There are many, many reasons people love Harley-Davidson motorcycles so much. I’ve known quite a few enthusiasts over the years because my friend’s father was an airbrush artist, and my dad would go with him to Sturgis and Daytona Beach and help out with the business side of things while my friend’s dad painted––he could paint just about anything, whether the customer wanted a nature scene, a mythical beast, or something meaningful to the customer. I also have friends and family who enjoy riding Harleys, either on the weekends, with a local bike club for special events, or whenever they can get away for a vacation.
Does this sound like the life you envision? Are you looking for a Harley-Davidson dealer near you? If so, there are plenty of models, additional parts, and accessories to help you start living life on two wheels. While many motorcycle brands have come and gone, Harley-Davidson has remained a steadfast part of the American mythos, dealing with various struggles and difficulties with a tough, determined attitude. There’s a lot we can learn from Harley-Davidson when it comes to sticking out the hard times and looking forward to a more hopeful future.
Humble Beginnings Lead to Worldwide Recognition
In the early 1900s, four young men decided that they wanted to make a motorized bicycle. While they didn’t have much capital, they did use what they had to make the first prototype, which would become known as the Harley-Davidson motorcycle. The bike was constructed in a small shed by Harley and the Davidson brothers, who had scrawled “Harley-Davidson” on the door to mark their entry into the market. While it might have seemed like four young adults living in a dream, they were determined to make it work, and they did. More than 100 years later, the Harley-Davidson label is still well-respected and popular. However, that isn’t to say there were not any bumps along the way. In fact, soon after its founding, Harley-Davidson would undergo a financial crisis with the advent of The Great Depression.
One of Two Motorcycle Companies to Survive the Great Depression
When the market crashed in 1929, many people lost their jobs, finances, houses, and even their lives. People were desperate for food, a warm place to stay, and a job to help them survive the incredibly harsh Depression, but many companies could not keep their doors open. Several motorcycle companies went under, partially because motorcycles were (and still are) considered luxury vehicles. With everyone’s money losing value, there wasn’t any extra left over for something like a motorcycle. People were barely surviving, and that meant Harley-Davidson struggled as well. So how did it keep going through the lean years? Who was buying its products?
Part of the reason Harley-Davidson has survived for so long is the company’s adaptability and flexibility when it comes to hard times and ever-shifting consumers’ needs and wants. When the Depression hit, Harley-Davidson may not have been able to remain afloat just by making motorcycles, but it did have the ability to find an alternate revenue stream to prevent a total shutdown. It began making industrial engines in order to keep money coming in and, along with the Indian Motorcycles brand, managed to reach the end of the Depression mostly unscathed.
Industrial engines are most often used in the automotive, construction, agriculture, and mining industries, and since there is such high demand, it makes sense why Harley-Davidson managed to eke out a living during the Depression. It wasn’t smooth sailing, by any stretch of the imagination, but because of this move to provide engines for a variety of industries, the Harley-Davidson company was able to design and produce a three-wheel vehicle in the early 1930s, the Servi-Car, which some might remember as it was in production until the early 1970s. When things get tough, it’s easy to feel like you want to let things go, give up, and throw in the towel, but that’s not what Harley-Davidson did, thank goodness. We still have its incredible bikes because the company was adaptable and found ways to survive what could have been its swan song era.
Harley-Davidson’s Link to Law Enforcement and the Military
I know several individuals who served in the military who are now retired and riding their Harley-Davidson bikes to rallies and other special events. There seems to be a strong bond between the company and military veterans, police officers, and other individuals who have a career in the “protect and serve” group. I didn’t know, however, that there’s a reason the bond is so strong with Harley-Davidson. Not only has Harley-Davidson made motorcycles for policemen from almost the beginning of the company, but it also provided motorcycles for soldiers during World War One.
From the get-go, policemen were interested in buying and using Harley-Davidson motorcycles. The motorcycles were able to get to places that cars simply couldn’t, and of course, they were faster than going on foot or riding a horse. So, Harley-Davidson decided to provide police forces with reliable, fast, high-quality custom builds and continues to do so to this day. In fact, over 3,400 American police departments rely on Harley-Davidson motorcycles.
When World War One started, Harley-Davidson made another pivot and began producing motorcycles for the frontline soldiers, allowing them to travel long distances quickly, dodging attacks and evading capture. When America joined the war in 1917, the military ordered thousands of bikes, which surely helped the company maintain its reputation even during the Great Depression and gave Harley-Davidson enough capital to grow the business. The company repeated this feat when World War Two broke out, building over 90,000 military motorcycles. They even received awards from the military, specifically two Army-Navy “E” awards, which are presented to companies that have used their facilities to provide the military with equipment, vehicles, and other necessities during times of war.
Over 100 Years of Success
Over 100 years later, Harley-Davidson remains highly sought after by collectors, riders, and professionals alike. There is a wide variety of styles and models, as well as Harley-Davidson stores around the world. Plenty of famous individuals like Charlie Hunnam, Ludacris, Pink, Tina Turner, and Bruce Springsteen have had their own Harley-Davidson motorcycle or have been seen promoting the brand at special events. With such a high-profile fanbase, as well as military and law enforcement utilizing its motorcycles, Harley-Davidson has made a name for itself and continues to be the most iconic motorcycle company in the United States. If you’ve ever heard that classic Harley-Davidson sound or seen a bike breeze by you on the highway, you know what it’s like to feel the need for that kind of freedom.
If you’re looking for more Harley-Davidson information or want to learn about the history of the Harley-Davidson company, its museum in Milwaukee is filled to the brim with many collectible bikes, a walk-through of how they build their engines, and activities for kids and adults alike. And, of course, you can always stop by a showroom to drool over the latest models. No matter what happens in the future, it seems as if Harley-Davidson can tough out any storm and is adaptable enough to survive long into the future.