Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Harley vs. Metric Debate

My CMA chapter, Romans 8 Riders, maintains a message board on Yahoo for chapter members to communicate. When I posted news on there recently that I had bought a 2002 Harley-Davidson Dyna Wide Glide, I received congratulations from several members. But, that discussion thread quickly evolved (or should I say, devolved?) into a debate on the merits of Harley-Davidson vs. Japanese (a/k/a 'metric') motorcycles.

The debate never really goes away, it just dies down ... until someone in our group buys a Harley.

Soon after I posted the news about my Wide Glide, Scott McKay, a former Romans 8 member who owns two Honda motorcycles (a Goldwing and a Magna), ribbed me for buying a Harley. Scott, who left Romans 8 last year to join another CMA chapter, had also remarked several months earlier that Romans 8 member Mike Chretien had joined the "dark side" when Mike traded in his Honda Gold Wing for a Harley Electra Glide.

Scott, who made the tired old comment about Harleys leaving trails of leaking oil, posted about one particular Goldwing that had been ridden 300,000 miles before needing an engine overhaul. "When a Harley can match this...I'll buy one!" he wrote.

But the Harley contingent of Romans 8, capably represented by Bob "Bobby Summertime" Cesario and Roland "Ro" Caron, did not let Scott's comments go unanswered. The debate was on.

"Now Scott, first of all, let’s be honest here ... people don’t collect and restore 'Wing Dings' [Editor's note: this is what the Harley riders in Romans 8 call Honda Goldwings] like they do Harleys," Roland opined. "After all, they are disposable bikes! Next point is, Harley doesn’t imitate anyone - they are always imitated. And finally, there are only two kinds of people in this world: those who ride Harleys, and those that wish they could."

For at least a dozen posts, Scott and the tag-team duo of Ro and Bobby Summertime verbally sparred (it was all in good fun, of course). I have to say, Bobby had the best quote. He wrote to Scott, "You ride rice ... and that ain't nice ..."

Scott called for backup from other Japanese bike owners. After much persuasion to join in the fray, Bob Levesque, our former road captain, who rides a Kawasaki Nomad, quoted some Scripture, then added his two cents.

“...Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you...”.... Hebrews 13:5

"So, my dear brothers, what I own, or ride, is of little matter," Bob Levesque wrote. "I'm just grateful that (God) allows me to ride."

Some Harley riders (not any in Romans 8) will not wave to other motorcyclists who ride a Japanese or non-Harley motorcycle. It certainly happened to me at least a few times when I rode my Yamaha Virago last season. Now, whether the riders didn't wave back at me because I "rode rice" or for any number of other reasons, who knows.

My own take on this issue is this: Although I prefer to own and ride a Harley, I respect and will acknowledge anyone who rides, no matter what nameplate is on his or her bike. When I rode my Wide Glide for the first time last week on a rather cold day, I only encountered one other person on two wheels. He happened to be riding a scooter, and I was riding a Harley, but that didn't stop me from waving to him.

In the end, my brothers in Christ agreed to disagree, and the 'debate' finally died down after a few days.

"God bless you, my brother, you're a good sport. This has been a lot of fun," Roland wrote to Scott. "As long as we all take this light-heartedly (as we should), it's a real blessing that we can have fun. In the end, I think we all agree the most important thing is our love for the Lord and each other ... Amen!"

Replied Scott: "Amen ... (and) I still love rice!"


  1. The Harley/Metric debate will never go away, but at least, for most of us, it's all in good fun, usually more mischief making than malicious.

    And I'm sure you've heard this one, that 98% of all Harleys ever made are still on the road. The rest made it home safely.

    Enjoy your ride, whatever it may be!

  2. Great piece Ken. Now you have to post that pic of Roland's next detailing challenge!!!!

  3. I'm a former a Harley owner (2005 Ultra Classic) and I enjoyed riding it. But I sold it and just bought a Honda ST. All the American/Metric debate is just heated fun. Motorcycle owners all have a respect for each other in that they understand what goes into riding.

    BTW, congrats on buying your Wide Glide. I don't know how many miles were on it, but if it had over 25,000 have a mechanic take a look at the cam chain tensioners, they're supposed to last about that long. If they're wore out, and you don't get 'em replaced, they F up the entire cam assembly, costing you thousands. I've been there.

  4. Hi Steve ... my Wide Glide has 14,000 miles, but I have to take it to the shop to have the rear tire replaced and I plan to have a mechanic check the cam chain tensioners at that time just to be safe. Thanks.