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February 27, 2008

Harley Weekenders

Donald Pittenger writes:

Dear Blowhards --

I need help.

No, not that kind of help.

You see, there's something that has sparked my curiosity for years and it would be nice to finally get the information I need to satisfy it.

It has to do with those groups of (mostly) guys who meet up on weekends and go roaring along the freeways and byways on their Harley-Davidson motorcycles. And no, I don't include the Honda Gold-Wing clubbers and other breeds of manifestly "nice" bikers. I'm talkin' Harleys, the black and orange crews.

Within the Harley fraternity I'm excluding the ones who are obviously folks who work in offices during the workweek -- guys with glasses and short haircuts. I want to know about the ones with tattoos and long, graying hair worn in pony-tails.

What kind of jobs do those guys have that provide the cash to shell out five-figure dollar amounts for a Harley with blinding gobs of chromium plating?

I'm guessing that they're blue-collar types, maybe working in manufacturing or auto repair or something like that where gray pony-tails, mustaches and tattoos are acceptable.

Hmm. Actually, quite a few kinds of work settings tolerate that kind of appearance. For all I know, those guys are college teachers, ad agency "creatives" or even computer programmers.

As I said, I need help. ... Michael? ... Friedrich? ... Shouting Thomas? ... Anyone?



posted by Donald at February 27, 2008


You'd be wrong. Lots of dentists and doctors and accountants etc. Mostly quite aware of what their psychological motivations are, and doing it anyway. Sort of a gift to themselves for biting the bullet and playing adult all week.

Posted by: Don McArthur on February 27, 2008 7:42 PM

Drug dealers.

Posted by: ricpic on February 27, 2008 9:22 PM

One of the things that I really like about Harley events is the mix of people. Certainly, a lot of the riders are professionals or desk jockeys. I'm somewhere in between, since I make my living at the computer and as a musician.

But, many of the guys are car mechanics, truck drivers and various other union labor types, who make a very good living. One of my friends runs an office cleaning business. He makes very good money and works late night hours.

Policemen and firemen are particularly fond of Harleys. You will meet a lot of them at rallies.

You have to remember that the laboring guys don't necessarily live in the high rent districts. Long distance truck drivers can live anywhere. So, while the $60,000 they make doesn't look big to a coastal city dweller, it goes a long way in small town Alabama or Illinois.

And the blue collar bike riders are usually conservative family guys, which means that they have not gone through the expense of multiple divorces and relocations. Often, they've been married to the same gal for 35 years, and lived in the same house, which they bought for a pittance 35 years ago.

Throw into the mix also the fact that Harley makes a couple of models that sell under $10,000. So, you don't have to go the whole $25,000 to join the fraternity. So long as you're riding a Harley, you're a brother.

As I said, I like the rallies because I can pal around with guys who work with their hands and get dirty. I meet these guys in the music business, too. Sometimes I wish that I had one of those hard working, dirty hands jobs.

Then again... it's very tough. The body starts to fall apart in your 40s.

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on February 27, 2008 9:53 PM

The only Harley guy I knew owned a power-washing company in Seattle. He and his few empolyees would power-wash parking garages, boats, etc. etc. He seemed to be doing quite well - big house with a swimming pool, brand new SUV, a couple beautiful bikes. He was a big, crass, uneducated guy, but nice enough and a family man at heart.
What can I say but, God bless America. He has the kind of wealth that 95% of the population can only dream of over here in the Middle Kingdom.

Posted by: g.beijing on February 28, 2008 2:33 AM

I used to host a couple of rallies a year at the ranch, and I got to know a lot of those guys pretty well. Thomas has described them to a T. What's funny is that a fair number of them make good money...working on bikes. Lots of construction guys, too. They're basically blue-collar hayseeds with a motorcycle fetish. Very much my kind of people.

And invariably, they left the campground cleaner than any other large group, they never ever broke up things just to be breaking them up, they paid on time and often up-front. They even fixed stuff that they felt needed fixing. A joy to work with.

Posted by: Scott on February 28, 2008 8:50 AM

I remember one guy when I lived in Milwaukee who added a sidecar for the winter months and rode his bike all year round. Anyone who rides a bike through harsh Wisconsin winters is one tough guy!

Posted by: Bradamante on February 28, 2008 8:55 AM

I believe violent criminal behavior is involved. For some.

I don't know why you think blue-collar workers can't make enough cash to buy motorcycles. Working construction or in one of the trades can lead to good wages (especially if you're lucky enough to be in a union).

Posted by: GFS3 on February 28, 2008 10:47 AM

How many of the pony tails are wigs?

Posted by: dearieme on February 28, 2008 7:43 PM

When I was in high school we (i.e. the Bodios of Querencia blog) got on the wrong side of our neighbours by putting up one such for a few days. He was in fact the dean of a college in Vermont, but in his regalia, including eyepatch, he looked scruffy enough to terrify the lady next door. Perhaps that's the root of our eventually being run out of town....

Posted by: Peculiar on February 28, 2008 8:57 PM

How many of the pony tails are wigs?

You should always tug on them to find out the truth.

Posted by: Scott on February 29, 2008 8:56 PM

I work in mfg, with a solid mix of blue-collar, white-collar, no-collar, ministerial-collar types. Funny how the Harley thing knows no collars or persuasion, at least where I make the coin.
One group of folks, engineers, welders and customer service gals, are religious Harley riders who set out on the open roads each Saturday.
Another group are mainly Vietnam Vets, yes some with graying ponytails, who tend to ride during late summer and early fall, when "the crazies are off the roads".
Still another group is a younger set who do not exclude non-Harleys in their weekend rides. Though they do semi-insist that no Harley ride in the back of the pack.

The last group tends to ride the cheaper used Harleys,while the first two groups spend the coinage necessary, especially those folks whose kids are grown and out of the house.

On a gorgeous late spring day, you'll see at least 30 Harleys in our parking lot and, yes, I do stroll by and salivate on the chrome. I really don't care what model the bikes are; they are all singularly polished to a highly reflective buff and they are gorgeous to look at. No car in the lot comes close to the design and beauty of these bikes.

Posted by: DarkoV on February 29, 2008 11:17 PM

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