What Is It About Harley-Davidson That Makes Them So Polarizing?

In the Town of Port Jefferson there is a parking lot that has stalls marked for motorcycle only parking. There are a few picnic tables and benches in this area to allow people to sit and hangout. When the weather is nice the lot attracts many motorcycles.

A few months ago I snapped a picture of one of the benches on which someone wrote “Harly’s [sic] Suck.”

Graffiti in town

Do we need to talk about the murder of grammar and spelling here? If you’re going to try to insult someone, I think you should probably try to get your shit straight.

Harley graffiti

While in town yesterday, I saw that another bench has been marked up, this time with “Harly < BMX.”

Again, poor spelling but I have to give them an ‘A’ for consistency.

It got me to thinkin’~

What is it about Harley-Davidson that is so polarizing?

Harley-Davidson seems to be one motorcycle brand that many people are very vocal about their love or dislike of.

There are the die-hard brand loyalists who buy and proudly wear their branded gear, bandannas, t-shirts from dealers afar. Some riders get tattoos of the company logo, have stickers on their cars or trucks and seem to see Harley-Davidson as a facet of the American dream.

And then there are the people who are pretty vocal about hating everything HD stating reasons such as – outdated technology, poor performance and peddling a lifestyle above all else.

I cannot think of another brand of motorcycles that divides people so clearly. But why?


Rachael is the whimsical writer behind the 20+ year old Girlie Motorcycle Blog. As a freelance blogger, she is on a mission to inspire laughter, self-examination, curiosity, and human connection. Girlie Motorcycle Blog can be found on several Best Motorcycle Blog lists.

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63 Responses

  1. Jess says:

    Good question. I ALWAYS ask WHY when someone is so proud of their Harley (or Harly) I think it goes back to group dynamics…you have to believe your group is so much better than everyone else’s or you wouldn’t take any pride in being in that particular group. And, well, it’s hard to be an outlaw when you are riding a BMW or a Suz. 🙂 I mean, who’s going to notice you pass by when they don’t have to hold their hands to their ears and look around ten minutes before you get there????

  2. Mike Halley says:

    The season 13 South Park episode, The F Word, succinctly answers the question. Cartman addresses a gaggle, “Nobody is intimidated, actually. Everyone realizes that people who are so needy for attention they need to dress up and be as loud as possible are you guys and sixteen year old girls.”

  3. Jones in CO says:

    It’s interesting that no one wrote ‘jap bikes suck’ or ‘bmw sux’. That is to say, this brand snobbery is not coming from HD owners, at least not in the neighborhood where this bench exists.

    Some people like to say HD owners are ‘compensating’ for other ‘shortcomings’ in their lives (wink wink). I notice they never make this charge in the presence of HD owners. And frankly, that argument is so tired and cliched that it no longer has any merit. It’s something people with no imagination say to sound smart.

    I took up motorcycling late in life. I needed to find something to do besides watching time go by, waiting. So I decided to become a motorcycle rider. I had a 750 Honda Shadow for a few months before I bought my HD Road King. Why HD and not some Japanese crotch rocket or Italian cafe bike? Because I’m 6’4″ and almost 300 pounds and I wanted a substantial machine. An American machine. As for the HD ‘lifestyle’… I went to Sturgis last summer, but I don’t think I’d go again. I have some HD-themed articles of clothing, but I don’t live in them. I have one tattoo I got in 1976 and no plans for any more. I couldn’t tell you whether I’m a biker, a rider, or a motorcyclist. All I know is, when I’m riding my motorcycle, it’s the best part of that day, or the best day of that week.

    Every motorcycle brand has its own followers. Car and truck guys are the same- Ford vs Chevy vs Dodge. These arguments or rivalries will never be resolved. And they don’t have to be- to each his own. Whoever scratched those words on that bench doesn’t understand that.

    • Fuzzygalore says:

      This a great comment, Jones but this says it all for me:

      “- to each his own. “

    • James says:

      I’ve heard the comment several times that people will not say anything negative about HD riders to their face. Sounds like instead of training for UFC, I should just get a HD and it will make me instantly a top notch fighter. I think it’s typical of most not to criticize anyone to their face about anything. Not for fear of being beaten up. Only a fool reveals his whole heart. People have feelings and it’s more personal to hurt those feelings when their in front of you. HD riders don’t always express their thoughts about everything neither. We’re all like that. We don’t become a powerful God after making a purchase of any kind.

  4. Shybiker says:

    When I started riding (13 years ago), I was attracted to cruisers for their traditional beauty. I had no particular attraction to or hatred of the H-D brand and bought a candy-apple red Kawasaki Vulcan 750.

    Over time, I learned from several unpleasant experiences with Harley riders, that many who ride Harleys do not respect others who ride any other brand, even other cruisers. That unwelcoming attitude refuted the “brotherhood” I was expecting among motorcyclists. While not all Harley riders are exclusionary and elitist, a good number of them are and their lack of friendliness to other riders leaves me cold.

    My negative feeling about the Harley “lifestyle” has nothing to do with the bikes but, rather, the attitude of jerks sitting on top of them.

    • Jones in CO says:

      If you see me ride by on my Harley, I submit that you won’t know a damn thing about me, other than I ride a Harley.

      • Yogibushi says:

        I would agree but in reverse…Meaning….How is it that when I wave at a biker on a Harley and they start to wave at me then don’t when they see my bike is not a harley? Like you, I propose they do not know me yet refuse to wave…I suspect this was his point…
        It is to this silliness this discussion exists…And he is right, many HD riders are cool, but many more cop an attitude of superiority

        Here is my take

        A throw back to WW2 when HD’s got their start..a certain hatred for non American things…Then the biker gangs….It is a type of belonging…for me the curiosity is this..

        For all the boasting of independence, they sure seem cult like in their subjugation to a bike brand…Very co-dependent to my way of seeing things…

        The higher “road” is the principle we all try to follow, “ride to live and live to ride” and respect others with the same heart!!!

        • Blunt says:

          Harley Davidson was started in 1903 not during ww2.

        • Ron Randall says:

          It was before WWII. I was a little kid in the 30’s And my Dad would take us to Salisbury Beach, MA. The bikes would be lined up side by side for about 200 yards. Then it seemed lights and fancy sissy bars were the thing. you would see chrome plated butterfly back rest with a hundred different colored lights on them. The riders all word “kidney belts” Belts about 10 inches high in from and in back. All studded with Rhine Stones (glass) in many colors. The paint jobs were beautiful. I may have only been two or three, but i fell in love with Harley’s, Indians, Excelsiors, etc etc MADE IN AMERICA.
          My first bike was a 46 knuckle head, then a BSA. Bridgestone, OSSA several Hondas, Suzuki’s and finally a GPZ 1100 That I got when I was 65. Back in 2000 It was FAST! But now, I’m in my 80’s and I like to sit up straight. With the Kawasaki I was looking down, and had to hold my head up. Got a pain in the neck……Traded it for an almost new Super Glide Custom. Hey! I have a gold eagle on my sissy bar that says MADE IN USA. that’s one of the reason’s I love my Harley. Check the out. All beautiful fasteners. Stainless steel mirrors. No cheap black plastic. It’s very stable at high speeds. Loves to cruise at 80. Sounds great with my Cobra duals. etc etc etc
          Ron, in Massachusetts.

  5. Trobairitz says:

    I don’t have anything against Harleys (my brother is the sales manager at a Harley shop) but personally they don’t really do much for me. Well, maybe the XR1200, maybe.

    I think part of the Harley hate comes from their logo being so in your face. And by that I mean everywhere. I understand that people are passionate about their bikes but I think in the case of some Harley riders they take it a little over the top.

    I am sure there are some loyal followers of other brands that are over the top, but maybe they just aren’t as many of them or not made as public.

    I have enjoyed the two Suzuki’s I’ve had but you’ll never see me with a Suzuki tattoo or wearing Suzuki gear. They don’t pay me to advertise for them.

  6. Matt says:

    I think it comes down to two things. 1. They only make bikes of a specific style and target group. Every other major manufacturer makes bikes of all riding styles and doesn’t really cultivate a particular image. 2. They are the only major US manufacturer, so I think there is a bit of the pro-USA attitude with many of the riders.

  7. Fuzzygalore says:

    I really want to believe that the public can evolve past feeling superior because they bought or didn’t buy something but… not likely.

  8. Joe C. says:

    Well for one I think Harley owners bring it on themselves with their air of superiority. My friend who rides a vintage BMW K100 often tells a story about riding down Main Street in our hometown when two guys at the side of the road standing next to Harleys feigned kicking his bike over as he passed by. You wouldn’t get that kind of behavior from the rider of any other bike.

    Harley riders are also the only peeps who consistently deny me the “motorcycle wave”. There’s the off chance that the person I’m riding past is a nervous noob, or just didn’t see me, and doesn’t wave. But old guys with weirdbeards and no helmets on Electraglides are the ones who most consistently don’t wave.

    Harleys are also the most expensive bikes on the road (at least until Motus debuts later this year) but they are not the most advanced from a technology or styling standpoint by a long shot. It really is stale technology and styling at a premium price.

    Then there is the matter of the obnoxiously-loud straight pipes that Harley owners seem to love and that have caused numerous moronic politicians to crack down on us…

    Oh and BTW…Harley is “peddling a lifestyle” not “pedaling a lifestyle”. I normally wouldn’t tease you about this, but since you opened your post with a critique of the graffiti artist’s butchered grammar, ya kinda left yourself open for it… 😉

    • Fuzzygalore says:

      😆 Open mouth, insert foot! Good thing I didn’t write it on a bench 😆

      pot kettle black

    • Jones in CO says:

      Quoting your own blog, Joe:

      “I have to admit there is definitely something intoxicatingly sexy about riding a Harley.”


      • Joe C. says:

        And there is! I’m not debating that point at all. The question is why are Harleys so polarizing. They’re polarizing for all the reasons I mentioned.

      • Jeff says:

        Yes there is something sexy about riding a hog..its the point of we need not be hog snobs….and be like..hey buddy glad u riding no matter what it is or better..what brand it is. We,ve heard it a million times..just ride

    • Dennis Parr says:

      I have one thing to say about the “wave”. I have been riding for over 30 years. I have had a Yamaha 650, a Suzuki 800, then went about 15 years with no ride. I recently got back into riding when I purchased a 1993 HD. I give “the wave” to EVERY rider that goes buy….when it is SAFE to do so. I have noticed that many riders, HD included, do the wave while going through an intersection (and shifting through gears), or as you go through a turn, or while you are in slow traffic. All times when you should be PAYING ATTENTION TO WHAT YOU ARE DOING AND HAVE BOTH, REPEAT… B-O-T-H HANDS ON THE HANDLE BARS. I do NOT wave at this time.

      Since starting to ride again 5 months ago, I have seen 2 HD’s, 3 cafe bikes, a dirt bike, and a jap cruiser all dump their bikes on turns, or slam into the car in front of them in traffic, or slip and pop the clutch and jump out into traffic from a stop sign because the idiots took their left hand off the handle bar to do “the wave”. So if you do the wave, and the other guy doesn’t give it back. Don’t think it is an attitude. Look where you are. Was it a safe place to be taking your hand even partially off the handle bar. Come on, use your head and ride safe.

      Let me ask you this. When was the last time you pulled over when a bike (any bike) was pulled over on the side of the road to make sure everything was okay. I do it every time. One time I pulled over, and the old guy on his Goldwing was having a heart attach. Everything looked fine. But I stopped anyway. I have been stopped before and know one ever stopped for me. With my Yamaha, Suzuki, and my HD. Enough with the wave.

      Just ride….and ride safe. Anyone else doesn’t like it…tough. It is about you and the open road. NOT the other guy.

  9. Wow, I think polarizing was the perfect adjective. The brand hype makes me crazy. I’m actually pretty indifferent about HDs. Some are actually quite nice. But I really, REALLY hate loud motorcycles, HD or not. You do tend to encounter the most RUBs on HDs. Rich Urban Bikers who buy an HD because they think it’s cool and never really learn to ride very well. It does make me crazy when it comes up in conversation that I ride a motorcycle and the first question people ask is, “Do you ride a Harley?”

  10. Eric Lange says:

    Kathy, that “So, do you ride a Harley?” question happens to me all the time, too.

    Likewise, when people find out I’m originally from Wisconsin, some of them ask “So do you like cheese?”

    Worldwide, folks are guilty of stereotyping and over-generalizing based on 1% of the information available.

    Time to go now. I’m overdue on cheddar.

    • Glantern says:

      You all should have heard what I was asked while visiting London once. I was at a bar and the group I met was amazed I lived close to NYC because it looked so dangerous after they saw Rumble in the Bronx, a Jackie Chan kung fu click. I was tempted to tell them yes I was the greatest martial artist in NYC. Stereotypes can be really funny when they get ridiculous like that.

      As for my opinion on the polarization of harleys? A lot of people here said it well already. Personally if you are riding whether it is just to starbucks, a 500 mile sunday, days in the dirt or weeks on the road i’m just happy your riding. But if you think that your bike is better then anyone else’s you need to get your head out of your ass and stop being a dick. To each their own and if someone worked hard for that beat up rat bike they should have just as much respect as the guy riding around on a 30k HD or MV Augusta. I have met a lot of riders in my riding career so far and most of them are good people. It’s just the select few ruin it for everyone else.

      But buy the bike you want, smile and enjoy it however you want!

  11. Chad Berger says:

    I have a lot of opinions about various things regarding the Harley “lifestyle”. First off, I own 3 bikes and I put on a pretty respectable amount of miles per year, but I choose the path less followed and prefer dirt to pavement.

    I think the biggest problem that most people have is the noise, there is no excuse for it. The bikes are severely under powered and taking the pipes off of it doesn’t help anything. It sure doesn’t help motorcycling in general, because it won’t be long before there are severe restrictions on noise. There is a big difference between the noise created by performance and just plain noise, I mean I could take the muffler off of a Geo Metro and it would be obnoxious and annoying to anyone around it, but that doesn’t make it fast.

    Another thing is 20 years ago most of the people that owned Harleys were serious enthusiasts. It was hard to get a new Harley back then, I know people that had to wait 2 years to get one. Now, you can drive to your nearest suburban dealer in your mini van a few minutes later you can be a badass hardcore “biker”, complete with the full costume. Of course, even though its your first bike you can’t wear a helmet because then nobody would know who you were when you were revving it up at the stop lights. Now all you need is to shave your head and cut the sleeves off your shirts.

    I have met some seriously cool people that ride Harleys and some of them live and breathe riding. I respect those people regardless of what they ride and because I know they don’t care what I ride, its the fact that I ride that they respect.

    The Harley thing just got infested with posers that ruined it.

    • Doc says:

      No other brand has as many people who criticize it as Harley Davidson, yet they remain the number one cruiser in America and have for many years. As a person who has owned bikes of many brands, including Harley’s I find almost 95% of the criticism unwarranted. The bikes are reliable. All modern makes are reliable. Cruisers IN GENERAL are loud – I’ve hear many Kwasaki Vulcans just as loud as Harley’s. The pipes are arranged that way simply because there’s a demand for it, and the buyers like the sound. Sportbike riders like the high-pitched whine of their bikes. To each his own. Actual stock Harley pipes are not that loud at all, which is what I run on my bikes. The “image” issue is completely separate from the bikes. The same issues run with every single brand. BMW has pervasive branding in it’s riding gear, it’s just a different style than the Harley’s. And if you don’t think Honda has extensive branding in their clothing, you must have never seen a CBR600 rider dressed in so much matching Honda gear for his bike that he looks like a Power Ranger. The argument regarding speed is equally invalid – the bikes are geared for enjoyable riding at n normal, legal back road and highway speeds. That’s what they are designed for, where torque is more important than horsepower for a cruiser. That is true of all cruisers, regardless of make. You can certainly get a stage IV Milwaukee 8 engine on a Road King and last down the highway at 135 mph on your 700+ pound bike – but that is not what they are designed for and most cruisers riders would find that decidedly NOT fun. They are engineered to have a lot of torque for moderately good, not fantastic, acceleration at normal speeds to enjoy the ride – not be in a hurry to get to where you are going. And they do a phenomenal job of that. You can have more fun on a cruiser going 45-50 mph on back roads than you can on a sportbike at 70 mph on the highway. Finally, most critics of the brand fail to acknowledge WHY the bike remains so popular in the first place. Certainly there is some degree of patriotism involved, but at the end of the day the fit, finish, and feel of he bikes far exceeds their competitors. Even the fairings are of significantly better quality. Harley pays excruciating attention to the small details, which simply delivers a much more refined product. My favorite non-Harley cruiser is the Kawasaki Voyager, which costs about 6 grand less than the equivalent Harley – and should. You notice the difference in materials, fit and finish as soon as you sit on the bike. It’s still a very nice bike (and one that I’ve owned) but in no way does it approach the fine detail and quality of the Harley. Period. I ride Harleys for the same reason I drive Mercedes Benz – I like the durability, reliability, service and quality. In the last decade I’ve put 165,000 miles on my Mercedes – with no problems. In the last 5 years I’ve put more than 100,000 miles on my Harleys (2) – with no problems. That’s 69,000 on one and more than 30,000 on the other. It’s enough to simply like a quality product and to ignore the rest of the nonsense. Final note – regarding receiving and giving “waves” on bikes. Who cares?! Seriously! People need to get over it. Harley riders themselves don’t care. That does not make, or not make, you part of some mythical club. Sometimes I wave, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I nod, sometimes I don’t. I ride a clear HOG, and I’m a patched club rider Sometime people wave back, sometimes they don’t. Who gives a damn? It does not make or break my day, and I’ve forgotten about it either way within 2 seconds. Just ride what you like, and what makes you happy. People need to stop trying to base their own sense of happiness or self worth on how they think other people view them. As a trauma surgeon, I can assure you that life is shorter than you think. Just enjoy it in your own way while you can.

  12. Wayne Busch says:

    The graffiti is obviously from kids, hence the comparison – not fair to attribute to HD riders.

    The “this is a real motorcycle, anything else is something less” HD mtyhology is one of the most outstanding branding and marketing strategies ever and I do admire the success of it. They also benefit from an American heritage and legacy.

    Sweeping generalizations are never accurate, there are always numerous exceptions, but I divide riders into 2 main camps – “show” vs. “go”. There are those who like motorcycles and then there are those who like riding.

    “Show” motorcyclists are more into the romance of it all. Bikes are more about form than function. They admire those exotic custom works-of-art show bikes that are virtually unridable. They and their motorcycles are always “on display”. “Watch out for Bikers” is another way of saying “look at me”. They feel safer riding in groups so there’s someone there to help them if they get into trouble – motorcycles are dangerous and you’re quite the brave soul for riding one. Performance is being louder. Handling only comes into play in parking lots. It’s not about speed or riding ability, it’s about the wind in your hair, the sun on your back, and that’s just fine for them.

    “Go” motorcyclist is the camp I fall into. The bike doesn’t matter, it’s how you ride it that counts. The bike is an instrument that responds to your input, each with unique attributes and idiosyncrasies to be explored on or off the road. Performance and handling are gifts to be enjoyed, exploited, and enhanced to suit you. “Go” riders often ride alone, confident in their abilities to master whatever presents, looking for the challenge in every curve, seeking the limits and boundaries of each riding situation. Function trumps form. A little adrenaline never hurts.

    “Show” riders wear “No Fear” t-shirts, flames, and skulls. “Go” riders wear armor, look fear straight in the eye, and smile at it.

    • Shybiker says:

      Brilliant comment. You crystallize what I think and express it with greater lucidity than I could. Bravo.

    • JohnQ says:

      The ability to take a motorcycle through a blind corner at 65 mph makes one a skilled rider. Also a fool and a road hazard. Consider that before condescending judgements concerning other riders.

  13. Glantern says:

    Met a cool old vet on a Harley last night, nice guy!

  14. Kyle says:

    I personally just love the style and anyone in my family that rides loves them too.

  15. Jeff says:

    For me it’s how inconsiderate Harley riders (typically) are. A generalization but it holds true in my experience. I like the bikes, and even considered buying one, and then I encounter another group acting like @ssholes and remind myself I don’t want to be associated with them.

  16. donbcivil says:

    Not sure quite why they’re so polarizing. If I had the means, I’d own 1 or 2 but they are pretty far down on my list. I guess I put the writers of the graffiti you snapped down as people being drama junkies.

    Since I have to be picky, my personal order is:

    Triumph > other Eurobikes > Japanese > Harley

    As for Harley riders, I have as many positive stories as negative. When my Speed3 was crunched up in BC a few years back, a group of Harley riders stopped to see iif I needed help.

    • Donald says:

      I really like the Triumph pedigree/history. The English are crazy about their motor vehicles, they’re just a little different, but the Triumph Speed Triple is a thing of beauty.

  17. MK Moto says:

    hey we’re all bikers, it’s all the same to me 🙂

  18. Donald says:

    Harleys are expensive, overrated, heavy. Might as well drive my car. Just my opinion, I’ve never had a desire to get one, although the 883 isn’t bad.

  19. Jason says:

    As others here have said, I think a lot of it started with the “you ride an HD or you aren’t a real biker” attitude so many Harley riders have. Starting out on a Yamaha I got a lot of comments from HD riders about getting a real bike. Of course, that seemed a little more prevalent back when I was a teenager. Not sure if the situation has changed, or if I just look a little tougher and more grizzled these days. However it starts , those kinds of experiences tend to start vicious circles. They disrespect me, I disrespect them, and on and on it goes. Someone needs to be the bigger person and just decide not to play those games if it is ever going to change.

    Nowadays I’m just happy to ride and treat everyone the same no matter what they ride, and try to ignore the jerks that want to behave differently. The majority of riders I encounter seem to feel the same and besides the occasional bad ass that is too cool to wave, I don’t really run into too much brand discrimination.

    Now I ride a Triumph Rocket III, and I do think that Triumph may dodge the bullet a little, though I didn’t get much guff on my Suzuki Boulevard a couple of years ago either.

  20. Mud Slinger says:

    Simply put, you’re a tool if you wear logos.
    What kind of a person rides an hd wearing a vest and a helmet that both say hd on it?
    A tool.
    You aren’t tough and you don’t intimidate me.
    Nobody cares you’re riding an hd except you.
    So sit there at the red light revving your engine like a 12 year old and think about how much you spent for a brand name…

  21. Rick says:

    I see it this way america is freedom it gives us the choice to buy what we want, Ive been riding for 40 years now and owned them all, I look at 3 things in a motorcycle Reliability affordability and performance, The biggest thing for me is the cost of parts, Because when i have to fix the bike or tear the motor down after 100,000 miles in harleys case about 40 to 70,000 the parts can be expensive even for some euro bikes, After many years of this i myself have found the japanese have been the best at the things i have mentioned,Real harley riders such as the hells angels in the a neighboring town, Could give a hoot what you Ride, Most of the RUB,s you see on the street have harleys, Think their machine is superior to yours,Let them Have that, Now when winter come,s ill ride My DNEPR MT11 all winter snow cold, dec jan feb etc, You dont see no harleys then but in the spring summer i deal with it Ride what you like not what they like, Cause the wind feel,s the same no matter what you ride,let them wave first,

  22. j citizenj says:

    Why I bought a Harley…Dyna super glide

    Oddly I m NOT a slave to fashion…do NOT have to have brand name stuff with ” cache”.

    The LAST thing I am is a snob…people who hange out with me inevitably feel at ease, can be themselves…been told this numerous times.

    Repulsed by posers…can’t stand the candy ass whimps who are in the wannabe a thug club.

    I bought one because most of my life ive been told to be quiet, watch what I say, to whom I say it, speak Not the truth if it makes the company look bad, play nice …even if that means getting your lunch eaten by the corporate bullies. I bought it be cause there IS something in the H.D. images that says Be Loud, Old school is Cool school, f.u. corp types that can’t see your own lies…to your customers, your employees, your families, your selves. Is it a Madison ave cultivated message…if so it sticks better with Harleys than with anyothet bike. Why is that? Maybe because it fits? I dunno.
    But I do know when I fire that Dyna up, hear that “out dated” v-twin chugging n huffing like the 1903 technology it survived from I feel like I’ve pushed back the cube walls, shut the damn email off and the frightened corp screamers out and I can finally …

  23. Sandi says:

    Wow, even the responses are a bit polarizing!
    1) The Wave – wave or don’t wave, it’s your choice. I wave when I see any other two or three wheeler if it is safe to do so. (trikes and can-am included) I don’t check to see if “you” waved back. Maybe you’re not a “waver” – no big deal.
    2) Harley gear – When I rode a Suzuki and a Yamaha and a Kawasaki my biggest gripe to the dealers was that they didn’t have the kind of gear that HD had. The dealerships didn’t have shirts with their logos on them and I always said I would buy them to promote but they never had the good stuff.
    3) Obnoxious pipes – the loudest and most obnoxious pipes I have ever heard are on the BIKERS FOR CHRIST – a local Christian group.
    4) The culture – see #2 If you are in a culture and enjoy it you might want others to know it. Cowboys wear cowboy hats, football fans wear big yellow fingers, HD fans wear HD gear.
    5) Bad boys – wasn’t it just a bunch of crotch rockets in New York that made the news for beating the crap out of a cager??
    6) Ride it like you mean it. I started riding only 10 years ago at the age of 41 and have had a few bikes. A year ago I suffered a back injury and thought I would never ride again. Thanks to my own determination and emotional support from my husband, I got a new bike that fits me, easy to ride, pretty, shiny and did I mention easy to ride? I didn’t put 200 miles on my old bike last year (back injury + heavy bike) and this year I put 7000 miles on my bike. The sight of a big group of bikes is cool but I prefer to ride alone.
    7) Not all HD riders are assholes – even if you have met a few. It’s like saying all Hyundai drivers are assholes because one cut me off this morning.
    8) Ride what you like. My dad rides a V-Strom, father in law rides a Can-Am, husband rides a BMW and I ride a Harley Deluxe. We all ride together and support each others choices. Our diversity brings us together.
    9) I love my bike (and all my previous ones). I love the road. I love the leather.
    10) I’m a nurse first, a woman second and a biker third and proud of it. Keep your sense of humor, don’t be so judgmental of others and keep the shiny side up!

  24. Shybiker says:

    Judging from the number and length of comments, this post is certainly one of your most popular, Fuzzy. The subject is important.

    While many discuss this in private, few talk about it in public — and there’s a reason for that. I once made a casual comment about Harleys on my blog and received repeated brutal responses from an angry reader. Now, I don’t even feel comfortable discussing that in any detail. Tribal loyalty sometimes trumps logic and reason.

  25. Kylie says:

    Can’t believe so many of you missed the point. If Harley’s were aircraft it would be a Boeing 747 which doesn’t leave the ground. The fact is there are essentially two types of rider, those that appreciate what a bike is designed to do, and those that want to draw attention to themselves. Harley riders have to stick together so they don’t become a laughing stock. The agro and attitude we have all experienced comes from the inadequacy of what lies between their legs. I’ll take my Pitts Special (R1) and see what it and I are capable of.

    • Chris says:

      Really? Why does it matter what brand of bike one rides? I have two Harleys, a 96 Softail with 40,000 miles on it and a 06 Sportster with 103,000 miles. I bought the Sportster because I liked the looks and the way it rides. I bought the Softail for similar reasons plus it was a friend’s who bought it new so it had special meaning to me. I did not buy it to draw attention to myself. I think both do what they were designed to do just fine. I have no issue putting miles on them and other than basic maintenance they have hardly been touched. I can ride either all day and all night long and have no issues doing a 500-800 mile day ride, a SS2K, or a week long 4,000+ mile bike trip. And I have quite a few friends who can do the same, some on Harleys and some on other brands.

      I joined the HOG chapter to see what they were all about and made some very good friends there so I stay. I ride with them because they are friends, not because I don’t want to be a laughing stock. I will also gladly ride with anyone who rides any other brand of bike.

      Try judging individuals for who they are, not what they ride or what group you feel they fall in!

    • Doc says:

      Kylie, I can’t believe you missed the pint. The arrogance is not coming from the Harley riders – it’s coming from you and the assumption that somehow people who ride sportbikes at high speed are the “real” bikers. It’s wrong for multiple reasons. For one thing, many, if not most, Harley owners owned sport bikes at one time in their life. The reason is practical – sport bikes are common beginner bikes because they are relatively inexpensive. And all the Harley riders I know who owned sport bikes – and that’s a lot of bikers – rode them just like everyone does; high speed, blowing though intersections, hitting triple digits, etc. And the vast majority just got tired of it. They decided they wanted a long, leisurely, comfortable ride with no strain on the arms, etc. In other words, the scenery, the comfort, and the ride were the point – not how fast you can go or whether you’re scraping a knee. That’s why people go to cruisers. That does not make them or sport biker riders any more or less “bikers” – just different types.

  26. Machine’s don’t polarize people, people do.

  27. Kylie says:

    Your right, it doesn’t matter what brand, respect for all riders is what matters and since the Harley riders proactively reinforce their ethos of ‘f&@$ you all’ then respect is something they will never fully have. When you buy a Harley you buy into this. As for individuals, is there any group of bikers less individual? By the way, what color is your jacket? And why can’t I think ‘arrogant arsehole’ when I nod to a bikie and its not returned? Or when one blasts past me while I’m pushing my now not sleeping baby twins? But this forum isn’t about individuals its about why we love/ hate Harleys. So it’s about generalising and whilst you may not fit it, its about the typical Harley BigBadBruiser stereotype and forementioned ethos which is a big part of the appeal of the brand. So what reflection does that have on the owners, the accountants and lawyers etc that ride them aside from ridiculous? Respect is earned not given. Each to their own sure, but lets face it, its the Harley riders separating themselves from the wider biking fraternity not the other way around.

  28. Goofyfoot says:

    “When you buy a Harley you buy into this. As for individuals, is there any group of bikers less individual?”


  29. Phil says:

    Lol. It is what it is. I ride a Honda, because quite frankly, I’m into “quality” workmanship. But I don’t have to go around bragging about it. It’s enough to know I’ll never break down or hve to stop my bike because it’s too hot. Harley riders will always have a chip on their shoulder, and a “mantra” for everything. If you paid too much for your bike and realize soon after you drive it off the lot that it’s an inferior machine and you got “f@cked”, wouldn’t you want to take it out on the rest of the world?

  30. Johnny Nightrider says:

    Harley’s are expensive because your buying the name and they don’t discount them.You pay MSRP plus the security option,freight,tax,dmv fees,and any extras you want on it.Your paying for steel,aluminum,chrome,and iron.Also any color other than Vivid Black is extra.So you have a $11,799 bike,add tax,DmV,freight,security option,color,California Emissions,ABS id its not on there.So now its $15000 plus out the door.The next owner wants to recoup some of those extras and adds some chrome a pipe,a stage kit.And he is selling his bike for the MSRP he paid plus some more if he feels it should be.So he offers it for $13500 OBO hoping he will get at least the MSRP he paid of $11,799.And it goes up with more costly Harleys.I like Harley’s that air cooled fuel injected and have lots of chrome,color,attitude,some rumble and soul but they keep the old school technology. That is the best technology for a fuel injected,air cooled,wide wheel,ABS brakes with updates and a steel frame with steel swingarm.Yes they have some Bikes that are liquid cooled,have triple disc really good brakes,and a Aluminum frame and some up to date technology.Like the big Touring Bikes,and the V-Rod series,and the new street 750/500 and a couple others.Its just people want the Air cooled Aluminum or Iron heads with the steel frame,swingarm,and twin shocks and other updates like good brakes,wheels,tires and easy to fix or rebuild.For alot less money I can get the top of the line Yamaha sportbike with all the latest technology the R1 or the Yamaha FJR 1300ES with electronic suspension traction control,liquid cooled everything the best.Or the Suzuki Hayabusa with latest technology or the Kawasaki ZX-14 ABS with everything for far less out the door.With really good deals.Or a Honda top of the line touring bike with everything and a 6 cylinder engine or one with a littles less weight or a Honda Valkryie with a 6 cylinder engine and its a power cruiser and will run loops around any Harley all day.THough some people have to have that made in America rumble and shake that has character and soul with enormous torque and I understand I’ve never been on a Japanese Bike with soul.Maybe Character but not that V-twin exhaust sound with the mechanical noises and the shake and rumble that gives it soul and a smile on your face.Ducati’s have their own soul and mechanical noise.I like Japanese sportbikes they are fun and I’ve owned alot.Its just they don’t make me smile as much and give me that mechanical noise rumble character like whats below you has SOUL.I’ve never owned a Harley -Davidson but from the test rides they give me that great Euphoric feeling.I’ve had Euphoric feelings and felt great and excited on a couple Japanes Bikes.THough they have no soul.THeir empty in that department.I think my next bike should be a Big Japanese Sportbike thats comfortable or a Harley Davidson I really like.Even though they cost so much.Thats why the Girls like them and the Outlaw bad boy persona they give off.My friend told me if you own a Harley and go on the HOG rides you will meet someone,a pretty female,and get laid!!!

  31. Peter says:

    It’s not complicated Harleys pull the babes.

  32. BR says:

    Harleys don’t do it for me. However, I think it is funny how “real” Harley riders seem to have a problem with RUBs even though these are the very people keeping the brand alive. I’ve ridden a couple times with some Harley guys and all but one were great. Of course this guy was the loudest in the group and insisted on pointing out that another rider was on a Honda. He told me that I was ok because my Triumph was a “British Harley” – I didn’t take that as a compliment. Anyway, I think the polarization occurs because rude dumbasses are often tolerated or encouraged to maintain the image. I don’t understand the appeal of trying to look like an outlaw and acting like a douche – maybe thats what they mean by “if I have to explain it, you wouldn’t understand.”

  33. Joe D says:

    There are several reasons:
    -Non-Harley cruiser riders – honestly, it’s because some Harley riders look at the Asian “Harley Clones” and laugh because they are riding bikes that are trying to emulate Harleys.. So, those Asian cruiser riders end up hating Harley riders right back. That “some” is a very vocal minority
    -Sport Bike riders – More than Asian cruisers, there’s a big percentage of Herly riders who do not like sport bikes. This is because the perception in the Harley riders mind is that a) they are unsafe riders b) it’s about the ride itself, not how fast you get there. c) they are uncomfortable. Some of this is true – sport bike riders make up a bigger percentage of accidents than cruiser/touring bikes, and I would not recomment taking a Ninja from Chicago to LA.
    –Non-riders – Becasue Harleys are typically louder, and people think Harley bikers are criminals.

  34. William says:

    This is all very silly. I’ve owned ten bikes, the last four Harley Davidsons, and I love the V-twin torque, heaviness of the bike in bad weather and on long rides, the unique comradery that is unique to H-D dealerships and the large biker rallies, the ease with which the bikes can be heavily modified and customized, the extreme quality of the fit and finish, and the ubiquitous service options across the U.S. That being said, I also loved the Kawasaki sport and touring bikes I owned, as well as the Yamahas. I hated one of my two Hondas, not because it was a Honda, but because it had been badly rebuilt by the prior owner. Grow up! Enjoy your own ride. For all of those people complaining about not getting “the wave” when someone passes you – I have news for you. I’m a club rider, fully patched, riding a customized Harley, and many people don’t return the “wave” I give them. The difference is, I don’t give a shit. That’s not a “Harley” thing – it’s just a thing. Sometimes people don’t wave back. Who cares why? Why get butt-hurt over that? I would think you have more important issues in your life. If someone dos not wave back do you know how long I wonder about it – ? Yeah, that’s right. Like – never. Not one more second. And for the record, all of the major brands have people who love their motorcycles. I still think the Kawasaki Voyager is the best bang for the buck touring machine for those on a budget, ad would certainly own one if I could not afford the Hog, which beats the Kawi in fit, finish, and certain features, but at a premium cost. I may buy one anyway just because I like the Kawi. But I have seriously never seen so many people polarized against a great brand as I have seen regarding H-D, and after almost thirty years of owning and riding everything I’ve come to the conclusion that the source of the conflict is not with the H-D riders – it’s with the non-H-D riders who are more hung up on why people love hogs than anything else. I have dozens of buddies who ride hogs (and other brands), drink too much, and generally live life to the fullest. Although they will sometimes tease a non-Hog rider, I’ve never seen one of them seriously get upset over a bike because it’s not a hog. Almost all to a man will complement a good looking, well put together bike regardless of make. So to all the non-Hog riders out there with a problem regarding the allegiance of many bikers to Hogs I would say – get over it! Enjoy your own ride! I hate when I complement a rider on his bike and they say, “I know it’s not a hog, but…” News flash – I didn’t ask. Be proud of it, and never apologize for riding the bike you love. We’ll see you on the road.

  35. Stormy Phillips says:

    Its Rock and Roll, it predates most of the others and has maintained a following who believe keeping things simple is the mark of genius. My Hog….my way! ‘Men are not disturbed by things, but the view they take of things.’ If you don’t like it…that’s Your problem.

  36. Pat says:

    For me personally I hate the Harley brand loyalists because they are contributing to the delinquency of a once great American motorcycle company. I don’t really care what people ride so long as they ride and enjoy themselves. When it comes to Harley though it is really two different stories…before AMF and after AMF. From Harley’s inception they pioneered the Vtwin and typified what it meant to be an American Motorcycle company. Then they fell behind the innovation curve so badly they tried and failed to have the government impose a 40% tariff on imported competitors. The company was sold to AMF(Think bowling balls) and with the exception of the EVO engine they further eroded the quality of the brand until almost going bankrupt. In the 80s the Company was purchased by a descendant of the Davidson’s. They immediately and successfully this time, lobbied the government for a 45% tariff against imported competition. They turned themselves into a marketing behemoth and slightly improved their bikes. To this day Harley’s are less powerful, less reliable and cost more than anything that they compete against. I take issue with the way the company refuses to improve their product and when they couldn’t compete on innovation, power,reliability they resorted to taxation. People who buy the product today are buying a marketing gimmick rather than a product worthy of being called American. There is no way that Harley should be less powerful and less reliable than their competition but yet they are. I REALLY REALLY want to buy one of their bikes but I refuse to be a mindless consumer and buy into marketing hype. Honda/Yamaha/Suzuki all three make a superior product. The price point is not the issue either. If you’re willing to spend 18 grand on a bike you’ll spend another 2 for a Harley if they were worth it which they most certainly are not. Imagine buying any other product that was inferior in every measurable way to it’s competitors…it just doesn’t happen. I’ll close with a quote from Sonny Barger who is a founding member (1957) of the Oakland, California, U.S. chapter of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club: “In terms of pure workmanship, personally I don’t like Harleys. I ride them because I’m in the club, and that’s the image, but if I could I would seriously consider riding a Honda ST1100 or a BMW. We really missed the boat not switching over to the Japanese models when they began building bigger bikes. I’ll usually say “Fuck Harley-Davidson.”

    • Doc says:

      Pat, I must respectfully disagree. HD was the main engine of innovation behind the V-Twin engine and remains a leading innovator of the same today. I’ve owned many different brands of motorcycles and the fit and quality of Harley Davidson’s is unmatched I today’s market. There a reason there are more old Harley’s on the road than any other brand. The quality in the AMF years did suffer, but that was addressed more than 40 years ago now. And trying to compare the speed of a Harley to the speed of a Japanese sportbike is simply not a valid comparison; it’s like comparing my Mercedes to a Trans Am. The Trans Am will win the race everyday, but the Mercedes is a much higher quality vehicle and much more enjoyable for cruising, which is what it is designed for. Hogs are designed for cruising, not racing, and they do it better than anything else on the road. That’s why they are so popular, period. If you don’t want one, fine. Ride something you like. I always tell people the best ride for you is the one you actually ride. But I turn around EVERY SINGLE TIME I walk away from my bike to look at it one more time, and I never did that with my Hondas or Kawasaki’s or Yamaha’s. And as someone who puts about 22,000 miles/year on my motorcycle, I can definitely say the Harleys I’ve owned have been very reliable. I don’t really think twice about getting on and putting 5,000 miles on the bike in a week long trip. And just as importantly, it’s a blast every mile. They are a party on wheels. So ride what you like, but there’s no need to criticize any else’s ride. Be secure in your own choices. I sure as hell am secure in mine.

  37. Kicker says:

    I don’t understand most of these comments, yes I ride a Harley, I don’t wear Harley branded gear or have any tats, i don’t belong to a club I think they are for losers who’s mommy’s didn’t tell them that they loved them enough when they were little, I ride for the joy of riding not to look cool or intimidating, I don’t wave for the same reason I don’t wave at all people when I am driving my car, I believe that Harley Davidson motorcycles are some of the best built and most reliable machines on the road, there fit and finish are second to none and I also like there styling, I would be willing to bet that most of the haters out there don’t own or have never ridden a Harley, I say ride what you like enjoy it and have fun.

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