You are 100% right about the Harley not being as good quality wise as the Goldwing. Not even close. But a Harley EVO (pre Twin Cam) CAN last 100,000 miles with proper care and maintenance. I've seen it happen. A Goldwing engine CAN goe three times as far, if properly treated and maintained. I don't question any of that. My problem as a vintage motorcycle enthusiast, is that when that Goldwing engine does wear out, it's gone. It cannot be fixed. It uses too many complex and expensive parts, and many of them will no longer be available.
But the Harley can be rebuilt 4 times, and it is fairly easy and inexpensive to do so. And when it if finally no longer rebuildable, you can buy a new engine, and start all over again, basically making the bike immortal. I like things that last forever. I wish I could buy a new engine for my '85 Goldwing, and just keep on riding it for the rest of my life. But unlike Harley engines, that is not possible.
Harleys are definitely NOT technically superior to anything, unless it might be a Royal Enfield Bullet. But that is actually one of their strong points. They do make upgrades as time goes by, but much slower than the Japanese companies. Even with the upgrades, their basic design remains the same as it has for decades.
You are partially right about Harleys being popular because of their "mystique" It even appeals to me. I like my motor vehicles to feel and sound like motor vehicles. I like them to have character and soul. Harleys definitely have that.
But I think the main reason Harley has so much aftermarket support, is because there is a market for it. Companies making aftermarket Harley parts and accessories, and even complete frames and engines, know that what they make will sell in large quantities. So their investment in design and tooling to make these parts is pretty safe.
Even with Japanese cruisers, aftermarket companies are afraid to design and build the tooling to make parts and accessories, because the Japanese change things too often. About 10-12 years ago, I thought that might change, that the Japanese might stay with the same design a lot longer, at least with cruisers, and get the aftermarket interested. And for a short time they did. But it didn't last. The Japanese just can't seem to leave well enough alone. So the aftermarket is scared to mess with them, afraid to invest a lot of money to build stuff that there might be no market for.
Unlike a jet fighter, a motorcycle does not need to be on the cutting edge of technology. Back in the late '70s, the Japanese motorcycle manufacturers reached a point where there bikes were extremely reliable, and would almost last forever. And they performed as well or better than any motorcycle needed to (at least as far as cruisers and touring bikes go, sportbikes will always be on the edge) but instead of keeping their existing designs and slowly refining them, they dropped them altogether, and came out with something completely new. So neither the manufacturers nor the aftermarket was able to keep supplying parts for them, they had to move on to the newer stuff.
To me, riding a motorcycle should be a very visceral experience. A motorcycle should be a very basic, elemental, even primitive machine. Even if you like new cars, a motorcycle is not a car.
Many people get into Harleys because they want to be part of the "Harley scene" That has alway been a turnoff to me. I really am an individualist, and riding the same bike as everyone else just doesn't do it for me. But, I am still attracted to Harleys, and it has nothing to do with the image, the mystique, the scene, or any of that. It is the bikes themselves. It is the way they look, the fact that they are old tech, that they make noise and vibrate like something with a large internal combustion engine should. Their lack of refinement, the fact that they do not have an electric smooth engine, is a major plus for me. It is the same thing that draws me to all vintage vehicles. The fact that there is a forever supply of parts and mechanics who know how to work on them is just another plus.
I have no problem with new technology, I own a lot of it. I just don't want it on my vehicles. At least the computerized electronic part of it. Tubeless tires, disc brakes (non ABS), liquid cooling, shaft drive, modern metallurgy and manufacturing techniques are all technology I like. But electronics, fuel injection, air bags, ABS, etc., just don't do it for me. I come from a time when none of that stuff existed. I learned to operate and work on motor vehicles back when they were simple mechanical devices, and that is still what I want. My cars can be kept going forever. I wish my bikes could too, but they can't. They weren't designed for it, and there are no parts, or won't always be parts for them.
I have seen many people on here, myself included, with older bikes, get so frustrated because parts are no longer available, or they cannot find anyone to work on them. I have to wonder why. Back in '85, my LTD was the ultimate touring bike. Now most people consider it scrap. If it was good enough back then, and it was, why is it not good enough now?
"New vehicles move the body. Old vehicles move the soul. Vintage forever"
"Obsolete does not mean it is not any good, it just means it is not made anymore"
"The simpler the better"
Save the environment. STOP the developers.
PGR member since 2007