While I’ll forever adore my Yamahas… If I’m to be honest, I’ve always felt that the moto marque that best exemplified a
feeling of family amongst those who rode them was HarleyDavidson. Even during the 90’s when their riders dramatically
morphed. I would bust my old skool H-D riding/wrenching friends that now they had to share their Harley pride with
accountants and lawyers. Back then, affluent consumers were buying Harleys I suppose to get some street cred. It was
a perfect storm of high demand for the brand, low inventory and buyers who could afford to pay top dollar. But I digress,
when I received the book The Harley-Davidson Story: Tales from the Archives to review, my first thought was that family
feeling H-D imbues so I chose to read it with my son Nicholas who I often ride with. (see pic).
Author Aaron Frank’s chapters are concise, on-point and filled with large, detailed photos as well as highly interesting historical
info. Nick found it cool that each chapter was based on exhibits and archives found in the HarleyDavidson Museum in Milwaukee,
which features many contributions from customers. The museum was built in such a way that each visitor can explore a variety of
paths thereby obtaining their own unique experience. I think that’s what I love most about the brand and why I envy that family vibe they have cultivated– It’s all about their connection to and consideration for their customers.
Whether you are a fan of history, business, or motorcycles you will dig this book. It’s essentially a series of concise
and significant H-D moments that combine to make one captivating story. Personally, I learned some things I did
not know, like the positives from the early 70’s when Harley merged with bowling kingpins (pun intended) AMF. Many
regard this period as the company’s worst with substandard, incomplete bikes coming off the production line, etc… What
I did not realize though was the influence third generation Director of Styling Willie G. Davidson displayed during that
time. Hired in 1963, Willie G. was the first person to really focus on design in conjunction with function versus design being an
afterthought of function. He created some of the most iconic H-D motorcycles during the 70’s that laid the foundation for
the vibrant future the motor company experienced after he and twelve other execs bought it back in 1981.
This book will effortlessly take you on the rollercoaster ride that is H-D’s history. The Depression of course brought
hardship but conversely government contracts during wartime were lifesavers for the brand. These ups and downs
were weathered thankfully by their having an eye on the future and an eye on customers’ needs. That customer
connection is at the core of that family vibe. It transcends peoples’ careers and whatever else defines them. Remember
those accountants and lawyers I mentioned?… This moto-bond is very much a Harley-Davidson thing.
Their history is filled with innovation and insightful solutions to seemingly impossible problems during amazing
highs and terrifying lows. But what really matters is they finished as winners. This book therefore to me,
captures the American spirit in the absolute best of ways.
Something I did not know (and am ashamed to admit being a devout fan of MotoGP road racing) is the winning ways Harley-Davidson had in that international series in both the 250cc and 350cc classes in the mid-70’s. Just search the names Renzo Pasolini or Walter Villa and you’ll see what I mean. Better yet, buy Aaron’s book and always have a piece of cool history at your fingertips. Click https:// www.quartoknows.com/books/9780760360712/The-HarleyDavidson-Story.html to do so.
In keeping with the Harley-Davidson theme of this column I give you this local rider feature– John Gardocki. John hails
from Oak Ridge, NJ and is pictured here with his 1985 HarleyDavidson FLH. He once rode this baby to Sturgis on a solo
ride but can be more frequently found on the backroads of PA and NY where many great, twisty roads lie.
Don’t forget that Ride To Work Day 2019 is going to be held on Monday June 17th. Get to your steel horses and ride!!!