How Well Do You Know Harleys?

By: Nikki Weed

7 Min Quiz

Image: Nathan Dumlao via Unsplash

About This Quiz

It's hard not to love an underdog story, and Harley Davidson has one of those stories that has panned out for over a century. From their humble beginnings in a shed in someone's backyard in Wisconsin to their current empire, there have been some fierce battles fought. They went toe-to-toe with the equally popular Indian motorcycle and never gave up. When the depression hit, they kept their nose above water by sheer spunk and reconfiguration. Sometimes as a company, they'd roll with the punches, but more often than not, they'd be the one to throw them. 

This sheer tenacity for success and individuality has seeped into their motorcycle owners. Harley owners, at least most of them, need freedom and liberation from societal standards. Often, you can hear a Harley from blocks away, commanding your attention. Elegant styling, performance and that incredible sound make HD a memorable and trivia-filled company. 

You might have a closet full of Harley Davidson gear and over the years amassed a collection of dealership t-shirts from around the globe, but how much do you really know about your beloved brand? 

Harley Davidson has been utilizing the V-Twin engine since 1909. How many horsepower did that first engine have?

Much like any new invention, the first rendition of the V-Twin has a laundry list of kinks to be ironed out before it was actually deemed reliable. These issues included substantial problems, like a drive belt that was difficult, if not impossible, to keep tight. The V-twin was pulled from the market after only one year and was reintroduced in 1911, after some severe reconfiguration. One thing they did not alter was the degree of cylinder angle, 45 degrees, which hasn't changed since. Shown here are 1911 (front) and 1909 model Harleys.

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What did a rider have to do to get a 1905 Harley Model 1 started?

Way before the iconic rumble that we've grown accustomed to hearing coming from a Harley was a more simplistic engine note. So simple, in fact, it needed a little bit of help from the rider just to get going. For the crank to begin spinning, the rider would have to pedal the heavy machine up to speed, which was no easy task. In 1905, only 16 of these pedal motorcycles, shown here, were made, an increase from the 8 made the previous year.

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Beyond using bicycle pedals on their motorcycles in the beginning, Harley also made actual bicycles. In what decade could you buy a Harley bike?

In a brilliant marketing strategy, Harley Davidson decided to produce and promote a bicycle for the pre-teens of America. Offered in military green and sporting Harley branding, these bicycles were meant to turn riders on to their motorcycles at an early age. Although the bikes looked like they could have been built right next to their motorized counterparts, they were actually assembled in a sewing machine factory in Ohio. Harley continued to produce these bicycles until 1922.

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What musician was the controversial headliner at the 2003 Harley Davidson centennial celebration?

Elton John is a master of his art and is an incredibly esteemed musician known globally for his flashy performances. His glitz and glamour approach, however, wasn't exactly what nearly 200,000 bikers had in mind when they wanted entertainment at the centennial bash. Attendees booed and eventually walked out during mid-performance. In response, when Harley announced they were going to be throwing a 105-anniversary celebration, they promised loyal hog fans that Elton would not be in attendance.

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Back in 1910, way before there were motorcycle dealerships on every corner, who was Harley's biggest rival?

As with any tremendous dichotomous rivalry, Indian and HD went battled bare-knuckled for many years over their shares of the motorcycle market. When Harley came out with a sidecar configuration, shown here around 1918, Indian was hot on their heels with their version. Even back when Harley was making bicycles, Indian had their version as well, both being cranked out at the same factory. Even today, over a century later, the two are still going at it like cats and dogs, fighting over flat-track glory.

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When Harley Davidson re-entered the stock market, their symbol was HDI. However, they eventually changed it to what?

To celebrate being traded on the stock market in 1987, 25 motorcycles made their way down Wall Street and parked in front of the New York Stock Exchange. Eventually, Harley changed its stock symbol to HOG, perhaps as a nod to what HOG actually stands for, Harley Owners Group.

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In which major city did the first Harley Davidson dealership spring to life in 1905?

The motorcycle business wasn't exactly booming quite yet. Still, a man by the name of C.H. Lang in Chicago saw a lucrative future rolling in on two wheels. By 1907, there were over 40 different motorcycle manufacturers in the United States alone, making Lang's decision to stick with Harley a tough one, especially up against still rivalry like the Indian. By Lang sticking his neck out and helping the fledgling company, Harley eventually found their way to global fame, and by 1920, had dealerships in 67 countries. Shown here is a postcard of a Louisiana dealership around 1940.

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Most of the public recognizes the mascot of Harley as a hog, but what cute creature almost took the title of the famed motorcycle mascot?

In the early days of Harley racing, the teams would often cut up and take whatever photo ops they could. Many of them feature the teams' mascot, a pig, going on victory lap rides and even having celebratory beverages with the gang. Also featured in many of these photos is a raccoon, who also joined in some of the celebratory shenanigans. There's a good chance that if that raccoon made a few more pictures, you'd see his likeness on bike week t-shirts instead of a pig!

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In what year did Harley introduce hydraulic front fork suspension to enhance ride quality?

Harley Davidson motorcycles weren't always the easy riding motorcycle Peter Fonda made them out to be. In the late 1940s, Indian has a particularly smooth ride with its Scout. To rival that bike, Harley put together the Hydra-Glide, complete with a hydraulic front suspension for maximum ride comfort. While riding over uneven terrain like potholes or rocks, the front end of the bike could travel as much as 4". At the same time, the rear-drive tire would stay firmly planted and stationary.

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What made the Harley Davidson an optimal choice for use in police forces in the early 1900s?

In the early part of the last century, there were more rut-ridden, dirt roads than there were paved. This made it incredibly complicated to engage in hot pursuit of a criminal without an all-terrain type vehicle. Horses were all but useless, and the modern automobile was only of use on paved roads. Detroit was the first city to climb onto a Harley as a police bike, but many followed after. The Harley also became an integral part of prohibition-era America and was able to traverse the backcountry conditions easily to apprehend and bust up moonshining operations. Shown here is the Montgomery County Maryland Police Department in 1922.

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When you hear pan head, you either think of a cartoon character getting lobbed in the noggin a Harley. What gives the panhead its name?

The very first Panhead was found on the same bike that sported the first hydraulic front suspension, the Hydra-Glide. The engine featured overhead valves, which required covers. These covers once assembled onto the engine, resembled pans perched under the butt of the rider. This engine configuration was a huge success but was eventually elbowed out by the Knucklehead and Shovelhead. The Panhead was discontinued in 1965, despite still being popular.

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Aside from the brief stint making bicycles, Harley Davidson also made what non-wheeled sports craft in 1961?

In the early '60s, Harley had plenty of financial muscle and was able to swipe up fledgling companies that needed a little help, like the Tomahawk Boat Company of Tomahawk, Wisconsin. Available Tomahawk boats available included a smaller 11-foot fishing style boat and an 18-foot pleasure cruiser style hull. Harley didn't stay in the boat business for long and quit production in '65.

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What was the real reason behind the acquisition of the Tomahawk Boat Company?

Aside from being the first name in motorcycles in the early '60s, Harley had gained notoriety in the golf cart and motorcycle accessory business. These objects required massive amounts of fiberglass components, which at the time, Harley couldn't produce nor knew how to manufacture. Saddlebags, golf cart farings and sidecars now had a place to be made, cutting cost across the board. The boats were a kind of forethought, with Harley not giving them much time or attention.

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We now know the hydralic front end on a Harley was introduced in '49, but when was it finally introduced to the rear end?

It took a while for Harley to realize that having stability front AND rear was important; it took ten years, actually. The first hydraulic rear suspension was found in the 1958 Harley Davidson Duo-Glide, shown here. As the name states, two advanced suspension components, located on each wheel, made for pleasant riding. This chain-driven, 55-horsepower bike gained rideability with the increased stability and overall comfort the rear suspension afforded the rider. This "glide" term would find its way onto many of the most famous Harley models, such as the Electra-Glide.

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We now know why the Duo-Glide gained it's name, but what turned that same bike into the Electra-Glide?

The Duo-Glide, complete with front and rear suspension was a fantastic bike, but Harley took it just one more step. By introducing an electronic starter, riders were treated with a hassle-free start. The Electra-Glide was the last Harley to receive a Panhead engine and subsequently got fitted with the new Shovelhead setup instead.

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Harley Davidson motorcycles get built all over the globe, but which of these locations do NOT have a manufacturing plant?

The decision to expand manufacturing outside of the United States was based on many reasons. Primarily, after being shocked by raised tariffs, Harley had to make the decision to shuffle production to some of the other plants. As of 2018, the tariff amount per motorcycle being exported from the United States to Europe was around $2,200. Shipping the same motorcycle, produced someplace like India, was significantly less. Shown here are the Harley-Davidson company offices, listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the "Harley-Davidson Motorcycle Factory Building," in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

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In the mid '60s, Harley Davidson was in serious financial trouble, what company came along and offered financial help?

The introduction of compact, easy to maneuver motorcycles from Japan in the '60s put an incredibly stifle on the positive momentum Harley had behind it. Without being able to compete with the tiny 250 cc bikes, Harley was looking at full dealership lots and empty pockets and looked for help wherever they could. After offering buy-out offers, American Foundry and Machine (AMF) finally bit, and took over. By refocusing Harley's attention on making smaller bikes that were competitive with the JDMs that were flooding the market, they were able to save Harley from becoming belly up.

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Harley was able to pull itself out of its slump of the '60s by accomplishing a land speed record in '70. What was the top speed?

Calvin Rayborn II braved the uncertainty of speed on the Bonneville Salt Flats and regained Harley's name as being a serious speed machine. This reputation had been in question after the introduction of their small one-cylinder bikes designed to compete with the Asian bikes. Harley didn't want to be known for tinker toy bikes, they wanted to be top dog, and by achieving that massive speed did just that. The Streamliner, an incredibly customized V-Twin bike retrofitted with a body, resembled more of a blimp than it did a motorcycle. Those wacky-looking aerodynamics propelled it into speed stardom.

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In what decade was Harley finally able to crawl out from under AMF rule?

In the early part of 1982, Harley was able to throw down the cash needed to get out from under AMF and continue on their own journey. AMF, a company that was successful in producing all forms of leisure craft, such as sailboats and bowling equipment, gladly send Harley on their way. Throughout the merger years, AMF did wonderful things for Harley, though, such as help them build new manufacturing plants and help them refocus on famous models like the Shovelhead, shown here.

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Can you come up with the name for this incredibly controversial Harley motorcycle?

The Harley Davidson Sprint was that bike that everyone thought they wanted, but in the end, nobody bought. The 1962 Sprint was actually an imported bike from Italy, and the only Harley part on it was the nameplate. This 250 cc bike was initially called The Wisconsin but was changed rather quickly to better suit all of the other states who might want to buy one. Dealerships were extremely hesitant about selling a European motorcycle with American branding, but Harley kept pushing it.

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Can you name this famous Harley Davidson engine?

After the discontinuation of the popular engine that looked like it was wearing pans on its head, Harley decided it needed another engine wearing a goofy hat. In came the Shovelhead, stout and powerful V configuration gave it 10 more horsepower over the previous Panhead. If you look closely, Shovelheads were known to be quite heavy and, with their placement, made the center of gravity of the bike off-kilter. They were powerful, though, so many people overlooked the awkwardness of it.

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Which of these was a major design flaw of the Shovelhead engine?

The Shovelhead became a basket case of an engine for those that owned them. Without some serious top-end modifications, quarts of oil had to be poured in every 500 miles or so. Without prudent analysis of the oil levels, valves could stick and eventually destroy the engine. Add in the fact that without sufficient cooling fins, the oil that didn't leak out or get pooled up in a cylinder would burn from the scorching temperature.

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Easy Rider might be the most famous motorcycle movie in history, what Harley was used for it?

"Easy Rider," whether you like it or not, it the epitome of the counterculture, freedom-seeking individuals Harley was trying to attract in the '60s. The Hydra-Glides features in the film were named Captain America and Billy Bike, with Captain America, meets a tragic demise at the end of the film. A surviving Captain America bike from the film was sold at auction in 2014 for a whopping $1.35 million. A very nice replica, like the one shown here, can be seen at the Harley Davidson Museum in Milwaukee if that's out of your price range!

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When you see the letters CVO on a Harley, what do they stand for?

The CVO branding on a Harley signifies that it's not something that you'll see every day, it's quite unique. These extremely limited-edition motorcycles can have special features that range from high-output engines not available on other bikes to ostrich leather seats. The creation of such unique and semi-opulent bikes caters to what Harley likes to call their "Alpha" customer. In other words, the lifelong fans and diehard riders that happen to have an extra $40,000 lying around.

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What award did Harley Davidson receive for their help in the World War II efforts overseas?

The Army-Navy E Award was given to companies that helped in the war efforts. Harley was no stranger to equipping the armed services with machinery! They had done so already in World War I by supplying around 20,000 bikes. An estimated 62,558 Harley-Davidson bikes, like the one shown here, were put to use during World War II. Some of them being modified from standard two-wheel configurations into tricycles and retrofitted with sidecars.

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Can you identify this signature Harley engine configuration?

The term Knucklehead was initially handed out in 1936 when the engine first came to market. The name arose because the rocker boxes atop the engine resembled a clenched fist and knuckles. These knuckles eventually evolved from being strictly about looks to the brutish biker gangs of the '60s that often got into fistfights that rode them. As a company, Harley didn't really condone bikers being knuckleheads on their Knuckleheads, but there wasn't much they could do!

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What component of a Harley does the iconic "potato potato" noise resonate from?

The noise that you hear coming from a Harley comes from a series of components, including the exhaust and valves, but the arrangement really makes it unique. The hollow thump sound that resonates from the engine has to do with the geometry of the engine itself. When one piston fires, the other piston is traveling at a slightly different interval, causing an ever so slight pause between fires. All of this is thanks to a one pin crankshaft, as opposed to two, as is typical with most two-cylinder engines.

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Harley hopped on the eco-friendly bandwagon in 2019 and introduced an electric bike, what is it called?

By pushing into the electric vehicle arena, Harley captured the attention of an incredibly receptive, eco-friendly crowd. The LiveWire is equipped with an electric motor that produces 100% of allowable torque instantaneously and travels up to 146 miles on the open highway. Should you be out riding and need a quick charge, no worries; it can plug into any fast-charge port. At home, simply plug it into any 120w wall outlet and rest up for your next ride!

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You're a true fan if you can tell us what HOG stands for!

If you're used to riding solo and are over the lone-wolf lifestyle, joining the H.O.G. is just the ticket. The group organizes rallies, rides and publishes a monthly newsletter per chapter. You'll never feel alone when you're a member of the H.O.G, as there'll always be a fellow rider to give you a friendly wave on the roadways!

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What makes the iconic Harley Softtail different from a Hardtail?

The ride quality between a Soft and Hardtail are notably different, and it'd be easy to chalk it up to being strictly about the suspension, but it's not. The Softtail design has a frame that consists of two pieces that are connected in the middle through a pivot point. A Hardtail is a uni-frame, and the rear axle is directly attached to the frame. A Softtail will offer superior cruising comfort, but the Hardtail is the way to go to grapple mountain corners.

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What town hosts the world's largest motorcycle gathering and attracts thousands of bikes every year?

he annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally wasn't always a Harley hootenanny, it was actually organized by Indian riders in 1938. Since then, anywhere around 400,000 bikers rumble into the sleepy town of approximately 10,000. Streets are lined with chrome as far as the eye can see as events like hill climbs, and bike shows are held across town. Make the pilgrimage, buy the t-shirt!

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What city should you head to visit the official Harley Davidson museum?

Do you have a thirst for Harley Davidson knowledge that can't be quenched or are trying to spend a summer afternoon out of the Wisconsin humidity? Visit the museum and stroll through the entire timeline, ranging from the humble pedal motorcycles to the awkward AMF years. This museum is a must-see for any engine nut, with examples of every Harley engine imaginable on display with complete description. Also on display is a replica Captain America bike from "Easy Rider" and one of Evil Knevils stunt bikes.

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If you wanted to turn your Harley into a Bobber, what would you do first?

Also known as a "Bob-Job," Harleys of the 1930s were stripped of all excessive body panels to reduce weight and maximize speed. This method of customization was done to give the aged design of the F-Style bike a more modern appeal. Other brands of motorcycles also saw this treatment, including Harley's greatest rival, Indian. Other modifications included abbreviated handlebar length, smaller gas tanks and rear fender whittled away to the bare minimum.

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Celebrities like Elvis and Dennis Hopper rode HD bikes, but which of these unlikely celebrities also rides a Harley?

The King of Horror is known to cruise about the backroads of Maine on his hog. He has also made a guest appearance on the tough television show "Sons of Anarchy." Other, slightly surprising celebrities that own Harleys include Martha Stewart, Pink and Brad Pitt. Martha Stewart actually tears up backroads in the same state as Stephen King; makes you wonder if they have a secret biker gang together!

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When was the highly identifiable Harley Davidson bar and shield first introduced?

The first manifestation of the bar and shield logo doesn't differ very much from the orange and back emblazonment that we're used to. There were a few variations, including a logo from 1954 celebrating its 50th anniversary and a large V to signify the popular V-configuration engine. Other changes include eagle wings sprouting from the shield and an eagle grasping a banner in their talons.

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