A brief history of Harley-Davidson motorcycles
Harley-Davidson motorcycles have become an enduring American icon. The company history spans almost 110 years and the Motor Company still employs ancestors of original founding father, Arthur Davidson.
Production of Harley-Davidson motorcycles began in a small 10x15-foot wooden shed in Milwaukee, USA in 1903 when William S. Harley partnered with Arthur Davidson to develop the company’s first one-cylinder motorcycle. Arthur’s brothers, Walter and William Davidson also later joined the company.
The first motorcycle was sold to a school friend of William and Arthur and survived five owners over 100,000 miles! In 1909, William S Harley created the first Harley-Davidson motorcycle with a 45-degree V-twin engine and one year later the Bar and Shield was introduced – both have become synonymous with Harley-Davidson.
By 1915, three-speed sliding gear transmission had emerged and the continued developments helped Harley-Davidson become the biggest motorcycle factory in the world with more than 2,000 dealerships by 1918. A decade later came another milestone, with the introduction of the first twin-cam engine and front wheel brakes in 1928 – contributing to a Harley that could exceed 85mph!
However, the Motor Company still faced challenges from rivals; Harley-Davidson fought off Indian with the introduction of the iconic Knucklehead in 1936. The introduction of the Panhead in 1947 cemented the company’s position as the iconic American motorcycle manufacturer.
The 1990s also saw the creation of a new icon in the shape of the Fat Boy and in 1991, the first Dyna followed. By 1993, the company was again looking to expand, with the purchase of Buell. The performance theme continued with Harley-Davidson moving into Superbike racing in 1994 with the creation of the VR1000 race bike – the predecessor to the first liquid-cooled production bike, V-Rod, launched in 2001.
The company focus, however, was already switching back to the Harley motorcycles that had made Harley-Davidson iconic. To celebrate its heritage, a new Harley-Davidson museum opened in Milwaukee in 2008 and within the following two years, streamlining of the business followed.
In 2009, Buell was closed and MV Agusta, which was bought in 2008, was sold in 2010. The focus of the business is now undoubtedly Harley-Davidson motorcycles with investment in new technology and retaining the brand’s original character.
Harley-Davidson range of motorcycles
There are six model families in the current Harley-Davidson line-up including the luxurious, limited edition CVO range (Custom Vehicle Operations).
The entry-level range of motorcycles for Harley-Davidson, Sportsters are the smallest and lightest machines in the range with two available engine capacities: 883cc and 1200cc. The Sportster family also encompasses the European-designed, race-inspired XR1200X.
The smallest of the traditional big twins, with authentic styling such as the Bobber-inspired Street Bob and the old-school chopper Wide Glide. The new for 2012 Dyna Switchback was the first model in the range to break the tradition of narrow front forks.
Known as more traditional Harley motorcycles, the Softail family places importance on heritage and tradition. The rear-wheel suspension is hidden under the transmission and the design harks back to the hardtail choppers of the Sixties and Seventies. Some models incorporate the traditional Springer front end for an authentic look. The Fat Boy, famously ridden by Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator 2, belongs to this family, as does the nostalgic Softail Heritage.
The first ever liquid-cooled Harley-Davidson motorcycle, designed to compete against more performance-focused muscle bikes. The 60-degree V-Twin engine was developed in partnership with Porsche, with inspiration taken from the VR1000 race bike.
Iconic American motorcycles that have become the definition of Harley and the only thing to be seen riding on Route 66. It includes Road Kings and Electra Glides and the focus is on comfort and luxury for rider and passenger with ABS as standard.
The premium Harley-Davidson motorcycles with a high end price tag to match. These are limited edition models launched each year to demonstrate the endless customisation opportunities that Harley offers its owners.
How Bennetts create specialist Harley-Davidson insurance
As the UK’s No.1 bike insurance specialist, we understand that riding a Harley is a lifestyle choice. There are many elements to that lifestyle including customisation and long touring rides, which is why we access eight leading insurance underwriters to tailor make a Harley insurance policy that is as unique as your motorcycle.
We also know that new Harley-Davidson motorcycles are not in everybody’s price range and the high retention values make second-hand Harleys just as coveted. We can use our decades of specialist insurance experience to create a Harley-Davidson motorcycle insurance policy that provides our best cover at an affordable price.
How to get a quote for your Harley-Davidson motorcycle
We know you’d rather be showing off your polished chrome at a local HOG meet or cruising along a great stretch of road, so we’ve made it easy for you to find Harley-Davidson motorcycle insurance. Simply call us 0800 107 7990 or apply online at a time that suits you to find a customised Harley insurance policy that meets your individual requirements.
Sources of interest for Harley owners and fans
Harley Davidson UK Website - The official website for Harley-Davidson UK with an online test ride booking facility, links to local dealers and details of the current product line-up
Hog Gallery Europe - The online resource for the European arm of the world’s largest factory-support riding club with details of forthcoming events, picture galleries and a route planner
Harley Davidson Riders Club - Home of the Harley-Davidson Riders Club of Great Britain with a forum to chat with like-minded people
Tour operator Harley Davidson UK - The authorised tour operator for Harley-Davidson UK, responsible for high profile Route 66 trips, including Billy Connelly and Bennetts Biking Dreamer Steve Ford!