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Posts Tagged ‘Karen Davidson’

Harley's line Lake front road

Harley’s line Veterans Park

Many of you know riding is all about the camaraderie of the group.  For many it’s the main draw of having a motorcycle.  Fortunately we’ve got a great group of riders with years of experience and haven’t had the kind of chaos that can be associated with large group-riding.

That’s important because navigating around Milwaukee is like being a pro-snowboarder on Black Diamond bumps that go up, and those concrete cracks that go down and then being shot out of a half-pipe to change directions in mid-air.  I’ve never, ever seen Interstate, streets or roads so bad.  They are horrible!

The 110th post card photo

The 110th post card photo op

I ask folks about the roads and they would claim “allocations for street repair have gone up every year.”  My question is where did all those funds go?  Harley-Davidson doesn’t need a test track.  They can just drive across town and based on the conditions of the road check to see what fell off, was worn out or destroyed!

But, I’ve digressed…

The only thing that could have drowned out the V-twin roar in Milwaukee was the music.  Wow, five years ago, 45 bands played the Summerfest grounds across two days.

Summerfest

At Summerfest for Kid Rock Concert

This year for the 110th, Harley-Davidson added an additional day plus 21 more bands.  The motor company also expanded the number of headliners. Instead of building a separate venue in Veterans Park, as it did in 2008 for Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band and Foo Fighters, Harley opted for more headliner options, with Toby Keith on Thursday, Aerosmith on Friday and Kid Rock on Saturday.  Then H-D leveraged the Marcus Amphitheater for even more musical acts to play on five stages.

Pano of Milwaukee Skyline

Pano of Milwaukee Skyline

And they say classic rock is dead?!  Sure, not only are the children of the baby boomers pushing thirty, but there’s a whole new generation of kids who have never experienced free-form radio or sitting in front of the stereo listening to full length albums, and if you’re even in the slightest into music then Milwaukee was nirvana.

Near the Art Museum at Lake Front

Near the Art Museum at Lake Front

I captured a video of ‘Wille’ G., Bill Davidson and Karen Davidson, thanking all 110th Anniversary attendees for coming and they provided an introduction to the exceptional Kid Rock concert which also featured John Fogerty, but there was so much more.

There was the Doobie BrothersZZ TopDierks Bentley and Brantley Gilbert.  There was Chance the Rapper and Springsteen-inspired punk group The Gaslight Anthem.  The “Sons of Anarchy” star Katey Sagal, performed with her band The Forest Rangers.

Group at the H-D Museum

The group at the H-D Museum

And many local area acts ranging from Celtic punk group Whiskey of the Damned to Gabriel Sanchez and the Prince Experience. There was even a Mexican pop rock band Moderatto, which played at the Miller Lite stage.  There were acts including Shooter Jennings and North Mississippi Allstars who were booked for performances at the Harley-Davidson Museum and the bands such as Sick Puppies and Puddle of Mudd who played at the free street parties.

Bridge near H-D Museum

Bridge near H-D Museum

I’ve listed just a few and if that wasn’t enough competing with itself, the local Harley-Davidson dealers had bands playing all 3-days, including Aaron Lewis of Staind at the House of Harley-Davidson and Grand Funk Railroad at Hal’s Harley-Davidson.

Our group went on the factory tours and talked with H-D reps about Project Rushmore, the 2014 model year touring bikes that received significant refinements to shortcomings that us owners have lamented for years. H-D has encapsulating over 2,400 new part numbers, and customers were sourced for input on updates that included liquid-cooling, touchscreen GPS, infotainment, improved venting, aerodynamics and ergonomics.  The new touring motorcycles have a lot to offer and props to H-D for rolling out enhancements beyond the typical new paint schemes!

Pano of the H-D Museum

Pano of the H-D Museum

We also pre-purchased tickets to experience the museum which featured the first known Harley model in existence from 1903.  The museum has a truly fascinating collection of bikes, displays and some curious homage to Harley’s influence on pop culture and racing.

Inside the archive area of the H-D Museum

Inside the archive area of the H-D Museum

The history tour doesn’t gloss over the AMC troubled times as they were as much a part of the motor company’s legacy as were the high points.

Prior to departing the city we stopped at the Miller Brewery and enjoyed the tour, refreshments and talking to one of the workers who was working the weekend doing a network upgrade.  We got the inside scoop on the number of cases each employee has for a monthly allocation as well as where the employee pub is located for afterwork libations.  Sounded like a fun job!

The brewery tour.

The brewery tour

If you were unable to make the ride home to Milwaukee it’s difficult to realize the full scope of the celebration from a couple of blog posts or photos.  Our group was fortunate to have participated in the event and being there provides a unique perspective on how welcome and appreciative the residents of Milwaukee made us feel.  Sure I ranted a bit about the roads, but the highways were absolutely jam packed with Harley’s of all shapes and sizes pointed towards “home” in honor of a company for the most part that has excelled for 110 years.  Not many can say that about their history!  Regardless of where we live or where we ride, there were a few days in 2013 that bonded us all together with the heritage of a HOG.

Since 1988, Harley-Davidson started throwing these hometown birthday celebrations every 5-years.  The 110th has to be one for the record books in terms of attendees,  fewest accidents, number of musical acts and from my vantage the number of smiles on attendee faces.

Thank you H-D for a great 110th celebration!

Thank you H-D for a great 110th celebration!

Thank you Harley-Davidson for a great celebration and here’s to another 100+ years!

The 110th Anniversary Homecoming – Part 1 (HERE) and Part 2 (HERE).

110th Anniversary Accident Stats:  The final numbers are not published yet, but I found these initial statistics encouraging.  Approximately 100,000 riders arrived in the Milwaukee metro area over a 6-day (Aug 29 – Sept 1) celebration timeframe.  There was an average of 4.9 motorcycle accidents per day.  There were 28 motorcyclists transported to the trauma center during that timeframe.  There were no reported deaths.  Wisconsin is a helmet-optional state.

Photos by author.

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davidsonsMen have dominated the world of motorcycles.  Sure women on Harley’s date back to the early 1900’s and the first women’s motorcycle group in America was Motor Maids, which started in the 1930’s.   However, in the past 10 years or so women riders have skyrocketed.  Women love motorcycles, it’s a fact! Women riders during the last 20 years have gone from 4% to 12% of all motorcycles registered in the US. Women represent 10% of the U.S. motorcycle population, and nearly 12% of new Harley-Davidson purchasers.  The Motorcycle Safety Foundation estimates that one-third of students in the rider safety courses are female.  Harley has clearly figured out women are a growth market for a number of reasons and in that process they also discovered that following the money trail in a household often leads to women.

Karen Davidson

Karen Davidson

One individual who has shaped and dramatically influenced women riders is Karen Davidson, the great-granddaughter of HD co-founder, William A. Davidson.  She is the daughter of Willie G. Davidson, yet doesn’t seem to get a lot of press unless it’s about participating in a charity event.  As the Creative Director for General Merchandise and responsible for Harley-Davidson MotorClothes I found that somewhat peculiar.

Karen is “4th Generation” and one of three children by Willie G.  She studied fine arts and fashion design in college and was employed in the NYC garment industry for a time.  She began a free-lance leather design business in 1985 and joined HD in 1989.  The company created a new, branded line of apparel and accessories for its customers at that time – MotorClothes.  She is involved in most everything from creative direction of the leather collections to design of diamond rings.  She is an active rider and involved in charity events from the Women’s Day Ride benefiting Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA), Film contests to the Love Ride.  She has been a key company “booster” in support of women motorcycle riders.  Second only to Leslie Prevish (Women’s Outreach Mgr) who is also very involved with women in motorcycling.

Karen’s influence was noticeable in 1991 when the runways in Paris and New York looked like biker rallies.  Harley-inspired emblems were on everything and Bloomingdales had a “Bad and Beautiful” shop devoted to women’s motorcycle jackets.  That year the Council of Fashion Designers of America gave HD a special award for its influence on fashion.  In 1998 she was involved in a Patent and Trademark trial (and appeal) over the mark “BIKER BLUES” for clothing line which Harley ultimately prevailed.

Beside owning and riding motorcycles, women have formed a presence within the industry that has gone way beyond being umbrella girls or trade show booth babes.  And in no small part thanks to Karen Davidson’s continued efforts to promote women in motorcycling.  I prefer to think of it as a gender-neutral activity, but I get the marketing angle.

Avis and Effie Hotchkiss might have been the first women to ride across the U.S. in 1915, but I’m sure they’d be pleasantly surprised at how far women have come from the motorcycle race track to urban streets.

 

Photo’s courtesy of HD (Family Picture L to R: Karen, Michael, Bill and Willie G.)

 

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