Clarence joins the argument of Harley vs. Foreign Cruisers

Clarence Tennant said:

The amount of people who seem to think that Harley's are over-priced junk is unbelievable.  I am personally a Harley Technician and I do not agree with the amount of pissed-off riders on your web site.  I have rode and worked on bikes of all types.  I have seen bikes with 100,000 plus miles.   All of the ones with this much mileage have been Harley's I have never seen a bike with a japanese name one it with the condition that these harley's are in at this stage in their life.   The bikes that you seem to like have their uses just as a harley.   I understand that the price of a Harley Davidson can be a bit overwhelming, but the quality of the ride and the service of the dealerships usually makes up for the price.  -"Harley Tech"


To which I replied

“The amount of people who seem to think that Harley's are over-priced junk is unbelievable.”

No, sir. The amount of people who seem to think that Harley’s are not over-priced junk is unbelievable. The world is full of stupid people, and Harley has the market cornered in that respect to their customer base.   When your customer base consists of brainwashed simpletons who think that fire is magic and NASCAR is racing, then you aren't exactly selling your product to the highest organisms inhabiting the food chain, now are you?  You might be selling to the highest organisms inhabiting the trailer park, but not the food chain.

“I am personally a Harley Technician and I do not agree with the amount of pissed-off riders on your web site.”

That is funny because the amount of pissed-off riders apparently don’t agree with you either.  From where I stand, I can tell that there are far more of them and there are of you.  You should also understand that the words "Harley" and "Tech" or "Technician" simply cannot be used together in any form or combination.   You might be a Harley Mechanic (possibly with a little "tm" behind that title to give it more oomph by the Motor Company), or simply a trained and skilled mechanic that works on Harleys, but there is no such animal as a "Harley Tech", since Harley and technology are, by their very nature, mutually and totally exclusive.  We'll just lump that fantasy job title of yours in with Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, and the Easter Bunny.

“I have rode and worked on bikes of all types. I have seen bikes with 100,000 plus miles. All of the ones with this much mileage have been Harley's I have never seen a bike with a japanese name one it with the condition that these harley's are in at this stage in their life.”

Well, my red, white, and blue 1984 Honda VF500F Interceptor had well over 80,000 miles on it when I traded it in on a brand new white / black 1993 Honda VFR750F back in 1993 so that was pretty close, and it would still run like a molested gorilla when you grabbed the throttle and let the half liter V4 open up and breathe on the straight away. The reason that Harleys have so many miles on them is due mostly to the company's embrace of technological stagnation. One Harley is about as good as another.  There’s just not much technological or styling difference between a 1982 Harley Sportster and a 2002 Harley Sportster, now is there?  So why not keep the 1982 and just keep putting miles on it, year after year?  If the old one is almost identical to the new one, why pay all that money for something of such marginal change?   It doesn't make much sense.

If you have a Harley, you have a Harley.

Congratulations, thank you for your money, welcome to the club, now go and mingle with the other simpletons.  Your Harley could be primer gray and rusting in half along the weld lines, but people would still ooooh and aaaah over it because it was a "Harley".

The parts interchange because the same exact engines have been used for year after year if not decade after decade, so what is the use in paying a lot more money for something that is identical to what you own now? 

On the other hand, there are light years of change between a 1984 Honda VF500F Interceptor and a 2003 Honda CBR600F4i. The CBR is lighter, faster, better built, has cutting edge technology and design, and will produce up to four times the power that the 1984 model of middle weight sportbike ever could, stock for stock. Does a 2002 Sportster produce 4x the power that a 1982 Sportster did? Is it lighter, faster, better built? No. It is a carbon copy. It is today, just as the 2012 Sportster will probably be a carbon copy of the 2002 Sportster.  Perhaps the color will be different, and the price will be a few thousand more, but essentially, it isn't going to change.

The main reason why Japanese bikes do not get very high mileage is that they follow the technology curve, much like computers.  William Gibson once said that "all societal change is essentially technology driven."  What this means is that society stagnates or stays the same unless something new comes along that requires society to adapt.  Only things which are new, which are cutting edge, will cause society to rethink its values and to adapt its structure to this new event.  We saw this in the 1970's and 1980's with electronics and personal computers.  8 tracks and hi-fidelity have gone the way of the dodo, to be replaced by cassettes and now CD-ROMs, through digital stereo.  Since Harley does not embrace technology or any form of cutting edge design, since it chooses to stagnate instead of evolve, it cannot and will not change society in any way.  Society may accept Harley Davidson as a form of hobby for certain types of enthusiasts, but Harley Davidson will never cause society to rethink its values or change the way that it operates, until Harley Davidson itself changes.

Five years is a long time to an item or machine that follows the technology curve. Harleys do not follow the technology curve because they are not technology based machines, they are nostalgic designs. I would say that Japanese bikes are more “disposable” than Harleys, but I don’t like that word very much.  Rather I prefer the term 'dynamic'.  What is cutting edge today will be obsolete in a few years, that is the nature of competitive technology and the technology race in general.  The same as it is with anything that is based upon high technology, such as computers, software, multi-media devices, game consoles, TVs, military weapons, and a whole host of other items in this world which depend on performance rather than image to keep them in their respective places at the forefront of civilization.

I prefer to think of Japanese bikes as having a specific shelf life after which they become outdated.  You can still keep and ride your import, but it is outclassed and outmatched compared to then modern motorcycles.  Your twenty year old 500cc sportbike may weigh more than this years 1200cc open class sport bike and have only a fifth of the power!   Yes, I could still ride my 1984 Interceptor today (if I still had it) if I wanted to, it would have given me no problems.  However, it would be dated, inefficient, and old.  It wouldn't win any races against machines even ten years old.  People who buy Harleys are not people who are comfortable with change and that is a direct indicator of an unwillingness to adapt.  They want a bike that is today what it was ten years ago, even twenty years ago, and what it will be ten years from now.  They don't want to have to worry about the color going to the wrong end of the spectrum next year, or lots of letters like having to figure out what GS, GSX, and GSX-R mean.  They want simplicity, to the point of being stupid.  No fancy technology, nothing cutting edge, just the bare minimum and if it works, it works.

Harley owners crave static, rather than dynamic, stability and lifestyles.  They belong to a time that is long since passed, a time of nostalgia and fond memory.  Someone who buys a Japanese or other import bike instead welcomes change, and fully realizes that not only is their bike going to be outdated in four or five years (or even less), but that the updated model will be even better than what they currently own, than what they can imagine.  They understand that they will have to remain knowledgeable of high technology, changes in the designs, and changes in trends among the various manufacturers.   That is, if you buy a 1995 Ninja ZX-6R, then in five years, the 2000 model ZX-6R will make the 1995 model ZX-6R look like a stone age dinosaur in comparison to performance, weight, capacity, styling, and other essential specifications. Such is the technological advancement and evolution of Pacific Rim and non-domestic motorcycles. Five years is a short time to rack up a lot of miles on a bike.

I liken Harley Davidson to an American television company that, in the year 2003, is still trying to market and sell 1950's style black and white vacuum tube powered entertainment models, all the while claiming that these are legendary televisions, American made (with Japanese vacuum tubes and power supplies inside) and that since these vacuum tube televisions may cost as much or more than a brand new 40" gas-plasma flat screen TV from Japan, that it is the quality of the unit and the service of the distributor which should give you peace of mind in buying such an outdated piece of technology at ridiculously inflated prices.

Harley is the only company in the world who can make a profit by stamping out the same tired old designs year after year.  If Honda or Yamaha or Porsche or BMW or Ferrari did that, then those companies would go out of business in short order.  Not Harley, because Harley sells non-technological stagnation, at a premium.   It’s not a motorcycle for smart people, that’s for sure, or those who understand anything about motorcycles.  Working on a Harley doesn’t take a lot of brains, just a hammer, a crowbar, some duct-tape, and a can of WD40 to loosen up the rusted old nuts and bolts.

“The bikes that you seem to like have their uses just as a harley. I understand that the price of a Harley Davidson can be a bit overwhelming, but the quality of the ride and the service of the dealerships usually makes up for the price.”

I am totally against paying too much for not enough product.  I’m against paying for a name, a hyped up name slapped on a tired old design and sold as the greatest thing since sliced white bread.  I'm against image and sound over performance.   Technologically, a Harley engine would be better used by the volunteers in the Peace Corps as a pump for irrigating arid land in Ethiopia and other third world countries, working to feed the world rather than as a power plant for what is laughably called an “American” motorcycle.

Quality of the ride?

What quality?

Oh, you're talking about the all encompassing Harley Experience(tm) which includes the not-trademarked-yet-but-still-trying Harley sound (aka noise pollution).   The ride hasn’t changed in decades. Do you mean the vibration and the rumble of that tired old tractor motor trying to beat itself to death in a spastic imitation of the bare minimum requirement to be considered to be undergoing the process of internal combustion?  Your definition of quality and mine are far different, I’m afraid. I want smooth power that rolls on and builds to a rapid crescendo, not something that stamps around like an elephant that’s been kicked in the nut sack by a giraffe, only louder.

The Internet is full of horror stories of your incredible service. I'm curious, is that kind of strong arm laden customer abuse part of the initial purchase price or do you have to pay extra for it?

You said that "the quality of the ride and the service of the dealerships usually makes up for the price." and my thought is, why should I pay you extra money to make me feel good about buying my motorcycle.  Why should I pay you for the privilege of working on my motorcycle or being nice to me. That is your job, not some benefit that I want to add on like an indemnity to an insurance policy. I'm paying good money now, here and now, for your product so why should I pay extra for service that should come standard?  That should be part of the purchase price. It is with import bikes, and they don't cost nearly as much as a Harley. Imports are built far better than domestic bikes, they cost less, and you don't have to pay twice as much for half the motorcycle just to be able to say that the 'quality of the ride' or the 'service' at the dealership makes up for that extra money. Bullspit, I'm not buying that. Your loyal scoggins may, but I know better.   For the price that you are asking of the average Harley, for this quality of the ride and service from the dealership, you guys better go down on me when I walk into the dealership, service me the whole time that I'm there, and force me to pry your chapped lips from my engorged venous member when I walk out.

Damn!  You seriously believe that the inflated price of a Harley is due to the excellent service and the quality of the product?  Do you really want to talk about charging for service at the dealership?  There are some professional prostitutes out there who give better service for less than what you scoggins charge for your role at the dealership.  And the chance of catching a social disease is greatly reduced!

Quality?  I find that laughable.  Quality control isn't something Harleys are legendary for, or maybe the lack of quality control is legendary.  Flaking paint, bad welds, failure to start on the dealership floor, and a host of other incidents that no self respecting motorcycle, sorry, no self respecting MODERN motorcycle company would ever allow to happen.  My thought is, since you’ve had over 80 years to stamp out the same tired old design and understand its simple workings, then I would fully expect that you would be able to get it right by now. Apparently, that isn’t the case as the Internet is full of HD dealership horror stories of spotty production quality, poor service, and a general “give us your money for the privilege to ride our bikes and we might be nice to you” kind of service.

Sorry, the quality of the ride and the service of the dealerships (aren’t they called ‘boutiques’ now?) in no way makes up for the fact that you are being overcharged outrageous prices for outdated technology that has been transfigured into a trendy pop culture 'must-have' icon, or in other words, you’re paying top dollar for total shit and a easily recognized logo. Most Harleys are worth a quarter of what the dealer charges for them, before the ridiculous mark up. They just aren’t current designs, so why pay current prices for outdated motorcycles? I wouldn’t pay the price of a Lear jet for a copy of the Wright Brother’s glider, no matter how many American flags you slathered on it and no matter what pseudo-patriotic name you called it (Hard Paper Tail Push-to-Glide American Heritage Edition) to try to invoke my patriotic duty to give you my hard earned money.

Harley really is the cubic zirconium of motorcycles.

I won’t say that working on Harleys isn’t a great paying job.  Like Sonny Barger said, “the one good thing I can say about Harleys is they made me a good living; by being junk they need to be fixed all the time.”

It’s a fact, sir, that you can make a very good living by milking the stupid people of all of their money. P.T. Barnum learned this decades ago.   Harley just used his philosophy of "there's a sucker born every minute" to build a fashion empire out of worthless junk.  It is what has kept them in business, and a steady, fat paycheck in your wallet.