Four bikers from the State, who were part of the 110th Harley Davidson anniversary celebrations at the ‘Mecca of Harley’, tell Anasuya Menon that the experience was ‘epic’

“Like children in front of a mighty ocean… Like an explosion of the senses… Like an impossible dream…” bikers from Kerala who attended the 110th Harley Davidson (HD) anniversary celebrations at Milwaukee, USA, earlier this month, are engaged in a struggle with metaphors to recreate the “feeling”.

It is hard not to get poetically overwhelmed, one understands, when the subject is the Harley. “Imagine three lakh Harleys congregating at one place, the show…the commotion,” says Titus V. George, one among the four who set out on the epic journey. “We call it epic, because the Harley can inspire such passion in people,” chips in Siddik Pamangadan, his co-biker.

The Harley commands respect, too, says Ranjith Dharmarajan, who first suggested the idea of going to the “Mecca of Harley” (Milwaukee). Customary American visa hurdles, they found out, dissolved instantly when the subject was the Harley. “It was almost like flying all the way just to ride at the HD rally, entitled us to be let through without hassle,” he says.

The four bikers—Ranjith, Titus, Siddik and Prince Varghese—flew to New York, New Jersey and Chicago, familiarising themselves with the HD chapters at each State, before landing at Milwaukee, where they rented bikes. Thousands of people had gathered at Wisconsin Avenue to witness the motorcycle jamboree. Stories of the outlaw bikers who sent a shudder down the 1960s American spine were rekindled. “But the brotherhood we felt was entirely different. Bikers exuded such warmth that we felt at home. Many had not heard of India and some have even promised to organise rides here in India,” Ranjith says.

Milwaukee being the birthplace of the Harley, getting to be there while a show of such magnitude was unfurling felt like a rare blessing, Titus says. “There were bikes that were manufactured in 1903 on the road, a sight worth cherishing.”

These bikers fiercely nurture their passion for the machines. From the time he was 13, Ranjith, who hails from Alappuzha, would collect posters of Harley Davidson. “I would wait for the Time and Newsweek magazines, which had photos of those fascinating machines,” he says. Ranjith today owns a Harley Davidson anniversary edition bike, in addition to other Harley models.

Siddik, a businessman, was the first to buy a Harley from the Kochi showroom, a Softail Heritage Classic. He owns another Harley in Dubai. Titus, a businessman in Kochi, was a national-level rallyist, who has a collection of vintage bikes. His first Harley is the one he rides now and is a Super Glide custom-made piece. Prince Varghese, who has a construction company in Kochi, owns a Fatboy Special, one of the flashiest of Harley bikes.

The concept of the Harley brotherhood starts at the dealership itself. The only showroom in Kerala at Kochi has a Harley Owners Group (HOG), Spice Coast Chapter, which organises group rides, popularly known as “HOG rides” every Saturday. “We also organise overnight rides and there is a great bond between us members,” says Titus, who is the road captain for the rides. The group rides in single file in complete compliance with the rules, he adds. “We give a lot of importance to safety. Every rider is required to ride in full safety gear—helmet, jacket, gloves, boots. Over-speeding is never encouraged,” Titus says.

A bike can weigh up to 500 kilos depending on its modifications. The six-gear, over-1,000 cc machines are essentially cruiser bikes. In its one year of operations, the Kochi dealership has sold over a 100 bikes, “the quickest hundred in the shortest period of time,” says Mithesh K. Patel, the director of the showroom and a Harley enthusiast himself. Mithesh says the demand is increasing and his buyers’ ages range from 18 to 55. “At 18, can you really ride a Harley?” Ranjith asks. “I think it should be sold only to people over 40. You need to earn a Harley,” he laughs. (Ranjith is 46).

For these bikers, and perhaps most bikers around the world, the Harley Davidson is about being part of a legend. It is not about money, not status, not even style, it is that special something you feel, they say.