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Willie G - brawn in the USA

2012-03-23 12:38

'GOODBYE WILLIE G': Willie G Davidson, grandson of one of the co-founders of Harley-Davidson. He's retiring after 49 years as the bikemaker's chief styling officer.


Harley-Davidson's new-for-2012 Dyna Switchback is a new kind of motorcycle - its maker calls it "a convertible" because it has not only quickly-removable panniers but also an almost-instantly removable windscreen. Which, once you've ditched it , you'll probably want to leave off for ever.


Most people love them – even if they are 109 years young. What I’m talking about is a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, a seemingly ubiquitous marque found in just about every country around the globe that has roads to be ridden.

It seems very few people hate them, actually; those that do have probably never owned or ridden one and that’s a shame because they are designed and built to be ridden, gently or otherwise, while arguably lasting for ever.


Willie G Davidson (seen above), Harley-Davidson’s last remaining family link to the company, is due to retire after 49 years of sterling service as H-D's chief design officer, having started with the brand back in 1963. He said: “Throughout my life I've been truly fortunate to have had the opportunity to marry my passion for design with my love for this amazing brand that runs so deeply in my veins.

"What's most rewarding has been the impact our motorcycles have had on the lives of our customers. Everything we do in styling is based on the notion that form follows function, but both report to emotion."

According to the official American H-D website, Willie G is the man who created classic, iconic bikes that spanned four decades, including the 1971 FX Super Glide, the Heritage Softail Classic, the Fat Boy, the Street Glide – and my personal favourite Harley-D, the radical-looking V-Rod.


Times have been tough for Harley in its 109 years of being – with generally falling sales of bikes in the late 1960's and early 1970's, with takeovers (such as acquiring Aermacchi) and being absorbed themselves (AMF), and then finding their independence once again to produce a machine that Americans craved after: big, powerful, good-looking cruiser-type bikes.

If you thought a Harley machine slow and ponderous – you might want to think again. Yes, it’s first and foremost a lifestyle machine that does lend itself to mostly cruising along, while that glorious vee-twin engine beat seems to reverberate between each and every lamp post. But that’s selling the brand short because it really does make gloriously satisfying bikes to ride and own.

A few years ago I had the pleasure of riding a H-D FXR Police model in Florida in the US, complete with full-sized windscreen, calibrated speedometer and police siren, from Miami through to Key West, via the Everglades and the Keys, where quieter roads are to be found.

Take it from me, Harleys are anything but slow…

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