Harley Davidson Road King Custom
Harley Davidsons, they're a bit like Marmite – you either love 'em or you hate 'em.  

Over in America, it's safe to say the majority of riders love them. It is, after all, the number one brand associated with American motorcycling, dominating roughly half the market in its native country.

Yet, with the big guns from Japan (we really don't need to name them) rising in popularity, the Harley has started to see a decline. Its 2016 sales in the US were down by almost 4%.

Harley claims its market share performance gives it great confidence in its long-term strategy. But the company still had to lay off some 200 staff last autumn due to declining revenues. And let's not forget the $15 million settlement it faced in August. Proof that you can't get away with selling 340,000 motorcycles that violate air-pollution laws no matter how powerful you are.

It's clear to see that some riders in the US are starting to get bored of the brand. They're turning their attention to others for want of a different style of ride. As choice increases in the market, loyalty fades. Harley might have already reached its full potential in the US. It wouldn't be a surprise if its market share in the US now gradually began to stagnate.

Harley Davidson Sportster XL 883N
The market is not stagnating, however, in Europe. Despite Harley shipping 262,221 motorcycles last year when its expectations were 254,000 – 269,000, sales in Europe have risen by almost 6%. Signalling that, much the same as American riders are beginning to want something different, so are Europeans. As one turns from Harley to Other in search of a different breed, another turns from Other to Harley for the same reason.

There will always be a market, and a dominating one at that, for Japanese bikes in Europe. Younger people are increasingly seeking speed, lightness and agility from their bikes. Things that the heavyweight cruiser-style rides of Harleys cannot offer. Yet there is also the rider who wants to be unique. Who knows that they want, likes what they like, and is not ashamed of it.  

This uniqueness is arguably part of the reason why Harleys appeal to riders in Europe. While a large proportion of riders would laugh at the notion of buying one, Harleys are ticking the boxes for some.  

Harley Davidson has long been the best in the business at marketing itself as a 'lifestyle'. A lifestyle that's seen as the embodiment of American riding. So what about the European Harley rider? Is it the lifestyle of the Harley that appeals to them? If so, do they face the assumption of anti-Harley riders that they believe they are the only 'real' bikers?

Do Harley riders feel that all other makes of bike are inferior? Somehow it seems unlikely. Particularly if this European rider has ridden and owned many other brands of bike before buying one. Yes, they might enjoy that their bike is a bit more unique over here and gains a bit more attention, but it's more likely the quality or the ride that attracts them. As one gets bored of Marmite, another gets into it. Out with the old and in with the new. That's just the way things go.

Have you ever ridden or owned a Harley? What do you think about the bikes or the brand? Get in touch with us at to share your story.  

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09/02/17 - Got an 883 r . Love it .

09/02/17 - Yeah I rode one. That's enough for me.

09/02/17 - I have an XL53C, great for pottering about in the nice weather

09/02/17 - Hired one on honeymoon. Couldn't get on with low rev torque idea just didn't seem to go and my bike at the time at home was a DR750

09/02/17 - I never slag off bikes I've not ridden. I rode my mate's XL1200 for 3 weeks a couple of years ago as he was convinced Id love it. They're nowhere near as bad as all the detractors say. They are comfy with lots of low down grunt and the "braaaap" everytime I cracked the throttle made me smile. They arent that slow, ok for a 1200 they may not give a panigale a run for its money, but slow? I wouldnt say so. And they are fun to ride, bearing in mind their design brief. Ride it like a cruiser and you'll have a hoot, you even get used to touching bits down, see them as hero blobs. But ride it - or expect it to handle - like a sportsbike and you'll be disappointed. So pros. Comfy, fun in their way and you can easily make yours unique. Cons. Brakes are poor, economy isnt good and they are expensive for what they are.

Did Carl convert me? Well, I can see the appeal. But no. If I was in the market for a cruiser, Id probably go for a Guzzi California. The whole H-D thing is a bit of a cliche for my liking

          10/02/17 - Yeah

          10/02/17 - Brakes are fantastic these days, brembo brakes are used on later Harleys

09/02/17 - I have ridden them since 1994 when I bought the 1340 Evo engined Road King. I have been through Ultra Classics, Dynas, and currently have an 07 Soft tail Heritage. They are brilliant bikes to ride, reliable and comfortable. They handle well enough for the road and non riders like them. I have an RT as well which is great but if push comes to shove it's bye bye BMW. One is efficient and one makes me smile. HD big twins are best thought of as tourers. They excell at that and are as comfy at the end as at the beginning.

09/02/17 - Own and ride them. Wonderful bikes.

10/02/17 - I've rode an Glide and was impressed at how comfy and how well it handled however the Bad Boy was terrible so there is good and bad even in the same brand.

10/02/17 - Umm no.triumph

10/02/17 - I have a 2014 Soft tail slim,I only have it 2 weeks but I do love it,I'm coming from all 70's 80's jap bikes I still have my Suzuki GS1000E and I'll never sell that,but this Harley is so comfortable,

10/02/17 - I've ridden them but I own Triumphs for good reason

10/02/17 - Bloody lovely, 1200 sportster, gone now bugger.

10/02/17 - In all my 69 years I have never riden a Harley

10/02/17 - Had 3 night rod special ..rocker c....100 anniversary road king classic had a happy 10 years club riding great people enjoyed it while it lasted all gone now...New Road king nearly 20k so a new triumph bonneville ordered half the price.sorry Harley ya just too dang expensive

10/02/17 - 80,000+ miles on my Dyna, and I've decided she's a keeper. No other bike has made me smile so much, so often. Yes, Harleys can be cliches, as can the riders, but no other bike I've owned or ridden has been as comfortable over long distances.

10/02/17 - I got a 1560 fat boy and every time I ride it I come back with a bit less of it it don't go round corners and roundabouts like my bandit 1200 but I love taking it out and riding it like a jap bike

10/02/17 - Fulgly

10/02/17 - Bought a brand new one in 2013, it was rotten by 2015 when warranty was coming to an end, and the dealer refused to put it right, paint flaking off forks, yokes and frame, the spokes and discs rusty as hell - and the bike was stored in a carpeted garage next to a mint 2012 Speed Triple - HD 3500 miles, Speed Triple 16500 miles - would I ever consider another, well what do you think !! - just had the cylinder heads replaced on my almost 2 year old GSA because there was tiny (3mm x 10mm max) corrosion coming through the paint - that is what I call a warranty and servicing on the Beamer is pennies compared to HD - I should know, 18000 miles in 17 months

10/02/17 - No thanks

10/02/17 - Ive had two, and in the UK they are desperately overpriced, when a brand new Yamaha MT09 Tracer is the same price as a ten year old Wide Glide, and the yam oubrakes outpowers, out handles any harley and doesnt rust unlike harleys in the UK.

          10/02/17 - Glad someone sees my point of view

10/02/17 - My latest ride is a 1200 Harley Custom sport that's been cafe racerised.the only problem I have had, is the first gear jumping out due to wear after 17000 miles.

10/02/17 - Piles of sh*t*

10/02/17 - I bought a 2015 ultra Limited in June 16, I've put 25,000 miles in it in 7 months. I love the bike, it's the dealerships that are a problem. Poor service, arrogant and greedy. I no longer use dealers, I go to an independent bike mechanic that I trust.

10/02/17 - The most reliable bike I've owned was a '97 Sportster. Unfortunately the modern ones aren't built as well, but that's arguably not just a h-d problem.

          10/02/17 - I agree I had a 99 sportster, cv carb, never failed me, can be embarrassing when it carb farts though when your trying to look cool

10/02/17 - I've just bought an 07 Electra glide ultra classic with all the bells and whistles. I've only done 300 miles on it and so far I'm not impressed. It's really heavy and sluggish and I have the 1800 engine. I'm not going to write it off yet but I doubt it's a keeper.

10/02/17 - Rode 'em for 15 years. Don't any longer. I won't have another one. No beef with them, I think I just moved on.

10/02/17 - one thing with a harley is you don't loose as much ,,, just selling my Dyna after 14yrs and love every mile ,,,,, now going the old rout 1980 and 1950 bikes ,,,,Harley of course

10/02/17 - Having worked for Surrey harley .I've ridden them all. My view,they don't do anything well.but.its a personal if harley is your thing?enjoy

10/02/17 - Got a Harley after not riding for 20 years just like the look of some of them and the sound not sure about the lifestyle but enjoy a fine weather ride on my lowrider s.

10/02/17 - I own a 1942 wla harley I've restored and I love riding it, it brings attention ever where I go


10/02/17 - I recently bought my first Harley-Davidson after more than 40 years of motorcycling.

You can read all about how that came to be here:

10/02/17 - err NOPE got a rice burner 27 years old 96k on the clock

10/02/17 - WELL OVERPRICED & Dont ever fit the same exhaust system as they sell yourself as your find the next service goes through the roof with constant hints/ digs/ suggestions about how you didnt get them to fit the same exhaust for twice the price.. As a twat non original thinking harly buyer found out with the Southampton England branch.

TRUE AMERICAN = INDIAN. Especially when there crank cases NEVER LEAK from day one.. even new ones today!!

10/02/17 - Never rode on, no desire too, heard to much negative stuff including from a custom part harley shop. Still they do look nice.

10/02/17 - Not for me

10/02/17 - You know... if you haven't ridden one don't make any comments of what they are like to ride .... If your commenting about the price,at least do the comparison like for like .. Say an Electra Glide Ultra against a Honda Gold Wing ... And so on .... Then do a comparison on residual values let's say after five years .. I'm bored now ! If you don't want one don't buy one. Just stop moaning,it's your money it's your choice.... Whatever bike you ride get on it and enjoy it ... Ride safe.

          10/02/17 - Hit the nail bang on the head Mel. Too many HD haters have never even rode 1 never mind owned 1. Had in the past a couple o wings.....good bikes & if that's what floats your boat great. Been now for a few years now and love it. Your money your choice no need to disrespect others options & ownership choices.....not as an adult anyhow.

10/02/17 - They're not like Marmite, I like marmite. Hired one for a ride down the Pacific Coast HIghway, loved the scenery, not so keen on the bike, too heavy, brakes rubbish, footrests kept grinding, not for me.

10/02/17 - Don't interest me at all

10/02/17 - Harley 1200 Nightster, good bike, tyres could be better.

10/02/17 - Rode my brother's 125 stroker single, a fabulous little bike and grossly underrated! Made in Italy with borrani rims, brembo brakes and marzocchi shocks! Oh, you mean the American ones? A triumph of style and marketing, can't deny the looks or the sound but that's it. And they're expensive.

10/02/17 - Over priced

10/02/17 - I had a pre Evo super glide it was great fun but when I rode it fast it became a transformer and started to dis assemble itself and change shape , I tried all sorts to cure it but ,the vibration wouldn't go away and the brakes made for an interesting ride ,especially in the wet

10/02/17 - Would like to ride one of these before I get to old.

10/02/17 - Have owned three of them now . 2015 fat boy great bike . Did 9000 in one year now traded for the street glide Milwaukee 8. Brilliant bike . And have a 2016 break out with Vance and Hines . Another great bike . Love them . Also a Vespa px200 just as good

10/02/17 - Rode a Street Glide in Australia, never again, bl**dy awful bike. Owned a Sportster for a year, gave it away.

          10/02/17 - Got given a**dy love it!!

10/02/17 - Dead slow, heavy as fk, but never get rid of my FatBoy. In my 60s now and dodgy knees. But still ride in comfort on my Harley. Keep your super ninja, fazer, rocket, points on your license or worse bikes. Not for me anymore. Did it all in the seventies. I ride solely for gentle pleasure these days.

10/02/17 - I've just ordered a Lowrider S with stage 4..... time will tell.

10/02/17 - Have a 883 iron two years old most unreliable bike I have ever owned .will never buy a harley again. Overpriced Chinese bike

10/02/17 - I purchased a Nightrain new in 2004, biggest regret of my motorcycling life was selling it. Brilliant bike.

10/02/17 - No. If u had that kind of money, I'd go Indian. Butt that's does not matter as I have no means if insuring such a bike. Japanese cruiser it is then!

10/02/17 - Fxdwg 2014

10/02/17 - All assembly line bikes are sh*t before you put money & a little work into them! I love my Fat!

10/02/17 - I've just bought an 07 Electra glide ultra classic with all the bells and whistles. I've only done 300 miles on it and so far I'm not impressed. It's really heavy and sluggish and I have the 1800 engine. I'm not going to write it off yet but I doubt it's a keeper.

          10/02/17 - I think it will take a bit of getting used to.

          10/02/17 - more than a bit lol

11/02/17 - Ive owned a 2003 883r for the last 9 years , and although I own other bikes, i still love the little sportster They are what they are and don't pretend to be anything else !

11/02/17 - No thanksThe thing is, with Harleys nobody really goes into buying one with their eyes closed. Or perhaps they do? It should come as no surprise that they are big and heavy, that their horsepower per tonne ratio means that they ain't quick, and when you buy one you'll have realised that they ain't cheap either. If you prefer a Universal Japanese Motorcycle, buy one, or even two instead. I recently bought my first Harley after more than 40 years of Japanese and German bikes, and I love it. It's slow, heavy, the tyres are crap and it's not particularly economical, but it looks and sounds great, doesn't knacker my knees after an hour, and you can ride all day without any kind of fatigue. Except maybe your ears. The main thing is, nobody buys one because it looks like something else, it is what it is, if you don't like them, and plenty don't, don't buy one. Simple.

          11/02/17 - Not fast ????? Try the 1600 cc street bob then. Light ish, agile and with a 6 speed box

          11/02/17 - Mine is a Dyna Switchback, 103 twin cam, not as quick as the BMW R1100S I traded in for it. It's all relative...

11/02/17 - I own japanese, Italian and American bikes. They all do some things well and others not. Anybody that rides makes there choice of bike based on there own criteria and finances. My Harley is a 14 year old sportster and in the purist sense it isn't that great at anything, but boy does it make me smile-so if you judge a bike by how much wildlife you collect in your teeth it's bl**dy fantastic

11/02/17 - meh.....IMO ..they look nice but other than that no thanks. over priced,inefficient and why oh why must they be so loud? we get it want noticed.

11/02/17 - I'm glad I owned one but am back with Kawasaki now as I need a bike to be a bike. Not a useless toy of a machine. I enjoyed riding it but everything that goes with it, the snobbery, the sh*t dealers, the cr*p finish etc spoiled the experience.

11/02/17 - I rode one and I'm glad I did because it was an experience. It was a gorgeous Fat Boy with screaming eagles tune and lots of very tasteful updates. It looked amd sounded great. At the time I was running a metric cruiser and the difference between them was huge. The Harley felt unwilling to pull and very primitive by comparison with my Meanstreak. When I got back on the Kawasaki it felt like a sports bike in comparison. It was smooth, responsive and comfortable and the brakes were vicious. Though the image of the Harley was seductive, I never looked back.

11/02/17 - Love them, totally adicted to Harley's

11/02/17 - Got a '07 XL883R Sportster,after loads of Jap and Brit bikes. Has its faults like all bikes, but I love it. Had it for six years, that's longer than any other bike I have ever owned.

11/02/17 - I have a 1999 Roadking Classic. It's not a dragster but it's the most comfortable thing that I've ever ridden. I'm well past worrying about performance but on the motorway I can run with the pack with very little effort. It's heavy and can be hard work in heavy traffic but I still love it.

12/02/17 - Had an old 883 sportster years ago I regret selling it all the time loved it but she wasn't std custom parts fitted by old owner only sold due to high polish demands after go i ng out I will own another but​ an old one new ones build quality Very poor

12/02/17 - Had my share or jap,British and yank , Harley has the best aftermarket parts ,you can get stuff even for the really old ones . Jap parts expensive and had to wait weeks for some engine parts and when a head gasket set was in the hundreds it started to ware thin .British was good but same problems as jap but more often. Buy an old Harley strip all the born to be wild and eagle spirt shit off it and have a bike with a good engine that is easy to fix and has a bit of character like an old Brit with out the (it's a classic) bend over and brace yourself . Never buy parts from HD dealers or your be well and truly bent over always use aftermarket parts from well known makes i.e. Crane ,S&S ,Andrews etc and never use HD blood tyres they're sh*t . The best bike in the world is the one you own .

12/02/17 - No, but I've got to in June.!!

          12/02/17 - have you decided which model you're hiring ?

          12/02/17 - I have Billy, got a Road King

          12/02/17 - You'll love it, mine's so comfy, could ride all day long, unlike my Street Bob

11/04/17 - I read about the new evolution Harley Davidson engine in a classic motor cycle mechanics article in 1985. Having been an admirer of the make since seeing Sonny Barger sat on his chopper, on the front of the Sunday Mirror magazine in 1971. the well written article with tech drawings etc in the classic mechanics article got my attention. In 1989 I travelled to the states to buy an evo FXR (I was unimpressed with my local dealership, not much choice in used bikes, besides I always intended to get one from the U.S.) I went to Milwaukee, visited the Factory, was convinced of the improved build quality, and got details of the nearest dealer, Suburban HD, who had 2 used FXR’s in stock. I bought an ’87 and rode it 1800 miles around Wisconsin, before air freighting it back home. I also went shopping for upgrade Carb, cam, ignition module, and 2 sets of 4 piston brake callipers. This was all fitted upon return. I ran the bike at the 1990 Weston zoyland sprint achieving 13.40 @103 mph. The fork springs and rear shocks were changed ,Koni’s being a vast improvement. I still have the bike, it has now covered 118,000 miles. Engine top end rebuilt at 105,000 miles, needing only new std rings, valve springs, lifters (one had  failing bearings so I was lucky) and a new S&S oil pump. Apart from punctures (I Now use ultra seal) the only breakdown in over 25 years was 2015 on return from the Lincoln super rally, when the alternator failed. I don’t think they are all this reliable, but I have carried out all maintenance and servicing, changing oil & filter at 3700 miles. The bike hasn’t been in a dealership since I bought it.

I think the anti Harley Marmite brigade are still upset at the Triumphs being beaten at the Brands Hatch battle of the twins in 1972 by out dated XR750 Harleys & The late Great Cal Raybourne.

A photo of my blue FXR taken on the Brecons in 2015. Note the Norton behind has a Kawasaki Z motor fitted.

Posted by Daisy Cordell
for Wemoto News on 09 February 2017 in General News



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