The History of Harley-Davidson

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It’s rare to find a person who has never heard of the Harley-Davidson brand or couldn’t distinguish their emblem from others. The history of the brand begins in 1903. It’s interesting that for 118 years, the company has been producing not only bikes that have become iconic but also clothes, shoes, dishes, and even furniture. Read about how William Harley and Arthur Davidson created a motorcycle empire and established a fashion for custom bikes.

Harley and Davidson: How Everything Started

In 1901, William Sylvester Harley and Arthur Davidson began to create a bicycle with a motor in the American town of Milwaukee inside an ordinary garage. These young people worked for three years before they realized that a bicycle without pedals couldn’t conquer America. Therefore, a more serious approach was taken and development of the motorcycle began.

The first motorcycle was released in 1903 and was called the Milwaukee Merkel. It had a 405 cc engine and weighed approximately 30 lbs. The name Harley-Davidson went down in history in 1904. Then, a motorcycle created by William Sylvester Harley and Arthur Davidson took part in a race and finished fourth. From that moment on, the friends began to mass-produce bikes in their garage. Interestingly, this same building was later relocated to the Harley-Davidson plant, where it stood for many years as a reminder of the great brand’s early years.

In the years after the founding of the brand, the factory produced 50 motorcycles a year. In 1907, 150 models were produced, and between 1908 and 1909, the number of motorcycles sold increased from 450 to 1149. There was significant business growth.

Brand Rise

Challenging days were ahead after the company had been established. The British Army, at the start of World War I, ordered 500 motorcycles from Harley-Davidson. And in 1917, the US Army had already placed a large order with a bike brand. The English and American militaries drove through the First World War on Harley-Davidson bikes, which at this difficult time were able to prove themselves as excellent tools. During the entire war period, more than 20,000 motorcycles were produced.

In the 1920s, Harley-Davidson became the largest motorcycle manufacturer in the world. The next year, a Harley-Davidson driven by the famous Otto Walker reached an impressive 100 miles per hour (160 km/h). In the same decade, motorcycles were improved, and the 74-inch V-twin engine appeared for the first time. A well-known gas tank in the form of a drop first appeared a little bit later. It has become one of the hallmarks of the brand and is still found on most modern motorcycle models. Later, in 1928, a front brake appeared on Harley-Davidson motorcycles.

The Origin of Bike Customization

Customizing is the improvement and modification of a motorcycle according to the individual design of the buyer. The concept was born in the 30s of the 20th century. At that time, owners of Harley-Davidson motorcycles could order a graphic eagle design on the gas tank.

The First World War was sadly followed by the Second World War. At this time, Harley-Davidson continues to produce motorcycles for the military. The Liberator model went down in history. Motorcycles were supplied not only to the American army but also to other countries, where they were supplemented with a sidecar and a rear seat.

It’s believed that the fashion for customizing came after the Second World War. According to one version, motorcycles became very popular among the military, and after the end of the war, they continued to ride their favorite bikes. Since the design of all Harley-Davidson motorcycles of that period was in the military style, the owners began to change the appearance of the bikes on their own. Some rare bikes still might be found at salvage auction.

All motorcycles of the brand are customized for the client and their requests. This applies not only to design but also to technical specifications: the height of the pedals, the distance between the seat and the steering wheel, as well as motorcycle care products, since many owners prefer to take care of their Harley on their own.

Harley-Davidson: Not Only High Quality

In its 118-year history, there have been several dozen models in the brand line. Today, Harley-Davidson is not about motorcycles, it’s about a lifestyle. All models of the brand have a unique recognizable design and status, whether it’s a chopper or a cruiser configuration. Many view the Harley as a symbol of freedom and speed, while others appreciate the brotherhood that the brand has built over a century of history.

Today, Harley-Davidson is chosen by politicians, rock stars, and businessmen alike. For like-minded people, the Harley Owners Group (HOG) was created in 1983. It brings together all the Harley’s drivers and is a club of interest. Members of the community arrange races, wear club symbols, and organize motorcycle festivals.

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