Editor’s note: This story has been updated to clarify the motorcycle was the 5 millionth manufactured at Harley-Davidson’s plant in York, Pennsylvania.
ROTHSCHILD – Wayne Bartlett thought he would leave with a used motorcycle last week when he walked into the Bull Falls Harley-Davidson dealership in Rothschild.
Instead the Wisconsin Rapids man bought a new bike. Neither he nor the salesman knew at the time that it was the 5 millionth motorcycle produced in Pennsylvania by Harley-Davidson, the iconic Wisconsin brand known worldwide for its distinctive bikes.
As he was signing the papers, dealership managers told him how special the bike was, and Bartlett was honored to have unknowingly bought it.
He almost didn’t get that specific motorcycle, though.
The dealership showed him two motorcycles: one used and one new, a 2019 model. After test driving both, Bartlett said there was no comparison.
He wanted the new bike. But the one he tested wasn’t Harley No. 5,000,000.
The one he rode for a test was an orange-red color. Bartlett wanted a black bike, so the salesman showed him a model that wasn’t on the floor yet and had just come in a shipment. The bike was manufactured in York, Pennslyvania, according to a news release.
Harley moved manufacturing operations from Milwaukee to York in 1973, and Bartlett’s bike rolled off the assembly line May 8, the company said.
When Bartlett saw it, he knew that was the color and the bike for him. He rode it home to Wisconsin Rapids that day.
In honor of what dealership owners Erik Vandervest and Dixie Kinnard called a historic moment, they presented Bartlett with gifts from the company: a framed photo of the bike, a tour of the Harley-Davidson power-train operations in Menomonee Falls and tickets to the Harley-Davidson museum in Milwaukee.
“This is a special moment for us here as a local Harley dealership in Wisconsin — home of where Harley established its roots back in 1903 in Milwaukee,” the dealership owners wrote in a news release.
The bike is Bartlett’s second Harley-Davidson. He sold his first one when he moved away briefly to Indiana for work, but ended up returning to central Wisconsin soon after. Now that he’s retired, he wanted to get back out on the open road with his friends who also ride Harleys.
A Harley-Davidson was the brand for him, Bartlett said, because he likes how smoothly it rides and how balanced the engine is, producing no vibration.
This will probably be Bartlett’s final bike, he said, and he looks forward to taking it out on longer trips and county back roads around central Wisconsin.
In his future with the 5 millionth bike: the Tail of the Dragon, an 11-mile stretch of U.S. 129 in Tennessee with one curve after another. He also wants to drive himself all the way to Daytona on the Harley.
Aside from the big trips, Bartlett will take the bike around town. He favorite local spots are up and down County Z and near Castle Rock Lake.