12 May 2020

The World's Most Expensive Harley-Davidson

Would you pay more than a million dollars for a Harley-Davidson? Well, someone did. And will again.

Not being in any way pretentious, renowned US avant-garde artist, Jack Armstrong created this piece of motorcycle art using his controversial “Cosmic Extensionalism” technique developed, some say, during his time hanging out with Andy Warhol some 20 years ago. You can fill in the dots.

Nevertheless, the otherwise humble 2002 Harley-Davidson V-Rod was created and wildly promoted as a valuable work of art following an idea conceived by Robert Star of Starglobal International, himself a Harley enthusiast.

“The style of the 2002 Harley V-Rod was revolutionary, and it was the most futuristic creation in motorcycles I had ever seen,” Armstrong is quoted as saying ahead of the launch. “For several years between 2003-2004 when I lived in Switzerland, I rode V-Rods with seven-time F1 World Champion Michael Schumacher. So the V-Rod was my only choice for the most expensive motorcycle in history.”

Yeah, Armstrong is a bit of a namedropper.

The Cosmic Harley-Davidson was unveiled at a major event at Bartels” Harley-Davidson in Marina Del Rey, California in 2010 with a $1 million price tag. It later went on to fetch an eye-watering $3 million after the machine was featured in the respected DuPont Registry publication.

You can make up your own mind about the artistic merit of this work, but there is no doubt that these ‘entrepreneurs’ conjured a gold mine for themselves.

Wouldn’t you know? The Cosmic Starship is back on the market for the paltry sum of US$15 million. So we suggest you get a wriggle on before some Saudi prince beats you to it.

Looking for something a little more modest? Check out Harley-Heaven’s new and pre-owned machines today.

08 May 2020

Indiana Jones and the Softail Springer

Harley-Davidson motorcycles in movies is hardly a new topic, but it sure is fun to track them all down and decide if it’s fake or real and if it’s real, what model Harley is it?

Who remembers 2008’s Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, the fourth and most recent in the Indian Jones franchise? Well, hey, you either loved or didn’t, but for Harley fans, there was a half-decent chase sequence filmed in the actual grounds of Yale University.

Set in 1957, the ‘greaser’ character ‘Mutt Williams’ takes our hero on a wild escapade as they try to outrun some Russian baddies. Stunt doubles do a pretty fair job of throwing the big HOG around the leafy grounds of the famous university. So … what bike was it?

As it turns out, the bikes (plural, because five were prepared for the movie) are 2007 Softail Springer Classics, supplied by The Motor Company to custom motorcycle magician Justin Kell of Glory Motor Works expressly for the movie. Kell said, "it’s modelled to be a postwar Knucklehead."

Kell built the bike using "one bad pixelated picture on a sheet of A4 paper" as his guide. Ripping off the sheet metal and the chrome and hollowing out the exhaust, he lightened the bike by about 30kgs and added about 30 horsepower. Both improvements were necessary because of the high-speed stunts, including riding a staircase in one scene.

Anyone can see the disc brakes are a modern giveaway, although Kell "tried to work with different ways to cover them," he said, "the stunts put such a strain on the suspension that nothing would work without being dangerous."

We really should do a whole separate blog post on Kell because he makes awesome bikes for Hollywood, so stay tuned.

on display at the H-D Museum (Flickr user Yeti9000)
Of the five machines, two were retained by the production company, one was destroyed during filming and at least two went back to the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee where they are on rotating display.

13 April 2020

Will the real Harley-Davidson please stand up

More than 100 years ago, just as the now venerable name of Harley-Davidson was gaining notoriety as a formidable contender in motorcycle manufacturing, another Harley Davidson was also making waves.

This Harley Davidson was already 34-years-old when Ol’ Number One rolled out of the Milwaukee shed in 1905. In fact, the original Harley Davidson was described in 1915 as “having broken more records and entered more events in the different branches of sport than any other athlete in the world today including running, swimming, track, boxing, baseball, bicycle racing, lacrosse, wrestling as well as ice and roller skating."

It was the latter pursuit of roller skating that had sent the Minnesota native into the annals of sporting greatness and at the peak of his career, Davidson defeated 150 rival skaters in front of 14,000 fans at London’s Olympic Track in London in the 1909 world speed skating championship, taking home the diamond medal and $2,000 in gold as prizemoney (almost US$60,000 today).

In an engineered coincidence, Mr H Davidon visited his Milwaukee namesake factory in 1912 while en route to Australia for demonstration events of his ‘trick and fancy’ skating.

Newspaper clipping heralding Harley Davidson's 1912 skating tour in Sydney

The occurrence was seized upon by the local media and full publicity mileage made of the visit for the benefit of both parties. 

“As everyone familiar with motorcycles knows, the name of the Harley-Davidson machine and the Harley-Davidson Motor Co. resulted from the association of William S. Harley and the three Davidson brothers - Walter, Arthur and William,” reported The Harley-Davidson Dealer Magazine in June 1912, “[Mr Harley and the Davidson brothers] combined their brains, mechanical knowledge and skill in the production of motorcycles without giving a thought to the possibility of confusion with the name of Harley Davidson, world's champion skater.”

Mr Harley Davidson, world champion skater
Mr H Davidson, the skater, cheerfully cooperated with the apparent stunt, saying "Everywhere I go people ask me about the Harley-Davidson motorcycle. Often I have great difficulty in convincing them that I have no connection with the company other than friendship for Arthur Davidson and a wish for the continued success of the company."

The skater did not enjoy the same durable success of his mechanical namesake and after retiring from professional sport in 1916, Davidson’s life took a steady decline through lack of financial and physical sturdiness. Many injuries had caused the skater’s health to decline and he died in 1946.


Girl on a Motorcycle is Naked Under Leather

When we talk about mighty motorcycles in movies, it almost always leads to burly, superhero blokes and their big V-Twins. But, listen up, that is not always the case.

In 1968, an erotic romantic drama (‘erotic’ - do I have your attention?) was released featuring a very young and beautiful Marianne Faithful whose first scene in the movie involved climbing out of bed fully naked, sliding provocatively into a set of ‘catsuit’ leathers and dreaming of riding off into the sunset on her motorcycle. Do you know what bike she rode? Keep reading.

US poster 'Naked Under Leather'
Of course, that scene alone earned the movie an ‘R’ rating and sent the French Catholic clergy into paroxysms of outrage. In fact, for the US release, it had to be edited from its original ‘X’ rating. Great publicity!

The Jack Cardiff-directed, French-English production was released under several titles depending on the language. In English, the film was titled ‘The Girl on a Motorcycle’, while in French it was titled evocatively ‘La motocyclette’. The US title was the titillating, ‘Naked Under Leather’ and went some way to making up for the tamer editing.

The psychological theme behind the movie is much less controversial in today’s no-holds-barred environment, but in 1968 it was quite the sensation. A young wife (Rebecca) is drawn out of her mundane newly-married life and into a whirlwind romance with a free-spirited motorcycle-riding glamour guy. Yeah, I know.

But at least he has good taste and he gifts Rebecca a brand new Harley-Davidson Electra Glide (FLH) which features widely in subsequent scenes with Rebecca and her signature catsuit.

In 1968, the iconic Electra Glide had a price tag of US$1600 and was loaded with a 74ci Shovelhead V-Twin and could kick on to 100mph on the old scale.

As a further piece of trivia, cinematographer and director Jack Cardiff OBE worked with both Sylvester Stallone (on Rambo II) and Arnold Schwarzenegger (Conan) in his long and celebrated career.

01 March 2020

How the Chiko Roll and Harley-Davidson became milk bar rock stars

It might be politically incorrect today to promote Australia’s iconic Chiko Roll with a scantily clad woman draped provocatively across a Harley-Davidson, but for more than 30 years, this is what the humble pork and vegetable roll did, shooting the homegrown snack food to ‘rock star status’. In fact, the racy Chiko Roll posters and billboards of the early 2000s featuring glamour model, Sarah-Jane, and her FLSTF Fat Boy were even banned following a public outcry.

Hands up everyone who can remember having a second look at those famous "Chiko Chick" posters that appeared on the walls of the local takeaway and fish and chip shop. Yep, that was most of us and all the blokes seemed ready to "Grab a Chiko". At the height of their popularity in the 1970s, 40 million Chiko Rolls were eaten annually, with a million exported to Japan.

And along with the beautiful model was that other object of masculine desire, the Harley-Davidson motorcycle. So, by extension (oops, wrong word), if the aspiring bloke could attain the magic trifecta (bike, babe and Chiko Roll) his ascension to masculine superiority was complete.

This iconic late 1970s-era poster featured the FXS Shovelhead
This early 1970s-era poster featured the first Chiko Chick
to sit astride a Harley-Davidson, an FXS.
The Chiko Roll was first sold in 1951 and was an instant hit. And while it is true that the first Chiko Roll advertising poster featured a motorcycle of British manufacture, that error was later corrected and replaced by the more recognisable America icon, the Harley-Davidson.

That era of ‘babes and bikes’ and their hot Chiko Rolls may be over, but their place in history will always be remembered. The ‘millennial’ era Chiko Chick, Annette Melton, may have swapped the Hog for a classic Dragster pushbike, but after more than 60 years, the legend lives on.

“You can’t knock the roll”

Footnote: The Fat Boy lives on, celebrating 30 years. You can ride away on Harley-Davidson history today with the new Fat Boy 30th Anniversary Limited Edition, based on the Harley-Davidson® Softail® platform launched in 2018, the Fat Boy motorcycle re-defines an icon with power and presence.

25 February 2020

New Harley-Davidson Softail Standard could just be the ticket

Harley-Davidson has just made it that bit easier to get onto a Milwaukee-Eight Softail with the announcement today of the new Softail Standard model, billed as the ‘essential Harley-Davidson cruiser experience’.

Priced at $21,495, the new classic and minimalist styled Standard comes in at a full $1000 less than the previous entry-level 107ci Softail, the Street Bob.

The beauty of the range is, of course, the brilliant Softail chassis for a more comfortable, stress-free ride as well as the superb Milwaukee-Eight four-valve powerplant with better flowing cylinder heads and a dual knock sensor for the 10.0:1 compression ratio. Not to mention the trademark stronger torque and acceleration that exemplifies the all-new engine.

This new model will be your ‘blank canvas’ to style and accessorise to your heart’s content and your Harley-Heaven dealer has factory-approved customisation packages ready-to-go.

For example, you can add the ‘Day Tripper Custom Package’. Which retains the classic bobber style with the added versatility of a 21-inch detachable sissy bar with pad so your bestie can join you on the ride. It includes footpegs and mounts as well as forward foot controls. There’s also a cool black leather Swingarm Bag.

If you need a bit more, there is also the ‘Coast Custom Package’ featuring Softail Quarter Fairing, black anodized aluminium Moto Bar handlebar and matching 5.5-inch tall riser as well as a two-up seat. The ‘Touring Custom Package’ will see you neat and sweet for longer rides and the ‘Performance Custom Package’ will give you all the grunt and growl of the bigger, more expensive machines thanks to a Screamin’ Eagle Pro Street Tuner as well as high-performance pipes and air cleaner.

Any way you look at the new Softail Standard, it’s unmistakably a Harley-Davidson and your ticket to freedom.

As you read this, the first shipment is on its way from Milwaukee, so stay in touch with your favourite Harley-Heaven dealer and be among the first to test ride this new beauty.

23 February 2020

[watch] Fire Aid Ride - Windsor to Putty - 23rd Feb 2020

Hundreds of bikes turned out for this fundraising ride along the fabled Putty Road to meet at the Grey Gums International Cafe, a haunt much favoured by motorcyclists. The volunteer caterers were going like the proverbial one-armed paperhangers trying to feed the throng.

Were you on the ride? See if you can spot yourself in one of our videos.

For a small photo album, see here:

FIRE AID RIDE - Windsor to Putty - 23 Feb 2020

Did you wait out the burger queue?


Keogh Vision Images


20 February 2020

Piano Man, Billy Joel, Loves the Sound of Old Motorcycles

Words: Roderick Eime. Images: Supplied

Everyone knows Billy Joel and his catchy tunes like “Piano Man” and “Uptown Girl”, but not everyone will know the best-selling singer-songwriter is a confirmed aficionado for classic motorcycles.

Tucked away in the sleepy Long Island, New York state village of Oyster Bay in a classic early 1900s storefront, is 20th Century Cycles. This otherwise unassuming white-washed building, across the road from the little town’s railway museum, houses a most considerable collection of motorcycles owned by the famous performer.

For a man who has made a fortune writing and performing some of the most memorable songs of the last century, he is just as comfortable discussing his passion for two-wheeled machines as he is his long list of hit songs.

Glancing over the museum floor, it is clear that the collection of around 70 bikes closely reflects Billy’s taste for motorcycles, assembled over more than 30 years. At a media event in his store, he is quoted as saying to the assembled media: “Choppers are dead. That movie .. Easy Rider .. that was the beginning of the end for the chopper.”

Triumph Thruxton 2005

Joking or not, you won't find any of those highly customised, brutish machines in Billy’s collection. Instead, the now 70-year-old prefers so-called ‘bobbers’ and ‘cafe racers’ and the more refined, retro machines of the mid-20th century. Plus there are some cruisers like Harley-Davidsons and stock standard machines too.

Moto Guzzis are clearly a favourite, so are BMWs, Indians, Triumphs, Ducatis and lesser-knowns marques like Vincent and BSA. The ground-breaking Japanese machines from the likes of Yamaha and Honda from the ‘70s are also on show.

“We’re promoting an aesthetic here (in the museum/workshop). I like the style from the ‘30s to the ‘60s,” says Joel, “We’ve put the whole collection here so that people can see what that whole era of bikes looked like.”

20th Century Cycles occasionally produces custom bikes to order. One famous ‘customer’ is Billy’s long-time music pal, Bruce ‘The Boss’ Springsteen. The shop has made special, hand-built bikes for the fellow New Yorker including a Moto Guzzi and a Kawasaki, but most of the shop time is dedicated to maintaining the private collection.

This ’52 Vincent was built as a reliable daily rider. A BTH magneto, D Hills center stand and external breather system and fresh wiring make this a bike that can be used with regularity. (supplied)

The most valuable bike in the collection, Billy thinks, is his 1952 Vincent Rapide.

“It’s a beautiful British bike, very hard to find and very rare,” says Billy, “I don't even ride that bike. It just sits there like a coffee table!”

You’d be forgiven for thinking that riding motorcycles would be a hazardous pastime for a man who earns his very substantial living with his hands. In 1977, Billy bought his first bike, a Yamaha 400 Special but then in 1982 his career on the keyboard nearly ended. He struck a motorist who turned in front of him near his home on Long Island, landing him in hospital and totalling his new 1979 Harley-Davidson XLCR.

“The impact pulverized the bone in my left thumb and pulled my right wrist out of its socket,” said Billy, “I’m bleeding, my hands didn’t work, and a police officer asks me for my license. So, I told him to pull my wallet out of my pocket. He looks at my license, then yells to the woman, ‘Hey, lady, you just hit Billy Joel!’”

This now rare ‘cafe racer’ from the Milwaukee factory was not one of H-D’s highlights, but the 1000c V-Twin has nevertheless found affection with Billy and he located a replacement machine for his collection.

Customisations typically involve bringing older classic bikes up to modern and spec and, conversely, making newer machines, look vintage.

1982 'Retro' Heritage (supplied)

“Some of these are brand new bikes, but we like to make them look like they’re from the ‘30s, ‘40s or ‘50s,” says Billy.

Alex Puls is Billy’s chief mechanic at 20th Century Cycles.

“For example, we’ve taken two new Harley-Davidsons and make them look like the famous ‘knucklehead’ machines from the ‘30s and ‘40s,” says Puls, “and that sort of symbolises exactly what we’re doing here.”

If you are visiting Long Island, you are invited to drop by 20th Century Cycles, grab a T-Shirt and see the always expanding collection for yourself.


20th-Century Cycles is located at 101 Audrey Ave, Oyster Bay, NY 11771.