Originally built as 1 cylinder racing bikes, Bill Harley decided to try his hand at a 45 degree V-twin. Contrary to popular belief, Harley Davidson did NOT invent the V-twin. Since that first build Harley has not drastically changed their engines. Some of the more notable changes to the Harley were:
1914 - A sidecar was added and Harley entered into serious racing with the "Wrecking Crew"
1915 - The 3 speed transmission was introduced.
1918 - The single cylinder engine was discontinued.
1926 - Single cylinder engines were re-introduced
1928 - The first twin cam engine and front wheel brakes.
In the 1950's the Hell's Angels helped bolster the image of the Harley. These outlaws used Harley Sportsters because they were fast, easy to work on, reliable and cheap. They were also appealing to members because most were ex-military and rode Harleys during their service years. Ironically enough, the bike that was the standard for the real Outlaw Bikers of America are now referred to as "girl bikes" or "Skirtsters".
In the early 60's Harley Davidson started losing its grip as the "Leader of the Pack". Foreign motorcycle manufacturers started producing more powerful, lighter and more reliable bikes at far lower cost.
In 1969, due to financial struggle, Harley Davidson merged with AMF. Unfortunately, the quality drastically decreased and sales plummeted. in 1981 senior members bought back the share from AMF and got quality control back in line.
From that point Harley became more of a status symbol than a high performance machine. Still relying on the very inefficient 45 degree v-twin, they continue to pump out slow and uninspired models that look far too much like the previous year. Overpriced, underpowered and built with more than 75% of the parts manufactured overseas, people still flock to purchase a Harley because it has somehow come to stand for America and for being tough.
Author's note: I used to ride Harleys and used to believe in what they stood for. Then I was cured of my brainwashing when I wanted to purchase a new bike this year. $18,000 for a slow, ugly 75% Jap bike that claims to be American is far too much. By this definition the Honda VTX1300C that I purchased instead is American as it is assembled in Maryland. It is also far more powerful and reliable and costs $8,000.
Before any ignorant HOG zealots decide to fire off any insults and tell me how you think you are all "1 percenters" and you are going to kick my ass (GOD, I can't believe I even associated with you morons) do me a favor... take off your Harley shirt and read the inside tag. Where was it made? Yep, China, Pakistan, Mexico... American, my ass! Stop feeding the fake persona that is HD!
person 2 "Yup, a real Harley Davidson."
person 1 "Easy Rider has convinced me that HD is the only real American motorcycle! I want to buy one but my wife won't let me."
Her icy blue eyes make your heart melt and her perfect smile and giddy laughter will make you happy no matter what.
Harley cares about everything, no matter how much she might deny it.
You just can't help but fall in love with her.
"I've been talking to Harley all day. (:"
Harley Davidson dominated the American motorcycle market until the mid-1960's when Honda introduced a line of smaller-displacement less intimidating lightweight bikes. The smaller Japanese bikes could not match the performance of the then ing-of-the-hill Sportster, a bona fide street racer and land-speed record holder and still the best selling middleweight motorcycle in history.
But, the less-intimidating Japanese machines became top-sellers, and changing times hurt Harley Davidson sales.
Harley Davidson was acquired by AMF in the 1960s and quality, along with sales, plummeted. The "AMF Years" almost dealt a death-blow to Harley-Davidson and saddled the motorcycles with a bad reputation which has, unfortunately, been hard to shake, even though the current production bikes have a reputation among motorcyclists as having almost bulletproof reliability.
In the 1980s, Harley was bought back from AMF and completely re-vamped. Quality was back, and customers flocked to dealers, and still do.