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How I finally bought a Harley-Davidson: Likes, dislikes & little things

It is called the Harley-Davidson Serial 1 Rush. Yes, it is a bicycle but a Harley nonetheless!

BHPian maheepgupta recently shared this with other enthusiasts.

This is a long thread. It started as a simple ownership experience but turned into a lazy narrative of the past few decades. I kinda like writing, and it's a weekend, so bear with me.

Flashback – 1989ish

Growing up, I was fascinated with certain automotive brands. As one can guess, BMW and Merc consistently ranked high on the list. I am not trying to generalize, but I believe, Indians have a somewhat reverential romantic relationship with certain brands. I have yet to meet an Indian person who didn't have that secret affair at some point in their life. For two-wheelers on the list, it was always Harley Davidson. Beats me why! My parents, being teachers, had very restricted television access in our household. We didn't even have cable, so I can't blame it on American cinema. Nonetheless, Harley Davidson always remained the crème de la crème.

Life was simple and rut. It was the early 90s, and we lived in a small place called Bikaner. As long as you did okay grade-wise and kept your act straight, things were alright. Calling Bikaner a city back in 1990 would be a stretch. It was a tad better than a town. So, unsurprisingly, not much ever happened. Going out was a rare affair, and my brother and I spent many vacation days in our parents' school library. It was likely in a magazine there that I first came across Harley Davidson, and it swiftly made it to my wishlist, pretty high from the get-go, I must say.

But then going got tough. At that time, there was an obsession with engineering and medicine (PET and PMT). My mom had a somewhat misguided, delusional belief in her sons' academic prowess. She secretly aspired that at least one of us would become an engineer. The Kota factory was just starting then, and the vibe was changing. Though, I must give it to my parents; they never pushed us into anything we didn't want to do. As a result, none of us ended up pursuing her dream at that time.

In hindsight, we missed out on what could have been a golden opportunity for four years of partying. The irony is, many, many years later, I ended up being an informal computer engineer anyway.

With all that, those posters found their way into the trash, and I could be found paddling a Hero Bicycle every day. The economy had just opened up, and in those years, I was mostly drooling over the Ford Mondeo or Daewoo Sienna or whatever new sedan had a glossy newspaper advert in the Sunday Times. The humble Hero bicycle gave way for a Bajaj M80 I shared with my brother before I got a secondhand Bajaj Priya. If you grew up in a middle-class family at that time, you know what I am talking about. There is a particular order, and you don't skip a step.

Life got busy with starting a business, having a girlfriend, and everything else that comes with the territory. My automobiles evolved from a Maruti 800 to a Zen, a Suzuki SX4, and a Suzuki Kizashi. Yeah, the dealer was a buddy!

It was 2013, and we had moved to Jaipur by then. Around then, I started thinking about a lifestyle vehicle beyond the primary one. Naturally, the Harley Davidson Specter from my past resurfaced. They recently started a Harley dealership in Jaipur, so we thought about a test ride.

Speaking of "we," my brother was also stationed in Jaipur at that time due to a job switch. Now, there's a bit of a backstory here. Early on, my brother and I made an informal pact always to buy the same cars. It avoids any needless family or societal comparisons, and life remains much simpler without all the drama. Some might say that’s foolish. After all, choosing a car is supposed to be a deeply personal decision. I agree, but we are not patrol heads. We appreciate cars for their charm and the enjoyment they bring, and we’ve always managed to find models that both of us liked.

At that time, we both used Kizashis as our primary cars. That is perhaps another first—two Kizashis in a single family. But that's a different story.

We booked a test ride and tried a few. Guess what?

It was not good! You know how they say, "Never meet your heroes." A few hundred meters on the bike—"Hmm... this is nice, but is that it? Now what? It's boring." A voice kept saying in my head. My brother had the exact same sentiment. We don't see eye to eye on many things, but when we do, it is mostly like that.

Next week, we bought a Mahindra Thar 4x4 in Black.

Fast-forward a few years. I was now in California, and despite being in the home of the devil, my interaction with Harleys was quite limited. That chapter seemed closed—at least, that's what I believed. I was driving a five-series as the daily commuter and using a Cannondale bicycle by the side. I flirted with the idea of getting a Jeep Wrangler for a bit, but rationality kept me sane.

Then, In 2018, we (this time, the other part of "we" is my wife) decided to make the Netherlands our new home—a nation famously boasting more bicycles (24 million) than people (17 million). We also agreed to forgo buying a car and do it the Dutch way. Fietsen (bicycles).

If you're not Dutch, you might not believe this. Dutch children in grades 5 and 6 must pass a traffic theory exam and then take a practical test where they cycle a set route to show they can apply what they learned. They take this seriously.

I began with ride-sharing before getting a cheap Decathlon bike. It was surprisingly decent, given the brand's reputation and the price I paid. I bought and lost (It's a thing in NL) a few different bikes for the next few years until I settled on a Riese en Muller Electric. Although I initially disliked its upright sitting position and looks, it turned out to be an excellent commuter.

By 2020, Harley had launched their Serial 1 e-bikes across the EU. Right next to my office in Rotterdam, a bike shop displayed a red Rush City in their window, which was quite a looker. Every day on my way home, I admired it, but I was quite content with my Riese & Muller.

The Dutch e-bike scene has evolved a lot in the past few years. First, the traditional bike makers electrified their legacy models, as car companies did early on. As they gained popularity and became more common in households, things changed. A few start-ups also made their way to the market, and now there are quite a few exciting options.

In Belgium, Cowboy launched a few years ago (Van Moof here around that same time, though their story didn't end well), and they were making sporty tech-enabled bikes. I liked them for their practical use of technology, looks, and my soft spot for startups.

Cowboy-1 was decent, but with the second generation, they launched an ST (Step Through) model in an off-whiteish color. In India, ST models are typically seen as women's bicycles, but Dutch people don't discriminate against their bikes in that sense. It is more of a matter of convenience, practicality, and, of course, a good bargain. You will find people riding the saddest-looking bicycle in fluorescent orange with pride because it was a good deal. I don't mean it in a wrong way at all. Some of the simplistic, practical choices they make have given me a new perspective to look at things.

I liked the ST model and thought that at some point, I would like to buy that. My wife had a cargo bike (Bakfiets) that she was happy with, and I was finally finding love in my arranged marriage-ish start of this relationship with my R&M.

But then, it was stolen!

It wasn't my first rodeo; I had lost a few bikes before. If you live in the Netherlands long enough, you know that it's gonna happen at some point.

The Cyclists' Union estimates that about half a million bikes get stolen each year in the Netherlands, which is likely an understatement since many don't bother reporting. The police rarely do anything actively for this, but sometimes there is a raid, or they find bikes here and there. Those typically find their way back to the rightful owners.

That has also happened to me once. More on that later.

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  • The first to go was the Decathlon I'd picked up early on. Technically, that was my wife's fault, so it wasn't a complete loss. I was hoping to use that to my advantage someday. The plan backfired quite spectacularly, as you'll find out.
  • The second casualty was a Stella (a Local Brand) picked from our office parking lot. I filed a report; two days later, they found it abandoned in the bushes after the battery conked.

I must tell you about the chill experience I had with the cops. It was a Sunday Morning when my phone rang. The officer asked a few questions regarding my report and then casually dropped, "You wanna come and pick it up? We found it in the woods."

The following day, I went in and told the officer at the desk about the call.

"Yeah, we have been expecting you. Here, come with me."

"Don't you wanna see my ID or something?"

"Nehhh, we trust you!"

And that was it. There was my bike, a broken lock, and a few scratches, but otherwise intact.

  • The third was an old e-bike that an elderly gentleman gave us for free. He was too old and no longer felt safe riding it. Do you want to guess how old he was when he felt that way? Eighty-one.

The fourth was this Riese en Muller. I had a love-and-hate relationship with this bike. I got a decent deal on some old inventory, paying €2100 for something that usually goes for €2900 - €3100. I bought it as a business, meaning I could claim VAT, bringing it down to approx. €1700. That was a reasonable price for the brand and the model. I never had any issues with the ride, comfort, or the quality of the bike. It was just the looks that kept getting in the way of my good old OCD. It was great, but it wasn't perfect.

My wife has a store here in the city center. On a Saturday afternoon, my 4-year-old son and I took our bikes there and parked outside. I can swear that I locked the bike, took the bike computer off, and went inside.

Apparently Not!

I served it on a silver platter to someone who wasn't even looking to steal a bike that day. And remember the first bike episode where my wife was on the losing end? Let's just say, she had a very good week after that.

But now I was bikeless!

There's this portal called Markplaats for buying and selling secondhand goods here. It is not as mad as Craigslist, yet not as lame as Olx. It just works! In a very European way. You can find anything from a set of needles to boats and trucks there.

The reluctant search began, but this time, in a very grounded way. I was still mad at myself for leaving the bike unlocked and was aiming for something inexpensive. The pickings were slim for the budget I had in mind. I ended up with another Riese en Muller for €800. It was an older model of my last bike, but an ST this time.

It belonged to an elderly man moving to Portugal for a warmer climate. Despite being ten years old, it only had 450 km on it. I didn't plan to keep it but I needed something for my daily commute.

So, I bought it and, like any good "Rajasthani Bania," relisted it for sale on Markplaat right away. Now, I had a bike to use, and the hunt continued.

A few months and 500 km later, I was still not out of the woods. My listing on Markplaats attracted some interest, but nothing tempting. If you are a seller on Markplaats, you have to be patient. People will try every trick in the book, but you gotta stay calm. In February 2024, a couple came to see the bike. They liked it and agreed to pay the asking price—€1075.

Wounds from the last theft were almost healed, and with some profit from the recent sale, I was getting ready to start my search again.

I shortlisted three options.

  • As you can guess, Cowboy Cruiser ST

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  • Harley Davidson Serial 1 Rush CTY Step Thru

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Harley Davidson Serial 1 Mosh CTY

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Rush is more of a city bike, whereas Mosh is their attempt to make an MTB. They have similar styles, and the only reason Mosh stayed on my list was its lower price. I also briefly flirted with Lemmo One MK2, but it didn't make the final cut. You can check it out here.

Cowboy doesn't have a typical dealer network; it's purely online. They have partners for test rides, but the online store handles ordering and delivery. I had tested one before, so I knew the ride quality wasn't the issue—it was more about making up my mind. I added it to my cart several times, yet I couldn't hit the submit button.

Harley-Davidson was already a dud in the European market at that time. They launched with a lot of fanfare but never found a place. Buying a Harley is more of a decision of heart, and Europeans do not have that kind of relationship with their bicycles. There is a certain crowd that secretly loves everything American—the ones who act upon it, not that many.

It was a good product, and now there were discounts. The dealers offered Rush for approximately €2700, and Mosh was available for €2200.

During a call with a dealer, he suggested looking on Markplaats. Apparently, Harley had offered significant discounts at some point, leading people to buy them for trading. Someone might be eager to offload it for cheap.

One place that I was trying to avoid!

Continue reading about maheepgupta's Harley-Davidson for BHPian comments, insights and more information.

 
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