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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Harley-Davidson: The Art of Custom

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Look, sound and feel. These are the defining traits of the Harley-Davidson brand as told by Willie G. Davidson. The look is characterized by simple designs that highlight the mechanics of the bike. The sound is the familiar loping idle of their V-Twin engines. And the feel is contained in the details such as finishes and riding characteristics that make a Harley feel substantial and sure-footed. More importantly, these traits are used as launching pads for owners to put their own spin on the bike. It is in this culture of customization that the bike becomes more than another mass-produced good, but a part of the owner’s life.

Customization has been ingrained in Harley owners since the very start. From small touches on the very earliest bikes – such as headlights – to fully customized examples seen today, a bike’s design process does not stop at the factory, but begins in the hands of the owner. This needing of expression from owners has driven Harley to offer more products that reflect their tastes and preferences. One way to do this is to offer bikes that display classic design cues from the past. Motorcycles such as the ‘72 and the Softail Slim do just that, reinventing them for a generation that wants to feel connected to a history that they were not a part of. “They want that feeling of something both mechanical and natural,” as Willie G. Davidson describes it. These products are machines that grow with you instead of being disposed of within a year or when the contract expires.

But offering more bikes is just the first step in a customer’s relationship with the brand. After the bike is bought, owners have access to an extensive list of parts and accessories (P&A) to customize their bike. A variety of finishes, parts and equipment are available. The part offerings include things from grips to exhausts and everything in between. Also, dealers have the ability to work with you on a personal level in order to get parts that fit the exact look you're going for. Of course, there are enough chrome items to fill the Bible, but there are also a variety of parts that you’d be surprised to find.

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First Drive: 2012 Harley Night Rod

Shrines are places so hallowed, so respected, that entering into them sends a chill straight up your spine. They become this way by being attached to events that are legendary and seem almost impossible. Indianapolis Motor Speedway is one of these places. For over 100 years, people have challenged the laws of physics to extract even more speed out of the vehicles they raced in. To ride here is to ride along with the many legends that have come before. This weekend, I had a chance to ride in this cathedral of speed as a guest of Harley Davidson.

When one thinks of Harley Davidson, racing is not the first thing to come to mind. However, Harley has a proud past and present in various racing leagues across the country, including its own class in AMA racing for the XR1200. Harley is not just chrome and loud pipes, but a significant part of the racing culture in the U.S. For our trip on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, they chose a bike that can trace its roots back to racing: the newest Harley V-Rod, the Harley Night Rod.

The original V-Rod is not a racer at first glance. It is by all respects a power cruiser. Back in 2001, it was meant to bring the attitude of Harley cruisers into the new millennium. To do this, they started with a brand new, water-cooled motor. And this is where the racing connection is made. The reason is that the motor of the V-Rod was not made specifically for the bike, it was meant for racing in a bespoke superbike. In fact, the motor was even developed with the help of Porsche. However, the racing bike was shelved, so Harley created the V-Rod instead, and as they say, the rest is history. 10 years later, Harley is celebrating the V-rod with two new versions: the Night Rod and the 10th Anniversary edition.

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2011 Harley-Davidson Ford F-150 first shots

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Bullz-Eye is driving and testing a 2011 Harley-Davidson F-150 and we noticed that this truck gets a lot of attention. There is no mistaking the 2011 Harley-Davidson F-150 with the black and orange custom paint job and Harley-Davidson decals visible from just about every angle of this truck. While we're working on the review check out this gallery of the 2011 Harley-Davidson F-150.

  

Harley Davidson to unveil the new XR1200X tonight


When you think of Harley-Davidson, you probably think of cruisers with custom pipes, black leather and biker bars. Harleys are the classic American bike, and tonight the company will unveil its latest, the XR1200X.

The Harley-Davidson XR1200X breaks from contemporary Harley design and embraces the company’s racing roots. The bike is all black, including a blacked-out powertrain and exhaust and black wheels, leaving nothing to polish after a hard day’s ride. The XR1200X is aggressive enough to attract Bubba Blackwell and Seth Enslow, two extreme riders that both pulled off full flips on an early edition of the new Harley.

The XR1200X is being unveiled tonight at 6:30 PM CT in Harley-Davidson’s hometown, Milwaukee. The bike will be available at dealerships later this summer for $11,799.

  

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