Harley-Davidson starts the celebration for its 110th anniversary

The countdown clock had begun at the command of Willie G. Davidson, the grandson of the founders of Harley-Davidson. The year-long party to celebrate the 110th anniversary was officially underway in typical Harley-Davidson style with an appropriate blowout in the heart of Milwaukee and Bullz-Eye was invited to attend. This included the launching of the festivities and a review of the 110th anniversary Harley models and the evolution of this true American icon.

We arrived at the Iron Horse boutique hotel, which offers dream accommodations for bikers. This 5 star hotel resides in a converted 100-year old warehouse and was designed to cater to motorcycle enthusiasts by offering top-notch business services with never-before-seen rider amenities. Loaded with memorabilia and located across the river from the new Harley-Davidson Museum, it served as the perfect home base for enjoying the planned festivities.

At the unveiling of the new anniversary models we saw the new and very eye catching Hard Candy custom paint scenes that we recently saw in the new Seventy-Two Sportster model now available as an expanded option in the Dyna and Softail family of bikes as well. The Street Bob now as been restyled, with awesome factory options, and Harley’s own in-house custom division, CVO, launches a new and very radical Breakout model. The Softail, Dyna and Sportster family of bikes will see the exclusive 110th anniversary editions, with cool, rustic badging included. In the CVO family, models with the 110th package include the Road King, Road Glide and the super top of the line Ultra Classic Electra Glide.


Harley-Davidson CVO Breakout

The next day we were treated to a remarkable factory power-train tour where all the engines are made for every Harley sold world-wide. It’s hard to describe the massive size of this amazing factory, with 750,000 sq feet, equal to 17 football fields, under one roof. Clean, automated and fascinating, the tour is a must-see while in Milwaukee, and the basic tour is free, so you can’t beat that!

Returning downtown we arrived at the remarkable Harley-Davidson Museum, the largest museum in the world devoted to motorcycles. This is the Mecca for any HD enthusiast, from the first HD bike made in a shed to fascinating 3D interactive areas and rider emersion activities. A half day can be spent here easily; it’s that big. You can see a photo of the East Rider Harley in the slideshow above. The museum also featured the “Worn to be Wild” leather jacket exhibit that celebrates the iconic black leather jacket. They had over 50 jackets on display, ranging from rare historical examples pulled from both the HD archives and private collections to those worn by celebrities.

We were able to interview Harley design directors who commented that “freedom, independence and an attitude about life is pretty universal” and that “we want to put a big underline under that with everything we do” throughout the company. “The idea of Harley is universal – it’s not just an American idea.” And they want to bring the experience to everyone. This is also being showcased by Harley on several global “Epic Rides” including ride events to Tibet and through Europe for the next 12 months. They commented “it’s about the individual . . . to live freedom and spread the idea globally . . . each ride of course has its own party!”

We also had the honor of meet with Willie G. Davidson and he commented that “we know how to party with our customers . . . it has a lot to do with loyalty.” He continued, “We work continually on these (parties), this one we started (planning) five years ago . . . we are more internationally focused on our markets and our parties.”

He was quickly ushered away by security to the 10,000 gathered outside. As the huge crowd cheered Willie on with the start of the countdown clock the Harley stunt riders burned 110th in to the museum sidewalk with a massive cloud of smoke. Willie definitely knows how to party, and you can join in or just follow the fun over the next year. Just check the Harley-Davidson website for the Rumble Heard “Round the World.

  

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Harlistas in East LA: Harley-Davidson showcases the new Seventy-Two Sportster

American motorcycle legend Harley-Davidson hosted an event for its latest Sportster model, the “Seventy-Two,” and Bullz-Eye.com was invited to ground zero of Latino motorcycle culture in East LA for the press launch and cultural immersion. The “72,” with its stylistic nod to hi metal flake custom paint and chrome so popular with the Latino low riders of Wittier Blvd., has made this one of Harley’s most splashy and eye-catching Sportster models to date.

Our first stop was the Harley-Davidson dealership in Glendale on the outskirts of downtown LA for a review of the Harley family of motorcycles for 2012 and our first glimpse of the new Seventy-Two model. This strikingly flashy Sportster is sure to get attention at any stoplight but is also within the most reasonably priced group of Harleys. The “72” boasts a hugely attention-getting hi metal flake red paint job, in Hard Candy Big Red Flake, the Evo 1200 cc V- twin, mini ape handle bars and a peanut gas tank. Forward foot controls and a low 28” seat height give laid back rider comfort, and the high torque output (73 pd-ft) in the low/mid RPMs lends the bike to impressive acceleration on the low end of the spectrum. The MSRP is $10,499 for the standard paint, and if you want the Hard Candy Big Red Flake, it has an MSRP of $11,199.

Tipping the scales at a modest 545lbs, this bike feels even lighter than it is, with a chopper fork rake, aluminum head and cylinders, skinny white wall wheels and narrow frame. The Sportster family has always been my favorite, with its nimble design and attractive low price, and it was always the most fun to drive. This is a bike either sex can easily operate with ease, the low un-sprung weight and laid back low seat height making it fun to buzz around in on a whim.

Soon after the showroom tour we were given an informative presentation of the Latino and Harley cultural marriage here in East LA. For more than 50 years, Latin American Harley riders have been proudly calling themselves Harlistas, and we were about to go on an enlightening tour of Los Angeles, with all things Latin and Harley mixed in!

Latino culture has profoundly shaped California and LA in particular, and the Latino culture loves the concept of Harley as it symbolizes freedom, individually and a sense of family – the Harley family. We visited several cultural highlights of East LA, including the LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes, the Chicano murals of Boyle Heights, Candelas Guitars and a stop at Cities Restaurant, complete with authentic Mexican premium tequila tasting, courtesy of paQui Tequila! The food and subsequent tequila shots were delicious, and we boarded the tour bus for the afternoon stops.

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Bullz-Eye Gets Back to Basics with Harley-Davidson

It started, as these things invariably do, with an email from a publicist.

The situation was thus: the fine folks from Harley-Davidson were looking to shine the light on the ’72 Harley, the latest and greatest model from their Dark Custom Line, with an all-expenses-paid trip to Chicago’s Wild Fire Harley-Davidson. Fair enough…except for the fact that I don’t own a motorcycle, it’s been more than ten years since I’ve ridden on a motorcycle, and, given that the ride in question – on the back of my brother-in-law’s bike – was so goddamned terrifying (he turned a corner, my feet dragged on the ground, and I was convinced that both our asses were about to hit the fucking pavement) that I’ve never thought for even so much as a moment about buying a motorcycle.

Ah, but the pitch wasn’t just about motorcycles. Indeed, the phrase used to describe the expedition was “a jam-packed day of ass-kicking and whiskey drinking.” Now, not being much of a scrapper, I can take or leave the former, but when you bring up the latter…? Sir, you have my undivided attention.

And that, my friends, is how I came to get…

Pre-Game

Because of the designated start time on Saturday and the terribly unhelpful flight times from my home base from Norfolk (ORF) to Chicago, it was agreed that the most convenient time for me to arrive into O’Hare would actually be on Friday…and after this was agreed upon, I then begged, pleaded, and ultimately annoyed my hosts into getting me on the earliest possible flight, so as to be in Chicago for as long as possible.

Coming down the escalator, I was met by a driver holding up a card with my name on it, which is an experience that every flier should have at least once in their life. In short order, I had been deposited at the front door of The Drake Hotel, a gorgeous establishment right in the heart of the city, and – to my utter amazement – I was able to check in immediately, go right up to my room, drop off my bags, and hit the streets of Chicago.

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Harley-Davidson Softail Slim Review

Many have claimed that rock is dead, and if recent trends are anything to go by, they may be right. As the Black Keys’ screed against Nickelback last January showed, rock is struggling to reconnect with a generation that has turned to auto-tuned, plastic pop stars for entertainment instead of the thrum of electric guitars. But the main reason why people have turned away from rock has gone unsaid. Rock was always about rebellion, but lost people when the image of rebellion overtook the message. Like rock, motorcycles are a symbol of rebellion in culture gone soft. Also, like rock, they are struggling to reinvent themselves for a new generation after marketing rebellion instead of living it. However, as Harley-Davidson’s Softail Slim shows, rebellion is not dead in the motorcycle marketplace. And if this bike is anything to go by for both rock and motorcycles, the way to reconnect with younger kids may be going back to what made you so popular in the first place.

The Softail Slim is one of two new Dark Custom motorcycles that harkens back to the days of the choppers and bobbers from the 1950s. In the ‘50s, choppers weren’t just something you could buy; they were built with bare hands and bad attitudes as a serious style statement. To bring the Slim in line with this attitude, the bike is finished with a few time-appropriate design cues. But it’s not enough to just make the bike look old and then market it as something badass; the product should actually act out the marketing message. What Harley has done to the Slim to capture that old chopper mindset is to follow up its vintage look with a really raw riding experience.

This first step in bringing the bike in line with its historical inspirations is to get the look right. First, the overall stance is slimmed down to give the bike a more custom look. The fenders are bobbed, turn signals and accessories are slimmed down or removed, a thin solo seat is placed on the bike, and skinnier tires with thick sidewalls are added. Then, a few period correct cues are put on, like the Hollywood handlebars on the bike. Characterized by the crossbeam on the top, and the gentle sweep to bring the bars closer to your hands, the Hollywood bars were originally a Harley-Davidson accessory back in the ‘50s that have been taken out of retirement to give this bike a more vintage feel.

However, like the lead guitar in a band, the center of attention on a Harley has always been the engine. In the Slim, the motor is a 103 cubic inch V-Twin that has had an extra dose of attitude added with a healthy coat of black paint. To highlight the vintage feel, a round air cleaner has been added. Internally, nothing is changed over other Softail models. What this means is that you get the same 79hp and 90lb feet of torque that is on other Softails, such as the Blackline we reviewed last year. But more importantly, this is where that vintage feel starts to shine through. The motor responds to inputs nicely, but along the way it vibrates, shimmies and shakes. It feels natural where other motors feel too refined and clinical. It’s more time machine than engine in that it really brings you back to how older bikes feel.

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Harley-Davidson: The Forgotten Art of the Road Trip

In today’s market, speed rules the conversation. Superbikes, supercars, super(blank) are the center of attention. All marketing materials talk about is going faster and harder. Horsepower, lap times, and what minute difference is going to give one bike an edge is seemingly all we talk about with motorcycles, and what the public sees of us. But beyond the power, speed and fury that few people will use on the street, there is a whole type of riding that goes unnoticed: the road trip.

There used to be a valued segment of the marketplace for “grand tourers.” For cars, these were old Jaguars XK’s and graceful Aston Martins; machines that were built to effortlessly travel long distances with power and grace. As such, they were tuned to deliver a ride that would not rattle every bone in your body to dust. For motorcycles, it has always been the cruiser: Big, bold machines with slow turning engines that produce more torque than power. Many manufactures make bikes built for this segment, but only one has built their reputation on cruisers: Harley-Davidson. On our recent trip to Miami with Harley-Davidson, I discovered the experience of a road trip on a trip from Miami to Key West, and back, in one day.

The U.S. is built for road trips. Our roads are long and flat. Our country is big and wide. Culturally, we have always felt a need to push towards the frontier, and the road trip satisfies that need. It must then be easier to ride long distances than attacking a road course with Red Bull-aided fury since you really are riding in a straight line. But that’s not the case. The experience of a cruise is less technical precision than it is adapting to the little things that get in your way. This is where the difficulty lies.

Take the road itself. Not much attention is paid to it in a car because you don’t feel the differences in the pavement unless you’re in a sports car. On a bike, you feel the difference between where the road has been patched, the seams in the road, gravel, and how it may dip or rise in certain areas, and this all effects how the bike handles. The relationship is much more intense because it changes the way the bike moves.

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