There are many reasons to own a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, these include: they’re having a mid-life crisis, they’re cool, they’re a quality and reliable motorcycle, they’re fun to ride, they hold their value better than other motorcycles , spare parts are even easier to find (thanks to the internet), you can increase your popularity with your peers and improve your social life since you can meet other Harley enthusiasts in a Harley club like you can find in the USA is and abroad.
So let’s take a look at American motorcycle legend Harley. Where does Harley Davidson come from? Harley Davidson began in Milwaukee, USA in 1903 when Bill Harley and Arthur Walter built a single cylinder motorcycle that ran on gasoline and was originally built as a racing bike. This new bike was described as reliable and its looks were new but popular. It was built in a wooden barn that Arthur’s father had built. The popularity of the bikes was evident in their sales figures as they went from a modest sale in 1903 to a gratifying 11 in 1905 and an impressive 154 in 1908, marking the start of their company.
The company grew quickly so they moved to a purpose built stone factory to house their 20 employees. The Harley Davidson logo as we know it today as a bar and sign began in 1910. In 1912, as sales of their motorcycles increased through an estimated 200 dealerships across the United States, they began building a new six-story factory and beginning their export industry with a first sale after Japan.
World War I was good for Harley Davidson’s business as they produced around 15,000 motorcycles for the war effort, taking the number of Harley Davidson dealerships to 2,000 by 1917 and the motorcycle factory was said to be the largest in the world.
In 1917, one-third of all Harley Davidsons were sent overseas to the US military to fulfill their patriotic call and help with the war effort. The following year, about half of the motorcycles produced were sold to the US military. In the end, about 20,000 motorcycles were used in the war, most of them Harleys.
By 1918, Harley Davidson was the largest motorcycle factory in the world with nearly 2,000 dealers worldwide. This infrastructure and the popularity of the motorcycles put the company in a good position to weather the introduction of the Model T from Ford, whose new production line saw a drop in car prices and even the Great Depression.
1928 saw some impressive changes to the Harley’s specifications, namely its top speed now exceeded 85 miles per hour thanks to the addition of a twin cam engine and front brakes. The 1930s saw the launch of the largest Harley Davidson with a massive 1340cc engine and the Knucklehead, which eventually surpassed its greatest rival, the Indian.
The war was once again good for Harley Davidson’s business as the company discontinued production of its civilian models in favor of those destined for World War II. In 1947 Harley Davidson’s most popular model, the Panhead, was released. Two years later, hydraulic front brakes were added to the Hydra Glide Harley models. The 1940’s were a difficult time for Harley as Triumph’s market share was 40%.
In 1957 Harley released their Sportster model and it was very popular as it was the fastest model they had released at the time. In 1969 there was a merger with the company American Machine & Foundry (AMF). This was a difficult time for the company as the merger reduced the quality of their bikes, causing the reputation of the 1970 Super Glide and SLCR Café Racer to suffer. Harley responded to its negative reputation by buying out its partners in 1981, releasing its new Evolution engine in 1984 and the Cruiser model in 1971.
In 1980 the FLT model was launched and in 1983 the Harley Owners Group (HOG) was born. This club is the largest factory sponsored motorcycle club in the world and in 2000 club membership exceeded 50,000. In 1984 the now legendary Soft Tail model came onto the market. In 1987, Harley Davidson was listed on the New York Stock Exchange.
In the 1990s, Haley Davidson rolled out its new Fat Boy design and build of a new, state-of-the-art paint facility. In 2001, fuel injection became available on the Soft Tail model. In the early 2000’s Harley’s market share rose to 62%, so this number suggests that it was and continues to be a very popular American Motorcycle brand. So if you don’t already own a Harley, you now know at least part of the story behind the legend.