Harley-Davidson motorbikes history and facts
Even for non-motorcycle enthusiasts the name and badge of Harley-Davidson is incredibly familiar.
Classic films like 1969’s Easy Rider helped reinforce Harley-Davidson’s iconic status as a motorcycle manufacturer. The customised Harley-Davidson choppers used in the film vie with stars Jack Nicholson, Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda for top billing.
And there is no shortage of other celebs happy to be snapped proudly astride their Harley – from Elvis Presley and Liz Taylor to Hugh Jackman and Brad Pitt.
There’s no doubt about Harley-Davidson’s glamourous reputation but the company origins are quite humble.
In 1903, in a small shed in Milwaukee in the US, William Harley and Arthur Davidson worked together on the prototype for their company’s first motorcycle. The bike was completed the same year but, not happy with that design, they immediately began work on a new prototype featuring a bigger engine.
By 1905 the first production bike, the Harley-Davidson Model No 1, was released and a year later the first Harley-Davidson factory was built on Chestnut Street in Milwaukee. The company produced 50 bikes that year and 12 months later the firm was officially incorporated1.
In the same way as BMW contributed to the war effort in Germany, so too did Harley-Davidson – only in this case for the other side. In 1917, approximately 50% of Harley’s sales went to the US armed forces for use in World War I. In addition to supplying essential vehicles to the forces, the company opened its first service school in Milwaukee to train US Army mechanics.
After the end of the First World War, Harley-Davidson continued to grow its business. It completed its seven-storey-high facility on Juneau Avenue in 1920 - which still serves the company to this day as its corporate head office.
The 1920s was a significant decade for Harley-Davidson bike designs because the JD model launched in 1925. It incorporated a fuel tank with the distinctive rounded, teardrop shape that has been associated with the brand ever since.
One of the few US motorcycle manufacturers to survive the Great Depression of the late 20s and early 30s, Harley-Davidson was able to continue building and developing bikes.
As with the First World War, the US participation in the Second World War saw Harley-Davidson produce an estimated 88,000 motorcycles for the US military between 1941 and 1945.
It is not just the US Army that Harley-Davidson has impressed over the years. Harley bikes are used by the California Highway Patrol and can be found in over 3,400 police departments in the US and in 45 foreign countries.
Of course, the Harley brand is associated with rebellion just as much as law and order. Whether it is Clint Eastwood, Jack Nicholson or Arnie in the saddle, Harley bikes are just the epitome of cool.
Some people like the cool brand so much they don’t even need to buy a bike – evidenced by the popularity of Harley-Davidson T-shirts and belts!
In addition to its US production, Harley-Davidson now manufactures bikes across the world in India, Brazil and more recently Thailand. The bikes have true global appeal and will continue to attract discerning bike riders as the decades roll by.
How much will my Harley cost to insure?
The cost of motorbike insurance for your Harley-Davidson will depend on a wide range of factors – and a lot of these are not directly related to the motorcycle itself.
Your age, where you live and your occupation will have a significant bearing on the size of your premiums. You might live in a high-crime postcode where motorbike thefts are more common and better motorbike security might help.
In addition Harley-Davidsons usually rock a pretty powerful engine which can also increase the price of your insurance.
On the flip side, Harley riders are often slightly older and more experienced which can help with the cost of insurance, particularly if you have an advanced riding qualification.
Any modifications you make to the bike that result in it being faster or having a more powerful engine, or which make it more attractive to potential thieves, will normally increase insurance costs.
When you’re shopping around for a Harley motorbike insurance quote, make sure you let potential insurers know about any modifications. Failure to disclose substantial changes can in some circumstances result in claims being turned down.
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