It’s the signature of the world’s best-known motorcycle. That sound. Those thousands of pulses strung together form a rippled sonic sheet that seems solid enough to walk on, punctuated with such a defined rhythm that you can almost touch the individual piston strokes within.
The tone is simple but pure. Some say it’s a Harley-Davidson’s most important feature. And you’re never quite the same once you hear it.
Perhaps startled Milwaukeeans in 1903 felt that way when they heard the sound for the very first time, on cobblestone roads near the shed where William Harley and the Davidson brothers finished their first motorcycle.
They were young men at the time, products of an industrial age that had been gestating for decades, drawing them into the spirit of a time that saw almost constant innovation. The same year they completed their original motorcycle, the Wright brothers became the first to sustain powered flight, while similar pioneers were launching future auto heavyweights Buick Motor Company and Ford Motor Company.
The simple single-cylinder motorcycle that Harley and the Davidson brothers had created only hinted at the successors that would follow. Nonetheless, it proved adequate enough to attract interest in their machines, and sales steadily increased.
The Davidsons’ brother William joined the company in 1907, and they soon incorporated the business. Two years later, the young corporation introduced the first iteration of what would become its trademark engine, the V-twin. By 1920, Harley-Davidson had become the largest motorcycle manufacturer in the world, with more than 2000 dealers in 67 countries.
For more than 100 years, the company has developed products that set motorcycle enthusiasts’ hearts afire, culminating in the new VRSCA V-Rod. Inspired by Harley-Davidson’s VR-1000 Superbike racer and powered by a similar-design V-twin, it’s the first production Harley to combine fuel injection, overhead cams, and liquid cooling.
Armed with its commitment to such state-of-the-art technologies, Harley-Davidson stands poised for another 100-year journey, one which promises to be every bit as exciting as the company’s first century. From that original 1903 single-cylinder creation to today’s V-Rod, all are true to the Harley-Davidson spirit.
And all play forth that signature sound, continuing to attract new riders and changing the way they see the world, just as Harley-Davidsons have been doing for 100 years.