1st Gear: At Least They Know How To Wrench On These
Harley-Davidson has been struggling for years trying to reach the youth market beyond its bored dentist clientele base. And by “struggling,” I mean “continuously tripping over its own shoelaces, like when it bought up Buell only to kill it.”
In any case, the company’s pushes for nostalgia haven’t been working, so the company decided it’s time for something different: even older nostalgia. H-D is going back to bicycles of its past, as the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports:
Harley-Davidson Inc. is unveiling a new bike, but it’s powered by pedals, not a rumbling V-Twin engine.
The olive-green cruiser is a tribute to a bicycle sold by Harley in 1917. It’s the first of 10 hand-built bicycles the Harley-Davidson Museum will offer for sale this summer for approximately $4,200 each.
Harley was in the bicycle business for a short time, from 1917 through 1922, with a line of about six models each year.
The bicycles were intended to introduce young riders to the Harley-Davidson brand and were styled to look like the company’s motorcycles.
Heritage Bicycles will be making the machines and the only change to the design is that the frame is now larger. Well, I guess your average Harley buyer isn’t as spry as they were in the days of the flu pandemic.
MEREDITH — Businesses around the state look at Laconia Motorcycle Week as a chance to boost sales before the busy summer season officially begins. For a few businesses, though, the yearly ten-day rally represents a oversized portion of its bottom line, and that’s certainly the case for Laconia Harley-Davidson, a motorcycle dealership located on Route 3 in Meredith.
“From a total business standpoint, for the ten days of the rally, that produces 30 percent of our annual revenue, dealership-wide, for the entire year. That’s how much this means to us,” said Will Swart, general manager of the dealership. While the official schedule of Laconia Motorcycle Week is a nine-day affair, the dealership gets its party started a day early.
On Thursday morning, Swart was hustling from one corner of the dealership to another, attending to myriad small problems that added up to one big problem: how to capitalize on an event that floods the region with the dealership’s ideal customer. Even when he sat behind his desk – which was stocked with two cups of coffee, and two packs of cigarettes – to answer a few questions, a constant stream of employees popped their heads in to announce a new problem, or to update him on a resolution in progress.
Laconia Harley-Davidson hopes to sell 200 motorcycles by the time the rally draws to a close. They will sell many more T-shirts and other accessories. To support those sales, the dealership does far more than simply open its doors and wait for customers. The dealership fills its parking lot, and the neighboring lot at Hart’s Turkey Farm Restaurant, with tents and vendors, creating a destination to attract motorcyclists coming for the rally.
Swart expects that 50,000 people will visit the dealership’s grounds this week.
“Bands, food, bar, we turn this into a pretty epic event here at the dealership,” Swart said.
It takes a pretty epic effort to host such an event. Laconia Harley-Davidson will triple its staffing levels during Motorcycle Week, and will start planning for the next rally as soon as the current one ends.
“The reality is, for people like us, this is a 355-day planning process, and the other ten days is the rally,” Swart said.
It’s a lot of work and planning, but it’s all well worth it, said Anne Deli, co-owner of the dealership. The entertainment, food and rides are all aimed at creating an experience.
“If you think about it, everything we do at Laconia Harley-Davidson is building riders and letting people have fun. That’s really our goal. By building riders, we are talking about attracting more people into our sport, our activity. Fun is a huge component of that,” Deli said.
She also sees the events – especially the group rides – as showcasing the Lakes Region as a destination for vacationing motorcyclists, whether they come for Motorcycle Week or not.
“Being in Meredith and part of hte Lakes Region, this area is really special. Not only are we building riders, we’re also letting riders know about the specialness of the region,” she said. “You have some of the best riding in the country here in this area.
“We’re having a great bike week so far, we’re feeling very great about the 95th anniversary. On to the hundredth!”