There is certainly something special about riding a roaring Harley-Davidson down the old Route 66. With the wind in your hair, the never-ending horizon and the grunt of your engine under you, it's enough to give the toughest biker goosebumps.
Yes, the history of Harley-Davidson motorbikes and Route 66 dates back decades with generations of people enjoying this unique experience. This is one of the reasons why we at Route 66 continue to celebrate the unique brand and its place in many hearts.
Next year, we'll be launching The Harley-Davidson 115th Anniversary Tour – a combination of bikes, people, history and everything riding culture. To get you in the mood, learn more about the Harley-Davidson brand, its place on Route 66 and what this tour will include.
'A bicycle with an engine'
At the start of the 20th century, the motorcycle was a relatively new transport option. Many businesses were competing for market space and 21-year-old William S. Harley wanted in on the action. Alongside friend Arthur Davidson, the pair launched the Harley-Davidson Motor Company in a wooden shed in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
By 1903, the first production Harley-Davidson motorcycle was released to the public – equipped with a powerful 3-1/8 inch bore and 3-1/2 inch stroke. Only a year later, the first Harley-Davidson dealership was opened by C.H. Lang of Chicago.
The Harley-Davidson brand continued to grow over the coming decade, with the launch of the first V-twin motor in 1909 giving birth to its uniquely famous engine rumble.
Moreover, around 20,000 motorcycles were used by the US Army during World War I. In fact, after signing the Armistice treaty, Corporal Roy Holtz was the first American to cross the border in Germany – riding a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.
At this point, Harley-Davidson was a household name in the United States. Able to be used in active war environments as well as transverse areas where jeeps could not, Harley-Davidson had cemented itself into American folklore.
The classic American road trip – Route 66
During the 1920s, the United States enjoyed a booming economy, with significant investment put into infrastructure such as roads. This saw the introduction of the US Highway System and the now iconic Route 66.
Americans were increasingly mobile with the popular Harley-Davidson motorcycle as one of the most common transport options. With its new two cam engine, the JD series Harley-Davidson could hit a top speed of 100 mph and roar down Route 66 with ease.
The American road trip passion continued for several decades, underpinned by new cars and motorcycles. The Harley-Davidson brand would also feature heavily in 1950s movies and culture – adding more hype to hitting the open road.
Why is Harley-Davidson so popular?
It's safe to say that Harley-Davidson has faced many challenges over its almost 115-year existence. However, what has been constant over this time is the company's dedication to creating an engaging brand that can followed by a community.
From the striking logo, branded clothing and accessories and rallies, the Harley-Davidson family means being part of something much bigger than just yourself. Riding a Harley-Davidson gives an aura of power, freedom, and coolness of being powerful, free and cool – all elements that make it one of the most popular brands in the world. This is without mentioning the unique sound of the engine roaring down Route 66.
Harley-Davidson continues to be a leader in the motorcycle industry, releasing new models regularly and offering more customisation options to their customers. There are even people who have never had or ever will ride a Harley Davidson who wear the merchandise line – a true sign of an iconic brand.
The Harley-Davidson 115th Anniversary Tour (Aug 28-Sep 3, 2018)
In 2018, Harley-Davidson turns 115. To honour and celebrate its history thus far, we at Route 66 Tours will be leading a trip back to where it all started – Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Starting in Chicago where we will have a welcome dinner, we'll ride the old back roads to Milwaukee for the official 115th anniversary event. Of course, the highlight should be the Harley-Davidson parade where HOG Chapters, from around the world will ride past. This is an experience like no other and will take place right outside your Ambassador Hotel accommodation!
Enjoy the live music, cold beverages and good Wisconsin hospitality – discussing everything Harley-Davidson with fellow enthusiasts. You will also get the opportunity to see the launch of the latest models and take them all for a test ride.
At the end of four nights of fun and Harley-Davidsons, the tour will return to Chicago for a farewell dinner – finishing the experience in style.
Here's what is included on the Harley-Davidson 115th Anniversary Tour:
- Accommodation with breakfast daily
- Welcome dinner
- Bike Hire including insurance
- Farewell dinner
- Fully guided and supported tour
- Support van and trailer
- 4 Nights at the HD-115th Celebration in Milwaukee
At the 2013 event, we even got our clients permission to ride along tens of thousands in the official parade – something we are working to do again.
If you would like more information about this event and are keen to book your place, feel free to get in touch with our team today.