The word legend exudes a sort of mystery and awe when we think about the verbal accounts of people, places and things. According to the Merriam Webster dictionary the word legend is a story retold through time that is popularly regarded as history but is not verified. Unlike some folk lore stories that are passed down from generation to generation, the living legends within the motorcycle culture are real, well known and rich with facts, and if you ask anyone who rides a motorcycle they will tell you that these living legends are not lore and they are primarily responsible for how the world of motorcycles and the motorcycle culture has blossomed into the lifestyle that millions live every day.
The first living legend is the Harley Davidson motorcycle itself. The Harley motorcycle is more than a two-wheeled transportation vehicle; it is a proud symbol of American engineering, design and craftsmanship. Since 1903 the Harley Davidson Motorcycle Company has been the leader in both popularity and engineering in the motorcycle industry worldwide, and ever since 1914 when the first V-Twin engine was produced, this one of a kind engine has been often duplicated in look but never surpassed in engineering, or quality.
The rich heritage of the Harley Davidson extends far beyond building their motorcycles for the general public, because in times of war they devoted an entire division to developing hardworking and dependable service motorcycles for use by the military in WWI and WWII, as well as local police departments, State police and municipal service. In 1908 the Detroit police department took possession of the first Harley Davidson police motorcycle and within a few short years Harley Davidson was delivering their motorcycles to hundreds of police departments and law enforcement agencies across the Untied States.
As the American public saw these beautiful Military and police motorcycles in action, on newsreels, and read about them in their local newspapers, a deep desire and hunger to be the proud owner of these one of a kind American motorcycles was not only patriotic, but the desire to experience the freedom, excitement and wonder of the open roads atop a Harley Davidson motorcycle was so great that it was almost like a silent calling that beckoned the masses saying “come ride me and experience a freedom you have never known before!”
The Harley Davidson Motorcycle found its way into competitive racing, motorsports entertainment, and stuntmen performing at traveling sideshows, carnival’s and the Ringling Bros & Barnum and Bailey circus even had a motorcycle attraction called the “Globe of Death” that drew large crowds to see their death defying act.
As the years went by the Harley Davidson name was synonymous with quality, craftsmanship and the proud symbol of hardworking Americans. Maybe this is one of the reasons that made the Harley Davidson motorcycle the most sought after motorcycle around the world. There are defiantly many reasons why the Harley is so popular; in the early years the cost of a Harley was substantially less expensive than an automobile, and in later years when gas prices skyrocketed riding a motorcycle was a financially responsible means of transportation, but without a doubt, there is nothing like the sound, feel and freedom of riding a Harley, and that is why so many people will ride nothing less.
During the late 1940’s and early 1950’s the Harley Davidson motorcycle also earned itself the reputation of not only a hard working military and law enforcement service vehicle, but with so many young men riding them with their stylish leather jackets, slick hair, and badboy attitude, the Harley was now also considered a rebel to those with a more conservative outlook on life. Hollywood filmmakers depicted this rebel attitude in the 1953 movie “The Wild One” staring Marlon Brando, and Lee Marvin. In retrospect the antics of this motorcycle gang are mostly tame, but during the 1950’s such behavior was considered out of control during these mostly conservative years in America and around the world. But even so, that rebel attitude fueled the ever-growing popularity of the Harley Davidson motorcycle.
This new breed of freedom and adventure seekers rapidly grew into groups and enthusiasts around the world and soon local groups and clubs sprung up all across the U.S. One of the largest groups is the Harley Davidson Owners Group, or HOG, as it is commonly known. In the early days, these groups primarily consisted of working class Americans who worked hard all day and played as equally hard at night, the weekends and when ever they could find the time. There were motorcycle events happening that local promoters developed to help this new class of people gather, have fun and discuss ideas and issues, all the while reinforcing this newly created culture of man and machine.
Over the years the Harley Davidson has had some ups and downs, mainly due to economic strife that not only hindered Harley Davidson, but also plagued America in general. A few financial set backs could not break the honest hard working spirit of the Harley Davidson Motorcycle Company, and when hard times came knocking on the door of Harley Davidson, the company simply tightened it’s corporate belt and kept doing what they had been doing from the very start; building the finest American motorcycles for the hard working people who demanded only the best.
As social perceptions began to shift, it wasn’t long until the mystique of the Harley motorcycle and being in the wind attracted people from all walks of life. Look around at your local bike show and you are sure to see doctors, lawyers, and many other professional types mingling with the crowd who have discovered the freedom from getting on the road and experiencing life riding a Harley.
Over 108 years later the Harley Davidson is still vibrantly alive and regarded as the leader of motorcycle technology worldwide. Many other manufactures have spent millions and millions of dollars in research and development to design a motorcycle that looks, sounds and rides like a Harley in an effort to capture a market share of people who want to ride a low, sleek and classy V-Twin motorcycle that has that unique engine rumble of a Harley, and while they continue, nothing matches the quality, design and engineering of an American made Harley Davidson motorcycle, while this original legend lives on…