simple is beautiful
New York Daily Photo: Machine
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Monday, 24 September 2007


I am not a biker or part of the biker culture. And I do not enjoy the deafening roar of bikes with straight pipes - a sore point with many city residents. However, I do appreciate a well engineered and pleasant looking machine. And this Harley, with its gleam and striking satin finish parked on the Lower East Side, is partly that. Partly, because there are aspects of the engine and bike engineering that are archaic and could be improved (actually, some changes are being made with newer models), but due to the strong cult phenomenon which has grown around Harley, many aspects of the early design have been kept. Harley Davidson as a company is a fascinating story. Founded in 1903, the company was nearly bankrupt by 1969 - the image of the outlaw biker partly to blame along with deteriorating quality and proliferation of Japanese motorcycles which were less expensive, better made and had superior performance. In the 1980s, the company was resold and under new management began its assent. Rather than attempting to compete with the Japanese, the company marketed Harley's retro factor - there are many things associated with Harleys: chopper customizations, the unique "potato-potato" sound of the engine, hardtails, etc. The marketing of the historic aspect of a product brand is a smart move seen with many legacy businesses like Levis, Coca Cola, Disney, Lego, etc. It also readily lends itself to product line extension and licensing (Harley sells accessories and apparel). In the late 1990s, there were waiting lists as long as a year for some models. The bike has come an American icon with a certain symbolic iconoclasm. The median age of Harley buyers is now nearly 50 with many affluent, well known or powerful individuals as owners - Jay Leno, investor Jim Rogers, etc. ...


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