Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Harley Motorcycle Rant

This blog is about bicycling and, for the most part, it is positive and pleasant. It is occasionally even funny. Today, however, is neither positive or pleasant.

In addition to riding my bicycle, I also ride a motorcycle. I love riding it. It is honestly hard to know which I enjoy riding to work more, my bike or motorcycle. There are lots of similarities and, of course, huge differences. The point to be taken, however, is that I like motorcycles. I not only have nothing against them as machines and transportation, I really, genuinely like them. In fact, I like almost all kinds of motorcyles - I like vintage bikes, I like "naked" bikes, cafe racer bikes, crotch rockets, multi-purpose bikes, sport touring bikes and even some of those huge highway haulers. What I don't like is Harleys. And yes, I realize those are fighting words, but let me clarify.

First of all, I get that there are motorcycle gangs that ride Harleys and you have to give those guys credit for living the life. I don't have a beef with those guys because they really are as bad-ass as they like to look. Also, they use their Harleys for the intended purpose, which is traveling in mostly straight lines between bars, saloons and other related activities. If they want to have viking-style horns on their skull caps and loud pipes, well, I just dare you to tell them they are making a spectacle of themselves. At least it is authentic.

What I hate are Harleys ridden by poseurs and unskilled riders. Oh, I also hate the obnoxiously loud pipes on almost all Harleys, because they serve no purpose except to draw attention to the bike and rider, which I guess is the crux of the matter.

If you think about performance bicycles, the position on the bike is leaning forward and engaged in the active steering and handling of the bike. If you think about performance motorcycles of any variety - racing or touring - similar position, which is leaning forward and actively engaged in handling the machine. I think the same is true of racing cars even. Hell, I even ask my kids to lean over their plates at the table instead of lean back so crumbs go spilling down their shirts.

So if you think about good uses of a leaned back position, the list pretty much includes Lazy Boy Recliners, Cruise Ship deck chairs, recumbent bicycles and Harleys. Pretty auspicious company, eh?

So here is my other beef with the world. Most people have the good sense to look at a recumbent bike and think, at best, Hmmmm. But every time someone finds out that I ride a motorcycle, the immediate follow-up question is, "Do you ride a Harley?" My answer is, "No, I like riding motorcycles."

I once traded motorcycles with a guy on a long road trip so he could experience my then Japanese pseudo-cafe racer and I could try his Harley. When I dismounted, I told him that I had come up with a new advertising slogan for Harley - Have twice as much fun on a Harley, because you see everything double! I was bouncing around so much from the unbalanced engine and 1950's vintage suspension (this bike was 1-year old at the time) that I was completely exhausted after less than 100 miles. I am used to riding my motorcycle on trips somewhere between 250 and 400 miles a day and I look forward to the corners. In fact, I thought that was the idea. On the Harley, I dreaded having to dive that pig into corners because the bike was made to sit upright and go straight. I guess that it is so my girlfriend in the assless chaps doesn't spill her Budweiser, but it doesn't make any sense to me as a mode of transportation.

Should dentist and MD's be allowed to dress up like banditos and ride their Harleys on the weekend? Sure, there is no law against being a dumb-ass. But just don't think it is about motorcycles when it is really about posing. And trade-off weekends with your recumbent bike so you can get a work-out riding in your favorite two-wheel position.


  1. You disappointed me on this one. You forgot the chief complaint against Harley riders. At least where I live, the bastards like to buzz cyclists and do things like downshift just as they pass you, etc. Nothing like picking on a guy motoring under his own power who didn't even see/hear you coming up behind him. Couple that with the look-at-me pipes and unnecessary reving, and it's laughable. Douches.

    If any other road users could understand what we endure as cyclists, it would have to be motorcyclists. But these guys are often worse than cars.

    Rant over; thanks for the time.

  2. You need to watch a South Park episode called "fags".That explains it all.

  3. I didn't realize one could get exhausted from sitting on a Harley for 100 miles. That explains the tough-guy-shake-off-the-road swagger I often see as Harley riders dismount their bikes. I always think, "I never feel that haggard after riding 100 miles under my own power; what do they have to swagger about, they're just sitting there?"