FACULTY OF EDUCATION
Department of English Language and Literature
Comparing the Harley-Davidson lifestyle in the Czech Republic and the United States
Author: Eva Tomášová
Supervisor: Dr. Rita Chalmers Collins
TOMÁŠOVÁ, Eva. Comparing the Harley-Davidson lifestyle in the Czech Republic and the United States : bakalářská práce. Brno : Masarykova univerzita, Fakulta pedagogická, Katedra anglického jazyka a literatury, 2008. 60 l. Vedoucí diplomové práce Dr. Rita Chalmers Collins.
Tato bakalářská práce nabízí srovnání Harley-Davidson ţivotního stylu v České republice a ve Spojených státech. Vlastní text je rozdělen do šesti kapitol z nichţ je prvních pět zaměřeno na vznik a formování firmy Harley-Davidson a faktory, které ovlivnily vznik a vývoj HarleyDavidson ţivotního stylu ve Spojených státech. Šestá kapitola se věnuje ţivotnímu stylu českých majitelů motocyklů značky Harley-Davidson a porovnání jejich ţivotního stylu s tím americkým. Cílem práce bylo zjistit zda se majitelé motocyklů Harley-Davidson v České republice zajímají o americkou historii vzniku firmy a ţivotního stylu, který je s ním spojený. Dále pak také jestli existují nějaké podobné či společné rysy v ţivotním stylu majitelů Harley-Davidson motocyklů u nás a ve Spojených státech.
This thesis offers comparison of the Harley-Davidson lifestyle in the Czech Republic and the United States. The text is divided into six chapters. The first five chapters are about the foundation and formation of Harley-Davidson Motor Company and factors that influenced the creation and development of Harley-Davidson lifestyle in the United States. The sixth chapter is about lifestyle of czech owners of the Harley-Davidson motorcycles in comparison with the american ones. The aim of this thesis was to find out whether the Czech owners of HarleyDavidson motorcycles are interested in the history of creation of the Harley-Davidson Motor Company and related lifestyle of American Harley-Davidson riders. Then, whether there exist any similar or common features in the lifestyle of Harley-Davidson owners in the Czech Republic and in the United States.
Ţivotní styl, motocykl, chopper, nezákonné gangy, motorkář, řidič, motocyklový klub, chopper, custom motocykl, Harley-Davidson
Lifestyle, motorcycle, chopper, outlaw gangs, biker, rider, motorcycle club, chopper, custom motorcycle, Harley-Davidson
Prohlašuji, že jsem diplomovou práci zpracovala samostatně a použila jen prameny uvedené v seznamu literatury. Brně dne 20.května 2008 Eva Tomášová
I would like to thank Dr. Rita Chalmers Collins for her kind and patient supervision and for the advice she provided to me during my work on this bachelor thesis.
Obsah INTRODUCTION........................................................................................................................................................ 7 1 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 WHAT IS HARLEY-DAVIDSON ................................................................................................................... 8 WHAT IS HARLEY-DAVIDSON, INC. ............................................................................................................ 8 WHAT PRECEDED THE CREATION OF THE FIRST HARLEY-DAVIDSON MOTORCYCLE ...................................... 9 HISTORY OF THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE HARLEY-DAVIDSON MOTOR COMPANY ...................................... 9 HARLEY-DAVIDSON MOTOR COMPANY DURING THE WORLD WAR I AND II AND ITS MOTORCYCLES IN THE POLICE SERVICE........................................................................................................................................................ 11 1.4.1 Harley-Davidson during the World War I ......................................................................................... 11 1.4.2 Harley-Davidson during the World War II ........................................................................................ 12 1.4.3 Harley-Davidson in the police service ............................................................................................... 12 1.4.4 Problems that arose in the period after the war ................................................................................ 13 2 2.1 HARLEY-DAVIDSON AT PRESENT .......................................................................................................... 16 PROFILE OF HARLEY-DAVIDSON CUSTOMERS ........................................................................................... 16 Demographic profile of Harley-Davidson customers: ....................................................................... 16 2.2 THE EFFORTS OF HARLEY-DAVIDSON MOTOR COMPANY TO DIFFERENTIATE THEMSELVES FROM OTHER MOTORCYCLE COMPANIES ........................................................................................................................................ 18 2.2.1 Harley-Davidson advertisements and magazines .............................................................................. 20 2.2.2 Harley-Davidson in the film and TV series ........................................................................................ 20 2.2.3 Harley-Davidson and stars ................................................................................................................ 21 2.2.4 Safety and motorcycle accidents ........................................................................................................ 22 2.1.1 3 3.1 3.2 3.3 CUSTOMS, CHOPPERS AND BOBBERS .................................................................................................. 23 CUSTOM MOTORCYCLES ........................................................................................................................... 23 RAT BIKES ................................................................................................................................................ 24 HISTORY OF CHOPPERS ............................................................................................................................. 25 3.3.1 Tradition of choppers ........................................................................................................................ 25 3.3.2 Today's choppers ............................................................................................................................... 26 MOTORCYCLE CLUBS AND GANGS ....................................................................................................... 28 4.1 DEFINITION AND DIVISION OF MOTORCYCLE CLUBS ................................................................................... 28 “One-percenters” and “Ninety-nine percenters” ............................................................................. 28 4.2 FEATURES OF THE AMERICAN MOTORCYCLE CLUBS .................................................................................. 29 4.3 OUTLAW GANGS AND ONE-PERCENTERS ................................................................................................... 30 4.4 NINETY-NINE PERCENTERS ....................................................................................................................... 31 4.4.1 The American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) ................................................................................ 32 4.4.2 The Harley Owners Group (HOG) .................................................................................................... 32 4.1.1 5 5.1 5.2 HARLEY DAVIDSON AND WOMEN ......................................................................................................... 34 WOMEN'S HISTORIC BEGINNINGS IN THE SADDLE ....................................................................................... 35 THE BEST KNOWN WOMEN ONLY CLUBS .................................................................................................... 37 5.2.1 First women's club - Motor Maids, Inc. ............................................................................................. 37 5.2.2 Women in the Wind Club ................................................................................................................... 38 5.3 HOW IMPORTANT ARE WOMEN FOR THE HARLEY-DAVIDSON MOTOR COMPANY THESE DAYS .................... 39 5.4 HARLEY-DAVIDSON MOTOR COMPANY WOMEN ONLY EVENTS ................................................................. 40 5.5 WHY WOMEN DECIDE TO RIDE MOTORCYCLES AND WHAT CAN HOLD THEM BACK FROM RIDING ................. 41 6 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 6.6 6.7 6.8 HARLEY-DAVIDSON LIFESTYLE IN THE CZECH REPUBLIC ......................................................... 44 HARLEY-DAVIDSON DEALERSHIPS ............................................................................................................ 44 THE POSITION OF HARLEY-DAVIDSON MOTORCYCLES ON THE CZECH MARKET.......................................... 45 CLUBS FOR HARLEY-DAVIDSON OWNERS ................................................................................................. 46 HARLEY-DAVIDSON CUSTOMERS .............................................................................................................. 48 HARLEY-DAVIDSON IN THE CZECH REPUBLIC AND WOMEN....................................................................... 50 HARLEY-DAVIDSON IN THE CZECH REPUBLIC AND CELEBRITIES ............................................................... 52 CHOPPERS AND CUSTOMS IN THE CZECH REPUBLIC ................................................................................... 52 SAFETY ON THE CZECH ROADS ................................................................................................................. 53
CONCLUSION .......................................................................................................................................................... 54 REFERENCES: ......................................................................................................................................................... 57
When I was thinking about typical symbols of the United States the first things that sprang to my mind were the Statue of Liberty, New York City, Washington D.C., national parks and Harley-Davidson motorcycles. Although I am neither a keen motorcycle devotee nor a motorcycle rider I have decided to explore the reasons why the Harley-Davidson motorcycle became so well-known in the United States and what the current situation is for the Harley-Davidson in the Czech Republic.
My thesis is divided into two parts. The first part is theoretical and presents facts about the Harley-Davidson lifestyle in the United States. The second part is more practical and deals with experience of dealers and owners of Harley-Davidson motorcycles in the Czech Republic. The theoretical part is divided into five chapters that are subdivided into related subheadings while the practical part is split into eight subheadings.
Harley-Davidson Motor Company has a very specific position in the United States. Over the more than one hundred years of its existence, Harley-Davidson Motor Company managed to build a legend from a mere motorcycle. Harley-Davidson motorcycles are used in the everyday life, traveling, and racing or only for pleasure. Behind its handlebars were seated soldiers in the world wars, hippies and personalities of cultural and political life, wild hogs, and police forces. All of these people progressively helped to create the Harley-Davidson image.
I hope that my thesis will provide information about the evolution of the HarleyDavidson motorcycle from its beginning in the wooden shed in Milwaukee to these days. It presents crucial points that were essential for the development of HarleyDavidson image. I do not think that many people in the Czech Republic contemplate why Harley-Davidson is a symbol of America. My research was made in order to know whether Czech people who buy Harley-Davidson motorcycles are aware of HarleyDavidson history and facts that led to its development.
1 What is Harley-Davidson
The following definition can be found in the Oxford Advanced Dictionary:
Harley-Davidson is a famous and expensive US motorcycle. These motorcycles are long and heavy, with fairly old-fashioned yet powerful engines that make a loud sound. The first three Harley-Davidson motorcycles were built in 1903 in Milwaukee, where the company‟s main office has always been. Popular models have included the 1936 Knucklehead, the 1957 Sportster „super bike‟ and the 1990 Fat Boy. Riding a Harley-Davidson on the open road is part of the American dream for many people: If you‟re overweight and middle-aged, riding a Harley-Davidson won‟t change that.
(Cultural Guide) The Harley-Davidson motorcycle, popularly known as a “Harley”, owes its name to its creators William Harley and Arthur Davidson.
1.1 What is Harley-Davidson, Inc.
Harley-Davidson, Inc. is:
the parent company for the group of companies called Harley-Davidson Motor Company, Buell Motorcycle Company and Harley-Davidson Financial Services, Inc. Harley-Davidson Motor Company is the only major U.S.-based motorcycle manufacturer which produces heavyweight motorcycles and offers a complete line of motorcycle parts, accessories, apparel, and general merchandise. Buell Motorcycle Company produces sport motorcycles, motorcycle parts, accessories and apparel. Harley-Davidson Financial Services, Inc. provides wholesale and retail financing and insurance programs to Harley-Davidson dealers and customers. (Harley-Davidson USA).
Harley-Davidson Motor Company, founded in 1903, is the oldest company in the world that produces. (Saladini, 14). Their headquarters are in Milwaukee. They sell heavyweight (over 750 cubic centimeters) motorcycles that are suitable for cruising on the highways. These motorcycles have both a distinctive design and exhaust sound. (Harley-Davidson USA). The sound of Harley-Davidson V-twin engine (twin-cylinder engine) was described by Harley-Davidson trademark attorney Joseph Bonk in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in 1994 as “potato-potato-potato”. (Wright, 56).
1.2 What preceded the creation of the first Harley-Davidson motorcycle
At the end of 18th century the Draisina was created. The Draisina was a wooden, foot propelled predecessor of bicycle. A few years later, Pierre Michaux added pedals to this idea and thereby created the device well known today as the bicycle. L.G. Perraux offered Michaux a small steam engine that would fit onto their velocipede and it was not until 1870 when the so called “Velocipédraisiavaporiana”, the first bike with a steam engine, appeared. The idea of steam propelled bicycles spread over the continent very quickly and finally got to the United States. Thanks to the vast expanse of the United States, within a short time about one hundred and fifty new companies emerged that produced similar machines. The best known was the Thor Company. Other companies were Indian, Merkel, Peerless and Yale. These companies started to undertake innovations that led to risks, economic wars and competition. After the Second World War, only fifteen companies emerged from which only two that stood in the post-war period. They were the Indian Company and Harley-Davidson Motor Company. Even though the Indian Company was a big competitor of the HarleyDavidson Motor Company, they stopped production in the United States in 1953. Then the Indian Company was bought by a British company which forced them to produce and sell their proper British motorcycles. The brand Indian lasted until 1962. (Saladini, 16-17).
1.3 History of the establishment of the Harley-Davidson Motor Company
William. S. Harley was born in Milwaukee in 1880. When he was fifteen, he worked in a company manufacturing bicycles. He was very talented and started working in a factory manufacturing metals. There he met Arthur Davidson, his former classmate. They were both keen on mechanical engineering and nature. They gradually attracted attention of both of the cousins of Arthur Davidson, Walter and William who got also involved in their plans for manufacturing motorcycles. In 1903 the first prototype was finished. One of the three new motorcycles, which were produced the following year, served to five riders who made travels that have together about 133 572 kilometers. (Saladini, 22).
The first prototype came with the Harley-Davidson trademark, which, in 1910, was supplemented with the famous “bar and shield” logo. Both of them are continually used up to now. Their first workshop, a simple wooden shack of three to five meters, had to be enlarged when the Harley-Davidson Motor Company was registered at The U. S. Trade and Company Register Office on September 17, 1907. (Saladini, 23). The company grew quite fast. In 1912 construction started on the new company‟s manufacturing plant and headquarters on Juneau Street in Milwaukee. The company's headquarters remains there to this day. Contributing to the development was a fast economic growth at the beginning of the 20th century (natural resources, industrial development, waves of immigrants and outset of advertising). (Saladini, 17).
The Harley-Davidson Motor Company gradually expanded factory rooms and increased production to satisfy the demand. In 1910, 86.400 motorcycles had already been registered in the United States and it was clear that the Harley-Davidson Motor Company had a future. (Saladini, 25). Arthur concentrated on the business growth of the company while William S. Harley continued his studies of metal processing and other mechanical engineering subjects at university in order to improve Harley-Davidson Motor Company's technology.
The most important step in Harley-Davidson history was the adoption and implementation of the V-twin engine (twin-cylinder engine) that first appeared with the new model of motorcycle in 1909. The V-twin engine became a very important attribute and recognizable sign of Harley-Davidson motorcycles even though it was used in other motorcycle companies. This engine was continuously modified and fine-tuned for almost another one hundred years.
In 1920 the total production of the Harley-Davidson Motor Company numbered 27 040 motorcycles. That year, Harley-Davidson Motor Company was not only the largest motorcycle manufacturer in the United States but also in a world market of over 100 motorcycle manufacturers. (Harley-Davidson USA, Saladini 43). Arthur Davidson personally chose every new dealer. By 1910 it covered the whole territory of the United States while in 1921 it was already possible to buy Harley-Davidson motorcycle in 67 world countries. (Saladini, 33). 10
1.4 Harley-Davidson Motor Company during the World War I and II and its motorcycles in the police service
1.4.1 Harley-Davidson during the World War I
In 1917, during World War I, Harley-Davidson Motor Company needed to attract new, young customers and, at that time, bicycles had stopped being imported from Europe. Harley-Davidson quickly responded to the demand of the market and started to produce bicycles. They wanted to make them similar to their motorcycles – reliable, of good quality, and with a hint of patriotism. Their production ended in 1921 because their price was too high. All bicycle models were handmade and their price was from 30 to 50 dollars. (Saladini, 51).
In 1916, the first motorcycles were used by the U.S. Army in Mexico where the US Army was repressing Pancho Villa and his rebel forces. (Harley-Davidson USA). There Harley-Davidson motorcycles proved to be very useful and reliable. When, in 1917, the US entered World War I, Harley-Davidson Motor Company modified and equipped considerable number of their motorcycles for the needs of the USA and the Allies. These motorcycles could be fitted with machine-gun mounts if needed. (HarleyDavidson USA). Altogether about 20,000 motorcycles were delivered to Europe. Not all of them were Harley-Davidsons. Their quality and reliability brought them a fair reputation and made them well known. (Saladini, 53).
During the time of the Great Depression, Harley-Davidson Motor Company was almost bankrupted as most manufacturers. Sales started to fall each year after the stock market crash of 1929. Harley-Davidson's sales dropped from 21,000 in 1929 to less than 3,703 in 1933. (Saladini, 70). This decline lasted until 1933. (Harley-Davidson USA). During that period, Harley-Davidson Motor Company “manufactured industrial power plants based on their motorcycle engines” and constructed its famous 45-degree V-twin “knucklehead” engine. (Harley-Davidson). This engine set land-speed records, and its invention brought Harley-Davidson Motor Company just enough business to survive. (Harley-Davidson International, Saladini 56-59).
1.4.2 Harley-Davidson during the World War II
In autumn 1939, Harley-Davidson Motor Company obtained an order for military motorcycles. They immediately started transforming their civil models into army models known as WLA and WLC (Canadian model) or, in Europe known as Liberator. These models were reliable, could be used with minimal maintenance, were furnished with military appointments and fully equipped. During World War II, Harley-Davidson Motor Company produced about 90 000 motorcycles. (Bacon). In the 1940s all four founders of Harley-Davidson Motor Company passed away. (Saladini, 84-93, Přibáň, Historie motocyklové legendy). Harley-Davidson Motor Company was for their patriotic efforts awarded the prestigious “U.S. Army-Navy Production "E" (Excellence) Award”. This award was given during World War II “to industries achieving excellence in production.“ (Army-Navy "E" Award Program Invitation). Production of the WLA stopped at the end of the war, after which the Harley-Davidson Motor Company again resumed civilian production. (Lensveld, 10).
After the Second World War many Harley-Davidson Army motorcycles were sold or passed to Europe under the agreement of post-war reconstruction. Those motorcycles became the basis for the huge increase in popularity of the Harley-Davidson brand in Europe. (Saladini, 74).
1.4.3 Harley-Davidson in the police service
Arthur Davidson was always trying to find new potential markets. In 1909, HarleyDavidson Motor Company presented a motorcycle model for the U.S. Post Office. They were successful and gained another order for 700 motorcycles for the telephone company. (Saladini, 52). There, motorcycles proved to be very effective in dispatching messages before the invention of reliable radio communications. Most of these motorcycles were three-wheeler versions or had sidecars sometimes replaced with a delivery unit.
The police department also became interested. The first Harley-Davidson police motorcycle was delivered to the Detroit Police Department in 1908. (Harley-Davidson USA). The Police Department used Harley-Davidson motorcycles equipped with sidecars until 1931 when the three-wheel delivery vehicle called Servi-Car was
introduced. These Servi-Cars became very popular, not only with police departments and were used for 41 years. (Přibáň, Historie motocyklové legendy, Saladini, 70).
Over the years, police and military organizations have used Harley-Davidson motorcycles and realized their advantages. People got used to police patrols operating Harley-Davidson motorcycles. “The image of a motorcycle cop parked behind a billboard became an icon of Americana. And the idea that a police officer would sit on anything other than a Harley-Davidson wouldn‟t be conceivable until the 1970s.” (Harley-Davidson). ”In the last five years, Harley-Davidson police sales have more than doubled. Today, just as in the late 1920s, more than 3,000 police departments ride Harley-Davidson motorcycles. This is a dramatic increase from the Motor Company‟s 80th Anniversary twenty years ago, when just over 400 state, provincial, county and municipal police departments were equipped with Harley-Davidson motorcycles.” (Harley-Davidson USA).
1.4.4 Problems that arose in the period after the war
The war models were reliable and could be used with minimal maintenance. Some of them functioned for more than fifty years after they were produced. (Saladini, 91). The success of Harley-Davidson motorcycles meant that there were many attempts to imitate their motorcycles both by European and other producers. (Saladini, 35). However after the passing away of all of the Harley-Davidson founders, Harley-Davidson Motor Company started to have other problems due to changes in the management together with the competition of other companies coming to the American market. They were Norton, Royal Enfield, BSA and Ariel from Great Britain. In 1950s almost 40% motorcycles were foreign brands. (Saladini, 96). To help domestic manufacturers, American Motorcycle Association asked the government to pass a resolution to give them preferential treatment. (Saladini, 95). To stop this invasion, Harley-Davidson started to produce models that could equal or be better than the competitors.
The 1960s brought another threat - strong competition from the Japanese motorcycle manufacturers. Harley-Davidson motorcycles were expensive but had features inferior to Japanese motorcycles. Harley-Davidson Motor Company lost about 90% share of the
motorcycle market due to an increase in imports. (Lensveld, 10). To be more competitive against Japanese motorcycles and enhance technologies, Harley-Davidson Motor Company successively established cooperation with the Italian company Aermacchi and the Tomahawk Boat Company. The poor economic performance of Harley-Davidson Motor Company led in 1969 to their takeover by the American Machine and Foundry Company (AMF), a longtime producer of leisure products. (Harley-Davidson USA). American Metal Foundries provided money, and HarleyDavidson Motor Company rapidly expanded their product capacity. However, this was done at the expense of quality and design. Many customers complained that the spirit of Harley-Davidson motorcycles had disappeared, that the quality of te motorcycles was falling, in particular, that oil leaked. (Wright, Saladini, 114). One of the popular jokes at the time was: “What do hound dogs and Harleys’ have in common? They both spend a lot of time riding around in the back of pickup trucks.” (Bronson). Sales were falling as well as the quality and the Harley-Davidson Motor Company almost went bankrupt. “The name of Harley-Davidson was mocked as “Hardly Ableson”, “Hardly Driveable,” “Hogly Ferguson”. (Harley-Davidson). In 1980s, one of a long-time Midwestern Harley-Davidson dealers divulged that he sells Harleys and Suzukis. The previous year, he sold 125 Harleys and 250 Suzukis and he had four fulltime Harley mechanics and one Suzuki mechanic. “That was the moment everyone connected with the (Harley-Davidson) motorcycle realized the quality had to improve”. (Wright).
The turn for the better came when L. Vaughn Beals (new director) and Jeff Bleustein (the head engineer) realized that they have to return back to the basic Harley-Davidson Motor Company's historic principles: solidity, reliability and quality and end the mass production. (Saladini, 115). The new company management started to solve the problems which had accumulated step by step. At the beginning of 80s the program “Nova” began which aimed to modernize the Harley-Davidson Motor Company's production. (Saladini, 118).
In 1981, thirteen Harley-Davidson senior executives purchased Harley-Davidson Motor Company from AMF. (Bronson). When the buyback was official, the phrase “The Eagle Soars Alone” appeared and subsequently became a rallying cry. (Harley-Davidson USA).
2 Harley-Davidson at present
2.1 Profile of Harley-Davidson customers
One cannot say how the typical Harley-Davidson rider looks like. On the roads can be seen shabby bardies as well as men that are carefully smartened up. The only feature that is common for the majority of Harley-Davidson bikers is leather clothes and riding boots. This outfit is necessity that ensures better protection in case of accident. (Leţák, 9).
2.1.1 Demographic profile of Harley-Davidson customers:
Median age of Harley-Davidson rider
Median household income of Harley-Davidson rider
(Harley-Davidson USA). From the first diagram above called Median age of Harley-Davidson rider can be seen that, form 1992 to 2006, the median age of Harley-Davidson rider rose from around 44 to 47.
The second diagram above called Median household income of Harley-Davidson rider shows that the income of the average Harley-Davidson rider has risen as well. In 2002, the median household income of a Harley-Davidson rider was around $80,000 and, by 2006, the median household income for those riders had not dramatically changed or risen. Profile of purchasers in 2006 49% Owned Harley-Davidson® motorcycle previously at any point during lifetime 37% Owned a competitive motorcycle previously 14% First motorcycle purchased The table above shows that almost 50 % of all Harley-Davidson purchasers owned a Harley-Davidson motorcycle of the identical brand before. The American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) asked American Motorcyclist Magazine to do a Readers Survey. American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) unifies the majority of motorcycle clubs and groups of all motorcycle brands that are considered the so-called “ninety-nine percenters” (riders who do not break the law). This survey showed that an American Motorcyclist Association member's: average age is 40 average riding experience is 26 years gender is in 93% male and 7% female marital status is in 66% married, in 34% single average household income is $91,500 education is o 12% post-graduate degree o 5% post-graduate study o 18% 4-year college degree o 10% 2-year college degree o 21% completed some college o 11% completed vocational training o 18% graduated high school Number of motorcycles owned is 728,000 total, (2.8 by each typical AMA member) Total annual riding by AMA members: more than 1 billion road miles more than 3.2 million off-road hours Average annual charitable donations by AMA clubs and promoters: $6 million (American Motorcyclist Association)
According to Bob Althoff, Harley-Davidson dealer, the motorcycle business has changed over the years as well as the demographic “of those who are part of the motorcycle family.” He asserts that Harley-Davidson riders “have moved beyond the stereotypical leather-clad, tattoo covered enthusiast”. He also says that “more women gain an interest in bikes, as well as an older crowd with looser purse-strings.” He says the reason why is that “people need a hobby and a place to belong,” he says. (Ghani).
2.2 The efforts of Harley-Davidson Motor Company to differentiate themselves from other motorcycle companies
Harley-Davidson Motor Company has had to fight during its existence with many competitors. Firstly it was the Indian motorcycle, then Ford cars that offered more space and comfort, then British motorcycle brands such as Triumph and others, and finally powerful and cheaper Japanese motorcycles. The biggest competitors of HarleyDavidson are today Honda, Yamaha, Kawasaki, Suzuki and BMW. (Bronson).
One of the very important steps that helped Harley-Davidson Motor Company overtake its competitors was the establishment of their marketing policy. While Japanese motorcycle companies lured people on high performance, Harley-Davidson Motor Company bet on a motorcycling lifestyle and started to continuously build their own specific brand image. (Bronson).
In 1936, Harley-Davidson Motor Company started to offer a series of original motorcycle parts and accessories. In the course of time was created a catalogue that has these days more than 720 pages. (Fahey). Every rider can according to individual taste choose any spare parts form this catalogue that are subsequently installed into his motorcycle. (Saladini, 77).
Another trick was the establishment of Harley Owners Group (HOG) that has got now more than one million members in all parts of the world. Every dealer is in a close contact with the local chapter or club. These clubs organize weekend out rides, meetings, long trips and rallies. In Europe, women make about 16% of all members. (Jeţek). Manager experts say that Harley-Davidson does not sell motorcycles but a membership in a commune. (Jeţek).
Another strategic move was the founding of section that pays attention to collection of motor clothes, casual clothes and accessories. Karen Davidson, great-granddaughter of Harley-Davidson Motor Company founder supervises this collection that contains almost everything including toys, teddy bears, watches and clothes for young children. These days, accessories and other products represent 15% of the company's turn and gains company new clientele form the upper classes. (Jeţek).
What helped them to install their image were also the media and Hollywood films. Many films of that time presented a picture of white motorcycle with leather saddlebags at rear wheel and wide handlebar and on which was sitting brave and merciless policeman dressed in perfect fitting, clean, well ironed uniform. (Saladini,108).
Harley-Davidson does not fall under the group of cheap motorcycles. Harley-Davidson Motor Company sells its motorcycles through dealers at $2,000 to $4,000 above the sticker price. (Fahey). It is luxury goods; many operations are hand-made: welding of the frame, painting of stripes on the fuel tanks and fenders to final assembly of motorcycle. This is for the customer guarantee that he or she buys a machine to which was paid enough attention during its production. (Leţák).
Nowadays, the U.S. market with the heavyweight motorcycles like Harley-Davidsons is stagnant. This is caused also by ageing of their loyal customers. The only possibility is to export to other countries. In the U.S., the Harley-Davidson logo and name are already established as an American symbol, but the same does not apply to the rest of the world. In 2001 was introduced the light motorcycle called V-Rod with engine designed by Porche (renowned German producer of cars). This motorcycle was designed to attract two groups of riders that have not been interested by Harley-Davidson‟s traditional products. Firstly, it should appeal to young Americans who have admired European design and performance and Europeans who were not interested in the traditional Harley-Davidson motorcycles design. (Bronson).
Harley-Davidson Company is these days in a difficult position. They have to attract new customers in Europe (where they control only 8 % of the market) but in the same time have to be careful not to offend their loyal traditional customers. (Bronson).
2.2.1 Harley-Davidson advertisements and magazines
The Harley-Davidson Motor Company tried to be always one step ahead of its competitors using up-to date technology, advertising and creating a specific image and lifestyle. (Saladini, 15). They published advertisements in the first American expert magazines like Bicycling World, Motorcycle Illustrated (Illinois), Motorcyclist (Los Angeles) and The Western Bicyclist. Then they published their commercials everywhere it was possible, in newspaper, magazines, expert magazines but it was not still enough. (Saladini, 46). In 1912 was created the magazine The Dealer that was published till 1916. It served especially for strengthening the relations between the company and the dealers. (Saladini, 36). The same year (1916) started to be published another magazine The Enthusiast in Spanish and English version. This magazine informed not only dealers but also all customers about what is new in the Milwaukee factory; it presented articles about new motorcycle models and accessories. A Few pages were always aimed to inform about general events in the motorcycle sport. This magazine is the oldest motorcycle magazine in the world that is continually published since 1916 until now. (Saladini, 109).
2.2.2 Harley-Davidson in the film and TV series
In spring 1953, the motorcycle became a symbol of freedom when the film Wild One appeared on the screen. (Lensveld,10). The two main characters were played by Marlon Brando and Lee Marvin. This film introduced American “wild” biker‟s culture into Europe. (Saladini, 190). The Wild One was an outlaw biker film loosely based on:
a real-life incident over the Fourth of July weekend in 1947 in Hollister, California, (publicized in an issue of Harper's Magazine in a January 1951 article titled "The Cyclists' Raid" by Frank Rooney), when about four thousand people, composed of motorcyclists and other visitors and enthusiasts, roared into the town over a two day period, and overwhelmed the facilities. However, they did not ransack the town, confront the locals, or cause civil unrest (except for some arrests for drunkenness, or urinating in public - often due to a lack of restrooms). (Dirks, The Wild One 1953)
After the incident on which the film was based, AMA (American Motorcyclist Association) supported “decent” motorcyclists and on the other side accused “wild”
bikers of provocation. “Wild bikers” were labeled all members of clubs that did not fall under American Motorcyclist Association. These clubs were for the first time called “one-percenters” because they made only one percent of all bikers. (Saladini, 191). After the introduction of this film, dozens of “wild hogs” biker clubs appeared all around United States. They established their own rules and way of life that was condemned by both conformist society and other motorcyclists. This was one of the crucial moments in the birth of chopper culture and image of chopper riders. (Saladini, 191).
The film The Wild One on one hand helped the Harley-Davidson Company to widen the range of its customers but on the other hand damaged Harley's growing image. After the success of this film, Hollywood produced from the 1950s through the 1970s many outlaw biker gang films. Due to this negative advertisement, Harley-Davidson motorcycles became for a long time attributes connected with the Hells Angels and other Outlaw motorcyclists gangs (More in section 4, Motorcycle clubs and gangs). (Saladini, 119-180).
Among the best known films where appeared Harley-Davidson Motorcycle is Terminator 2: Judgment Day with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Pulp Fiction where it is used by Bruce Willis.
Harley-Davidson motorcycles can be seen also in a series Renegade with Lorenzo Lamas. Another series that was going from 1969 to 1970 was Then Came Bronson. It is not sure whether starring Harley-Davidson motorcycles augmented prestige of TV program or vice versa. (Lensveld, 30). In 2007 appeared the American comedy Wild Hogs from Disney that tells the story about four ageing friends who want to feel young again and who are eager to experience adventure. They set out on a journey through the United States to reach the coast and have an encounter with the fictional Del Fuegos Motorcycle gang. The main characters are played by John Travolta, Tim Allen, Martin Lawrence and William H. Macy.
2.2.3 Harley-Davidson and stars
Harley-Davidson Motor Company is closely connected with the ZZ Top rock band. Its members participate in Harley-Davidson Companys' events and meetings. Its members
hold several Harley-Davidson brand motorcycles. The best known motorcycle of ZZ Top is their guitarist Billy Gibbons‟ that is customized Fat Boy called HogZZilla. (Přibáň, Harley-Davidson Fat Boy).
Another celebrity that owned several Harley-Davidson motorcycles was Elvis Presley. A very famous photograph of him and one of his motorcycles appeared on the cover of Harley-Davidson magazine The Enthusiast. (Lensveld, 16). Harley-Davidson still attracts celebrities and rich people. These are owned not only by Hollywood stars as George Clooney and Brad Pitt but purchased for example by Senator John Kerry and French tennis player Amelie Mauresm. (Jeţek).
2.2.4 Safety and motorcycle accidents
There are over four million motorcycles registered in the United States. It is clear that motorcycle riders have a higher rate of fatal accidents than automobile drivers because of their character (very high speed, less protective devices). United States Fatality Analysis Reporting System shows that the possibility that the motorcycle passengers dies is four times higher than in case of cars. The number of motorcycle fatal accident had risen significantly since the end of 1990s. (Fatality Analysis Reporting System Encyclopedia). A national study by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATS) revealed that motorcycle riders aged 40 years and over are around 20 times more likely to be killed than other drivers of that age because they drive frequently than younger drivers. Then we know that between 1999 - 2003 around 175 motorcycle riders were killed or seriously injured each year and of these:
90% were male 23% of deaths and 11% of serious injuries had a blood alcohol level of .05 or above 31% occurred on roads sign posted at 100 km/h or more 4% were not wearing a helmet 37% of serious casualties occurred on Saturday and Sunday 23% hit a fixed object.
3 Customs, Choppers and Bobbers
There is a notable distinction between a true chopper or chopper-style motorcycles and custom motorcycles or “custom cruisers”:
Bobbers are very similar to the Choppers. Both of them were modified to improve their performance by removing or replacing of all parts that were heavy or not useful. They differ in a fact that bobbers keep the original factory frame, whereas choppers have a restyled or repositioned form of the factory frame that is cut, adjusted and then welded. The term bobber comes from stripping of factory motorcycles including bobbing of their fenders. Bobbers were used for their qualities for dirt-track racing. The name chopper comes from “chopping” of factory models' frames. As an archetypal example of choppers is seen the customized Harley-Davidson motorcycle from the Easy Rider film. Bobbers were in fact predecessors of choppers. (Saladini, 188-199). Customs or so called custom motorcycles are machines that were chopped and modified not in order to improve the performance but in order to create a completely new, different, individual model. Many of its parts are replaced by chrome ones or different parts made of belabored metals. Fuel tanks are decorated by air brushing techniques (special painting technique based on spraying of paint by compressed air). (Leţák, 8-9, Saladini 199-314). While the traditional choppers were mostly home built, the modern choppers are very often created by specialized shops and they are very expensive. Despite the fact that many chopper shops name their modified motorcycles “choppers”, a large percentage of these motorcycles are better described as “custom” motorcycles. The difference is that a custom-built motorcycle has additional chrome accessories and billet parts that are added only for aesthetic value. Traditional choppers were modified purely for improvement of its functions. (Leţák).
3.1 Custom motorcycles
Many Harley-Davidson owners in the U.S. chose their motorcycle because of its broad possibilities for customization. Every rider adapts its motorcycle to his or her needs or taste. It is safe to say, that except new factory models do not exist any two identical models. (Leţák). The most popular are chrome parts (engine cylinders, air filter covers, exhaust pipes, carburetors, and wheel disks). Harley-Davidson Motor Company offers
dozens of alternative spare parts that are universal for almost all models they produce. Demanding customers can go to the specialized shops or workshops that make spare parts to order. It is possible to spend half price of the motorcycle on the spare parts or accessories. Parts that cannot be replaced by chrome components (as air tanks and fenders) are mostly decorated by airbrush techniques (special painting technique based on spraying of paint by compressed air). These tend to be unique artworks. The most frequent motifs are beasts, predators, raptors, fantasy and ghostly pictures and pretty women. Decorations are very individual; everything depends on the taste of the owner. There can be found peculiar models that are equipped for example with cow horns, leather fringes, two engines or extremely long forks. Some models are so “overcustomized” that they do not serve as motorcycles but only as exhibitions masterpieces. (Leţák, 9). The best known specialized companies producing HarleyDavidson custom spare parts, accessories and components are Custom Chrome Incorporation, Drag Specialties, Chrome Specialties, Nempco, Mid U.S.A. and many others. (Saladini, 210-215). The American experts that design custom motorcycles are: Arlen Ness (the best know expert ever) Bob Dron Cyril Huze Mike Corbin Cycle Savage Works Company Donnie Smith Hardly Civilized Company Bay Area Custom Cycles Rick Doss Jay Brake J. P. Poland and others
3.2 Rat bikes
Rat bikes are motorcycles that are damaged, dirty with mud, dust and oil and that are hung with enormous amount of junk. Some motorcycles are wreckages but are able to make many kilometers even though its oil leakage. Its name comes from American
slang, where “rat” means tommy-rot or a silly thing. Their owners never trim and wash their rat motorcycles and want to show off number of kilometers they traveled. Rat bikes can be seen more on Harley-Davidson and other meetings than on the roads.
3.3 History of choppers
The name “chopper” initially represented motorcycle with “chopped off” components. At the end of 40s and at the beginning of 50s, there did not exist any efficient way how to make from a common motorcycle a powerful one. Special powerful engines were installed only to racing models of motorcycles and could not be bought or ordered separately. Who wanted to have a touring motorcycle with qualities of racing motorcycle had to low its weight by cutting off all unnecessary parts that were deemed too big, heavy or ugly. Those days, motorcycles were equipped with many accessories to ensure its passenger comfort on his or her long travels. They had got saddlebags, windshield, exhaust pipe noise absorber, big fenders and comfortable saddles. The motorcycle that was chopped off could lose around 10 to 15 kilograms. However there existed people who eliminated everything they could like turn indicators and even front brakes. On the motorcycles sometimes remained only parts required by Highway Code. Heavy parts that were needed like huge tyres, wheels, handlebars, fuel and oil tanks, headlight and exhaust pipes were replaced by lighter or smaller ones. Special attention was paid to the large, spring-suspended kidneys saddles that were removed and replaced by lighter ones installed in order to sit as low as possible, forward-mounted foot pegs that replaced the standard large “floorboard” foot rests and handlebars. Spare parts could be easily bought or made at home. Chopped motorcycles were painted preferably all in flat black. The result of those modifications was for someone a bizarre motorcycle - massive frame, tiny saddle and huge engine that had got 1200 cm3. It was given the name “chopper”. (Saladini, 188-198, Lensveld, 10).
3.3.1 Tradition of choppers
During 60s, the construction and making of choppers became a real and ingenious art. To the development of their originality and design contributed also rising movement of hippies on the west coast of the U.S. Due to hippies became very popular shiny metallic “metal flake” colors as well as bright colors. (Saladini, 119). One newspaper article of that time mentions a motorcycle that had got originally 400 kilograms and after it was chopped off, its weight got to around 275 kilograms. (Saladini, 188). To achieve the
best performance possible, it was necessary not only to make the motorcycle lighter but also to pull up the engine. (Přibáň, Historie motocyklové legendy). This sort of motorcycles addressed especially Outlaws (members of dangerous motorcycle gangs) and people who loved speed and wanted to provoke and overtake their rivals on the roads - cars and powerful police motorcycles.
In 1969 occurred film that brought wide attention of public. It was the film Easy Rider with Peter Fonda and Denis Hopper. That was the first time when chopped motorcycle appeared in the film. The film Easy Rider was a road film about:
.... a search for freedom (or the illusion of freedom) in a conformist and corrupt America, in the midst of paranoia, bigotry and violence. Released in the year of the Woodstock concert, and made in a year of two tragic assassinations (Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King), the Vietnam War buildup and Nixon's election, the tone of this 'alternative' film is remarkably downbeat and bleak, reflecting the collapse of the idealistic 60s. Easy Rider, one of the first films of its kind, was a ritualistic experience and viewed (often repeatedly) by youthful audiences in the late 1960s as a reflection of their realistic hopes of liberation and fears of the Establishment.
(Dirks, Easy Rider 1969)
The popularity of the film grew quickly as well as the popularity of Harley-Davidson motorcycles. (Lensveld, 10). Very soon, dozens of home-made choppers were cruising on the American roads. Choppers and “stripped” motorcycles became a symbol of freedom and rebellion even though most of the fables that the chopper reputation was based on were fake or modified by the press. But the new image was created and is alive until now. (Saladini, 191). On the European roads, choppers appeared more since 1970. (Lensveld, 11).
3.3.2 Today's choppers
These days, choppers changed both their appearance and the purpose they are made for. More and more attention is put on their overall design, choice of frame, handle bars, noisy exhaust pipes and combinations of paint than it used to be. The most popular paint work styles are ghostly or fantasy air brushing techniques. Chopper owners spent hours working on their motorcycle and investing money in the new parts. Choppers became more the work of art that can be sold for considerable amount of money than a vehicle
to escape from police patrol. In the US are hundreds of special “chop shops” that offer chrome parts and other chopper accessories and garages that offer enhancing of motorcycle performance. The only limitations to the owner's imagination and taste are laws that prescribe some noise limitations and parameters of necessary equipment. (Chopper (motorcycle)). Strictly speaking, to Chopper can be rebuilt any factory motorcycle that is modified. (Saladini, 118). For those that are rich, there appeared shops that sell extremely expensive traditional ready-made choppers and a wide range of chopper-themed brands of merchandise such as clothing. (Chopper (motorcycle)). On the screen, the chopper can be seen for example in the film Pulp Fiction where it is used by Bruce Willis. Another example is the video clip of Black Label Society's (a heavy metal band) named Suicide Messiah where the band members are riding choppers.
4 Motorcycle clubs and gangs
4.1 Definition and division of motorcycle clubs
According to the definition in Wikipedia:
A motorcycle club is an organized club of dedicated motorcyclists who join together for camaraderie, strength of numbers, and peer group acceptance. Motorcycle clubs have a group of elected officers, a probationary period for new members, and a measure of privacy about their internal structure, bylaws, and membership. As part of becoming a full member, an individual must pass a vote of the membership and swear some level of allegiance to the club. Each club has a unique club patch (or patches) adorned with the term "MC" that are worn on the riders vest, known as colors. Membership in an MC (motorcycle club) is much different than membership in a motorcycle riding club, because it is the pinnacle of the counterculture, "outlaw" biker lifestyle. (Motorcycle club).
This definition differentiates clubs to motorcycle clubs (MC) that have more in common and have their own lifestyle or counter-culture and motorcycle riding clubs which members join in order not to ride alone or share knowledge and experience. However there exist a number of different definitions or divisions of motorcycle clubs. Strictly speaking, it does not matter if the club is called motorcycle club, motorcycle riding club, clan, gang or whatever but more important are its bylaws and leadership. Looking at it from this point of view, it is better to use the division of American Motorcyclist Association.
4.1.1 “One-percenters” and “Ninety-nine percenters”
Wikipedia states that the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) differentiates all motorcycle clubs as “One-percenters” and “Ninety-nine percenters”. By One-percenters are meant troublemakers who break laws but make only a small part of all motorcycle riders and by Ninety-nine percenters are meant the rest of motorcycle riders that behave in an ordinary way and do not represent a threat to public and other motorcycle riders. (Motorcycle club).
There exists broader definition than that of American Motorcyclist Association by Daniel R. Wolf in his book a Brotherhood of Outlaw Bikers. Daniel R. Wolf is an
anthropologist who wrote his PhD thesis based on research he did during his membership with the Rebels Motorcycle Club in Canada. He defined an outlaw motorcycle club as:
Technically, ... a club that is not registered with the American Motorcycle Association (AMA) or the Canadian Motorcycle Association (CMA), which are the respective governing bodies for the sport of motorcycling in the United States and Canada. The AMA and CMA are themselves affiliated with the Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme (FIM), the international coordinating body for motorcycling whose headquarters are located in Paris, France. (qtd. in Wikipedia, Motorcycle club).
Another definition was formulated by Provincial Court of Manitoba, who defines these groups as:
Any group of motorcycle enthusiasts who have voluntarily made a commitment to band together and abide by their organizations' rigorous rules enforced by violence, who engage in activities that bring them and their club into serious conflict with society and the law.
(Serwer, Schonfeld, Woods)
4.2 Features of the American motorcycle clubs
Among the oldest motorcycle clubs in the United States are the Yonkers MC, founded in 1903, the San Francisco MC, founded 1904, and the Oakland MC, founded in 1907. (Motorcycle club). The best known women motorcycle clubs are Motor Maids, Inc., founded in 1930, Women in the Wind founded in 1979 and Women on Wheels Organization. (More in section 5, Harley-Davidson and women).
Most clubs have certain internal structure. They have usually a president, vice president, treasurer, secretary, road captain that takes care about all out rides, and sergeant-at-arms that “is responsible for ensuring that the Bylaws and Standing Rules of the club are not violated.” (Motorcycle Club and Club Riding Education).
Big motorcycle clubs or motorcycle riding clubs are called chapters. The first established chapter is called mother chapter. The president of the mother chapter usually “serves as the president of the entire MC, and sets club policy on a variety of issues.” (Motorcycle Club and Club Riding Education).
Every club has a related place where they get together. It can be a pub, clubhouse or any rented hall. The board of each clubs decides on all events as rallies, out rides or reunions. If someone is interested and fulfills rules of the club membership, he or she can be accepted as a member of the club. Every member becomes a “prospect” gains his right to vote only after some time he or she is a participating in club activities. Sometimes may occur some sort of hazing but it depends on the club.
Many motorcycle clubs organise events, meetings, exhibitions and out rides through which they raise money for charities. Some motorcycle organisations hold large international motorcycle rallies that are attended by many thousands of riders. (Motorcycle clubs). Most one-percenter motorcycle clubs, sometimes called “Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs” by the authorities are often racist and sexist. (Potter). For example the Hells Angels do not accept any African-Americans, Native Americans and Jews. (Maryland Gangs; Hells Angels in Canada). Their members can be easily recognized and distinguished from other clubs by their club colors. It means by the large club symbol on their vest usually located in the middle of the back. This patch identifies the club by club logo, name of the club, country or city they come from, letters MC for motorcycle club, MRC for Motorcycle Riding Club or HOG if they are members of official Harley-Davidson Owners Club (more in section 4.4.2, Harley Owners Group). They can have also other identification. Some riders have on their vest their nicknames or road names they use instead of their given names. (Motorcycle Club and Club Riding Education).
The best known one-percenter motorcycle clubs and outlaws are Abutre's MC, American Badgers MC, Bandidos MC, Boozefighters MC, Hells Angels MC, Mongols MC, Outlaws MC, Pagans MC, San Francisco MC and Yonkers MC which are the oldest MC in the United States. (Maryland Gangs).
4.3 Outlaw Gangs and one-percenters
The best known and most dangerous clubs known as the "Big Four” are the Pagans, Hells Angels, Outlaws MC, and Bandidos. All of these were designated as Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs (OMGs) by both the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and
Criminal Intelligence Service Canada. (Motorcycle Gangs). They are all U.S. based and have international chapters with the exception of the Pagans. The members of the “Big Four” as well as many other one-percenters clubs are motorcyclists “who won't conform to society's laws and morals ethics.” (Motorcycle Club and Club Riding Education). They have their own code of terror and are involved in criminal activities that ranges from petty crimes to higher level activities such as streetlevel drug trafficking but also largescale importation, exportation and distribution of illicit drugs, money laundering and fraud. (Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs). Their aim is to install in people a fear they interpret as respect and to maintain their reputation. Certain large one-percent Motorcycle Clubs fight with each other over their territory and other issues. (Motorcycle Club and Club Riding Education). To eliminate the enemy, there exist so calles “squads of killers”. They are called: the Hell's Angels Filthy Few, the Outlaws' SS, the Pagans' Black T- shirt squad, and the Bandidos' Nomad Chapter. (Motorcycle Gangs). The gangs that fight the most among themselves are the Hell's Angels and Outlaws who kill each other's members at every opportunity. They also encourage smaller clubs to expand their territory and reinforce them. (Hell Angels in Canada). Members and supporters of these clubs assert that “illegal activities are isolated occurrences and that they, as a whole, are not criminal organizations.” (Jamison).
The major source of money for one-percenters is according to FBI the trade with narcotics, trafficking in stolen goods, and extortion. (Fact Sheet: Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs). According to wikipedia, they control 75% of the North American Methamphetamine market. (Motorcycle Clubs). However, millions of dollars come also from prostitution, theft, arson, robbery, hijacking, bombings, contact murders and other sorts of crime. These riders are very often equipped with up-to-date military technology and protected by the best lawyers. (Hells Angels in Canada, Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs).
4.4 Ninety-nine percenters
Outlaw gangs attract more attention of the media, however there are many more bikers and motorcycle clans that come under ninety-nine percenters who do not break laws. There are for example police, firefighter, military, and veterans clubs such as the Iron
Pigs MC, Iron Warriors MC, Blue Knights MC, the U.S. Military Vets MC, the Vietnam Vets MC, the Leathernecks MC, and the Buffalo Soldiers MC. One online directory of motorcycle clubs called Motorcycle Clubs Index lists 239 clubs from which only 16 are for Harley-Davidson owners. (Motorcycle Clubs Index). There exist also clubs that are founded for some purpose as for example law enforcement clubs or Patriot Guard Riders, who escort military veterans on their last way. (Patriot Guard Riders). Apart from these motorcycle clubs, there is a number of motorcycle riding clubs. Some of them are founded and sponsored by a particular manufacturer. To this category belong Harley Owners Group (HOG) or Honda riders Club of America, BMW Motorcycle Owners of America and others.
4.4.1 The American Motorcyclist Association (AMA)
The American Motorcyclist Association was founded in 1924. Their headquarters is in Pickerington, Ohio which is in the same time home to the Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum that honors people for their contribution to motorcycle sport. (Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum). Their role is to approve “road and off-road riding activities and overseeing professional and amateur racing events.“ (American Motorcyclist Association). These days, they have about 269,884 active members and many chartered clubs. They are the only affiliate of Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme (FIM) which is the governing body for motorcycle sport, competitions and touring activity including monitoring of motorcycling legislation and lobbying for rider's rights worldwide. (American Motorcyclist Association).
4.4.2 The Harley Owners Group (HOG)
The Harley Owners Group is a club for Harley-Davidson motorcycle owners that was founded and has been sponsored by Harley-Davidson Motor Company. Harley Owners Group nickname comes from 1920, when a group of farm boys known as the "hog boys," were winning motorcycle races. They used as their mascot a hog. When they won a race, they took a victory lap with a real pig on the back of their Harley-Davidson motorcycle. When the Harley-Davidson Motor Company founded a club of owners of their motorcycles in 1983, they used the long-lasting nickname and turned it into the acronym H.O.G. which means in the same time Harley Owners Group. (HarleyDavidson).
The Harley Owners Group grew quickly; in 1993 it spread to Europe and it very soon became the largest factory-sponsored motorcycle club in the world. (Harley-Davidson USA). In its first year, it had got 33 thousands members, in 1985 already 60 thousands members and in 1993 there was united 233 thousand members in 805 Chapters. Nowadays, the Harley Owners Group has over one million members from all over the world. (Kadeřábek). The new owner of Harley-Davidson motorcycle gets automatically one-year full membership. This membership can be after one year renewed or applied for lifelong membership. Harley-Davidson Factory provided official statutes and bylaws that are mandatory for all Chapters and members in all countries. (Kadeřábek).
5 Harley Davidson and women
Women have always been a part of “the Harley-Davidson family”. We can find many early Harley-Davidson Motor Company advertising photos with pictures of scantily dressed women posing with the latest motorcycles or for example in a role of policeman. (Photo “Catching up with speeders, 1950s.”). Another source of accounts of women and motorcycling is the magazine Enthusiast which began to be published in 1916.
First of all I should answer the question that may interest many people. This question is: “Are heavy motorcycles like Harley-Davidson aimed at women?” or “Are women capable of mastering heavy motorcycles like Harley-Davidson?” In the table of demographic profile (2002-2006), there was a rise of female buyers in the years 2002 to 2006 from 10% to 12%. This research was made for Harley-Davidson Motor Company by CSI (Customer Satisfaction Index) and applies only for sales in the United States. A different search carried by Motor Maids Inc. showed that women comprise about 8% of all new riders. (This research covers all motorcycle brands).
DEMOGRAPHIC PROFILE (2002-2006) GENDER Male Female 2006 88% 12% 2005 88% 12% 2004 89% 11% 2003 89% 11% 2002 90% 10%
In the Czech Republic, the Company Klasik-Moto (Prague distributor of HarleyDavidson motorcycles) asked the motorcycling magazine Supermoto to make several tests by female riders. (Votavová). Finally, five tests were made with different models from which four were Harley-Davidson motorcycles and one Buell motorcycle. Testing driver Michaela Votavová is slim and 160 centimeters tall. After one season of testing she said: “None of the motorcycles was beyond my forces; all of them are possible to control by a women's hand even though their weight was around the border of three hundred kilograms.” (Translation from Czech by author). The only thing that may be
more suitable for women according to Michaela Votavová are the so called “Low” models that have got seven centimeters lower saddle than usual models. (Votavová).
5.1 Women's historic beginnings in the saddle
One of the best sources that support the theory of female importance in shaping the motorcycling sport is personal collections that include many accounts and photos. Around 1910's, female riders were most frequently called girls, ladies or more affectionately, gals. Those days, they represented just a small part of the motorcycle market, perhaps one or two percent, compared to 10-12 percent today. (Wheels Through Time). No matter in what number, female riders were already doing everything that the men did including long-distance rides or enjoying weekend afternoon rides with friends. However, it does not mean that they did not meet on their way with sexism and bigotry. It was only in 1915, when Avis and her daughter Effie Hotchkiss crossed twice America on a motorcycle with sidecar. Thus, they became the first women who crossed the United States on a motorcycle. As they said, they “merely wanted to see America and considered that the Three-Speed Harley-Davidson for herself and sidecar for her mother and the luggage best suited for the job.” (Harley-Davidson USA). Another woman who made round trip journeys was Vivian Bales of Albany who traveled from Georgia through the upper Midwest and back and made 8,045 kilometers. (Harley-Davidson USA).
In 1930s, there were still not many women having or riding motorcycle, however, three women were competing alongside with men. It is safe to say that it was them who paved the way for other women to ride motorcycles. They helped to attract more women to motorcycling by setting some standards and proved that “The women....can still be professional women, doctors, lawyers, teachers, engineers, accountants, clerks, cashiers, home-makers, mothers, grandmothers, and they can still step outside, throw a leg over a bike and take off cross country.” (Motor Maids, Inc.) Especially Dot Robinson showed women how to do the same things as men but still preserve the look and manners of a lady.
Firstly, it was already mentioned Dorothy "Dot" Robinson, who was a well known racer during the time of the Depression. In 1940, she won Jack Pine Enduro (endurance) race
in Michigan. In addition, she got several high-placing finishes. To illustrate how one of the first women racers was, "Hap," the Honda dealer in Sarasota, tells: "I chased that woman for two days, through mud and trees and never caught her. At the end of the race, all the guys tramped into the local bar, but not Dot. She went to her room and got cleaned up first. I'll never forget the picture: Dot walking into the bar in a black sheath dress and a pill box hat." (Motor Maids, Inc.).
Secondly, it was Linda Dugeau, a friend of Dot Robinson. Due to her interest in motorcycling Linda Dugeau became In 1930s co-founder of Motor Maids, Inc. which was the first female motorcycling club in the world. (Section 5.2.1 First women's club Motor Maids, Inc.). She gained a reputation of a keen touring rider. She was able to make a trip of 5631, 5 kilometers in two weeks during which she managed to visit the Harley-Davidson factory, her mother and also the World's Fair in New York City. She was not even afraid of driving around the uninhabited wild areas in Canada. In the 1950s, Linda Dugeau was considered to be one of the best female off-road riders. (Motor Maids, Inc.). Bessie Stringfield, the first Afro-American woman known as “Motorcycle Queen of Miami” completed a solo cross-country ride when she was only 19-years-old. In the '30s and '40s, Bessie was traveling through all lower 48 states and visited also Europe, and part of South America on motorcycle. During the World War II., she served in motorcycle dispatch unit of the army. On her way through life, she did not have to stand only bad weather, dust and bumpy country roads causing many punctures as other white women riders but as well racism. She said once: “If you had black skin, you couldn't get a place to stay. I knew the Lord would take care of me and he did. If I found black folks, I'd stay with them. If not I'd sleep at filling stations on my motorcycle.” (HarleyDavidson USA). In 1990, the American Motorcyclist Association's (AMA) prepared an inaugural exhibit called “Heroes of Harley-Davidson”. Bessie Stringfield was honored at this occasion. In 2000, American Motorcyclist Association created an award that bears her name. This award is given to women that contributed to the development of motorcycle sport and its good name among the public. Today, we can find name of Bessie Stringfield in the Motorcycle Hall of Fame. Her motto was “If I don't ride, I won't live long. And so I never quit.” She died when she was 83. (Harley-Davidson USA). 36
5.2 The best known women only clubs
Someone might know how many women motorcycling clubs are in the United States but not many people would be able to say how many women clubs exist in the world. Most known women motorcycle clubs “welcome all kinds of motorcycles,” and their “members are from all walks of life: everything from students to secretaries, real estate agents and teachers, factory workers, and police officers.” and that their “members are married and single, mothers and grandmothers.” (Women in the Wind). They as they say “have them all!” (Women in the Wind). Strictly speaking about the Toledo, Ohio area (seat of Women in the Wind), members are from mid-20s to late 60s. (Weber). Their purpose is to promote “a positive image of women motorcyclists, to educate their members in motorcycle safety and maintenance unite women motorcyclists with friends of common interest.” (Motor Maids, Inc., Women in the Wind, Women on Wheels Organization).
There should be also mentioned the film She Lives to Ride which is a Public Broadcasting Service documentary where features Becky Brown together with other famous women motorcyclists such as Dot Robinson (founder of Motor Maids, Inc.). This film was a debut film of director Alice Stone in 1994. (Women in the Wind).
5.2.1 First women's club - Motor Maids, Inc.
As the time goes, more and more women became interested in riding motorcycles. Female riders unlike male riders, who ride alone, are mostly centralized in women's clubs. (Women Riders Now). It was in 1930's, when Linda Dugeau together with Dot Robinson started to work on creation of the first women‟s motorcycle club in the world named Motor Maids, Inc.. Their aim was to unify women who wanted to get acquainted with other female riders, to promote motorcycling among women and to show that even riding a motorcycle, one can remain a lady. In 1940, the Motor Maid organization had 51 chartered members. The club accepts any woman who legally own and ride her own motorcycle or a motorcycle belonging to her immediate family member. All members have to be “of good character and be willing to work for the betterment of motorcycling in all possible ways.” (Motor Maids, Inc., Constitution and By-Laws). Every member has to pay a $20.00 membership fee once a year. The club symbol is the Motor Maid emblem in the form of a shield; colors are royal blue and silver gray. The club has also its own uniform in club colors. Since the participation of Motor Maids, Inc. at the 37
Charity Newsies Race in 1941, the members are nicknamed “Ladies of the White Gloves“.
From its beginnings till now, the organization Motor Maids, Inc. organize many informal meetings, get-togethers and participate in parades in all parts of the country and sometimes also in Canada. Every member can join the get-together that suits her best. There are off-road riding tours to the mountains and many other places of interest, “Girls Night Out”, various trips to all parts of the United States, Leather Care classes, Accident Scene management classes, Parking Practice classes, visitations of Bike Shows, Pirate Treasures rides, Night Rides, parties and many other runs. Among formal meetings is the Convention that regularly takes place every year since 1944. (Motor Maids, Inc).
Many Motor Maids and other memorabilia connected with women motorcycling can be seen in the Museum in North Carolina at the exposition called “The Wheels Through Time”. In 2007 was added an exhibition devoted only to women and their motorcycling history. This exhibition is called “Girls”. As one of the owners of the memorabilia collection on display said, “The aim was to present real women in motorcycling and not show “models” next to bikes.” (Wheels Through Time).
5.2.2 Women in the Wind Club
The founder of the club Women in the Wind Becky Brown started in 1979 with placing an advertisement in the local newspaper. The first ride had got eleven participants. Since then, Women in the Wind have over 1000 members not only in the United States but also in Great Britain, Canada, Sweden and Australia. Their aim did not change over time, it is still promoting the good name of women motorcycle riders. (Weber). Becky Brown owned Harley-Davidson motorcycles through her carrier. She was honored in the Hall of Fame and thus became only the seventh woman in the Hall of Fame among a total of 57 men. (Weber). The Motorcycle Hall of Fame is a list of people who according to public “have made significant contributions to American motorcycling.“ (Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum). Anyone can suggest to a Motorcycle Hall of Fame a person that either “excelled in motorcycle business, history, design and engineering, or contributed to the development of road riding, off-road riding and all categories of motorcycle racing”. (Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum). From suggested names
chooses the Induction Committee. This committee consists of living people in the Motorcycle Hall of Fame and independent volunteers who are experts in particular disciplines. The Motorcycle Hall of Fame includes these days more than 350 names. (Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum). Brown together with members of her club thinks that “the road has become much smoother for women who ride motorcycles. We are happy that numbers of our members have increased. More and more women are driving, not just riding along behind or beside. They have their own clubs and publications. Manufacturers are building bikes for women's smaller frames. Lines of clothing for female motorcyclists have expanded.” (Weber) To illustrate how are today's female motorcycle riders, Becky Brown adds that women “finally may be shedding their bad-girl image...We're not tough at all,...We have all our teeth, we don't cuss like truck drivers, and we're not covered with tattoos." In conclusion, the female motor biker‟s image is changing. “It's softening up.” (Weber). Concerning her club, Becky Brown believes that it does not differ from other women's clubs. "We have everything from baby showers to fund-raisers." (Weber).
Members of the Women in the Wind meet nationally twice a year and have many other meetings in their chapters during the year. Apart from all motorcycle activities, they prepare fundraising events for sponsoring events such as breast cancer research. The membership fee is $15 for U.S. citizens, $20 for Canadians and $25 for people from abroad. In 2002 was added the 100,000 Mile Club to honor members who make more than 100,000 miles on their motorcycle. The list of winners shows, that Shirley Garland, from Northern Women Chapter, managed to make 185,483 miles which is 298 442,147 kilometers. (Women in the Wind).
Among well known clubs are also Women on Wheels Organization. The essence of this club is very similar to clubs already mentioned above.
5.3 How important are women for the Harley-Davidson Motor Company these days
A lot of time has passed since the early female pioneers broke down barriers to establish women's place in both motorcycling. Step by step, women riders evolved from reliant to 39
independent. Women have always been important to the Harley-Davidson Motor Company (Harley-Davidson Motor Company owns a women oriented advertisement which dates from 1920s). However, these efforts to attract women customers have considerably increased in the last few years. The proof can be seen in the significant growth of Harley-Davidson motorcycle sales to women during years 1985 to 2006. The percentage has grown from 2 percent of sales in 1985 to 12 percent of sales in 2006, when women bought about 23,000 motorcycles. (Harley-Davidson: Women buying more motorbikes). These days, women buy still about 12 percent of all produced Harley-Davidson motorcycles. For the Harley-Davidson Motor Company “it is women that are the fastest-growing segment of the motorcycle business.” (Harley-Davidson: Women buying more motorbikes). Eric Zoromski, vice president of interactive media company Fullhouse Media Inc., says: "For many brands, women are extremely important. The male-focused brands are doing everything they can to leverage that market potential." (Thoreson).
According to Leslie Prevish, product communication manager at Harley-Davidson, Harley-Davidson Motor Company wants to continue in their women-oriented programs (dealership garage parties, Rider's Edge New Rider Course) and targeted advertisements in women's publications they have established in the last years. (Thoreson). Another step forward to encourage more women to buy a motorcycle was an idea to construct new motorcycle models that suit women better because they have got lower saddles and reduced the clutch lever effort to accommodate women's hands that are not as strong. (Thoreson). “Harley-Davidson is taking a good approach for reaching women.” said Johnson of The Reach Group. But there could be still more done (Thoreson).
5.4 Harley-Davidson Motor Company women only events
Because the research among 1,000 women riding Harley-Davidson motorcycle proved that women want to do more with the motor company and to be involved, the HarleyDavidson Motor Company prepared a series of more or less commercial events orientated only to women in the United States. (Thoreson). These are intended not only for new customers but as well for experienced ones. There exist for example HarleyDavidson garage women-only Parties where women can get to know which models of Harley-Davidson can fit them best, what rider clothes choose to be well protected, ways
how to customize their motorbikes or self-service which tells them how to operate a machine that weights almost three hundred kilograms. (Harley-Davidson USA)
For inexperienced motorbike female riders was prepared a commercial Rider's Edge New Rider Course which teaches women how to handle and drive a heavy motorcycle. These courses are organized separately for women and then mixed (mostly attended by men). By these actions aimed purely for women, Harley-Davidson Motor Company wants to create a friendly environment in which women are nor afraid of asking questions. (Harley-Davidson: Women buying more motorbikes).
In August 2007, the first-ever Women's Day was held at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in Rapid City. There could be found demonstrations, customization seminars, accident management seminar and presentation of clothing collection aimed only to women. (Women Riders Now).
Another event is the Daytona Women's Day Ride. Harley-Davidson Daytona Women's Day Ride was one of the largest women's Day Ride that took place on March 4th 2008 in Daytona, Florida. This event aroused broad interest among female riders' who wanted to enroll. From the intended symbolic number of 105 Harley-Davidson female riders joined together 500 females. (Clemens). Participants were accompanied by Karen Davidson, great-granddaughter of one of the company's founders. The money from this event went to support Muscular Dystrophy Association. (Harley-Davidson USA). This could have been a great opportunity for all lovers of HARLEY-DAVIDSON motorcycles to see various models and customs on one place.
5.5 Why women decide to ride motorcycles and what can hold them back from riding
There is about 10 to 12 percent of all new motorcycles sold to women buyers. (HarleyDavidson USA). From the articles about women riders and various clubs and forums follows that in most cases women would ride on the back with their male partners but once they started to feel they needed a change and became more independent. (Women in the Wind, Women Riders Now). Then, they buy their own motorcycle and start riding and get to know the rules of the road. On the other hand, there are women who do not 41
have enough courage to do that step. There exists a list of most frequent obstacles summarized by Women Riders Now (internet website about, by and for women riders) that can stop women from buying a motorcycle. According to them, there are thousands of women who dream about riding a motorcycle, but many “are held back because of a variety of reasons stemming from family approval to stereotypes” like: confidence product knowledge cost skills life stage
On the other hand, we have a list of reasons why women decide to ride motorcycles (including Harley-Davidsons) which contains various purposes. I would like to mention here only a few examples of the reasons that lead particular women to buy a motorcycle. There exist countless numbers of women clubs all over the world. These clubs are founded to unify women who do not want to ride alone or want to find friends who share their passion for riding. All clubs have members from diverse social classes and professions. Harley-Davidson Motor Company itself creates and supports many clubs and other clubs appear independently of the company all around the world (for example the best known Motor Maids, Inc., Women in the Wind and others). The age of women on the road differs. On the different pages of the women clubs you will find mothers alongside with their daughters riding motorcycle but as well their grandmothers and great-grandmothers. The thing that unites them is the passion for riding, friendship and promoting safe riding skills. (Motor Maids, Inc., Women in the Wind).
On the website of the first women's club Motor Maids, Inc. we can find that for its members: It is important to ride. They should have FUN in what they do. They believe in the importance of their history and in its preservation. They believe in traditions. They believe that presenting a positive image of women motorcyclists demonstrates their respect for each other and for themselves.
Harley-Davidson is a producer of heavyweight motorcycles. Renee Chartrand, 49 is an administrative assistant in the finance department for the Clement J. Zablocki Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Milwaukee. She chose Harley-Davidson because she “felt that she needed to get something bigger than what she had, and just the thrill of a different kind of motorcycle." And the reason why she got involved in the local HarleyDavidson group was for the camaraderie. She thinks that it is the “adventure and excitement that hooks female riders.” The feeling that she, as well as many other women state to be so exciting is “just being out in the open and having the wind in my hair. It's the freedom that riding a motorcycle gives." (Thoreson). K. Carter say:” My Sportster has made me aware of things around me that I have taken for granted for years. As I ride through the mountains of southwest Virginia, I am overwhelmed by the beauty around me.” (Harley-Davidson USA). K. Carter travels alone but many clubs organize trips to get to know the country and natural beauties in their surrounding areas. (Motor Maids, Inc., Women in the Wind). On the pages of the exhibition “Wheels Through Time” can be found that “women have always been the queens of the slipstream and they live out their dreams of adventure, independence and freedom on the open road.” Marsha Kiss, a 59 year old woman from Ohio got inspired when she saw outside a restaurant "Women out riding together, having fun ...” She thinks “it's neat that they do that. It made me think I can do it too." (Crites).
6 Harley-Davidson lifestyle in the Czech Republic
It is not easy to say how many Harley-Davidson motorcycles are being driven on Czech roads. The Harley-Davidson clubs estimate that there are about 6, 000 motorcycles but it is possible that it is much more. Many people still imagine Harley-Davidson riders as tough men with unshaven faces, free minds and loose morals. But the truth is something different. While I was doing my research, I asked several people that either own a Harley-Davidson motorcycle or are close to people that ride this brand of motorcycle. Some information came also from Harley-Davidson authorized dealers here in the Czech Republic.
6.1 Harley-Davidson dealerships
Harley-Davidson has four authorized dealerships here in the Czech Republic. The first and oldest one is in Prague. The second, which is the most successful because it sells the highest number of motorcycles, is here in Brno. The third is in Hradec-Králové, and the last one is in Ostrava. The inside design of every dealership shop looks very similar because you will not see anything but Harley-Davidson motorcycles, clothing collections and accessories everywhere you look. Everything looks very glossy, and dealerships are usually full of people choosing the right model of motorcycle or stylish accessories or clothes.
The dealership here in Brno has sold Harley-Davidson motorcycles since 1977. At the beginning, it was more of a hobby for its founders, but in the course of time it became a “life passion” as says the owner of Harley-Davidson shop Ing. Zdeněk Hönig. The dealership in Brno as well as all dealerships in the Czech Republic offer HarleyDavidson motorcycles and Buell motorcycles, a complete line of motorcycle parts, accessories, apparel, and general merchandise. There you can find clothing ranging from toddler through teen collections to adults and purely clothing for riders. Even though the Brno dealership is the biggest in the Czech Republic, it is possible that you will not find all models and spare parts you need in the shop. Some parts have to be ordered in the United States or sent from a different nearby dealership. A customer that comes to the shop may try out more models by sitting on them in order to choose the one that fits him or her best. When any customer pays a refundable deposit, he or she 44
can try the motorcycle on the road. The indispensable part of every dealership is a branded service. The Harley-Davidson dealership service in Brno has got four full time mechanics, and the owner of the dealership thinks it is enough for the time being.
There are people that believe Harley-Davidsons are reliable motorcycles, and there are those that would completely disagree. Harley-Davidson motorcycles are notorious for leaking oil. Not all of their models are “oil gluttons”, as one rider told me, but most Harley-Davidson riders have already had some experience with it. As an example, one Harley-Davidson owner had three Harley-Davidson motorcycles. He says that everyone knows that some models of Harley-Davidson motorcycles have troubles with leak of oil and everyone who buys it has to cope with it, get used to it or buy a different brand of motorcycle. Concerning his three Harley-Davidson motorcycles, one he used for riding, the second was always in for service, and the third was sitting ready in his garage in case the one he rode breaks down. Eventually he decided to buy a Japanese motorcycle. I do not want to show by this example that Harley-Davidson motorcycles are not reliable, but there are motorcycles that operate without any problems and motorcycles that are often in service and it does not matter what brand is the motorcycle. Everything depends also on the rider and how that person cares about the machine.
Concerning the man from my example, he belongs to high society and can buy almost everything he wants, but he does not behave like a snob. He is a member of one big motorcycle club in Brno. This club is not a Harley-Davidson club. It unites riders of various motorcycle brands. As he told me, he loves Harley-Davidsons for their American nature but on the other hand pointed out he considers most of the HarleyDavidson models he owned not very suitable for our roads that are full of holes and bumps. Harley-Davidson motorcycles are made for straight, long and wide, American highways where it is not necessary to curve in hairpin bends or around holes. Another feature of Czech roads is the variety of terrain. The Czech Republic and especially Bohemia is full of slopes and valleys.
6.2 The position of Harley-Davidson motorcycles on the Czech market
Although Harley-Davidson motorcycle prices have rapidly declined since 2002, its prices remain among the most expensive motorcycles and are therefore not obtainable 45
by the majority of the Czech population. The cheapest basic model costs about 230,000 Kč and the most expensive basic factory model is around one million. When someone wants a different color or additional accessories, he has to pay for it. Then the price of the factory model can rise to more than one and a half million Czech crowns. Secondhand Harley-Davidson motorcycles are not much cheaper; their price will be still around 300,000 Czech crowns and more.
In 2002, the V-Rod model cost about 1,300,000 Czech crowns, while today it can be bought for about 490,000 Czech crowns. The fall of the prices was hastened by the economic crisis in the U.S. and the strengthening of Czech crown. The most expensive models can be sold for more than one and half million Czech crowns. For demanding customers models can be made to order according to their demands. These models are assembled by servicemen in the dealership where the motorcycle was ordered. When the customer orders a model that is not in stock, the dealer tries to find the closest dealerships that have this model in stock. If the model is not in Europe, the customer has to wait six months or sometimes almost one year for his motorcycle to be delivered.
The situation of Harley-Davidson Company is now very complicated. The U.S. market for heavyweight motorcycles is stagnant and Harley-Davidson Company wants therefore address new customers in Europe. What they did was an introduction of new light motorcycle called V-Rod with an engine designed by Porche (German producer of cars). This new motorcycle shocked many young European customers with its design and performance. Everyone was used to old-fashioned, heavy and slow traditional Harley-Davidson motorcycles and V-Rod was something completely new. Its design is very attractive, especially for younger riders who like powerful machines. It is lighter, it is easier to handle on curves, and its performance masters even hilly terrain. V-Rod is currently one of the bestsellers on the European market.
6.3 Clubs for Harley-Davidson owners
Harley-Davidson riders in the Czech Republic are associated in many clubs and groups. These clubs can be divided into official clubs (Harley Owners Group and its chapters), unofficial clubs that cooperate with dealerships (Harley-Davidson Club Prague, HarleyDavidson Club Brno) and unofficial independent clubs and groups. On the Czech roads
one can recognize many different motorcycle clubs, motorcycle riding clubs or groups. Another division of clubs can be to the one-percenters (that break laws) and ninety-nine percenters (the rest of common riders).
Harley-Davidson Club Prague closely cooperates with all Harley Owners Group chapters in the Czech Republic as well as with other clubs like Harley-Davidson Club Brno, Ostrava and Hradec-Králové. Among their co-operative events are national rallies, out-rides, and public exhibitions. Some events are designated only for club members, while others are for every biker even if he is not a member of any club or group.
The best known Ninety-nine percenters in the Czech Republic are:
Harley Owners Group Praha Chapter (Harley-Davidson official club) Harley-Davidson Club Praha (the oldest club in the world founded in 1927) Harley-Davidson Club Brno (also connected with the dealership)
Among best known clubs for riders of all motorcycle brands are: Full of Energy MC New Rangers MC Praha Vipers Czech MC Wild Horde Czech MC Warriors MC Pilsen Enola Gay MC Highlands Livi Team 2000
A special category is the Black Dogs LE Motorcycle Club which is an international club that is comprised special government employees of the executive public such as firefighters, police forces, rescuers and soldiers. The best known Outlaw Gangs on our territory are Hells Angels Chapter Ostrava, Nomads and Prague Chapter.
If we compare the activities of outlaw gangs here in the Czech Republic and in the United States, we find out that it is completely different. When you look for crimes
committed by, for example, Hells Angels in the United States, you will find dozens of articles about blackmailing, distribution of drugs, prostitution and other crimes, whereas in the Czech Republic you will not find anything. It is possible that members of this club are involved in crime but, when they are caught, it is not considered as a gang organized action. Rather it is only considered a common organized crime. Another interesting fact that was confirmed by more Harley-Davidson riders is that almost 80 to 90 percent of club members are armed. This includes members of ninety-nine percenters. These arms are at least knifes, while people with more money buy firearms. I cannot certainly say whether this is true, but I have heard it from three different sources that come from various motorcycle riding clubs or motorcycle clubs. The situation is the same for piercing and tattoos. People I asked estimate that approximately 70 to 80 % of Harley-Davidson riders have tattoos and a slightly smaller percentage (more women than men) have piercing.
Both in the United States and in the Czech Republic, every member of any motorcycle club must strictly adhere to colors (color is crucial for recognizing that a rider is a member of a particular motorcycle club). If anyone is forced to put away his colors, this incident may in some cases provoke an attack or an open war among motorcycle clubs. A Member or prospect that does not care about colors can be fired from the club or punished by the club president.
6.4 Harley-Davidson customers
At first I wanted to write about Harley-Davidson owners as a group of snobs. However, from what I heard and saw, I completely changed my mind and realized that it is not possible to generalize. There are many people who work hard and do not buy anything for a long time only to be able to buy Harley-Davidson motorcycle. On the other hand there are people that do not have to do anything and can ask their rich parents for money to buy such an expensive motorcycle like a Harley-Davidson.
I met one garbage man that had a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. Before he bought it, he studied all the materials he could get to become familiar with Harley-Davidson history and culture. He is a very kind man that worked and saved up for a long time only to be able to buy and then care for his motorcycle. Now, he is very proud he has got a
motorcycle that symbolizes freedom. He spends all of his free time thinking of what he can do next to improve his machine. He also buys or makes himself new spare parts to customize his machine. When his machine breaks down, he tries to repair it himself or asks for advice from any of his club fellows. In his free time, he goes on out rides together with members of one small riding club here in Brno. In that club, he is the only one who owns a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. He decided to become member of this club because he did not feel comfortable in the official Harley-Davidson club. The club he is now in is one of the ninety-nine percenters. During the riding season, they spent much of their free time riding outside Brno. Even though it is not a club of brutes, he admitted that using drugs and alcohol before the driving does happen. He said that if he rides in a group of bikers, he is not afraid of police patrol because policemen on our roads rather do not stop groups of motorcycles in order to avoid conflict.
On the other hand there are people that do not know almost anything about HarleyDavidson motorcycles or their history. They only know that this is one of the prestigious brands and this is what motivates them in buying it. Some percentage of these people ride alone, other people become members of the official Harley-Davidson clubs, and some go to join a completely different motorcycle club or motorcycle riding club.
I came across opinions that all Harley-Davidson owners are snobs that neither bother to respond to the driver greeting (usually a hand sweep) nor help a biker who needs help in case of a break down. However I personally think this is absolutely not dependent on the brand of the motorcycle but on the person‟s character. There are official or unofficial Harley-Davidson clubs that take part in events or casual motorcycle meetings and clubs that participate only in official events organized by Harley-Davidson dealerships. It is understandable that among every group of people are individuals that behave in an arrogant way and show they are superior. I do not think this is a unique occurrence typical only for Harley-Davidson owner clubs. I heard also from people that are members of different clubs that there is always someone who thinks his motorcycle was the most expensive and therefore they have a right to look down on, for example, young students that have an old second-hand model.
In conclusion, I would like to say that it is not important what the rider wears or what brand of motorcycle he or she rides, but rather how he or she behaves on the roads and elsewhere. I personally think that the Czech motorcycle riders should hold together and cooperate more like in the United States among most of the ninety-nine percenter clubs.
6.5 Harley-Davidson in the Czech Republic and women
Whereas in the United States about 12 % of all new motorcycles are sold to women, the market in the Czech Republic is different. I asked several dealers of heavy motorcycles who told me that only about 2 % of all new motorcycles are sold to women. One dealer of a rival company thinks that women in the Czech Republic buy more second-hand motorcycles that are not so expensive.
I managed to interview two women that are in completely different situations. One is single without family commitments, whereas the second one is married and has two young children.
Veronika, is a motto-racer and mechanic. She is single, lives with her boyfriend in Prague, and sometimes comes to Brno for racing. She recently became a dealer of a competing brand of motorcycles. She has got four motorcycles; one of them is a HarleyDavidson. She also drives many other motorcycles that belong to the racing team she is on. She is not a member of any club. She rides independently with a group of her friends or alone. As she told me, she would never use any drug or alcohol before she sits on any of her motorcycles. It is firstly because of her own safety and health, then the lives of other people that a drunk person can put in danger, and lastly because of her motorcycles. She spent much time taking care of her motorcycles. When I came to her room, there was a torso of a motorcycle in the middle, put on the carpet. I could see the oil stains all around.
Veronika told me everything about how difficult it was when she wanted to start riding motorcycles. When she was at the secondary school, she dreamt about what it would be like to ride a motorcycle. She had a boyfriend with motorcycle but he preferred to see her on the back of the motorcycle and did not want to lend her his motorcycle. Another problem was her parents who were afraid of motorcycles.
After finishing the secondary school, she immediately did a riding course and got her riding license without the permission of her parents. When she earned enough money, she bought her first second-hand motorcycle. She says that her life completely changed. She describes that it was the first time she could express herself. Being a woman rider added to her self esteem because she became something “extra“. As she says, there are not many solo woman riders seen on the Czech roads. It is true that she also comes across “stupid” men that make jokes about her but that did not discouraged her.
After one year of a language school course, she started to study at university. Unfortunately, she had to give it up because of her health problems. She found a job as a motorcycle mechanic through a friend. She says people do not want to have their motorcycles repaired by a woman. But this also changed. She is now respected by many well known mechanics as well as motorcycle racers. When I asked her how she became a motorcycle racer she answered she has no idea. She said she once wanted to try a motorcycle she had just repaired. She took one turn, and when she wanted to return to the garage, a man came and asked her if she wanted to represent his racing team. She agreed. She admits it is not easy, and it is almost impossible to compete against men. She thinks they cannot have any self-preservation when they want to win. She never thought she would do something other than working with motorcycles. It is her whole life. She says every motorcycle is completely different and cannot be compared. She has got favorite brands and models, but riding motorcycles is her entire life.
The second woman I asked was Magda. Magda is a happily married woman with two young children. She has got a girl that is five years old and a boy that is almost three years old. Magda lives with her husband and children in a small flat.
Magda was also dreaming for many years about buying a motorcycle. She says she could not find the emotional firepower to start the learning process and make her dream a reality. The problem was not her husband but the reaction of those around her, especially her husband's and her family. Her mother-in-law shouted at her that she is not normal and how can she be so irresponsible when she has got two children. Some of her friends also did not support her. Magda finally decided that people around her were right, that she has got two children and cannot endanger selfishly her life.
Finally it was her husband who bought her a second-hand Harley-Davidson motorcycle for her birthday. She said she could not believe her eyes. She was crying and screaming with joy. She immediately took up a riding course and started riding. She has now been riding her motorcycle for half a year and is very happy. She says you don't know what you're missing until you do it.
She contests that there are sometimes men that make fun of her, but it is not very often and one can get used to it. She goes for at least a short ride almost every day. She feels she is more balanced or relaxed than she used to be and says that she would strongly recommend it to all women that are afraid of riding to make every effort to make that first step.
6.6 Harley-Davidson in the Czech Republic and celebrities
It is clear that many celebrities and well known people are attracted by expensive or luxury products. The same situation is with Harley-Davidson in the Czech Republic. On the 9th of February 2007 the first national ball of Harley-Davidson Dealers in the Czech Republic took place. Among the guests that were invited to the Imperial Hotel in Ostrava were for example Gabriela Partyšová, singer Helena Zeťová, singer Petr Kolář, Legendy se vrací band and a number of other bands and singers. The opening ceremony was lead by hejtman of Moravian-Silesian region, Evţen Tošenovský. One of the prominent guests was current prime minister Miroslav Topolánek. There was a fashion show with famous Czech models such as Radka Kocurová, Lucie Váchová, Zuzana Štěpanovská, David Bílek and others.
6.7 Choppers and customs in the Czech Republic
Whereas in the rest of the world the Classic choppers are enjoying a comeback, in the Czech Republic there is the opposite trend. Czechs prefer customs to choppers. They buy chrome parts, radios, additional headlights, and other accessories that make motorcycles very heavy and, according to servicemen, they are often tastelessly over customized.
In Europe, several well known custom expert companies exist, such as Battistinis Company (Great Britain), OMP Company (Italy), Carbon Dream (Italy), Zodiac Company (Netherlands), TechnoPlus Company (France) and Tom's Company
(Germany). I do not have any information regarding whether people from Czech republic buy ready-made customized motorcycles from the expert companies I mentioned above.
As an interesting aside, I found out that, in the Czech Republic, there are allegedly about four or five rat bikes (dirty, damaged motorcycles hung with enormous amount of junks). The question is whether they can get past the first police patrol.
6.8 Safety on the Czech roads
In the Czech Republic, the highest number of motorcycle riders from the whole of Europe is killed while riding. In 2007, 127 motorcycle riders died on Czech roads. If we compare it with fatal accidents of car drivers, we will see that a motorcycle rider has 50 % bigger chance of dying on the road.
This unpleasant trend is caused by the rise of the Czech economy. Many more people can now buy motorcycles. There is many young people for whom it is an adrenalin sport. Contributing to these deaths may also be the unscrupulousness and aggressiveness of truck drivers as well as car drivers. In my opinion, car and truck drivers in other western countries are more considerate to motorcycle riders. I suppose that there is another important aspect that is not mentioned very often – the bad condition of most Czech roads. The only thing that can be done by a motorcyclist to prevent accidents is to be attentive, not provoke or exceed the speed limits, and to use personal protective equipment and motorcycle safety clothing with improved visibility, abrasion resistance, helmet, gloves and good riding boots.
Harley-Davidson is a company that stirs passion in its riders, employees and dealers and translates that passion into profit. Many people do not like their policies but there are a considerable number of those who prove that it is very efficient. It was three years after the beginning of the 20th century when two somewhat lazy and bored young men had an idea of how to change their life by installing an engine into a bicycle frame. These young men were William S. Harley and Arthur Davidson. When they assembled their first prototype in their uncle's wooden shed, no one would have believed that they were giving birth to an object that would be in the future so closely connected with the history and culture of the United States.
The Harley-Davidson Motor Company lived through two world wars where their motorcycles loyally assisted both American and European armies, withstood the time of the Great Depression, and experienced financial problems after the passing away of all of the Harley-Davidson founders. The success of Harley-Davidson motorcycles made many of their competitors envious, which in turn led to the arrival of many of their imitations on the market. To make matters worse, strong, cheaper and trendier Japanese motorcycles flooded the American market. It took Harley-Davidson management some time to understand that they are the best in what they do. When they realized it, they stopped their mass assembly line production and returned back to their traditional values: solid craftsmanship, reliability and quality.
Today the Harley-Davidson Motor Company is still making a traditional product that hasn't fundamentally changed. For some people “Harleys” are symbols of reliability and freedom on the road, for others breathless, old-fashioned pile of scrap iron. The motorcycle business has evolved over the years, as has the demographic of those who are part of the motorcycle family. Harley-Davidson riders are no longer only leatherclad, tattoo covered enthusiasts but rather people from all social classes. In addition, there are more and more women who develop an interest in motorcycles. How did the Harley-Davidson Motor Company manage to create a legend from what used to be a mere motorcycle? They established a suitable marketing policy that was
missing on the market. In simple terms it means that they bet on a motorcycling lifestyle and started to continuously build their own specific brand image. They used all possible means, from advertisement through their own magazines to Hollywood films and Television series. In 1936, the Harley-Davidson Motor Company started to offer original parts and accessories from what is now a 720-page parts-and-accessories catalog and shops that sell everything from toddler clothes to Ford pickup trucks with the Harley-Davidson name on it. Their motorcycles are designed and marketed by employees that are crazy about riding. One can consider the establishment of Harley Owners Group, which now has around one million members in all parts of the world to be the pinnacle of their success. That is not all; many unofficial clubs or even outlaw clubs exist in addition to the official Harley Owners Group. The reason is that people need a hobby and a place to belong. In a club they can present their individuality which can be emphasized by the way they customize their motorcycle. That is also one of the motives why the culture of choppers was created. When we compare the Harley-Davidson lifestyle in the United States with the lifestyle that is in the Czech Republic we will find out that it is completely different. The most important factor that helped Harley-Davidson motorcycles get where they are is missing in the Czech Republic: advertisement, Hollywood films and television series. Another point that should be emphasized is that Harley-Davidson motorcycles are artificially overpriced. In the Czech Republic, Harley-Davidson motorcycles are among luxury goods that are not obtainable by the majority of the Czech population. For some people is also discouraging the old-fashioned, heavy and slow character of the HarleyDavidson motorcycles. The only exception is the new model called V-Rod. Both its design and performance are very attractive, especially for younger riders who like powerful machines. It is lighter, it is easier to handle on curves, and its performance masters even hilly Czech terrain that causes troubles to many Harley-Davidson models.
To summarize the Harley-Davidson lifestyle in the Czech Republic it is safe to say that it is completely different from that in the United States. Firstly, we have fewer women that ride heavy motorcycles. Then, there is a big percentage of those that can be classified as snobs who are not much interested in the historic development of the
Harley-Davidson brand. To get information from members of Harley Owners Group is very difficult. This club is something like a closed community. It is much easier to speak with Harley-Davidson owners that are members of the independent clubs. There is one very positive fact: Czech Republic is not influenced by the American lifestyle of outlaw gangs. Despite the presence of three Hells Angels chapters here in the Czech Republic, there was not monitored any increased criminality.
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