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.
Many Americans have a special like for motorcycles, and “like” probably is too mild a term. “Passion” is more like it – no doubt stemming from a blend of rugged American individualism, miles and miles of open road and amazing vistas, often best seen from a cycle. Ed Blair, writing for the web a couple of years ago:
America has always had a love affair with motorcycles. “In a car you’re always in a compartment, and, because you’re used to it, you don’t realize that through that car window everything you see is just more TV. You’re a passive observer, and it is all moving by you boringly in a frame. On a cycle, the frame is gone. You’re completely in contact with it all. You’re in the scene, not just watching it anymore, and the sense of presence is overwhelming.” So said Robert Pirsig in his book “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values.” Dan Aykroyd stated the case more simply: “You do not need a therapist if you own a motorcycle.”
More than 16 million U.S. households own motorcycles. It’s an energy-filled joyride that’s more about the getting there than the being there. Energy makes each cycling mile quicker, faster, yet safer – helping riders become a little more present, more adrenalized, a little more alive. Indeed, that fairly describes energy’s role in modern life: supporting, empowering, improving.
Whatever make of motorcycle you choose, you’ll be riding in tire tracks first put down by Harley-Davidson, born in Milwaukee, Wis., in 1903. That year William Harley and Arthur Davidson debuted American motorcycling’s prototype in a small wooden shed:
Here’s another oldie: Arthur Davidson’s brother, Walter, with the cycle that earned him a perfect score at the 1908 Federation of American Motorcyclists Endurance and Reliability Contest:
Today, the Harley-Davidson brand is synonymous with something that’s more than transportation. It involves a way of thinking – indeed, for many, a life philosophy. Milwaukee remains at the heart of this story, home to the Harley-Davidson headquarters and the Harley-Davidson Museum, which houses more than 450 motorcycles and artifacts.
Riding in Style
When it comes to a true thrill ride, choosing the right accessories for safety, style and comfort can be as important as deciding 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 last year. To ensure safety and durability, these accessories often depend on energy.
Motorcycle helmets, including the Hightail B09™, often are made with carbon fiber and aramid. Aramids are a family of petroleum derived nylons, including Nomex and Kevlar. Carbon fiber also is 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.
A biker’s style often involves staying cool, safe and comfortable as the revved engine heats up. Seasoned bikers cover up from head to toe to shield themselves from the sun. Lightweight, breathable and ventilated clothing made from petroleum-derived nylon mesh allows greater comfort. Gloves, jackets and pants often are reinforced with Kevlar fiber to provide improved tear and abrasion resistance that helps keep bikers safe.
A Souped-up Hog
A bike’s bells and whistles are an important part of the ride. For long jaunts, it’s critical to keep one’s 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™ keeps a rider close to the controls and feet reaching the pavement. If a friend is along for the ride, they might appreciate the Chopped Tour-Oak Backrest Pads™ for support.
Anyone who’s ever hit the open road at night knows the benefits of a quality windshield. There’s an essentiality to keeping the dragon flies, mosquitos and moths out of your teeth, not to mention rocks that fly up when sharing the road with trucks and cars. Windshields such as the Ventilator King Size Detachable™ and general replacement windshield are made from hard-coated polycarbonate, a thermoplastic derived from either petroleum or natural gas.
Don’t forget about the tires. The tread, the outer layer of the tire, is made of rubber that helps keep bikers safe around hairpin turns. 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. The 2,900-mile journey is fueled by a combination of gasoline and the passion of a wildly loyal community of thrill-seekers. From humble beginnings in Milwaukee 114 years ago to motorcycling’s modern allure, energy has been there for the ride.
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.