Posted September 13, 2017
After pausing our energy in the 50 states series to devote full attention to hurricanes Harvey and Irma, we resume today with Wisconsin. More to follow in the next few weeks. The full series is archived here.
For the more than 16 million, or 14 percent, of households across the U.S. that own motorcycles, there’s nothing like the feeling of freedom brought on by putting rubber to the open road. As you feel the wind in your face and the sun on your back, you become one with your surroundings, hyperaware of the sights and sounds around you. It’s an energy-filled joyride about the journey rather than the destination, and with each mile traveled, you become a little more present, a little more adrenalized and a little more alive.
With names like Yamaha, Honda, Harley, Suzuki and more, your options for a great bike are nearly as vast as the road ahead. And whatever bike brand you choose, you’ll be following in the footsteps of a tradition first cultivated by Harley-Davidson.
This American legacy was born in Milwaukee, Wis., in 1903 with William Harley and Arthur Davidson, and from their prototype in a small wooden shed, the Harley-Davidson brand has grown into a modern lifestyle. And today, Milwaukee remains at the heart of this legacy, as home to the Harley-Davidson headquarters and the Harley-Davidson Museum, which houses more than 450 motorcycles and artifacts.
Whether you’re embarking on a coast-to-coast summer hurrah, or taking a walk through time in Milwaukee, you can thank natural gas and petroleum for your wild ride.
Riding in Style
When it comes to the thrill of the ride, choosing the right accessories for safety, style and comfort can be as important as your decision between the Harley Street Rod™ or the Honda RC213V-S™. In fact, motorcycle accessories are so popular that Harley-Davidson sold $842 million in parts and accessories in 2016. But to ensure safety and durability, these accessories often depend on energy.
Motorcycle helmets, including the Hightail B09™, are often made with carbon fiber and aramid. Aramids are a family of petroleum derived nylons including Nomex and Kevlar. Carbon fiber is also derived from energy, made from polyacrylonitrile, a petroleum product. Helmets also commonly use durable, lightweight fiberglass to protect riders. The Skull Ultra-Light Half Helmet™, for example, is made from fiberglass and spectra fiber shell, an ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene.
And a biker’s summer style is big part of staying cool, safe and comfortable as the revved engine heats up. Seasoned bikers cover up from head to toe during the summer months to shield themselves from the summer sun and the hot air. Lightweight, breathable and ventilated clothing made from petroleum-derived nylon mesh keeps you cool so you can focus on the road ahead. While gloves, jackets and pants are often reinforced with Kevlar fiber to provide improved tear and abrasion resistance that keeps bikers safe.
A Souped-up Hog
A bike’s bells and whistles are an important part of the ride. And for long summer jaunts, it’s critical to keep your hindquarters happy with a supportive seat. Most seat padding is made with polyurethane foam and covered in vinyl made from salt and crude oil. The Harley-Davidson Super Reach Solo Seat™ ensures you’re close to the controls and your feet reach the pavement. But if you’re taking a friend on a ride, they might appreciate the Chopped Tour-Oak Backrest Pads™ for support.
Any biker that’s ever hit the open road on a summer night knows the benefits of a quality windshield. It keeps the dragon flies, mosquitos and moths out of your face and can protect you from rocks that fly up when you’re sharing the road with trucks and cars. These windshields, such as the Ventilator King Size Detachable™ and general replacement windshields, are made from hard-coated polycarbonate, a thermoplastic derived from either petroleum or natural gas.
Finally, don’t forget about the tires. The tread, outer layer of the tire, is made of rubber that helps to keeps bikers safe around those hairpin turns through the mountains. Most of the current rubber used for tires is a blend of natural and petroleum-based synthetic rubber.
From Sea to Shining Sea
The iconic motorcycle adventure across the nation has become almost as American as apple pie. This 2,900-mile journey is fueled by a combination of gasoline and the passion of a wildly loyal community of thrill-seekers. And from humble beginnings in Milwaukee some 114 years ago, to its modern draw, energy has been there all along, keeping the Harley-Davidson tradition cruising forward, whether you’re riding one or not.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Mark also was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela live in Occoquan, Va., where they enjoy their four grandchildren.