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As you get a little further into this issue, you’ll come across the piece highlighting the 2011 mid-year release of Harley’s newest model, the Blackline Softail. The Blackline is designed to be a paired-down and smoothed-out bike with little nonsense about it, begging riders to roll it into a garage and make it their own. And isn’t that exactly what this whole custom Harley culture is about, making a bike your own?

Anytime Harley rolls out its new year models or releases a mid-year bike, I like to cruise the blogs and forums to see what people are saying. Obviously there’s a mixed crowd with those who like the bikes, those who are ambivalent, and then there are the haters. And it’s the haters that always seem to interest me most with their rampant negative quips as they nitpick the bike or bikes to pieces. I understand that everyone has their own likes, dislikes, and opinions, and I’m not saying I completely like or am a fan of every Harley model or design change the company makes, but there’s a difference between critiquing and just blatantly blasting.

It’s impossible for Harley, or any motorcycle or widget manufacturer for that matter, to create something that appeals to everyone. But as far as Harley is concerned, isn’t that what draws us to the company? Isn’t the mantra, It’s all about individuality and riding free.? I mean besides the 100-plus years of heritage, isn’t it the fact that Harley builds a wide assortment of base models that might be close to our dream bike but maybe with a little tweaking, adding/subtracting parts, or possibly even some fabrication, we can each have our perfect bike that doesn’t look like the guy’s next door?

As I read the comments I’ll often recognize a name or personality or two who just can’t get on board with anything Harley does, and they love to let the world know how much smarter than Harley they are as they rip the bikes apart. Reading through these comments it makes me wonder exactly who these people are (most are using screen names). I’m not interested in knowing where they live or what their favorite quote is. I’d like to know what their interests are, what they do for a living, and why exactly are they on these mostly Harley/custom-Harleycentric sites? I mean if they don’t own, ride, or care about Harleys, why are they there? If they are just some Joe Schmoes who love to spew hate then OK I guess I get it, some people are just like that. But if they are involved in the industry in some facet, say as a part manufacturer, isn’t Harley’s method of building bikes that appeal to a broader mass who have a penchant for customizing their bikes with aftermarket parts great for business? Or if they are shop owners, wouldn’t it make them happy to see that Harley has come out with another bike that they know their customers will bring to them to customize?

Harley has a heritage and image derived from its bikes that no other motorcycle company has and a global following spanning generations that most companies would kill for. And the emotions, memories, and desires are what make the Bar and Shield like no other icon in the world. Without more than a century of preserving that heritage and image, well, you probably wouldn’t be holding this magazine or about to throw a leg over that hog in your garage.

Until next time,