“Potato potato potato potato…” the music of an American motorcycle in low idle. There’s a specific atonal rhythm to an engine in heat. This constant and low “Potato potato potato potato…” is the noise you know well if you have ever straddled a running Harley Davidson.
I started riding motorcycles roughly six years ago. Started on a 125cc Honda CB out of monetary necessity. Would have gone with a bigger bike if I could have but it’s hard to beat 600 dollars for a summer full of road rash. I was a teenager who was in no way looking to get into trouble but was in no way willing to pass up the opportunity. What motorcycles mean to me now has changed from what they meant to me back then. Every action or skill you sink your teeth into changes the way you see the world. Giving into borderline obsession when it comes to motorcycles has given me a new eye for design, space, mechanics, and value.
There are many different directions I could take this article. I could
make a case for riding in general. I could talk about how motorcycles are the modern day steed, that they give us an opportunity in an informal world to create connection with others and (most importantly) connection with ourselves. I could talk about how important it is for us to have something to sweat over and call our own, but I’m not going to stop there. This article is about making a case for Harley Davidson specifically.
Everyone has an opinion about everything, from sports to wall paint to politicians, everyone has their two cents to put in. It’s enough to like something just because you like it. Going the extra mile means diagnosing your passions and how the things you do and bring into your life feed that passion. Motorcycles have gone from an interest to a passion to an obsession in my life. Understanding that I liked motorcycles was not enough for me. Why do I like motorcycles and more so, why do I worship Harley as the lord and savior of two wheeled death traps?
As I talked about in my article about selvedge and raw denim, there
is value in taking part in your nations heritage in a physical way. Harley Davidson is a piece of the American story that deserves to be told over and over and over again. From the birth of motorcycle gangs out west, to the role these machines played in World War II, Harley represents the cowboy culture that these United States is known for. It doesn’t matter if you want to ride a Harley or just live vicariously through those that do, Harleys have changed the landscape of the American frontier.
I’m a purist when it comes to most things I interact with. If it doesn’t grow me or recharge me I don’t want it. Further more I don’t believe that ease and comfort are the number one considerations before buying just about anything. I value tradition and minimalism in my machines. The goal is to strip as much as I can away without compromising the integrity of the machine. What can I do without? It’s not about having a reliable, trustworthy mode of transportation. It’s about having a labor of love that I can devote time and energy to.
What Harleys have the potential to represent is death of the
ineffectual man. We live in a world that holds no allegiance to name or heritage. We are only expected to move forward and conquer without even a head nod to the traditions that built the framework for what we create today. In this society the goal is to be the best at pretending to be as many things as you can. We’ve lost the thrill of the hunt, we’ve lost the patience the hunt requires, and we have lost the shear power of will it takes to become a true hunter.
What motorcycles have done for me is take what I believe about myself and give me an opportunity to reflect my positive traits and
highlight my negative ones through working on my bike. I don’t see the point in buying a brand new motorcycle. To me, you have to earn the ride you want. Whether your starting out on a motorcycle you could pick up with your own two hands, or starting out with a frame and building it from scratch, no one remembers the purchase, it’s all about the sweat. Starting out with a bike I didn’t really like and building it to be exactly what I wanted made the ride that much more rewarding.
Anyone can say, “But it’s dangerous to ride motorcycles! How is the risk even worth it?!” The risk is why it’s worth it! Being safe is not your number one priority. You can not be stupid and still not be entirely safe. The point of going out on two wheels is to say no to the fear that tells you it’s not worth it. Now, I’m not saying everyone needs to go out and get on a motorcycle, I’m saying that if you’re interested I have found owning a piece of shit Harley to be one of the most frustrating and rewarding experiences of my life.
Harleys give you an opportunity to exercise a lot of the traits that develop you into the complete man that you want to be as well as offer a chance to take part in the American tradition of defying death on two wheels. At the end of the day, riding isn’t enough. You have to connect with your motorcycle and the work you have put in to it to understand why the world knows Harley Davidson as more than just a motorcycle.