They may not have invented the Cruiser concept, but this iconic American brand more than any other has made it their 'bread and butter!' Last yea r Harley-Davidson claimed 6 of the top ten Cruiser models sold in Australia, and already 2009 first quarter figures have Harley claiming 7 of the top ten selling Cruisers. They have top sellers from their Sportster, Dyna and Softail families, while their touring models also scream Cruiser.
Of the early Cruisers, it can arguably be said that the Indian was generally a superior bike in all aspects over the Harley, both building large capacity V-twins by the end of the 1930s.
Harley-Davidson is best known for its V-twins, but smaller 750cc models helped keep the company afloat in the 1920s. The WL45 side valve 45 V-twin was simple and strong, and kept Harley going through the Depression of the 1930s.
In 1936 Harley-Davidson introduced the Model 61E (1000cc), which became known as the Knucklehead, as well as being a great success.
Launched in 1965, the Electra Glide is for many the quintessential Harley-Davidson. Big, simple, traditional ostentatious and built for long distance travel. With high handlebars, big fuel tank and fenders, footboards, a single saddle and fat white-wall tyres on spoke wheels, the Electra Glide looked the part, despite engine vibrations and poor suspension.
The Electra Glide may have been the most famous Harley, but the Softail model introduced in 1984 was perhaps the most significant.. It boasted the new Evolution engine, featured clean traditional looks and rear suspension hidden under the engine to give the illusion of a solid rear end. It marked Harley's entry into the nostalgia market that has since served the company so well. The range was enhanced in 1993 with the Heritage Softail Nostalgia, complete with twin saddle bags, two-tone paint and white-wall tyres.
Today 31 Harley-Davidson models are sold in Australia, all with a distinctly "Cruiser style" flavour and perhaps with the exception of the Custom Vehicle Operations models, featuring styling hues that nostalgically link the modern bike with great Cruisers of yesteryear.