Why I Ride a Harley

As a motorcycle journalist, I get to test many different motorcycles, but my everyday go-getter is a completely custom 2014 Harley Davidson Iron 883. At a recent press launch, someone asked me why I choose to ride a Harley when there are so many other options. I didn't even hesitate with my answer. I ride a Harley because of Heritage, Legacy and Tradition.


I was basically born on a Harley. My father built them in the living room of our house and, in my youth, I was either on one (my own or the back of his) or in the garage taking them apart and putting them back together. When I got older and learned that other bike brands existed: bikes that were lighter, lower, less expensive, and had better stock parts, I still chose to buy and ride a Harley because of the connection I have with my father, who has now passed, and that value is priceless. 


There’s no denying the best example of brand loyalty in the world is the one that Harley Davidson has with its fans. The majority of people who ride them are die-hard. They live and sleep the HD image, either by being dressed in head to toe Harley apparel and on their way to one of the weekly events that Harley has at their dealerships or by upholding that freedom and no rules image and striping their chopper down to the bare essentials and living on the road. Riding a Harley Davidson is a way of life fueled by homegrown pride and has become as iconic to America as apple pie.


So, just how did Harley tap into this stubborn-minded, die-hard brand loyalty? It is the sense of coolness and the feeling of being a badass that comes when you ride a Harley. The men and women who rode these motorcycles while they were in their infancy were rebels, military service people and free-thinkers who broke the societal norm to experience freedom and independence. Somehow that expression and mindset carries over onto every person who throws a leg over one of these beasts for their own adventure. Most of the population either grew up with a Harley in their family or has known someone who has, and if not, I’m certain they own a Harley T-shirt at the very least.


Are other bikes fun? Absolutely. And you should ride as many different bikes as you can. I’ve ridden a fair share of them but I’ve never ridden a sports bike because it was comfortable or a bagger because it could go fast. I ride bikes for their redeeming qualities and Harley’s is that it’s fucking cool. Sure, there are some performance components about them that add value, but it’s the nostalgia that keeps us coming back for more. Owning a Harley is a status symbol whether we like to admit it or not. Harleys are like trophies. Some of us ride the hell out of them, beat them up, take them across the country and back, and some just like the idea of having one sit in their garage. Regardless of what your thoughts are about it you can’t deny that owning a Harley comes with a sense of pride.


I'll admit it, I love the feeling I get when I ride my sportster. I'm addicted to the moment of transcendence where my feminine side meets my inner gyspy soul and it’s announced by loud pipes and a twist of the throttle. But that's not the main reason why I ride; every morning when I go into the garage and see my Iron, I think of my father. My ritual is always the same: I sit on my bike, take a deep breath, close my eyes and say “let’s go for a ride” to my dad. I start her up, let the rumble take my breath and only then does the pain of missing him go away. Riding has never been about transportation but more of transformation to me and my bike stands as a constant reminder of the most memorable times in my life: past, present and the ones I have yet to create. That's why I ride a Harley and that’s why I always will. 


Leticia Cline