Harley Davidson is probably the most popular and famous motorcycle maker of them all. That comes with good reason as their service and product is continually rated as the best of the best. Every company however has things they don’t want you to know right? Well, Harley Davidson is no different although they handle things a little differently than most other companies.
Harley Davidson is a pretty transparent company. They are not the WWE by any means at all. Pretty much everything you need to know about the company is available with a little research and they don’t go to any lengths to try and hide anything.
Of course there have been things that have happened that they would prefer you forget about, so those could be things they don’t want you to know. They are easily found online but you will never hear the company talking about it in commercials.
Most recently the company refused a warrantee claim for a rider who had ridden more than 2 million miles on his bike. That certainly wasn’t good publicity for them and you’ll learn more about that in a few minutes. There was also a time that Porsche built an engine for Harley Davidson and the fact that they were not always on the top of the motorcycle mountain.
15. Harley made bicycles
Back in the early 1900’s several motorcycle companies tried their hand at making regular old bicycles as well. Harley Davidson was no different but they’d prefer not to think about it. They did this from 1916 until calling it quits in 1921.
The market was quite crowded since every company seemed to be giving it a try. The HD bikes stood out for two reasons: They were very nicely crafted and were maybe the best there was on the market, but they were also the most expensive, leading customers to choose other companies for their bikes.
14. The two-stroke engine came from WWII
HD has long been known for its love of the V-Twin engines but they always secretly had a soft spot for the smaller two-stroke motor. When WWII ended the spoils were divided up between HD and Britain’s BSA. HD got the DKW two-stroke single out of the deal and put it to good use. They prefer that you think they created it though.
Harley Davidson used it to make the Model S 125, The Hummer (which had three horsepower back in 1948), The Hummer 175cc, the Rapido 125 and the Baja 100. In business it really doesn’t matter where success comes from, but the company would really like you to think they invented it themselves.
13. HD built boxer style twin-cylinder motors
Any fan of Harley Davidson knows they are very well known for their V-Twin motors. Not many people though know about the opposed-Twin engine that had cylinders in line with the wheels, that was designed after the British Douglas. It sold very well in other areas of the world but not so much in the USA. The 584cc W Sport was sold between 1919 and 1922.
The company also built an XA 742cc for the Army back in 1942. Only around a thousand were made though because the Army determined they were too expensive to special order.
12. HD has won World Championships in road racing
It was so long ago and there have been so many failures since that time, the company would prefer that you know nothing about when they did have success. After all, when you go from losing to winning, that’s a great story. However, if you go from winning to losing, that’s not as attractive a storyline.
In 1960 they bought a major share of Aermacchi and in 1974 they took over the entire company. The new motorcycles were branded as Harley’s and they won three straight 250cc World Championships from 1974-1976. They also won the 1977 title for the 350cc.
11. Evel Knievel no longer holds their distance record
Every company would love to have their name affiliated with the name of Evel Knievel. He is probably the most famous stuntman in American history and his name is known around the world. At one point he jumped a Harley Davidson 133 feet over fourteen Greyhound buses back in 1975. That was the longest distance an HD bike had ever travelled in the air.
In 2008 Bubba Blackwell took an XR-750 through the air for 157 feet and then in 2010 Seth Enslow flew his XR-1200 an amazing 183 feet. Those are great distances but the names associated with those jumps are nowhere near as famous as Mr. Knievel. The brand would prefer that you tie them to Evel Knievel when thinking about long distance jumps.
10. Porsche made a liquid-cooled V-4 engine for HD
In the mid-70’s Harley Davidson was struggling as a company. They were operating under the umbrella of AMF (American Machine & Foundry) and the parent company was looking for a buyer for HD.
HD was working on a project for a middleweight sport-touring bike called the Nova. Porsche actually made the liquid-cooled V-4 engine for the bike before the project was abandoned. More than nine million dollars had been invested into the project and just the fact that Porsche designed the motor for HD shows you how much trouble they were in. Luckily they were able to survive and continue to give us the great bikes that they do today.
9. HD motorcycles were once manufactured in Japan
The company with deep American roots wasn’t always so loyal to its homeland. Back in the early 1930’s Harley had a licensing deal with Rikuo Internal Combustion Company to make Harley’s in Japan. The name was shortened to Rikuo eventually, but the company made just about 18,000 Harley Davidson motorcycles from 1937 until 1942. Most of them were used by local police departments and Japanese military factions.
Production of the Harley’s didn’t end there though. They continued making them until around 1958. Business is business and HD made a lot of money from that licensing deal. It’s probably not anything you would ever see done in today’s times though.
8. Harley wasn’t always at the top of the market
Harley is known as being the best of the best right now as far as motorcycles go, but it wasn’t always that way. In 1910 HD was producing around 3,000 motorcycles per year while Indian was putting around 6,000 out on the market.
It wasn’t until 1920 that Harley Davidson reached the top of the mountain as far as motorcycle makers goes. It took them a while but it’s an accomplishment that they have not relinquished. They would prefer not to think back to those lean years when there were plenty of times it looked as though the company might go under.
7. 1903 wasn’t the first year of production
William Harley and Arthur Davidson initially began production on their very first motorcycle back in late 1901. It took them nearly two years to complete the project and it was released in 1903. That’s why everyone says that production started in 1903 but that was really when sales started, not production. The pair made two bikes in 1904. Their first year of what might be called mass production was in 1905. That year a whopping eight motorcycles were finished and released to the public.
6. HD built the first inline four-cylinder engine
Harley Davidson wanted to take advantage of the popularity of the four cylinder motorcycle engine back in the mid-sixties. So they created a wooden mock up that was an air cooled, across the frame configuration. However, the company’s marketing department thought that it would be a bust in the United States so they did nothing with it.
It wasn’t long after that when Honda introduced their CB750 Four to a huge customer response. The fact that Honda unveiled it first will be forever known and that is an embarrassment to Harley Davidson. As far as HD is concerned though, it never happened.
5. They like young riders
Harley Davidson has a reputation of being a company that builds motorcycles for bad-asses. Their definition of that is the older, rough looking male. They have had this reputation for as long as anyone can remember. The truth is though, they don’t only cater to the older male, they just want you to think that.
Their advertising has been working for so long they don’t see a need to change it and who can blame them? However, the company does realize that younger males have money too and that’s the bottom line of any business. Just because you might not see them in their commercials, don’t think for a second that HD doesn’t like the younger generation.
4. They were slow out of the gate
When Harley Davidson got into the business they were not a quick starter by any means. While other companies were putting motorcycles out onto the market, Harley and Davidson took two years to get their first one to the public. They doubled that output the next year with two coming to market and it took several years before they caught up with everyone else.
In today’s world the Harley Davidson company is the best of the best and they can put out an amazing number of motorcycles per year. However it took the company several years, almost nineteen in fact, before they would become the top manufacturer in the world.
3. With slowness came less revenue
Since they didn’t turn out a lot of motorcycles at the beginning, Harley Davidson’s revenue was next to nothing at the beginning. With one bike out the first year and only two the next year, other companies were far out earning the small company. Even in 1905 when they put out eight motorcycles they were still far behind the others. Sure they quadrupled their revenue from a couple of years prior but it wasn’t until 1920 that the company was solidified as the best in the world.
Even that almost couldn’t save the company from going under though. Several times over the next one hundred years the company was close to going out of business. Looking at them now you would never know they had days like that.
2. HD denies warranty claim for long time rider
Back in 2014 Marine Corps veteran Dave Zien had a problem with his Harley Davidson. He loves his bike and had ridden it more than 2.5 million miles. That very well may be the highest distance in the world. Either way, while he was going through Dallas his clutch went out.
Since his bike is under unlimited mileage warrantee for seven years he filed a claim like any normal rider would do. Harley however denied the claim because Zien has flags on his bike. They are held by mounts on his bike and the company says that the flags cause drag on the engine and the transmission and those mounts are not HD products.
1. HD found a way around India’s tax
India is the only country in the world that has a 100% tariff on US made motorcycles. Nobody really knows what the reason for this is but it’s in place and Harley Davidson has found a way to get around it. You can’t fault them for that, it’s just good business to try and avoid paying that type of money.
The way around it was they actually built a factory right there in India. This way, anything that rolls off of the assembly line isn’t really an import because it was made right there. That’s pretty smart thinking if you have the business to make it worthwhile. Harley Davidson obviously does.
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