free­wheel burn­ing

Look­ing for a one-of-a-kind Har­ley-david­son? Kate White­head checks out the rugged ap­peal of the bad-boy biker brand that's now avail­able in Hong Kong

Hong Kong Tatler - - Bikes - Har­ley-david­son of Hong Kong, El­tee Build­ing, 3 Ning Foo Street, Chai Wan. Tel: 3792 0000; hongkong­harley­david­son.com

“You buy a har­ley be­cause it’s an awe­some piece of equip­ment—and You make it Yours”

Har­ley-david­sons sit in a very spe­cial niche in­deed. Clearly, they ap­peal to a man who wants to hit the road on two wheels—but why choose a Har­ley? As the long­est-lived Amer­i­can mo­tor­cy­cle brand, it oozes Amer­i­cana and cy­cling her­itage. And since the air-cooled en­gine and de­sign are rel­a­tively sim­ple, they of­ten ap­peal to those who want to be­come me­chan­i­cally fa­mil­iar with their ma­chine. That sim­plic­ity has an­other plus—it makes for easy cus­tomi­sa­tion.

“You buy a Har­ley be­cause it’s an awe­some piece of equip­ment—and you make it yours. It’s about own­ing a bike to be about you, not the brand,” says James Bee­ton, ser­vice man­ager at Har­ley-david­son’s new Hong Kong con­cept store.

The 8,000-square-foot store in Chai Wan opened in Jan­uary, mak­ing it Hong Kong’s first Har­leydavid­son con­cept store and the largest bike shop in the city. In ad­di­tion to sell­ing and ser­vic­ing Har­ley­david­sons, the store of­fers a cus­tomi­sa­tion ser­vice that al­lows cus­tomers to cre­ate their dream bike. Al­most ev­ery­thing can be changed, from the han­dle­bars to the hub­caps, and there’s a team of spe­cial­ists on hand to help.

“Har­ley is dif­fer­ent from other brands be­cause there are so many op­tions. The mind­set is: ‘Here is a blank can­vas.’ No two bikes that come in for cus­tomi­sa­tion are the same,” says Bee­ton. “This is done in a few key ar­eas: per­for­mance—say, for ex­am­ple, you want the bike to go faster; func­tion—that’s adding some­thing like heated hand­grips; fit or com­fort—per­haps chang­ing the seat; and style.”

Some peo­ple pre­fer to ride their bike for a few months be­fore mak­ing changes, while oth­ers know ex­actly what they want and have it cus­tomised straight out of the box. The first step is to head up to the main show­room on the first floor and take a seat at the Parts Bar. For in­spi­ra­tion, check out the well-thumbed Har­ley cat­a­logue (fea­tur­ing 18,000 of­fi­cial parts) and the Fat Book, which, as the name sug­gests, is a su­per-thick tome filled with pic­tures and pric­ings of ev­ery­thing from lights to lug­gage that fit a Har­ley.

There are a ridicu­lous amount of per­mu­ta­tions, but the bikes tend to fall into a few broad styles. One of the most pop­u­lar are the Cafe Rac­ers, which are mod­i­fied for speed and han­dling rather than com­fort. The name was coined in the 1970s to fit the rid­ers who parked and hung out out­side cafes. To achieve this look, key changes are made, such as low­er­ing the han­dle­bars or adding a spoiler in the front to im­prove the bike’s per­for­mance and style.

Per­haps the most ex­treme of cus­tom styles is the Chop­per. Pop­u­larised in the 1960s in films such as Easy Rider, the name comes from the fact that the bike is lit­er­ally “chopped” by ex­tend­ing the front of the bike and rais­ing the han­dle­bars, which are cheek­ily re­ferred to as “ape hang­ers.”

Other pop­u­lar Har­ley styles are the Cruis­ers (built for com­fort, they of­ten have sad­dle­bags and a full wind­screen), Bob­bers (which have a stripped-down look, usu­ally with the front fender re­moved and the rear fender “bobbed” or made smaller), and retro or vin­tage styles. “The style that some­one wants of­ten re­flects their per­son­al­ity; we do our best to ful­fil their idea. There are some cus­tomers who have four or even six bikes, they buy each one for a spe­cific pur­pose,” says Bee­ton.

Har­ley-david­sons can cost any­thing from HK$107,000 for a Street 750 to HK$520,000 for a CVO Street Glide, a pre­mium-level grand tour­ing ma­chine. Bee­ton says Har­ley rid­ers spend an av­er­age of 10 per cent of the orig­i­nal price on cus­tom de­sign to make it their own.

And many spend a lot more. “We get guys com­ing in and money’s no ob­ject, so they do all sorts of cool things,” says Dave Neil­son, dealer prin­ci­pal. “It’s like big-boys Lego.”

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