Behind-the-Scenes of an American Legend

Photo by Chhayal

Mon., Aug. 18, 2008

My friends Chhayal and Eric took me on a mini road trip to York, Pa., to tour the Harley-Davidson Vehicle Operations Factory. It was an item on my life list and their goal was to help me cross it off. I was SUPER excited!!!

We pulled up to the sprawling 232 acres of Harley-Davidson property and secured our tickets. The one-hour factory tours are free, but tickets are distributed on a first-come, first-serve basis. Upon entering the H-D facility you walk through a mini museum, a floor room area where there are a variety of motorcycle models you can sit on and a gift shop.

Tour time!!! There were 17 people in our group. Our guide’s name was Larry and his security controller sidekick was Ray. Larry has been a H-D tour guide for the past seven years (he was super knowledgeable about the company and motorcycles). Before we could proceed, he instructed all of us to put on our provided safety goggles and headset. Our cameras were temporarily collected, because no photos are allowed to be taken inside the factory. The tour began with a 10 minute video on the history of H-D. Next, we entered the factory. We learned there are approximately 3,100 factory employees. From 1973 to 1998 all Harleys made came from this factory. Today, all Harley Touring motorcycles are made at this location. The tires they use are supplied by the Dunlop Factory in Buffalo, N.Y., (that’s right, my hometown!) It was fascinating to see the process of how they blend traditional skills done by men/women with new robotic technology to build such beautiful objects. In Larry’s opinion the two coolest jobs at the factory (besides his), are the roll testers and the auditors. The two roll tester guys take each bike and ride them under simulated circumstances for about 1.5 miles at approximately 65 m.p.h to make sure the motorcycles are 100 percent ready before they to go shipping. The auditors pull completed bikes out at random, test drive them on the road and rate them. The scores are then given to the employees so they know how well they’re doing as part of in-house quality control. After witnessing these work stations in action, I’d have to agree with Larry, they are awesome jobs!!!

Whether you are a motorcycle enthusiast or not, I would highly recommend taking this manufacturing and assembly tour. It’s a guaranteed once-in-a-lifetime experience.

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