This year I can say I actually walked into the Harley booth. Last year in Cleveland I think I walked by, but decided that it was way too crowded and I didn’t want to wade through all the people. To Harley’s credit, the vast majority of their modern lineup is readily available for the browsing on almost any showroom (and there are lots of showrooms), so I’ve seen most of their modern bikes in person anyway. This year however, I admit I wanted to get a closer look at the new 2016 Softail Slim S. Almost completely blacked out, covered in matte olive drab paint, with a big white star on the tank, I can’t help but love that bike. The new Softail slim, with 110 cubic inch Twin Cam engine, is unmistakably a LONG way from the ‘43 WLA, but the likeness is still quite obvious. I have no rational reason, what so ever, to spend $18k on a Harley cruiser, but I can’t deny I wouldn’t complain about a winning one in a contest.
Outside the manufacturer’s booth, countless custom bikes littered the conference center. With old and new scattered about, I was, again, mostly drawn to the vintage flatheads. I have no explanation but I love vintage, and it doesn’t stop with motorcycles; even knowing that side-valve performance is garbage, the old flatheads are simply gorgeous, rust and all. That aside, there were custom builds of every variety on site; from neo-retro, to flat track “esque” conversions, to Mad Maxian rat bikes.
Again, love them or hate them, Harley Davidson motorcycles are a staple of American motorcycle culture. While I cannot justify purchasing a new one, I do appreciate their bikes aesthetically, and someday hope to have some sort of apocalyptic Harley custom parked in the garage… just as soon as I get a garage.