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Damn You William Harley and William Davidson

Since I was a little kid I have been fascinated by motorcycles, and for my money there has always been only one real motor cycle….Harley-Davidson. Maybe it was the bad boy biker thing, maybe it’s the great looking bikes and amazing sound they have always had….who knows….but my motorcycle experiences over the course of my life have centered around obtaining a Harley and then coveting more of them. It’s a funny thing because you can “get into the wind” on a Yamaha or a Kawasaki, and often those brands are more powerful and they’ve learned to mimic the Harley look and sound. The real kicker is that the Japanese bikes tend to cost around half as much as a Harley. So why is it that when I see some guy on a Suzuki “cruiser” I feel like the guy settled for something less and is probably lacking in self respect. He KNOWS he wants a Harley….shit everyone knows the guy wants a Harley.

That is why guys who don’t own Harleys answer questions like “So Bill, I heard you ride a bike?”, with “Yeah got into it a few years back, I don’t have a Harley or nothing, but I get out there once in awhile”.

The thinking goes that a Harley Davidson is to motorcycles what a Ferrari is to sports cars. Yeah the Nissan Z is fast….but let’s face it folks…it just isn’t a real sports car. Or is it? Am I just another victim of clever marketing and a culture that allows us to derive some degree of self-esteem from our material possessions…shit….I’m full of shit. That dude on the Suzuki is having as much fun riding as me and he saved a bundle for a highly reliable, comfortable and powerful ride.

I currently ride an Electraglide Classic, bought it new in ’09 when I decided that my ’94 Heritage was nearing the end….

That’s my bike on a “Suicide Run” we take every year down to New York, the big guy sitting on his bike scowling at me is Al, at the time this photo was taken he was a Mass State Police Trooper and while he is a great friend, he’s really at the heart of my current problem.



I have to admit that when I look this picture of my beautiful bike I feel like a heel. You see, over the past two years I have had a wandering eye. I’m considering doing the unthinkable….

The bike Al is sitting on is not a Harley…it’s a Honda Goldwing. The group Al has formed to ride is pretty equally divided between Harleys and Goldwings, and over the years we have given each other a raft of crap every time there is an incident on one of our many rides. The time one of the Harleys lost a footboard caused the Goldwing folks to cackle as we re-attached the damned footboard….then there was the ride when one of the side panels of Jim’s Goldwing flew off on the highway….as the poor guy was watching a $300 part disintegrate into the pavement the HD riders were fist pumping…ahh sweet vindication. But here’s the truth of it all…the Harley looks, sounds and feels better to ride. The Goldwing is bigger, faster, and more expensive than the Harley. It has heated seats, hand holds and foot boards, and comes with ABS brakes, navigation systems, and for an additional fee an airbag. It has an 1800 cc six cylinder motor and a reverse gear. Plus the bike doesn’t look bad….

The Goldwing is designed to mask it’s mechanical features…there are no wires, air clearers, horns, linkage rods or other mechanical components showing. The Harley, on the other hand, is designed to look like a machine, with its beautiful V-Twin exposed and highly chromed, the exhaust is loud and prominently displayed as are the engine cylinders. But that damned Goldwing with its whisper quiet motor and old man creature comforts is almost constantly on my mind these days. Plus after years of trying…I’ve recently convinced my lovely wife Susan to become a motorcycle mama (she’s taking a bit too seriously and I’m worried that one day she’s gonna get caught up in the moment and get a “Bikers Rule” tattoo on the side of her neck). So here I am, 55 years old and at a crucial cross road….this is a big deal.

Why is it a big deal you ask? Here’s why. At a Patriots tailgate last weekend I told my friend Jack, who is an avid Harley guy and one of the biggest bad asses I know, that my wife really wanted me to get a Goldwing (I never said I wasn’t a coward). His response was quite calm…. “Oh yeah, you buy that F&%$&$@ shitbox Mikey and I’ll light it on fire”. As he went back to his pulled pork sandwich I laughed but then it occurred to me that he means it. My son Cameron had quite a long laugh because he also knows Jack and knows that Jack seldom says things he doesn’t mean. In fact three of the guys at our tailgate are Harley riders and they all started to stare at me kind of funny. I did the only thing any cheating weasel could do….”Yeah, she’s crazy I’ll never get caught dead on one of those shitboxes. Who wants a shot of Jack?”

I have to admit that I’m a shallow individual. My wife and I own four cars and not one of them is American made. We have cars from Japan, Germany and Korea and most recently bought a Honda Ridgeline. For some reason I just can’t make the break to a Japanese motorcycle. I need the comfort, I need the upright seating position and I have this sudden and overwhelming desire to have one of those ginormous white helmets with the microphone ball so I can talk to my wife and truckers all across America. Of course the truckers probably won’t talk to me on a Honda…I think Jack used to be a trucker…..
Don’t get me wrong, I love the way my bike revs when I pull up next to some guy on a Japanese bike. I DO feel superior on a Harley and will probably never make the jump, despite the fact that I’d like to ride cross country and really do enjoy warm hands and feet when I ride, and I would love to load up my iPod song list and my maps. But what the hell will I do with the 200 HD tee shirts I own, the boots, gloves, hats, coffee mugs, dog leashes and all that leather….why did I buy all of that leather? If you know anyone interested in leather chaps, bandanas, vests, jackets or a barely used wallet with a large chain attached to it give me a shout.

I think I have a solution to my problem…I’ll buy TWO new bikes…I’ll get a beautiful Harley Dyna Wide Glide…

and the snappy looking Goldwing. I’ll be a man of both worlds and if I can keep my two worlds separate I can head on out to Utah next year in supreme comfort. I just can’t let Jack know…hell I hope he doesn’t light the Ridgeline on fire next week.

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3 Responses to Damn You William Harley and William Davidson

  1. AaronB says:

    Thank you for a cogent perspective from a side of motorcycling I don’t usually think about. Like you, my riding buddies ride what fits them and makes them smile, which usually means Yam FJRs or BMWs for Iron Butt rides, KLR650s for exploring, 70s Hondas for cheap retro-thrills. A few have bikes that were made by H-D. They ride the brand that makes the bike they like.

    I have my own reason to say, “Damn you, H-D”: I ride a Buell, Harley-engined but orphaned since 2009. I often wonder how many of the folks running around on new Ducatis and Triumphs would have opted for Buells if they’d had the choice.

  2. Mike says:

    Aaron…thanks for the feedback and ride safe.

  3. Scott says:

    Take the bike that makes you happier. (or i should say the one that makes the wife happy) In the end, your goal is to enjoy the ride and freedom that a MC will give you. Why not have a little self enjoyment while you are at it. I have friends on both sides and while I only ride dirt bikes, I don’t think it’s a crime to switch mfg’s. As for me, I would rather put my time into my CJ7. Keep safe and watch out those those drivers that don’t respect the road.

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