“God didn’t create metal so that man could make paper clips!” Embodying the spirit and personality of the iconic Harley-Davidson motorcycle brand, this quote—provided by Thrillspire—was part of an ad they ran. Although many motorcycles come to mind, from high-performance machines to dirt bikes to scooters, few can compare to Harley choppers and cruisers.
The brand perfectly reflects the attitude of those in the US and even in tough times, continues to persevere. Safer Turn reports that the brand started in 1903. Just twelve years later, they made the 11F, arguably the most popular model they ever released.
Today the brand is at something of a crossroads: appeal to aging loyalists who like things the way they are? Or look to the future and make changes that will attract new adopters? With Harley-Davidson looking to make E-Bikes and electric scooters, it may be a sign that they’re taking the latter route.
Since the brand has been around, a unique culture has emerged from its riders. Their rebellious and headstrong attitudes, born out of the US pioneering spirit, has established a particular code. All Harley riders learn this code and follow its rules if they want to fit in within the culture.
We’re going to look at all the rules both riders and those behind the bikes themselves have to follow. With such a loyal base of riders, no one wants to find out what would happen should they ever turn their backs on the code, leaving many to ponder whether they should get a Harley or not.
20 Owners: Don’t Ever Ask To Ride A Harley
Harley-Davidson offers a plethora of models. They have street, V-Rod, softail, CVO and more. Without a doubt, getting your own Harley opens up a new world. It’s going to create a yearning to try other models. Despite this newfound urge, owners are better off riding their own unless someone else offers.
Buffalo Chip reports that asking to ride someone else’s goes against the code. It could even change the way that rider looks at a Harley owner forever. Sounds extreme, but that's the way the rule works. Only ride another Harley if the owner offers, otherwise, it’s a road best left untaken.
19 Owners: Cruise, Don’t Race
Harley riders aren’t concerned with going fast, performing stunts or even exploring. They’re just in it to mount up, shut up and cruise. If that isn’t one’s style, they shouldn’t get a Harley. They look at crotch rockets speeding down the highway and shake their heads; scooters make them laugh. Meanwhile, they just look straight ahead and cruise on into the sunset.
There’s a reason an entire subculture has derived out of Harley-Davidson owners, and it’s gone through two world wars, a depression and more. Cruising is what stands the test of time, not rocketing down the street on a bike.
18 Owners: Give Harley Riders A Heads Up On Cops
Riders attain a whole set of skills drivers never have to worry about learning. Take hand signals, for example. These are necessary for riders to know and can enhance their experience while on the road. One, in particular, is critical for Harley riders. According to Buffalo Chip, riders should let each other know when cops are just around the corner. They can do this simply with a tap on the helmet as they pass by each other.
With Harley riders going around with a chip on their shoulders, it helps to give them a way to navigate the harsh roads where law enforcement might unfairly suspect them of something simply due to their appearance.
17 Owners: Have To Go On Group Rides
Harleys seldom go it alone, at least that’s how it often appears. Taking a more strength in numbers approach, Harley riders travel in packs. If someone buys a Harley, they better consider going on a group ride. Cruising over long distances with a band of other Harley riders is like a rite of passage. There is, however, a set of rules associated with group riding.
While there’s not enough space here to go through all of them, some rules include set roles or responsibilities in the group, knowing hand signals and other important tips. It’s a jam-packed rule that requires more than just going on a group ride.
16 Owners: Buy Only Harleys
It’s all or nothing when it comes to Harley-Davidson. You’re either with the brand or against it. The way one shows loyalty is in buying only Harley bikes. This is because no other bike goes well with a Harley. Kawasaki and Harley? Nope. Ducati and Harley? Still no. A Harley is unique and special. Nothing else can compare and nothing else should for Harley owners.
A Harley should be enough to satisfy the rider in them. Harley owners also show support for the brand when they make a conscious decision to only buy from them, including any accessories and parts.
15 Owners: Be Rebellious
There are two types of people: the uptight and the relaxed. If you had to put Harley riders in one category, they belong in the latter. Even more, they have a rebellious tendency, notes Panmore Institute. Less associated with committing crimes and more with counterculture, the best examples of it are the two lead characters from Easy Rider.
While not every Harley rider is like Wyatt and Billy, they demonstrate what it means to go against the grain. They’re not interested in keeping up with the Joneses—or the Kardashians for that matter—they just want to cruise without a care in the world.
14 Owners: Don’t Go Near Another Harley Without Getting The Rider’s OK
Better think twice about going near someone else’s Harley, even if you own one yourself. Just owning one doesn’t give riders a license to use any Harley. More important than laws about property, there’s a Harley code about crossing ones that don’t belong to you. The site Buffalo Chip compares motorcycles to a girlfriend you wouldn’t go up to and start flirting with.
This rule applies to Harleys like no other motorcycle brand. It’s even more severe for non-riders. To be on the safe side, Harley owners should just stick with theirs and not show interest in others’ unless the other brings it up.
13 Owners: Ride In The United States
This next one is less a strict rule and more of a highly encouraging guideline. Harley-Davidson may be US born and bred, but it’s an international brand. Morocco, Spain, Australia—there’s no shortage of places around the world to ride that offer incredible experiences. There’s really only one place a Harley belongs though.
While it’s necessary for Harley-Davidson to go international in order for the business to grow, these bikes look and feel best in the United States. No offense intended to other countries, but it’s like eating a Philly Cheesesteak anywhere but Philadelphia. There’s nowhere better to do it.
12 Owners: Wear The Right Clothes
Every rider has their own unique style. Even behind the handlebars of a Harley, riders have a myriad of clothes and accessories to choose from. Whether it’s leather jackets, plaid shirts, denim or hoodies—anything goes. What really separates a real Harley rider from a poser though are the impractical looking ones.
As McGearHub reports, the real bikers wear useless helmets, something like aviator glasses, a tank top or vest, jeans and that's it. While we don’t really encourage this, as it’s best to wear a helmet that actually works, this is what a traditional rough and tough Harley biker looks like.
11 Owners: Be Willing To Rough It
Harley riders are like nomads; they can travel and sleep anywhere. Someone who rides a Ducati or a Yamaha probably has a nice cozy home to go back to every day. The bikers who tend to wonder though, roaming from town to town unconcerned with where they’ll lay their head down are Harley riders. Hitching a tent up and rustling up a bite to eat is the easy part.
Roughing it comes naturally to Harley riders. Plus, they need to become good at it if they plan on joining a group ride, where the road often dictates where they’ll end up next.
10 Employees: Can’t Eat Some Foods Or Use Certain Shampoos
We aren’t joking here. Harley-Davidson workers in the paint facility have to follow strict rules that even dictate what they eat and the kind of shampoo they use. Qittitut Consulting reports that eating certain foods, or even washing one’s hair with a particular shampoo, can have a harmful effect on paint finishes.
It is hard to believe something as simple as washing one’s hair with shampoo could affect paint, but someone must have learned the hard way many years ago. We only hope that Harley-Davidson workers in the paint facilities get paid extra for having to follow this strict rule.
9 Employees: Have To Work Within Circle Organizations
One of the key aspects of Harley-Davidson’s corporate model is its circle organizations. In an interview with former CEO Rich Teerlink and Lee Ozley, as per Harvard Business School, the circle organizations emerged to help productivity and problem-solving. “The concept of the circle organization takes the big boss out of the circle. You call them ‘coaches.’ They’re still out there, but now their job is to mentor and help, rather than to make decisions.”
This new approach to the company helped catapult them to more successes. If you want to work at Harley-Davidson, get on board with their circle organizations.
8 Employees: Embody The Same Rebellious Spirit That Riders Do
Behind every Harley-Davidson is a team of dedicated workers who deliver more than just a bike; it’s a cultural symbol. There’s also an expectation placed upon them that aligns them closer to the riders they cater their products too. Panmore Institute notes that the market for custom choppers is very much the heart, center and aim of Harley-Davidson.
With that being the case, workers should try to tap into this same circle of people and values. They tend to have a more rebellious nature, which is how many custom choppers come into existence. In turn, they encourage workers to have the same traits.
7 Employees: Ride A Harley To Work (So You Can Get The Best Spot)
Riding a Harley to any job has its perks. For one, fellow colleagues will likely look at you with some level of admiration. That doesn’t exist working at Harley-Davidson though, considering so many workers probably ride one. Then again, there just might exist another benefit: reserved parking.
According to Qittitut Consulting, workers who actually ride the products they work on get to park in reserved stalls right outside the buildings. That sounds like a convenient and appealing perk, even if workers didn’t really need an incentive to ride theirs to work. This is one of the few rules workers are more than happy to follow.
6 Employees: There’s A Relaxed Dress Code, But Zero Tolerance For Poor Hygiene
Like any job, working for Harley-Davidson has its pros and cons. Even then, it varies for everyone what’s “easy” or what’s “hard” to follow. One of the perks is what you can wear. According to Qittitut Consulting, there isn’t a forced dress code for those on the shop floor, and people can dress as casually as they like. They just require that workers have good hygiene.
They also place high values on safety, which is typical of most jobs. For workers in the paint facility, it’s a different story on what they require of them, which we detail below. It’s weirder than you’d think.
5 Employees: Appeal To Everyone, Not Just Harley Loyalists
It can’t be easy running a company, let alone one that’s torn between doubling down on past successes or adapting to the future. As noted earlier, Harley-Davidson has a challenge on its plate of sticking to tried and true methods of the past versus deviating from the norm to adapt its bikes for a new generation. There’s a story about a Harley-Davidson exec named Angie Zeigler, according to Management Mania, who when she went to the line workers with a list of company values in the '90s received laughter in return.
They didn’t take her seriously. This story proves that the company has to appeal to both sides if they want to move forward.
4 Employees: Listen To Customers’ Tastes On Choppers And Custom Motorcycles
Harley-Davidson is already legendary, but they still have to find ways to stay ahead of the curve. The industry is always changing, and they have worthy competition to deal with. It’s an old business trick, but the company spends time listening to its customers.
According to Panmore Institute, Harley-Davidson’s business model makes customers’ tastes a priority, especially as it relates to choppers and custom motorcycles. The fact that Harley-Davidson’s employees listen to customers and their feedback on bikes shows that they care. Those are the best voices to dictate where the bikes go from here, considering they’re the ones riding them.
3 Employees: Find Ways To Compete With Other Brands
The motorcycle market is competitive. Harley-Davidson may have to make changes in order to compete with other brands. Many motorcycle brands may be able to make theirs cheaper than Harley-Davidson. Those bikes may even appeal to younger generations today, purely because they cost less. That forces Harley-Davidson to make changes to their products without sacrificing what their brand is all about. It sounds easier on paper but is harder to execute.
This is the challenge Harley-Davidson workers face every day they go to work, especially the execs on the higher end of the food chain who decide in what direction to steer the company.
2 Employees: Make Unique And Original Motorcycles
A Harley-Davidson is a special kind of motorcycle. It’s recognizable and stands out from the rest. In order to maintain this over the long haul, employees have to come up with new ideas while remaining rooted in Harley-Davidson's established style. According to a piece in the Bonfring International Journal of Industrial Engineering and Management Science, the world famous brand has been making bikes unlike any other brand since 1903.
In making bikes that feel and look fresh, they’re finding a way to reinvent the company and keep things fresh for years to come. It all starts with the employees, who are responsible for shepherding Harley-Davidson into the future (Academia.edu).
1 Employees: Implement Customers’ Tastes Into Motorcycle Designs
It’s one thing to listen to someone, it’s another thing to repeat back what they said. Going even further, it’s another thing entirely to fashion a product around their vocal tastes. That’s exactly what’s expected of Harley-Davidson employees though. As touched upon earlier, according to Panmore Institute, customer feedback is an integral part of making future motorcycles.
Once they find out what customers like, they have to put it in their designs. Once they have a plan for making it come to life, that’s when the real work begins. It’s a laborious task that Harley-Davidson workers have to be up for.
Sources: Safer Turn, Buffalo Chip, Panmore Institute, McGearHub, Academia.edu, Bonfring International Journal of Industrial Engineering and Management Science, Management Mania, Qittitut Consulting, Harvard Business School, Thrillspire