I am a motorcyclist. I ride a Ducati 900SS
(used to ride a Honda Hawk
-- both are v-twin
s, just like a Harley), and it's my primary mode of transportation
ing? Too bad, guess I'll just get wet
In any case, as much as I don't like it, there's a often a difference between Harley riders and other motorcyclists. There are two main problems with the motorcycles that Harley-Davidson produces that contribute to this.
The Performance Problem:
All current Harley motors are V-twins. There's nothing wrong with this; all Ducati motors are v-twins also, and that hasn't stopped them from winning superbike title after superbike title on their red rockets. Honda's new RC51 is a v-twin Ducati-killer. It's clear that v-twins are capable of high performance.
Yet Harley produces huge (1200cc; that's really big) v-twins that make, I dunno, maybe 65 horsepower. No, probably less than that, more like 40 or 50. You'd have to go out of your way to have that kind of pathetic power/displacement ratio. Which is exactly what Harley does. Their motors are very undersquare, which is to say that for a given displacement, the stroke (the length the piston travels; the height of this imaginary cylinder) is longer than the bore (the diameter of the piston; double the radius of the cylinder). So the piston travels a much longer physical distance than its oversquare counterparts. Not to mention the fact that it's a pushrod engine.
This is bad. It means that Harley motors can't rev very high; it wouldn't be comfortable to rev one of those big v-twins past 4000 RPM or so (because of the vibration -- Harley engines, with that narrow cylinder angle, vibrate horribly), and it wouldn't be safe to go much past 6000, because the pistons are at that point travelling way too many feet per second.
Harley motors use 20-year-old engine technology, and their only excuse is "tradition".
The Price Problem:
Head into a Harley-Davidson dealer sometime and look at the prices. $10,000, $15,000, $18,000. . . let's make something very clear, any motorcycle that costs more than 10 grand better be delivering some serious performance. There is no excuse for these kind of prices.
A Harley-Davidson is a very expensive fashion statement. What you think it says is: "I'm a free spirit who comes and goes with the wind" when in fact the statement is closer to "I paid $15,000 for 50 horsepower and 700 pounds of chrome". Not all motorcyclists agree with me here, but buying a Harley is stupid. The actual motorcycle does not justify the exorbitant price Harley charges for admission to their Rich Urban Biker club.
Ah, wait a minute, you say -- isn't it that you just don't like cruisers, with their chrome and their leather and their goofy fringes? Hardly. There is a cruiser bike on the market today that I would love to own - the Honda Valkyrie. It's big and heavy, but it has an excuse - a tricked out, flat-six motor that is visually striking (looks like an airplane motor or something) and has the the performance to back it up. That's a cruiser I'd like to own.
But a Harley? 20 grand for 20-year-old (or worse) technology? I don't think so.
To be fair, this may be starting to change. Harley just started selling their new V-Rod, which is sort of a cruiser for the future. It features smoothed-over styling and better suspension compontents, as well as a 60-degree liquid-cooled v-twin mill (smoother and better-balanced than Harley's old 45-degree motor) co-designed by Porche. If the reviews are any indication, this bike has muscle to back up its attitude. I think it retails for something like $18,500, which is a lot of money. You can get a Japanese cruiser with as much power for $5000 less. Gotta have the American Spirit? Get a Polaris.
I applaud Harley's concession that their ancient "Evolution" engine design is getting old, but the price they're asking a rider to pay for a bike that looks good and performs well is still inexcusably high.