I’d comment on the recent passing of the Pope, but I was thrown out of the room for laughing inappropriately during the televised coverage on Saturday. I’m not the go-to guy for commentary on solemn and dignified occasions.

Instead, I’ll talk about motorcycles. Steve at Hog On Ice has tried to explain why he feels that getting suckered for a lot of chrome makes him somehow superior. I am, of course, referring to his ownership of a Harley. Steve displays all the traits of the classic Harley owner. Monumental ego? Check. Snotty disdain for motorcycles that actually work? Check. A slavish belief in H-D hype? Check. Undersized genitalia? I have no idea, nor do I really want to find out. However, all the other attributes are present. The logical conclusion is left as an exercise for the reader.

Let’s get one thing straight: Harley-Davidson is at this late date only peripherally a motorcycle manufacturer. H-D is a marketing organization that happens to make motorcycles. The making of the motorcycles enables their marketing success, so they continue to do it (poorly). H-D is primarily in the business of licensing the brand for placement on a vast array of consumer items. They’re really good at the marketing part of the business equation. Evidence for this comes from the fact that someone like Steve, who appears to be intelligent, has bought into the bullshit.

By any objective standard, Harleys are mediocre motorcycles at best. The only thing they do that other motorcycles don’t do better is wear the H-D nameplate. They are also absurdly priced for what you get. You get a slow-ass loud bike with lots of chrome that says H-D on it everywhere. For this, you’ll pay upwards of 20 grand. All that money and you can say, “I own a Harley.” Neat. Any Japanese motorcycle that sells for 1/3 the cost can out-perform a Harley in every category except the somewhat specialized one of “proving the owner paid too much.”

Don’t try to fool yourself into thinking that you’re paying for quality, either. You’re paying all that money because Harley can sell the bikes for that much. Harley intentionally restricts the supply in order to maximize the per-unit sales price. Since they’re not really all that interested in making bikes, this lets H-D concentrate on their vast and lucrative co-branding empire. You’re riding a “true American icon” that is relentlessly marketed as such by the company that wanted you to buy the thing. Give me a break, okay? You got taken hook, line and sinker by the marketing machine. Don’t repeat the ads to me, because I don’t care.

That’s another problem I have with Harley people: the endless yammering about style and class. Style? Yeah, if your definition of style includes “way too much chrome”. If your definition of style includes “frozen in time since the late 50s”, get a Harley. Class? I’m always puzzled by this assertion. It’s still a motorcycle. You still get smacked in the chest and head by bugs when you ride the thing. How showing up somewhere covered in dead bugs is classy is beyond me, but then I don’t own a Harley. Maybe the bikes don’t go fast enough to kill the bugs, so they just bounce off the fat rolls of the typical rider.

I don’t really have a problem with the bikes themselves. They are what they are. Some people like them, some people don’t. I think they’re over-priced. My big problem is the sanctimonious twits that own Harleys. I get tired of the Harley cultists like I get tired of the BMW cultists. You made a personal decision that price was irrelevant and the logo on the front of your machine was the overriding factor in your vehicle purchase. Great. This doesn’t make you or your machine superior. In fact, it makes you a bit of a jackass. Shut up about how wonderful your mediocre machine is, okay? Nobody but the other cultists believes you.


Post a Comment

<< Home