Why Harley Revisited

by on September 16, 2006
in Brands

A little farther down this page are my ruminations on a topic that seems to come up fairly often in one of my favorite online motorcycle discussion forums – the question of why one rides a Harley instead of any other brand. It’s interesting to me that the question is – at least as far as I can remember – always posed by a metric rider. It’s never a Harley person asking, “Why do you ride a Yamaha?” I will admit to getting a little annoyed at the fact that this keeps coming up – I think the people asking are usually sincere in their intentions to learn something, but the way the discussion goes usually ends up with at least a little bit of Harley bashing. The angle of the bash is usually monetary – the folks who own metrics claim that there’s no reason to pay extra for a Harley, when metrics are “just as much bike for less money,” as if that were an objective end-all statement. Whether a Honda is just as much bike as a Harley is, of course, in the eye of the beholder.

One of the issues that also comes up during these discussions is the notion of the “Harley Mystique.” New riders have had other people tell them that “there’s a certain mystique” about owning a Harley, but they can’t get any more specific than that. The phrase “If I have to explain it, you wouldn’t understand” gets thrown around, but personally if someone gave me that line I’d demand something more specific. So in my response to the thread this time around, I took on the task of trying to explain the mystique, at least as I personally translate the notion. I’ve owned Yamahas, Hondas and Harleys, and my Sportster is my favorite. The “mystique” is actually what I like best about it, and that mystique comes from the history of the company and the way it has evolved as an icon in popular culture. The bike itself may be more expensive, but it is like owning something that has a unique place in history. The metric bikes I’ve owned were fun, and cheaper, but they did not give *me* that sense of being part of a long tradition. I personally enjoy that feeling, though I know that others feel paying less money or having a bike that’s engineered a little differently is more important. Another aspect I enjoy of HD ownership is the strong owners’ community that HD has built, both locally and nationally. My experience, both personally and anecdotally, with the metric dealers has been that they just don’t do this as well as HD. So, history and community are why I ride a Harley, and I don’t mind paying a little more for those things even though they are intangible.

As for the monetary aspect, let’s put that to rest. Unless you’re paying cash outright, you’re financing your purchase. And HD is currently financing Sportsters for as little as $99 a month. Anyone who is arranging their finances to make a bike a priority will find that’s about as cheap as it gets, and even HD’s smaller 883 engine is bigger and badder than a whole slew of the Hondas, Suzuki’s and Yamahas. (There’s always the 1200 Sportster, too, for $125 a month, if you must.) So assuming you like the looks and the bike fits you, money shouldn’t be the issue. Now granted, that leaves you with lots of other potentially valid reasons for buying a metric, and as long as the bike fits you and you like it, that’s great and you should absolutely choose the bike that best communicates the freedom and magic of riding on two wheels. If that’s not an HD for you, so be it – but quit harping about the cost, because that argument just doesn’t float.

Here’s the real bottom line. No one cares what you ride. Buy the bike that fits you and makes you feel great. But don’t accuse Harley owners of being the snobs, because in my experience it’s been the metric owners who make the snide comments and put people down for the brand they’ve chosen. Shame on them.

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