It’s good to see your leadership taking steps to become inclusive. I applaud it, and think it’s long overdue. My mentor taught me the importance of inclusion way back in 1975, and the lessons have, in part, driven my life decisions including failures, successes, and priorities. Harley Davidson, you’ve been kind-of-a-closed club to a lot of people in the past, and you have catching up to do, but at least you are on the road to opening up to change and diversity.
It can’t be news to leadership that few traditional Harley Davidson riders listen to Tupak Shakur. Most would probably categorically dismiss him and his music, and not many would recognize a Tupak rap. So when the December issue of The Enthusiast arrived – I was shocked to read several lines from Tupak printed on the full p.5. (right). Looking back at The Enthusiast covers from 1916 up to 2003, the lack of diversity in that magazine – compared to your emerging priorities – is striking.
Starting with HOG editor Matt King’s welcoming letter for issue 48, in 2019, I saw a new emphasis and read that Harley Davidson’s goal was to “grow ridership by as much as 2 million new riders by (in 10-years) 2029.” It signaled a change in your publications and a new outreach to diverse audiences by including: young people, women, and non-white riders not only in photographs but also in stories.
One large subtitle in the article, “Coming to America,” a diversifying feature story, quoted Freddie Franklin, a Milwaukee rider: “Harley Davidson has brought all ethnicities, races, genders, and cultures together, and it’s just been an incredible experience.”
HD over the years has enjoyed great success in market targeting to your predominant ownership base – which has been white men with disposable income – and you’ve successfully linked their interests and dreams to a rider lifestyle. But in the past, you’ve put forth almost no effort at diversifying the ridership or the image. Sure, once in a while, HOG Magazine would show a photo of a non-white rider, or a model in a sales magazine, but this has been rare.
In HOG Magazine issue 49 from last year, one of your stories covered the “Ezy Riders, New York City’s black biker clubs,” and featured on its cover the impressive ring-laden fingers and leather wrist band from Brown Sugar (below left) one of the EZ Riders.
This story surprised me, featuring 8 photos in an 8 page feature, including one that would certainly anger some of your core readers. It took guts for you to do so. I and admire your journalistic courage, and the decision to make your choices based on your priorities and not the criticism.
Your 50th issue of HOG Magazine with, “Bikes of the Mayans M.C.”, served to humanize Hispanic bikers and TV personalities as more than wild gang members; you showed them as people who like the same things many of us like, 40’s and 50’s era cars for example.
HOG 51, the last one of 2019, included my article on “Yoga & Leather: Yoga for Bikers.” I had pressed the point in my query that if you want to reach diverse demographics they ought to include yoga for bikers as an outreach that could break stereotypes. It took a lot of work, but I convinced you that a story on yoga for bikers tied directly into your 10 year goal of diversifying your customer-rider base. I also believe yoga can help bikers stay in the saddle safer, longer, and more comfortably. These are win-win factors for any biker.
Yoga as a riding tip is relevant because the great benefits of yoga apply to everything. Think about the importance of mindset before jumping on the highway, or the skill of balance. Yoga practitioners develop both of these skills.
The dominant yoga demographic is women, by about a 70% to 30% ratio, and bikers are about the opposite. Both fields have problems including the minority sex and both are beset with old stereotype’s about who can or should do what. It’s time to dismantle stereotypes about women motorcyclists’ and yoga men. What’s wrong with us that we insist on placing people in boxes?
In my experience with yoga and motorcycling, I think Harley-Davidson is doing a better job at creating a welcoming space for women riders than yoga does for men. I published my opinions about this for OM Yoga and Lifestyle Magazine in, “Yoga’s Outliers: Men;” it would be easy to change the title and little else to, “Motorcycling’s Outliers: Women.”
In 2020, HOG’s first issue was, in my opinion, not inspiring. You did the same thing most of your issues have done: rehash the Sturgis Rally and offer the traditional stories of HOG gatherings, bike and equipment developments, and photos of Harley Owner Group riders – which the magazine had been calling – “Enthusiasts.”
Sometime early this summer (2020), HOG Magazine disappeared and in its place Enthusiast returned in its second incarnation as The Enthusiast, Vol. 104, issue 1. To signify an important change in philosophy and goals, your editorial letter in the magazine’s first pages came from the new CEO of Harley Davidson, Jochen Zeitz.
Changes that Harley had been hinting at were on full display in this issue. The curator of the Traveling Black History Museum was featured (below); member photos and stories featured minorities and women riders.
Letters to the editor rightfully took you to task for identifying women riders as “girls.” Immediately, with the first issue, The Enthusiast made a mistake in print; but now your gender blind spot was in the public record.
Keep making efforts to include women riders but stop calling women ‘girls for God’s sake; and don’t accept others calling women riders chicks, babes, hoes, or bitches. When we disrespect anyone by name-calling we disrespect ourselves.
You were rightly corrected for your demeaning shortsightedness and historic blindness to the full spectrum of humanity and the riding community. Hey, don’t worry about it, you’ve got a long ways to go; it’s the same thing with yoga; most studios depicted on social media promote yoga with groups of white, mostly younger women. Yoga leadership has a long way to go too.
This month, December, 2020, when issue 2 of The Enthusiast arrived, I was eager to see what you did with inclusion in relationship to your stated goals, and what a surprise it was. Your lead story and cover focused on the Oakland black motorcycle club, East Bay Dragons with a six page, 13 photograph feature.
Harley-Davidson ambassador Erica (“Queen Sit” below with cool black hat), of St. Louis, was highlighted for the second time in The Enthusiast, and I noted you changed the name of riders’ stories in the back pages to “Featured H.O.G. Members.” In both issues of 2020, “Featured H.O.G. Members,” prominently included minorities and women riders. Many of them younger than Harley Davidson’s historic and now older demographic.
When I started riding, Harley published their riders survey which noted that the average HD rider was a white male around 50 years old with a combined household income roughly over $125,000. It was clear to me – 20 years ago – when I bought my first HD in Wausau, Wisconsin, that bikers were getting old.
That group, riders loyal to the HD brand, are now in their 70’s and older. They have a harder time riding big motorcycles and I think many of them should stop for their own good.
Maybe its time The Enthusiast published a story suggesting such a move and offering ways old riders can still be involved in the motorcycle community. Such a piece would not be a good marketing or economic choice, but from a human standpoint – out of concern for the lives of loyal Harley Davidson supporters – your suggestion would carry a ton of credibility and integrity. Your old guard might even appreciate it, but I’m sure they would not tell you.
The perceived lifestyle barriers and costs of owning a HD motorcycle have not been welcoming to many younger people and non-white riders. This is a barrier that HD needs to overcome. For a company to exist as long as you have, you know the value of changing with the times and to rider’s shifting needs. You can look at this as an opportunity, but you must overcome your blind spots and stop doing dumb things like writing about women riders as “girls.”
This is my long way of saying, thank you to the leadership of HD. Convincing your hard-core and long-time HD riders that inclusion is not just a good idea; it’s good politics, good economics, and good humanity is a hard sell but a necessary one. Don’t think about the disgruntled old crowd that wants things to remain the same; rather, imagine the many new riders representing the full spectrum of humanity and by their participation, enriching the Harley-Davidson (and biking) community.
I encourage you to own your work toward inclusion. It’s good leadership and that’s what leadership does; it sets the tone and takes the lead and the heat rather than allowing the comfortable ruts of the less enlightened masses inhibit change. “Leaders drive culture,” said Secretary Designee, retired General Lloyd Bressler.
Someone once said, if you don’t stand for something you’ll fall for any ol’ thing. The thing to take a stand for is the inclusion of all riders: women, men, minorities, and those not identified by these limiting categories.
Keep it up and improve upon the good work you’ve started. It’s what HD has always done and it’s the way HD – as an American leader and trend setter – will drive motorcycle culture right through the stereotypes and lead the way into the future for the worldwide motorcycle riding community.
Gregory Ormson, Arizona,
Former MSF Rider Coach #motorcyclingyogiG
Starting in 1916, HD published a communication organ called The Enthusiast. It retained that name until ‘77 when “The” was dropped.
In 2008, HOG Magazine, (Harley Owner’s Group) replaced Enthusiast as the company’s publication.
2020, The Enthusiast returned to replace the 12-year stint of HOG Magazine.