First off consider I have some damn good friends who ride harleys, and I know many other good people who own them as well, so take what I have written as my personal thoughts on why the brand makes me feel as I do.
I think like everyone I remember watching easy rider, the vision of freedom that movie portrayed was pretty cool, but I also remember thinking "are they drug dealers? where do they get their money? Maybe if they were not such jerks, they would have less problems with the police.
Other movies have dragged up the same convoluted picture to me, the sense of freedom that it was trying to portray, merely in my mind portrayed some strung out druggies rebelling against "the Man".
My thoughts were re affirmed by a cousin who owned a Hotel in West Yellowstone, as a child I remember him turning away harley riders saying "They are nothing but trouble, they trash the rooms and do not want to pay their bills" not looking good, so at this point my fascination for the brand and those associated with it dwindled.
In high school I would work with an old biker, a true Harley man, he had two, one he worked on while he rode the other, I didnt get it, sounded like a pain in the ass, maybe if he had a dependable bike he would not have needed to wear duct taped boots, but it was obviously not his priority so whatever, it was his life.
In 1990 I wanted a street bike, It became a toss up between a 69 Triumph, thoughts of Fonzie danced in my head but it was a chopper, bad ass, kick start, well losing some appeal as I had grown up with Dirt bikes, and with the Cylinder relief valve out on my yami 360 enduro, I had suffered from the classic "launch" from the kickback as well as a heel swelled up to unnatural balloon to the point I had to soak my foot to get my boot off once. The leaky engine revered in the triumph did not sound like much fun, with only two contact points to the ground via your tires, the last thing I wanted was oil dripping possibly making my rear tire slip at a critical moment.
SO upon much decision I would end up with a Virago 750 v twin kick ass bitch.
I rode that bike all summer, all winter, and all summer again, and all the while I would put up with the "is it a Harley"
"NO it most certainly is not, I actually get to where I am going :P." yes that was a standard reply.
Regardless two wheels is two wheels and I always respected others who chose the same route, apparently that did not carry over to the "true" Harley riders, where I would suffer the Usual "Rice grinder" & "get a real bike" comments at ever turn with them.
So I settled it with a drag race here and there, having nearly half the CCs I was supposedly at a huge disadvantage, but the Harley never came close, not by a long shot, the last thing they would see of course would be my middle finger as I tore away.
To be fair Harley did make a bike line that was fast, and could be built into scary fast drag machine, those were the Sportster line.
Those bikes were actually made to compete with the Japanese market, they were a fast ride and could be built into a fast scary machine, maybe that is why they hated em, I dono, it seemed they picked and chose who was in their ranks based on bikes, silly.
I would have my first race with one about eight years after buying my Virago, he would pull up next to me proclaiming how fast his bike was and how nice, brand new he would say.
"I am not interested, those are a fast bike and should beat me, you aught to break it in properly first though" I would tell him
But he persisted, the light turned green and I chewed him up, I even gave him the chance going from a rolling start, but to no avail, it needed to be broke in obviously, and I told him as much "come back when those rings have seated"
He would at the three hundred mile mark I would see him out yet again, and from a rolling start we would have at it, again, to no avail "probably not seated still" I would tell him, and off he went, obviously frustrated.
Finally the last and final straw he woul see me riding with my x and pull up "its broke in now lets go"
"well that is not fair I have an extra 140lbs on the back"
He looked at me with a cocked smile "Scared?"
And there it went, I dropped the clutch and with the extra weight we rode a wheelie, side by side, going thru the gears, his teeth gritting as he caught buts, glancing over to see me smiling giving him the bird with my left"
He would turn off and I never saw that bike again.
Now a bike is not just about speed, I realize that, but it seemed to be the only way I could shut up the nay sayers, so that is what it was, but it is to note that Harley at one time was a name commonly associated with racing, and no motorcycle brand has ever dominated Dirt track racing as Harley has, it has unfortunately done everything it could to distance itself from the "racing image" and everything for the bad ass Image.
I did at one time want to buy a Harley, as a businessman I wanted one for the investment, and I will admit they are a nice looking ride and the iconic sound a draw. I had the chance to buy a close friends I guess it was a 84 FXRS ? with the motor built to the nuts and everything chrom, now Bill was a damn good guy, and road that bike to cali and back a couple of times trouble free. I would take it for a ride and going down the highway I couldnt see thru the vibrating rear view mirrors, now the motor had oodles of stump pulling torque, but if I wanted a tractor I would have been looking for a massey-Fergeson. All in all I hated it, I pulled up and Bill could see the look of disgust on my face "well"? he would ask timidly, "nice bike Bill" I would reply.
"Dont lie to me Craig, I can see the look on your face"
"To be honest" I would reply, "My 750 over there would eat this thing any day of the week, and it rides a hell of a lot better"
that would be that, he was a good man and it certainly was not my intention of discrediting him, or what he owns, but he asked for honesty, and I gave it.
Irritating me further would be the bogus "made in America" drivel they constantly repeat, nothing could be further from the truth, in the early nineties, the most American made bike was actually the Honda shadow, with only the shaft being made and imported from Japan, Harley rides on that minimum requirement of 60 percent made in America to carry that banner, they also are one of several "American" companies lobbying to have that standard lowered, how absolutely repugnant and deceitful.
Next would be the Betrayal of Mr Eric Buell by the Harley logo when they tossed him to the curb, not once, but twice, the second time nearly destroying him altogether, for someone who was so loyal, who could have easily designed his own engine yet chose to use the Sportster engine for his innovative motorcycle designs, just more bad taste.
Then we have the nonsense put forth by the Harley crowd of "Textile jackets will melt" false they are actually quit good with modern blends and nothing like the same jacket you will buy for winter or casual wear use, then we haev the "Helmets will break your neck" nonsense, obviously, that is why Racers wear them, have multiple wrecks, and keep going.
That along with the "you are not a true biker" bs I have heard for two decades while riding the street simply because someone does not own a "Harley" and "the Harley" of their standards has honestly been a great "grating of nails on a chalkboard" for me.
At any given time there is a saying that "there are 12 KLR 650s circling the world" would those not be true bikers? Would not anyone who rides rain, snow nor shine be a true biker? The blatent contempt for other riders not only by old school harley riders, but by the company as a whole, was enough for me.
Someday if I am ever rich, or to old to ride again, I will buy a Harley and use it for a boat anchor, I would love to see the look on peoples faces when I pull that ride straight out of the abyss, the seaweed covering it will pretty much give it my exacting opinion.