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
“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.”