It’s finally motorcycle season in Chicago, and I’ve got bikes on the brain. There really is nothing I would rather be doing than sitting on the back of a bike with the sky open around me, the wind in my hair and an occasional bug straight to the face.
I guess my passion for being that babe on back makes me a special someone’s* “Ol’ Lady.”
I grew up surrounded by bike culture. It was my life as a kid and continues to be my life as an adult, and one thing that I’ve noticed throughout the years is riders’ unwavering loyalty to Harley-Davidson. If you ride a Harley, you are Harley to the core—representing the brand and its meaning in all aspects of your life. There are Harley shirts, Harley boots, Harley rings, Harley tattoos, Harley stickers, and the list goes on. I’m confident that a Harley EVERYTHING has been made by the company or some crazed devotee, but I haven’t yet seen a Harley-Davidson toaster.
Aaaaaaanyways, it doesn’t go unnoticed when you’re around a bunch of bikers: they love their Harley motorcycles, and it’s more than a bike—it’s a lifestyle. And beyond just loving what the brand represents, Harley owners actively contribute to the brand’s meaning. A man made the bike, the bike built its history, and those bikers make the brand what it is: a symbol of freedom, tradition and community.
I interviewed a few of these burley bikers so you can see just what Harley-Davidson means to them personally—and why it’s so important that they’re seen on nothing but a Harley.
“To me Harley-Davidson is Americana. It’s good old American-made torque that feels, sounds and runs differently than every foreign bike made. The brand is on a similar level to Coca-Cola or Levi’s. It’s a logoed piece of history that’s brought together similar-minded folks for over 100 years.”
“I like to think that we shape Harley-Davidson by keeping it alive. I don’t purposely represent Harley as a whole—I personally represent what Harley had to offer many moons ago and use it as a tool to see what this great country has to offer and to see. Have bike, will travel.”
“Harley-Davidson is an American legend and success story. You can’t argue that. It’s our history. Our fathers and grandfathers rode Harleys before wars and after wars. They customized them to make them their own. It’s a nostalgic idea that I want to live on. This is one reason that I ride a Harley. My bike allows me to hit the road without a destination.”
“As far as old motorcycles go, you really can’t beat a Harley—especially pre-1970s. In the 40s-60s, there wasn’t a lot going on that was as powerful and good-looking as a Harley motor.
The idea of old choppers and the open road is a very American thing. It only makes sense to go Harley. Without trying to sound incredibly cliché, it means just that—freedom, America, the open road. Riding a motorcycle with your buddies is the closest anyone can get to being a cowboy or a Viking or a pirate. It’s adventure – not having to grow up or worry about real things—just getting to the next gas station. I represent Harley for all these reasons. I ride, I’m free, I wrench with my buddies.”
“Working on and riding old bikes has shaped me immensely—from the welding job I work now to the friends I have to how I spend most of my free time. There just isn’t a brand of bike that goes hand in hand with building and customizing as well as Harley-Davidson does. Just the group of us sitting around drinking, turning wrenches, welding our bikes together and riding, makes me realize how important these friendships are and how our bikes are our common ground. It’s an all-around good time and that’s what my Harley means to me.”
“Harley-Davidson has that all-American reputation. It stands for something special. It means a certain bond with the people I call friends. We work on our bikes together in the shop and on the side of the road. No one is left behind—you always make sure that your friends can get back on their bikes.”
“Harley has created over a century of loud and fast machines that have shaped this country and the motorcycle world. We’ll take one of their perfectly-made bikes and chop it up to make it look and feel the way that we each want it to. Chopping a Harley motorcycle, building a chopper—it’s part of the culture and is respected within it. It’s the only way I’ll ride, and I’m proud to be seen riding down the road on a Harley.”
“To me Harley-Davidson is hard-working men and women making their dreams come true. Doesn’t matter what you do for a living or where you’ve come from, nothing beats getting out into the wind and letting your troubles stay where you left ’em. That’s what I feel when I ride my Harley, and that’s what I see when I watch a Harley go down the road.”
“I think it’s the only brand that represents the freedom found on the road, tied to the hard work that it takes to get yourself there. It doesn’t matter where you’re from, if you have Harleys around you, then you have a different perspective about them than those who don’t. Maybe because of everything I’ve seen and experienced related to Harley-Davidson growing up, by accident or by design, I have become who I have become. Harleys have always been on my mind and in my dreams. Work hard, play harder…and build a Harley!”