saying, again, “I don’t have to worry, I’ll be just fine, eventually, they come to me.” Quite true, as we age, we change, whether we like to admit it or not. For example, my girl friend’s son rode sportbikes and then metric cruisers, from his teens up through his 20s. When he hit 30, something changed, he showed up with a H-D Street Glide on day, had traided his metric cruiser in on it. I asked him, “Why the change” I thought you were more the sportbike/metric, new/high tech type, not the old/nostalgic and antiquated air-cooled, push rod, “V-twin guy?” He said, “You know, times change and we do too. I just finally have gotten to the point, that I like the “layed back, easy H-D ride. I have finally learned what you’ve been telling me, since I’ve know you — “It ain’t about how fast you can get from point A to point B, it’s about the ride, itself.” Enjoying it, the freedom, the wind in your face. Like that shirt, that you wear sometime says, “If I have to explain it, you wouldn’t understand.” I finally “understand it!” Harley-Davidson will be just fine and will continue to rule their market — like Guy Lombardo said, “I don’t worry, eventually, they come to me.” This isn’t to say that ALL riders will eventually “come to” Harley-Davidson, but like my girl friend’s son, enough of them will, keeping H-D in customers and the H-D “Faithfuls” well stocked, into the future.

    I, like allot of older riders, I’m getting to the point where the old legs are having difficulty holding up the big H-D cruiser/touring bikes. My next move, one that is growing in popularity, as we age, but still want to be “in the wind”, will be the H-D Tri-Glide trike. Harley-Davidson has, to my knowledgle, been the only company that has pursuited this “aged” market. Honda, with the Goldwing trike, kind of has a foot in the door, but their trikes are conversions, from what I understand, unless I’m wrong, they do not build a dedicated trike. The Indian company, that established itself in Kings Mountain, NC, kind of dabbled at it, built a prototype, but with the Indian Chief, “full-fendered” wheels, it looked just “GOOFY”. It didn’t go over. Victory produced 6 trikes, based on the “Vision”, in I believe, 2011, but again, it didn’t go over very well. There are several companies that specialize in trike conversions, Lehman (sp?) being the most notible, so most crusiers and tourers can be converted, but I’m just surprised that companies like Triumph, Victory, Indian, and others have not pursuited this market, with dedicated, OME production trikes, like H-D has with the Tri-Glide.

    All this being said, I’ve been a Harley guy for as long as I’ve been riding, but if I pass you or you pass me, you’ll get a wave from me. I always get waves back, from fellow Harley riders and most times, from folks on other brands, but I can say that the ones that haven’t returned my waves have been those of brands other than Harley. So, go figure. Thanks for the excellent, well written article.

  • Starmag

    Self-righteous much?

  • Starmag

    self righteous much? was for Tom

  • Hoyt

    @Tom…your listing of Paula Dean might not be an example of a progressive mindset if Paula Dean has changed her ways since the incident occurred . e.g. people can change for the better or get worse or stay the same.

    Anyway, Indian will truly be able to say “check” to HD if they innovate like the original Indian Motocycle company.

    – Indian’s Chief has to be styled much better than the Gilroy Chief which was too tall & lanky compared to the Road King (notice how Polaris’ ad didn’t include the RK because it looks too damn good).

    – The Indian Scout needs to blow away the Sportster in every way, including dropping weight

    – Completely break new ground like the original Indian would have done. For example, build a Sport Tourer or acquire Motus which would make a very convenient nod to Indian’s innovative history. One of Indian’s very innovative bikes during the DuPont-era was the 841, a longitudinal crank v-twin (Motus has a longitudinal v4)

  • crshnbrn

    Sadly there is a lot of reality depicted in the video. Even more sad is the fact that Indian doesn’t have a 100th anniversary medallion of its own to polish.

    I would like to see a modern Chief be Indian’s flagship. The trick is for it to be differentiated enough from Victory’s lineup that it doesn’t just take sales away from Victory. I think the greatest potential for Indian is to offer motorcycles in segments that neither Harley-Davidson or Victory currently have offerings. The 250-350cc segment is hot right now. How about a 250-350cc scrambler? How about a 450cc supermotard? How about a 750-1200cc V-twin street tracker, streetfighter, or cafe?

  • Tom

    Hoyt says….

    “Anyway, Indian will truly be able to say “check” to HD if they innovate like the original Indian Motocycle company.”

    Its stunning the HD chooses to act like their storied racing history never existed. Indian would make a mistake by doing the same. Sure, Indian can go the cruiser route. But, Indian is one of only three American marques that could hope to resurrect a full on-road line of bikes-lifestyle that would have some credibility. There are a lot of people who will not buy a HD no matter what, but an electric Indian sport bike would not carry the same stigma that he HD Scientology cult does.

    As for Dean, I simply include her because even much of my beloved South has rightly turned their backs on her. She may change, but she’ll have to serve penance because not only is the very idea of America itself Liberal….most of the population is Liberal* as well.

    *Liberal does NOT equal Democrat and means different things over time.

  • Dan Starker

    Two words. Plastic Chrome. As long as the metric cruiser industry keeps building their bikes around a price tag they will never be able to compete with Harley Davidson. I own a number of different bikes from some Vintage Japanese race bikes to an MV Agusta F4. When I buy a bike I look for one thing. Quality. Despite what you say about the bike, lifestyle and performance Harleys all have hand finished paint, great chrome work and a great attention to detail. You can think anything you want about the typical Harley owner but 90% of the time your wrong. Good people enjoying good motorcycles. If you think your buying MotoGP performance when you pick up a Japanese sport bike in the showroom your also living the same “lie” that your accusing the Harley guys of. The bike you buy is way watered down to what they run in MotoGP and is also built around a price tag. Not to mention only 1% of riders that buy performance machines like that can even tap half of the performance they are buying even on a track day. So we are all playing dress up. Grow up and go out and ride your machine and have a good time rather than trying to pretend your better than everyone else.

  • Singletrack

    @Dan Starker – a reasonable response with solid points – is this really an online forum ? ;) Yes, we’re all playing dress-up to some degree :)

    Of course the Japanese bikes are built to a price – that’s been their business model since day one. Better performance and reliability at a lower price. It worked for them for 50 years and will continue to work for another 50. HD is an anomaly and sells at a premium because boomers will pay for prestige and quality (perceived or real) even if the performance doesn’t back it up. Some Japanese brands have tried to build a prestige brand, but the dealers can’t pull it off. Remember Royal Star? But I bet there’s a market for HRC exotica – RVF’s; 250cc 6s and the like!

    @RL Lee Why is a trike the last step when getting older? Why not go back to your roots and get a lightweight bike that you can still hold up on a gravel parking lot. All the joy of riding a motorcycle, and arguably much more, is still there on a 250-450cc single or twin.

    If its all about enjoying the ride, a small bike is the answer. If it’s all about being accepted at a cruiser rally, then by all means get a H-D trike.

  • Dan Starker

    @Singletrack Thanks for the reply. I love all bikes including the Japanese ones. The only issue I have with them is they don’t age gracefully like a HD does. They are more reliable for about the first 10 years of their life span but then become problematic. Not quite as bad as a Harley but then you come down to what they start to look like once they start getting some patina on them. Rust, corrosion, peeling chrome and paint clear coat are not very elegant ways to show your age. Due to the construction quality an older Harley if taken care of will age gracefully until it’s time for it’s restoration. The Chrome does not peel off but it develops lots of tiny scratches and patina to it that actually make it look well worn and used. It’s like the piece of solid wood furniture vs the new cheap piece that has a simulated veneer and particle board. When new both look similar. Give it 20 years and the cheap one looks like it needs to be thrown away while the solid wood one has an attractive patina to it. That’s also reflected in the price. Yes the solid table is heavier and more expensive and probably would not go as fast if you put an engine in it. :)

  • Poppymann

    Very good article. I’ve owned Harleys for about 25 years now, but I run with a much younger crowd. What you see now is younger guys building all kinds of bikes in their garages bolstered by websites like ChopCult. These guys will build choppers and cafe racers out of just about any bike and have no qualms riding chopping and wrenching on Japanese models. They also have a love of the Sportster which the goatee and do rag set have always dismissed as a girl’s bike.

  • Sumo

    Maybe Indian will have a chance this time if they don’t involve Lou Terhar. What a failure that was.