How Harley Davidson Lost its “Cool”

Editor’s note: we are pleased to present another article by expert guest blogger, John Wyckoff. He explains why Harley Davidson is no longer “cool” …and profiles the new kind of competition. And how reality TV is fueling the trend.

By John Wyckoff

The famed motorcycle designer, Arlen Ness and I were chatting at a trade show recently. Our subject was what was “cool.” Arlen reminded me that a few decades ago if you had a Harley-Davidson in your garage that alone made you cool. “Not any longer,” he told me. “Now Harley-Davidson is just another bike. They lost their ‘cool’.”

There are new players in the motorcycle “cool” market. Big Dog Motorcycles and American IronHorse are two of the biggest “cool” bike makers. Big Dog Motorcycles have produced over 10,000 bikes and American IronHorse a bit under that. The big question is what’s happening? Why the paradigm shifts?

Here’s what I see. First, the Alpha buyer, those leading edge buyers, got to have the coolest, baddest, biggest…. They don’t want a bike that looks like anyone else’s. They want to stand out in the crowd. Even in a crowd of fellow bikers. They’ve concluded you can’t do that on a stock Harley and even a custom Harley really doesn’t cut it.

An old friend of mine is responsible for most of the growth of American IronHorse. His name is Bob Kay, and he knows more about V-twin motorcycles and their owners than most of the folks at the Harley factory. His company makes bikes that “start where Harley leaves off.” Their engines are bigger, the rear tires wider, the paint unbelievably complex and graphic, with raked forks, polished alloy wheels and a mass of machined billet parts. The prices start where Harley-Davidson leaves off too.

When I visited Big Dog Motorcycles last year and photographed the bikes ready to be shipped to dealers I was impressed by the fact that of the hundreds staged in the shipping area there were NO TWO ALIKE. High tech abounds in both manufacturers. Electronics are state-of-the-art. Teams of artists and dedicated technicians create the one-off paintwork. Both these companies occupy the narrow, top of the pyramid of custom bikes.

Why all the interest? Bike build-offs and custom choppers shown on Discovery and Speed Channel on cable TV have attracted millions of viewers. They show the creation of one-off bikes while the viewer watches. They show the camaraderie and accessibility of the bikers and the creators. They make the viewer want to be a part of this unique world.

The bike shows are like reality TV, only … more real. What you don’t see are the prices. The bikes they produce are in the six-figure range and are more artwork than roadwork.

The “Chopper” is having a rebirth. Why? They’re cool. No, I’m not a chopper guy. I like creature comforts like a suspension system that works on both the front and rear of the bike, a seat that allows me to ride long distances and a riding position that doesn’t cause pain. I’m not alone. American IronHorse, Big Dog Motorcycles and other entrants like Viper, also make a limited number of very comfortable, very high quality, high-performance V-twin bikes.

From a marketing perspective these two companies (and soon several more) are like Ferrari and Lamborghini; high priced, high performance, attention getters. They too are in short supply. Big Dog Motorcycles and American IronHorse tell me they are sold out through the spring of 2005.

Is this concept new? No, it’s not. Baton Advertising Handbook published by Prentice-Hall back in 1950, talks about a success formula by dealing in the fringe area of the mass market with a unique product. That’s what these two companies do and why they are successful. By the way, this book remains my marketing bible.

* * * * *

John Wyckoff, author of The Complete Guide to Profitable Powersports DealershipsJohn Wyckoff is the author of Mind Your Own Business, 2nd Edition: The Complete Guide to Profitable Powersports Dealerships.


John Wyckoff John Wyckoff (now deceased) is the author of Mind Your Own Business, 2nd Edition: The Complete Guide to Profitable Powersports Dealerships. He founded Intersports Fashion West, a wildly successful powersports leather accessories business which he sold to Hein Gericke. In later life he appeared as a frequent speaker and consulted with motorcycle dealership owners on profitability and retailing.

43 Reactions
  1. Your article should be titled, “How Harley lost it’s cool?”(note the question mark). Arlen Ness, of course, thinks Harley has lost it’s cool…He’s a bike builder competing for the same “Alpha” buyer dollars! What else would he say. Arlen’s opinion about cool carries little weight as he produces “custom” motorcycles that mimmick hundreds of other cookie-cutter type bikes. In attempting to devise cool motorcycles, what has resulted are machines that overload our diets with billet and explosions of color. Everyone knows that hardcore riders prefer black. So, next time you glance over and see the Tommy Bahama’s and sandals flying by on that “cool” ride, you may want to re-evaluate your definition of cool.

  2. I completely agree with Gary and so would my husband as well as a NUMBER of friends we have. Harley has absolutely NOT lost its “cool”. They are still the COOLEST bikes out there. NOTHING feels like a harley..especially speaking from a WOMANS perspective. All TRUE HARLEY RIDERS would feel the same and say “IF WE HAVE TO EXPLAIN, YOU WOULDN’T UNDERSTAND”…which is so obviously the case here. I would take our rumbling harley over a “pretty bike” ANY DAY! Guys that are riding the “pretty bikes” absolutely ARE NOT TRUE BIKERS OR HARLEY RIDERS. They are just looking for the attention PERIOD. For TRUE HARLEY RIDERS/BIKERS its not about the attention..its about what YOU FEEL INSIDE.

    • They sold the f’n “lifestyle” not the bike and what the bike can do. I can’t imagine what harley can’t have a different division, and produce modern power bikes to put the imports out of business. When I tiny little country can produce a bike like the Hayabusa, with it’s capabilities, and all we can produce to show the world is a vibrating V-twin fart-maker?? We have lost our pride! Making that much noise without the side effect of great power is nothing more then a charade. Fake thunder

    • Well I don’t think you have any idea what you are talking about. I love Harley Davidson but they have lost it. At one time they were American made now they are mostly foren junk so untill you get your welder out and some mechanical tools and start building a bike of your own you have no reason to say shit

  3. Believe me, I appreciate Arlen Ness’ contribution to the world of custom motorcycles, but what kind of jerk goes around telling other riders their bike isn’t “cool”?

    I’ll tell you:

    It’s precisely the kind of jerk who *loves* taking advantage of these “alpha buyers” self-percieved inadequacies so they’ll spend incredible amounts of money on bikes they feel “make them cool”. News flash, the bike *never* makes the rider “cool”. You either are or you aren’t – and no amount of chrome, horsepower or money will change that…ever!

    Notice, he doesn’t even respect them enough to refer to them as “riders”, to him they are merely “buyers”. FACT: Ness’ marketing program highlights the illusionary inadequacies of “alpha buyers” and efficiently converts them into cold hard cash – then justifies the process by making comments like this in articles like this. The process is called “sucker-ification” and it’s been around a lot longer than Baton’s [sic] 1950 Advertising Handbook.

    [Do I have to point out that if the book were this author’s marketing “bible” that he would know the actual name of it? ] Anyway…

    These “alpha-buyers” who constantly need to one-up other riders to feel “cool”, were never “cool” to begin with…and will never BE cool until they get over it and just enjoy the ride like the rest of us.

    Only a real jerk would say that Harley’s aren’t cool, and only a bigger jerk would actually quote him.

  4. No two Big Dog bikes are alike????
    Say it ain’t so Joe!
    Recently at a local pub, half a dozen rode in and except for different paint schemes and minor differences in the air intakes, they looked EXACTLY alike.

    Alec said it best, “a bike does NOT make you cool, you either got it or you don’t”, and money alone don’t get it!

    And for the record, I’ll take ANY of the Big Dog, Iron Horse, Arlen Ness extended-front end genre bike into the Sierra with my 1200 Sportster and “cool” them off in the shade of my dust…

    On a different note, want to see what “old school” really is? Watch “Wild Angels” with Peter Fonda and Nancy Sinatra from 1963. Definitely a B-movie with no plot, but check out the bikes…no cutaways to dirt bikes. What choppers were before “custom” was accepted jargon.

  5. cool can’t be bought, it’s gotta b built……..harleys, big dogs etc. all represent what’s wrong with the sagging domestic sales. they’re over priced, tacky, and are bought on an impulse by folks who don’t know ‘cool’ from a motorized easter egg. cool is a subjective term, and as a past harley owner, i think the coolest bikes going are a product of low budget choppers being home built with old japanese, and british bikes.

  6. Cool is what you make it; to me cool is riding my old sportster on an empty twisty mountain highway in early spring. Really, is this not what riding is all about….knowing you are having a better time than most? Who cares what you ride. I used to love old Jap bikes as good old angry buddy Dave prefers. However, for some odd reason my old sportster just makes me a happy camper. John, whom I have spoken with personally is simply an analytical writer. He writes what he sees as a trend and states why it is a trend. When John wrote this article, the above mentioned (biker buld-off’s, etc) were huge nationwide and the above two mentioned companies were at their climax. He wroe what he saw and possibly why it was happening. Having been personally involved with one of the above mentioned companies; I love what we build. Is it for me?….no…….but I enjoy making other people feel cool on those mountain roads.

    • A Real Harley Rider

      Hey if a riding a girl’s bike makes you happy then more power to you. A Sportster will always be half a Harley.

      • With the power and handling ALL Harleys have, they are ALL girl bikes. The Sportster is simply a girly girl’s bike.

      • Not sure why everyone calls sportsters a girls bIke .
        Uses the same 74ci power as all the “man” bikes up till the shovel 80 ci was released.

  7. Gary,, Arlein Ness is known by greybeards as the “godfather’ of customs he has been building cool rides fo longer than you been alive. as far as H-D,,,well some of thier rides r cool,I ride a nightster but it is too expensive for those who it is marketed towards, the Rocker is not only the gaudiest ‘thing’ theyve put out, its a lot late for the “chopper” craze. again the X-bones is cool but way out of the price range of the market they ar trying to get at,,,,nuff said H-D is slow at “cool” and expensive

  8. Everyone else can debate what is cool and what is not cool until the cows come home. I personally, couldn’t care less.

    Anyway, I’m going ridin’. Ya comin’?

  9. Cool is one thing. Colorful paint jobs, raked out front ends, and big roaring engines can definitely make you happy and turn peoples heads. The only problem is quality and reliability.

    If you read the Vehicle Reviews for Big Dog Motorcycles at, you will find that peeling off paint and serious electrical and mechanical problems that leave you stranded away from home and keep your bike in the shop more than on the road will not keep you happy for long.

    Harley may be boring and ordinary to some but their quality and reliability has come a long way since the 80’s. I have put 15,000 miles on my 2007 Softail Custom in 11 months, with no problems at all. It has the trouble free Electronic Fuel Injection, a reasonably sized 96 cu in engine which doesn’t get too hot, a six speed transmission that lets me go as fast as I want, and a big comfortable seat that you can sit in all day long.

    And it looks cool in my eyes (with the special Burgundy & Creme / Gold Pearl paint scheme offered only in Jan-Mar 2007, and everything chrome plated). A lot better than the Big Dog owners who are having serious problems with their bikes after only a few hundred miles.

    Like all the previous writers have said, cool is whatever makes you happy.

  10. Interesting that cool is being described.
    2004 Yamaha Roadstar 72,000 miles.

  11. I don’t consider my self a hard core biker, but I do appreciate long rides to the mountains and some of the cool Harleys and custom bikes out there.
    But, you ride what you like, and some times what you can afford, I happen to ride a V star classic, which I love for it’s looks and decent price.
    This bike I believe is one of the best designed and well priced on the market.
    Yes I would like to have a Harley, not a sporster of course, but a Fat boy or a low rider, or I would like to have one of those custom choppers from those TV shows. But, as some of you mentioned above, you ride for the freedom and love of the sport. If you want attention, dress your self like a clown.

  12. You know, even to this day yuppies are still crying about their Harley everytime someone bashes on them. I’m sorry but when all these Harley Hardcore Riders want to talk crap on…well, I don’t know….Jap Scrap, no one blinks an eye! But when someone clowns on Harley those big bad hardcore harley riders cry. I’m sorry, Harley did lose their cool. Plus to me they’re a sell-out company. I went into a Harley dealership just to prove a point because of some info I found out about them.
    After doing some research it’s proven that over 70% of the income Harley makes is off of their accessories and merchandise and not on their bikes. Anytime you see the trademark shield and bar it’s Harley’s. Well, after going into several dealerships I was looking at the merchandise and behold!!!!…..Most, if not all, had “Made in China” on the tags or printed somewhere. Now I don’t know if I like to call that American. And I hate to say this, but although Harley is an American owned and operated company it still has to import parts to make their bike, i.e. the carburators. I’m trying not to bash on Harley but I’m fed up with the crappy attitude of most of the Harley yuppies. I wave but they don’t cause I’m on a Honda and it’s not ‘American’. Well here’s what I think. I own my 2007 Honda Shadow, yup that means I have the title with my name on it, how many Harley owners can say that? I own it because I bought it with the money I saved up while I was in Iraq, yup, fighting for America while the Harley yuppies were here smoking pot and getting drunk. There’s nothing worse than thinking everyday could be your last because that rock might conceal an IED or that person might want to go see allah…etc….I respect any rider because they risk their life getting on two wheels to enjoy life but I get so much crap from Harley riders that I’m starting to lose that respect. I’ve had them tell me not to park my Jap scrap next to their Harley because they don’t want rice spilling on it. Well, with pleasure because I don’t want oil and faulty parts all over my jap scrap scratching it up. The V-Rod was made to keep up with the faster growing crotch rocket craze and most hardcore harley riders disliked it in most of the servays done by harley. The biggest complaint was that it wasn’t the traditional harley look. It put harley in that jap scrap catagory and the V-Rod sales were not what they were hoping it would be. Unfortunately, harley had to swallow it’s pride after the the last bankruptsy issue. They HAD to compete with the jap scrap craze and then they joined teams with the AMA, d’oh! Ride cause you enjoy it, ride with others for safety and commrodary. Join a 1% club for the cool/badass biker image.

  13. I have found over the years that Harley Davidson riders will wave or return a wave more often than not. Riders on all brands of bikes don’t wave, not just those riding Harleys. Maybe they were lost in the zone that riding lets us enter and didn’t see your wave…maybe they’re jerks, but so what? Let them be jerks, we don’t have to let them disturb us.

    I bought my bike new, back in 1983, a 1981 Suzuki GS850G that I have kept looking and running almost as good as it did when it was new. It’s the only bike I’ve owned. Harley riders, and most riders of other brands respect my old Suzuki and me for keeping it looking nice. So what if it was made in Japan? I’m just as proud of my 28 year old bike as anyone riding a new Harley. And I can still beat any Harley in the mountains and canyons except maybe a VRod, and keep up with most new riders on crotch rockets…I didn’t say experienced riders on crotch rockets!

    So Mr. Ness says Harley lost it’s cool? Isn’t there a Victory named after him? I don’t think Victorys look cool…who cares what I think? Who cares what Ness thinks? If you love your bike…@#$% what anyone else thinks…enjoy the ride on whatever you have to ride. RIDING ANY MOTORCYCLE IS FUN! Who cares if you’re cool? BTW, my next bike, which will probably be my last one, is going to be a Harley Davidson Road Glide…why? Because I want one for the rides, not for the COOL!

  14. The proof is in how long a company can survive. HD has been around forever. Unfortunately, the rising star named American Ironhorse just filed bankruptcy. There is no coolness in owning an AI Texas Chopper when the company goes out of business. Same can be said of an Indian. HD has not lost its cool and it never will. However, I would suggest that they cut down on all the “made in China” stuff that Shadow points out. There is something completely un-American about putting a “Made in China” claimer on a product that says HD on it.
    Are you listening HD???

  15. What is “coolness” Preacher? Is coolness owning a sell-out motorcycle or a motorcycle that hasn’t sold-out? So it isn’t cool owning a motorcycle that is going out of business, possibly? Yes, HD has been in business for a long time and since then HD has had it’s fare share of downs, downs and some ups. One bold move that HD has made after filing for bankrptcy is that they lobbied Washington to put an import tariff on jap bikes, from about 4% to 40%. They were being beat at the game because at that time, even till this day, jap bikes made a far better quality bike at a cheaper price. AMF, along with Citibank, also had a part for HD success. They rescued HD when they combined. And now HD has their name in/on everything from dog clothes, beef jerky and barbie dolls. The typical American, when asked, don’t like a company who has to put their name on every single thing out there. It’s proof when OCC came into the picture they started marketing everything! So here’s my point. If American Ironhorse and Indian wish to stay in business they will have to put their name on everything! You have to mainstream now and days, get your name out there. They don’t market cause they still believe in loyalty to the true American and that the only customers who would buy a custom is a true hardtail rider. They don’t believe in putting the American spirit on everything foreign and calling yourself an American company, like umm….HD. Indian and American Ironhorse is in the same spot HD was in years ago, as a matter of fact Indian has gone bankrupt before so its not new to them.

  16. Cool? Quality? The two terms are almost equally elusive. Ride on!

  17. Shadow07, all Harleys are fuel-injected as of 2007, thus they don’t use carburetors, and frankly, the 70% figure reads like a number you pulled out of your ass.

    You also desperately need to educate yourself about the history of Harley Davidson, AMF and Harley haven’t been involved for a very long time. The time they were together hurt Harley more than it helped. Harley also lobbied to have the tariff that was put in place in the ’80s lifted before its 5-year expiration, that was when they reorganized via a bankruptcy buying the company out from under AMF (and they DID NOT lobby for tariff protection in the first place). I could go on……

    I’ve seen some bad-ass rat bikes made from Jap sport bikes, some great choppers built out of old BSAs and Triumphs (which is hardly a new thing), and the classic unmolested Harleys and British cafe bikes of old are cool to anybody who has ever even thought of putting their fists in the wind. However, knock-offs ain’t cool. They’re just knock-offs. You, like a lot of Harley KNOCK-OFF riders, only hate Harley because you know you are riding a KNOCK-OFF of a cool bike.

    BTW Shadow, the title of my 2008 Softail Deluxe has my name on it (along with a conspicuous “NO LIEN”), so that makes at least one….. Perhaps if you worked a little harder and saved a little more you could have the real thing, instead of a knock-off.

    thewolf et al, Arlen Ness has built some really cool bikes (and continues too), but he is employed by a Harley competitor, so his word on what constitutes “cool” does have a paycheck attached to it.

    ‘Tis interesting that an article first published in 2004 has garnered so much interest…….

  18. Well Matthew, nice to know someone else out there is brainwashed by harley’s “All-American” BS. Ok, you got some points under you belt. But let me tell you something. I do have enought money in my bank account to pay cash for a brand new harley. It’s the money I saved up while I was in the two worst countries you can imagine, Iraq and an old Soviet block country. Now, do I want to spend that much money on image? Or, do I want to spend my money on the same damn thing just different name brand, but is still on two wheels? Yeah, I do own a bike, a Honda and it’s not a knock off. What makes it a knock off? Oh, yeah, because it’s a motorcycle. You see, I know some salesmen who used to work for harley and both of them said the same thing, “Harley uses Japanese import parts on their bikes.” I know that the new harley’s don’t use carbs but when they did it was imported from Jap Scrap land. The 70% is not something I pulled out my ass. If you can get a marketing report from harley, it my be more or less, then you can see for yourself. Harley is a marketing guru and that’s how they stay in business. Just walk into their store! I have been to plenty of dealerships to talk bike but seeing as how they feel they don’t need my money then fine…out the door I went and purchased a honda in cash and had money to spend on accessories. You can’t pick something up without it saying, “Made in China” on it. Don’t believe me? Go see for yourself. I never had anything against harley until I got ignored while I was at a dealership. I was looking at buying a 2007 Softail Deluxe, which at that time was my dream bike, but when I stay at the same bike kicking the tires and a group of salemen looks at me as if they’re doing me a favor then see-ya. And yes, I have been to mutiple dealerships prior giving in to honda. Oh yeah, you want a TRUE ALL AMERICAN motorcycle? Buy an American Ironhorse while they’re still made 100% in American parts and all and I’m debating to trade my honda in for an Ironhorse Bandera. So if you want to tell me that I’m pulling shit out my ass then so be it, this is America. Oh yeah, I don’t need to desperately educate myself on harley’s financial issues, I already did, I read plenty of marketing reports about harley. Oh yeah one more thing, when you go head first into the concrete will it matter that it’s a harley? I ride not to be cool but ride to relax and ride cause I can. So to buy a $25,000 cool machine? STUPID. Are you a RUB? The only thing you got going for you is thatas you say, harley’s are cool they’re not knock-offs blah blah blah…just like the same arguments i had with other riders…blahb blah blah. That’s the only garbage I hear from harley riders and nothing else. I got money in my pocket still, it’s got two wheels the wind in my face so what more does anyone need? Why do harley riders get so mad? Can you answer that for me? Just read all the other posts.

  19. Actually, I don’t “buy” that Harley uses only American sourced parts on their bikes, because I know they don’t and nobody at the dealership I bought my bike ever implied they did. Labor and EPA costs being what they are, little that is “made in the U.S.A” at a truly commercial level is actually made entirely in the United States.

    Yeah a lot of the MotorClothes are made in China, especially the leather goods. Since the commercial tanning business was killed by the EPA decades ago it’s practically impossible to find leathers that are made entirely in the U.S. Even those that are end up being prohibitively expensive and rare for any kind of mass retail. As it stands now, Harley’s clothing is quite reasonably priced for its quality, that wouldn’t be true were they to source everything they sell from only American suppliers.

    “The 70% is not something I pulled out my ass. If you can get a marketing report from harley, it my be more or less, then you can see for yourself.”

    In other words, “I really did pull this figure out of my ass on the spot, but maybe I can make you ‘buy it’ by attempting to make you find my proof for me.” Sorry, doesn’t gel. It’s irrelevant anyway.

    “I was looking at buying a 2007 Softail Deluxe, which at that time was my dream bike, but when I stay at the same bike kicking the tires and a group of salemen looks at me as if they’re doing me a favor then see-ya.”

    So because you went to a dealership where the staff were unfriendly jackasses to you, Harley sucks?? Wow, that’s mature and reasonable.

    “Oh yeah, I don’t need to desperately educate myself on harley’s financial issues, I already did, I read plenty of marketing reports about harley.”

    Yet you you still made fundamentally incorrect statements. Interesting.

    “I ride not to be cool but ride to relax and ride cause I can. So to buy a $25,000 cool machine? STUPID.”

    So where does that put you with buying an American IronHorse? Sniff. By the way, they just went bankrupt and were liquidated. There is some question as to whether production will recommence.

    “Are you a RUB?”

    Rube. Insults always have more impact when they are spelled properly.

    “Why do harley riders get so mad? Can you answer that for me? Just read all the other posts.”

    Why are you so angry? Hmmm? It’s justifiable to be a bit miffed when a guy who has made his name and fortune modding Harleys now claims that Harley is no longer “cool” because he’s now making money working for Victory. That really is “selling out.” On the other hand, your rants on this page have shown a level of vitriol and irrationality that simply isn’t displayed by the other posters. If you think Harleys suck so much and Harley riders are “rubs” (sic), why are you so hostile? Why do you care that Harley owners love their motorcycles? Inferiority complex?

  20. This ends my discussion with you. Enjoy your knock-off.

  21. Matthew,
    You know, what kind of research are you doing to prove me wrong? It was a little over a year ago that I found the information over the internet by mistake about harley’s marketing. Now, give or take some numbers I’m not 100% on the EXACT percent but a nice even number that was close to what I remember sounds great too. And if you look at the big picture it only makes sense. You see, harley is the “McDonalds” of motorcycles. They are the most recognized motorcycle company in the world and it only makes sense that they do make more money off merchandise and accessory sales. DUH! You have riders and non-riders and wannabe’s buying up everything harley has their name on and harley puts their name on every freakin thing in every corner of the world. Plus thanks to the 1% clubs that has chapters world wide….it only makes even more sense.

    RUB is spelled correctly, it’s an abbreviation of Rich Urban Biker. So you look even more stupid trying to correct someone who was correct from the get go. It’s not RUBE, where in the hell did you get that word from anyway? And where did I say I think so many harley riders are RUB’s? I said before that I respect all motorcycles and riders. And did I EVER say that harley sucks? What you are not getting is that there are some harley riders who think their shit don’t stink and that it gives them permission to talk shit about other riders who don’t ride a harley. And those who do, like you, has their head so far up harley’s ass you might as well get a spoon and get ready for a shit sandwich dinner. Enjoy, oh by the way, harley might trademark that shit sandwich too.

    Yes, if customer service sucks then I’m not going to wait till some salesmen pulls that head out of that ass I mentioned earlier too give me some attention that is required to buy a damn bike. That’s his damn job, yup, J-O-B! Get it?

    Yup, I still ride to ride and enjoy the freedom and I don’t need too buy a $23,000 machine to do it. But, if I chose to buy a TRUE AMERICAN bike like American Ironhorse because of how much detail you get for the same price of a stock harley, then why the f*ck not. Those are beautiful bikes! And I might as well buy a custom for the same price as a cookie cutter bike if I chose to spend that money. It’s never about looking cool but you do like to stand out of the sea of black and chrome, I know I do.

    I belong to a Veterens riding group, whom I will not disclose because they are not part of this issue, and there are plenty of harley riders. They never talked crap about who has the better bike, we appreciate each other because we all served and now we all ride. Oh, I’ve been on a couple of charity rides where there were some 1%ers who rode in front and back of me and my jap scrap, oh, I drank a beer with them as well. And surprisingly not one of them mentioned my bike being a jap scrap. So now are you going to tell me you are a 1%er too? It’s all about respect, get it?

    What makes my bike a knock-off? Is it because honda has a similar trademarked bar and shield design? No? Ok, is it because we have a similar name for our bikes as harley? No? Ok, is it because we market every f*cking thing out there? No, because OCC has that down packed. Ok, is it because my honda is on two wheels just like harley? Maybe that’s it? So can we call harley a knock-off of the early diamler, otto and roper motorcycles? Diamler found money in cars. Harley never invented the motorcycle, they just ran with the idea when everyone else abandoned it for the car world.

    AMF did bail out harley, they didn’t make a great bike but it gave it enough time for the davidson family to buy the company back and hence the company we have today. Harley came extremly close to bankruptcy until AMF bailed them out. READ! This time Harley wanted to stay in business so they marketed to what we call RUB’s now instead of the poor broke ass true bikers. And to make it worse, harley still had a bad rep for building shitty bikes. There are more blogs and websites with pissed off harley owners. Hmmm…why is that? Harley still builds a sub-par bike that cost a shit load and the maintaince is well, close to what you paid for the bike. Jap scrap still has superior reliablity, oh, Honda America builds the best bike you can possibly own which is the Goldwing. Cool? Yeah, you got a lot of old school bikers who think harley did lose their cool because of their marketing to RUB’s.

    I love my bike as much as harley owners love theirs. Nothing wrong with loving something you bought with your hard earn money. Never once do I start shit with harley riders until they mention something about my jap scrap and then I’ll just ask them questions like, “What’s the difference between a harley and a dog?” My answer, “A dog can get himself in the back of the truck.” How is a dog and a harley alike? They both like riding in the back of the truck. How can you find the nearest harley dealership? Just follow the trail of parts and oil. Did you know that 95% of all harley’s are still on the road? Yup, the other 5% made it home. You’re the one who is angry, look at your last response, “Enjoy your knock-off?” Wow, that’s a true sign of a pissed off harley owner. Have I ever ended my reply’s with anything similar to that? Or did I ever once insulted you? Nope, I was stating things about harley, never one about the owners. But you read all the past replies and you get nothing but harley riders trying to insult jap scrap riders, THERE’S MY POINT ABOUT PISSED OFF HARLEY RIDERS. Including you now. And yes, I insulted harley riders in this post. Awesome. BTW, what do you do as far as income?

  22. Too anyone else reading this post and all other previous posts, if you want to disrespect then fine, disrespect that’s what we fight for. If you are like me and rather ride than comparing apples to oranges then you’re awesome. The meaning of riding is that, riding, not sitting on your bike thinking your the shit cause you have a harley. What matters is that you’re on two wheels. I have a friend who is recovering from an accident, paralyzed temporarely, because some f*ck bag was racing in his truck and clipped his harley. That f*uck bag ran off while my friend laid on the HIGHWAY at 9pm on labor day unable to move face down paralyzed and waiting to get hit by passing motorists until he heard a females voice asking him if he could talk. When I initially visited him in the hospital he told me he was just lying there waiting to die, waiting for a car or truck to run him over cause it was dark and potential drunk drivers on the road. You see, it never should matter what you ride but that you ride, his helmet saved his life, now it’s split in half and the harley was 150ft away from him. It wasn’t a harley that saved his life but GOD and his helmet. It didn’t matter what he was riding, he was on two wheels. You ride what you ride cause you worked for it. There’s no rules to cool.

  23. I rode Japanese bikes for 15 years. They’re great bikes. I have nothing bad to say about them. However, the first thing out of everyone’s mouth when I told them that I had a motorcycle was, “Do you own a Harley? Do you own a Harley? Do you own a Harley?” Finally, 6 years ago I bought a Harley. Sorry Arlan Ness. Harley’s have not lost their cool. Harley OWNS cool. In the general public’s eye, there are other bikes out there, but they’ve never heard of them. They don’t know that Harley’s cost twice as much as the other bikes. In their mind, if you had any knowledge of what cool is, you’d be riding a Harley.

  24. Hey Ed,
    Yeah, I get the same thing. I’ve even had people assume that I rode and harley and they would ask, “What kind of harley do you ride?” Uhhh, a honda. They usually respond with, Sorry. Well, when they find out that I dont care and that I’m proud of what I ride and that i won’t stand down for not riding a harley they usually respect that and then we all start talking about riding, drinking and complaining about all bikers true enemy…cages! So, I guess i’m not cool now? Ride on and ride safe.

  25. Folks, I’ve ridden a few Harleses and can say a few qualified things about them:

    1. COMFORT–Since I broke my tailbone when I was a kid, it’s never been comfortable to sit back on it as you must on ANY Harley. Add to that the fact that your feet are in front of you instead of neutral and beneath you, means ALL your weight is on that area. Not comfy. Harley has never changed this pseudo-gynecological position, and I’d rather not repeat the myriad jokes as to why.

    2. RELIABILITY–I’ve heard the faithful come out in droves to defend Harley’s new-found reliability and quality whenever both are questioned. I can tell you this: I’ve never put as much work into Hondas for non-maintenance-type issues. This is not part of the ‘biker experience,’ it’s poor quality. And it’s inexcusable for something this bloody expensive.

    3. COOL–If your sense of self worth is based on whether you’re riding what a total stranger thinks is a cool bike or not, you’re pretty pathetic. Get a life, enjoy your ride and remember that most folks who say ‘Is your bike a Harley,’ or ‘When are you gonna get a real bike,’ are folks who either don’t ride, or have their Harley in the shop…AGAIN.

    • I own a 2005 Fatboy. I can attest to the reliability, at the very least. My bike has been in the shop a total of 5 times since I’ve owned it. Once to put on new pipes,a brush guard, bars and cables. And once each for a 10-20- and 30,000 mile tune up. My bike has never left me on the side of the road. As for the other comments you made: with the floorboards on my bike, I sit in a very comfortable riding position that is far from the “pseudo-gynecological position” you describe. My sense of self worth comes from God alone and has nothing to do with my bike. Cool? Yeah, I’m pretty cool.I just happen to ride a Harley as well.

  26. ‘an old friend of mine is responsible for American Ironhorse’

    Um, that kind of discredits everything else you say about your friends competition, now doesn’t it.

  27. ZZR, what are you trying to imply with your message? What exactly are you writting about?

  28. Wow, there is a lot of Piss and Vinegar in here… Shadow how long have you served? You sound like a Fricken wet behind the ear leg pissing and moaning because you did not get your way… you are in a Man’s world where the mighty dollar Talks. I don’t care if you are buying a car, boat, bike, quad or so on, money talks. You walk into a dealership with all that tax free money in your hand, you are talking not walking. I find it hard to believe that someone who served in the Sand Box would sit back and let a salesman with head in ass intimidate him. Come on brother, I am sure you took indirect fire over there. Putting up with joe shit the rag man sales douche should be a cake walk compared to that. I ride and 05′ Fatboy SE. and I do all the work on it myself. I could give a shit what you ride as long as it makes you happy. there is no need to get hostile… we can get into it on many levels but this is not what I am about. If you ever find yourself in Yuma AZ. the first drink is on me.

    Semper Fi

    Yuma Dave
    Leader of Marines

  29. Yuma Dave,
    Thanks for the response. First, getting pissed off was far from my intentions here. How many of the harley posts are there where people are pissed off just cause other don’t ride a harley? I wasn’t pissed, what I write and how you read it are two different things. Yeah, walking into a dealership and not getting asked if I need anything is going to turn me away. I’ve had several harley riders say the same thing to me and all they do is get loud with the salesmen. Of course money talks, so I don’t look like I have money? Is that why they didn’t pay attention to me? If I walked into a nice resturant looking like a biker would they assume I’m there to rob them or eat? Why assume and just ask if I need anything. They didn’t know how much money I had and they lost out on business. Call me what you want because you don’t know me. But when I expect service from people who are there to do it then that’s what I expect. And I said that about the service because I wanted to let people know why I didn’t buy the harley, one of my main reasons. I have gotten more trash from harley riders than anti war protesters just because of what i ride. Now why is that? Whatever happen to the brotherhood of bikers? You know what that is about right? You don’t have to belong to a M/C, just have to ride. That’s good you work on your own, lot of guys don’t. I’m not pissed but don’t open your mouth about what I ride if you don’t want me to open my mouth about what you ride. If you met me you would never know that I’m the one posting all of these, if you have a nice harley i would comment. I would never make fun of you because what you ride, many people do and I thought I graduated high school a long time ago. It’s like what you ride is a popularity contest but a bike is never going to give you a rise at my job or get me a better paying job. blah….ride on and keep the rubber side down. RESPECT FOR ALL MILITARY PAST PRESENT AND FUTURE. AND RESEPCT TO THOSE WHO RIDE FOR THOSE WHO CAN NOT, I KNOW I DO.

  30. Lots of comments about “cool” and for me, Ive never really thought of myself as cool, or really cared if anyone else thought I was “cool” or not. But I always thought the coolest people were those who didnt care what anyone else thought, who did things their own way, and just enjoyed being themselves, for me the likes of james Dean, Hendrix, Fonzy, and of course Snoopy with his sunglasses on are what defines cool to me. Bikes for want of another word are always cool, weather you are on the top of the line Harley with more chrome than the silver surfer, or a brand new Fireblade tuned to perfection and covered in sponsor graphics, or even on a “bobber” that has been built by the guy at the end of your road with parts from every, and any bike that will fit, or can be made to fit. Bikes are a way of enjoying yourself, and the road, and as cheesey as it sounds, isnt that what owning a bike is all about? blasting straight lines, hammering the corners, racing with your mates at 1am while everyone else is in bed, or watching TV, spending hours on sunday trying to fit those new bars, or seat, or brake lines, or footpegs, pushing your bike to the nearest garage as you got a puncture! for me personally, just getting up everyday (rain or shine) and walking to my bike ready for the first ride of the day makes me feel great,a nd if I happen to look “cool” to someone ive never met, then so be it! all that mattrers is that I enjoy riding bikes, no matter what they are! ….Just my 2 cents!

  31. Cool is what you make it. If you ride what you ride for others to see, your a chump. I ride a harley,so what. Thats what I like. Steve McQueen rode a Matisse a Triumph and a lot of others and he was one of the coolest. If you ride what you ride because it fits you and you dont care what anyone else thinks then your already cooler than most.

  32. Well I don’t know what’s cool for them as I like Harley more than any and will ride it all my life! Long live the Harley!

  33. Harleys are Baby Boomer Bikes. I hope they both die off soon.

    • Ahhh JC just another in the ‘I can’t afford it’ club so I’ll bash it members. Yeah, we see the same response all the time. You are far from original.
      Long live my 55 Pan
      Ride a mile..wrench awhile..

  34. Just say: It is very cool and ride now! 🙂

  35. It’s now 2015, eleven years later. Both Big Dog and Ironhorse are broke and closed their doors. Harley-Davidson continues to outsell all other brands combined in big displacement (over 800cc) motorcycles for 25 years running.

    Might want to let Arlen Ness know that wishing H-D into a back seat over a decade ago didn’t work. But he probably already knows that.

  36. 12 years,,, my Harleys are 2001 heritage and a 1974 Shovelhead. Both are great and on the road they make me feel cool. The shovel is pride of place and all want to look at her when shes parked. I still enjoy Arlen Ness customs regardless of his comments and Harley will always be the bike of choice,,,,,,for me anyway.