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Book Review

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Harley-Davidson
Series: Drive. Ride. Fly.
By: Allan Girdler with Bob Woods
Photography: Jeff Hackett
Publisher: Motorbooks
 
Whether the subject is cars, motorcycles, racing - you name it - Motorbooks is a leader in publishing for the enthusiast. Now for the first time, the company is reaching out to young, up-and-coming enthusiasts with Drive. Ride. Fly., including two new motorcycle books. This dynamic, colorful and informative series is written and designed for kids age 10 and up, dishing all the details on the hottest, coolest vehicles on the planet. Each book includes an introductory glossary, index, timeline information and other exciting details. In Harley-Davidson, expert Allan Girdler and top photographer Jeff Hackett join skills to bring a fast, fun and cool history of Milwaukee’s finest company. This book showcases its standout models - from Flatheads, Panheads and Shovelheads, to Evolutions, Twin-Cams,
 
Sportsters and the new V-Rod - celebrating the Harley thrill through and through.

“Harley-Davidson has become an all-American icon, as symbolic as apple pie, baseball, and the 4th of July. There’s even something called the “Harley mystique,” a special bond that owners claim, not only with the machine intself, but with a shared way of life. Anyone who rides any kind of motorcycle feels a certain camaraderie, but Harley folks are a unique breed. What other company’s customers, no matter how loyal, go so far as to tattoo its logo on their bodies?

This isn’t a recent phenomenon, either, despite Harley-Davidson’s current status as the most famous motorcycle on the planet.”

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Although choppers were already becoming familiar, Easy Rider really revved things up. This was also during a turbulent time in America’s political and social history, highlighted by opposing sides to the Vietnam War. An anti-establishment subculture portrayed in Easy Rider emerged and spread, even to the motorcycle world. While Harley-Davidson still sold pleny of stock bikes that owners did little to change, the chopper movement became a symbol of a younger generation of riders who wanted to be different from the mainstream.

The result was some truly outrageous, one-of-a-kind machines. Chopper builders liked to use old Harley frames that didn’t have rear shocks, because they sat low. They kept extending the front forks farther and farther, and the handlebars higher and higher. With gobs of shiny chrome and stunning graphics and paint, these were rolling pieces of sculpted art - though not always

practical or comfortable motorcycles. The rigid rear end made the slightest bump an adventure, and turning those raked forks was a major chore. But what the heck, chopper owners figured, it looks totally cool.

Unfortunately, the authorities didn’t care about cool. By the mid-1970’s, many towns and cities had passed local laws that made some choppers illegal to ride. Before long, the hassling became too much, and the chopper movement faded...well, at least the radical element of it.”

“At it’s height, there were more than 200 companies making motorcycles in the United States. So, there was tremendous pressure on Harley-Davidson to make the fastest, most reliable bike on the road, and to run the business wisely. That’s where the great teamwork of the four founders really became important.”

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The first Harley engines were based on a French design.

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“Although some Harley purists objected to this departure from the norm, the V-Rod has becomre another success story - just as the Knucklehead, Panhead, Shovelhead, Evo, and Twin Cam had proven their naysayers wrong. All those stories, and many more, came together in 2003 when the Motor Company celebrated its 100th anniversary with an appropriately big show.

The Party of the Century actually got underway in the summer of 2002 when the Open Road Tour - an exhibition of Harleys and the people who ride them - opend in Atlanta and then traveled to cities around the world for the next year. The company sponsored mass rides from the four corners of the United States in the summer of 2003, with everyone converging in Milwaukee for a giant Labor Day bash that drew a crowd of 300,000.

As Harley-Davidson motors into its second century, there are certain to be many more great moments and motorcycles to rally around. And in typical Harley style, the Motor Company’s glorious past will be reflected in all of its future endeavors.
 

“The Harley-Davidson Archives at company headquarters in Milwaukee contain thousands of old black-and-white photos, sales brochures, and other promotional material that document those early years. The riders, including a remarkable number of women, are generally clean-cut looking - hardly the rowdy bunch that’s been portrayed in more recent times.

Actually, Harley’s public image turned from mild to wild not too long after World War II. That’s when a lot of young men, relieved to be back home and away from the battlefields, became infatuated with hot rods and fast motorcycles. Then in 1947, an incident occurred over a summer weekend in a small northern California town that shocked the nation.

About 400 motorcyclists thundered into Hollister, not far from San Francisco, to celebrate the 4th of July. They were a bit too wild, though, and fought with local police. A newspaper reporter and

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photographer arrived on the scene, and a couple of weeks later a sensational story appeared in Life, then one of America’s most popular weekly magazines. Photos of the motorcyclists and a dramatic account of what happened left readers believing there’d been an all-out riot. Only later was it learned that the photographer had staged some shots and that the article greatly exaggerated the events. Regardless, the perception of “outlaw bikers” was already burned into the public psyche.
 

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Drive. Ride. Fly., Harley-Davidson, by Allan Girdler with Bob Woods and photography by Jeff Hackett
Hardcover, 8 1/4 x 9, 80 pages
Photos: 75-plus color,
ISBN 13:978-0-7603-2328-1
ISBN 10:0-7603-2328-3
$9.95 (U.S.), $13.95 (CAN), 7.99 UK
Available in bookstores everywhere or through www.motorbooks.com
For trade inquiries, contact us at trade@mbipublishing.com or
(800) 458-0454.



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