“America, Please Don’t Buy a Harley Because it Gets 50 MPG”

by Benjamin Jones on September 10, 2008

It seems Harley-Davidson doesn’t want to be associated with good fuel economy. They’re certainly not eco-friendly, so they don’t have that to worry about, and as far as motorcycles go they don’t really get the best gas mileage, but I guess if too many people start riding them they will lose that “Bad Ass Mid-Life Crisis” image they’ve worked so hard to build up.

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1 Derrick September 11, 2008 at 5:03 am

Screw the mileage, the real pollution with a Harley is noise. I was hiking in the Smokies last year, 2 miles from a road, could I hear birds and frogs? Hell no, just lardos on fat boys. Just because you are an insecure asshole doesn’t mean everyone for miles should have to suffer. Grow up and shut up.

2 ^_^ September 11, 2008 at 5:17 am

Motorcycles actually pollute more than SUV’s. Disgustingly embarrassing! http://blog.wired.com/cars/2008/06/motorcycles-pol.html

3 Snark September 11, 2008 at 5:27 am

But if people don’t buy Harleys, what will happen to the manufacturers of black leather chaps? Oh the humanity!

4 Cory September 11, 2008 at 5:58 am

I get 52 mpg on my Sportster and it cost me <10k. Every other motorcycle rider (with something large enough to ride on highways) I talk to says they can’t break 40. So unless you’re comparing the 50mpg to a 2 stroke moped, or a Honda rebel, that can barely do highway speeds never mind interstate speeds, your mileage argument is unfounded.

As far as the noise, you apparently haven’t heard a Harley with a stock exhaust system on it. It is not loud at all.

I also have 2 Honda’s parked in my garage (’02 Civic and ’08 Fit) the best mileage seen on them has yet to exceed the worst mileage on my bike.

Oh, and if you’re curious I do actually ride my motorcycle too. I’ve had it for 3 years and have 13,000 miles on it. Not exceptional I know, but I want to let you know there are several data points in my mileage argument.

5 DD September 11, 2008 at 6:17 am

If someone is buying a harley strictly for MPG then they are an idiot…you can get the same bike for half the price in other brands.

6 C.I. September 11, 2008 at 6:21 am

I agree with some of these people (who commented). Why would Harley assign a number (50) if they didn’t care about the mpg? If they truly wanted to scare off people, they would have said “America, Please Don’t Buy a Harley Because of the fuel mileage.” I have a Honda Shadow 750cc that gets about 45 mpg, so with most Harley engines at 1500cc and up, 50 mpg is comparible with other bikes. But, the reason someone buys a Harley is because of the love of the ride. I’m looking (dreaming) at getting a Harley because I like to ride so much and Harleys have many selling points (browse their bikes online and find out why). I won’t buy one because of the 50 mpg, but I’ll tell you that I probably wouldn’t buy one if it got 30 mpg (although that is a decent mileage rating for a car). So the message is: “Let’s ride!! (the 50 mpg is a bonus)”

7 MacAttack September 11, 2008 at 6:47 am

“But if people don’t buy Harleys, what will happen to the manufacturers of black leather chaps? Oh the humanity!”

Actually, no, America will just lose that many more union, family-wage manufacturing jobs.

8 nightster September 11, 2008 at 6:54 am

I ride a Harley and in South Florida of all places. For those that don’t like loud pipes, I’m sorry but they save lives. Get rid of the crappy cage drivers and maybe I will get quieter pipes. My cage for summer rain days is a VW Golf which gets 25-30 mpg, I much rather save the gas money riding my Nightster. And I have ridden plenty of times in the rain, but prefer not to since people drive exponentially worse if a drop hits their windshield. The author of this blog is obviously not a rider. Another note about Harley. Yeah you end up buying into an image, but every Harley owner I have met on the road has been pretty cool and down to earth. Its not the same experience you have when riding a crotch rocket. I have meet way more tools on sport bikes. My favorite bike is a GS1200 Adv. Like true bike enthusiasts I don’t discriminate against brands, its all about the ride.

9 throttle jockey September 11, 2008 at 7:14 am

Bikes put out more pollutants than an suv? Please, do you people really believe that? Maybe you should check into things a bit more. Who is funding those “tests”? In most cases it is a car manufacturer. Also, those tests only test a very narrow range such as when the bike first starts compared to the suv being fully warmed up. BIG difference there.

My honda is 30 years old. If I ride it conservatively, I will get 50 mpg. I usually do not though as I am trying to get away from all you zombies in cars as none of you know how to look around you when you are driving. Women in suvs are the worst for this, too busy yelling at kids or putting on makeup or doing something other than WATCHING the road.

Terra, clearly some guy denied you a ride on his bike and you are bitter. Deal with it.

10 Magnus September 11, 2008 at 8:46 am

jason – “a decent harley is 20k.”

No, a top of the line Harley is 20k.

A decent Harley is under $10K.

That is, unless you’re one of those leather pirates that doesn’t think a Sportster is a decent motorcycle (IMHO, it’s the best model of Harleys out there and the most practical to ride)

11 Brian September 11, 2008 at 9:41 am

Applauds to H-D Marketing. They figured it out back in the 1970s (and so did the rest of the powersport industry) that no one buys a motorcycle for mpg alone. If that were the case we’d all prefer to walk everywhere. I don’t care what the product is, we buy on value, perception, brand association and emotion. I bet every core H-D rider gets this ad. What I don’t get is why the “old technology” of a carbureted Shovelhead or Evolution engine gets better mpg than the new product. Seem all the changes to keep up with the Jones by building bigger engines (arguably to haul our fatter asses and more crap around) and meeting stricter EPA standards have tanked the MPG. So we burn more fuel to cut pollution!? The irony. Personally, I’m a bit upset to see more cars getting mpg in the range of bikes…come on H-D / Buell get in the game!

12 YAY September 11, 2008 at 5:49 pm

Harleys suck. Why the hell does every dude that rides one have to hammer on the gas everytime he goes around a corner or goes through a intersection. First of all, he looks like d-bag when he does it. Yeah we get it. You’re a total awesome badass. Second of all, harleys sound like a fat guy in a echoey public restroom with diarrhea, slapping out a constant stream greasy farts and ass shrapnel from all the crap he managed to fit in his face. I’m sure some harley guy’s going to come back with a comment like “Harleys are a way of life man” or “I ride my Harley everyday cause I am an awesome badass” Yeah well, your most likely borderline retarded. Oh and there’s nothing you can say that will make anyone believe they don’t sound like a giant fart. You know it yourself. You were just hoping no one would point it out.

13 Down Comforter September 11, 2008 at 7:28 pm

It seemed like a pretty good Ad to me – emotional and authentic.

14 DR September 12, 2008 at 1:09 pm

My Dad who was an actual biker told me never to buy Harleys because they break ALL THE TIME. They’re for middle class phonies who ride on the weekends to try to feel like they have some kind of individuality left. Good luck guys.

15 Bailey Queue September 14, 2008 at 9:49 am

um… Matt… 2002 600 Shadow?? How on earth do you get less than 50mpg? I have a 1994 Shadow 600 and it is on the money, city driving and on the highway, it has not been under 50mpg regardless.

I love my bike, it fits like a glove, the price was right, the mpg is affordable. I like that it is quiet, although, I do wish it was louder when I am on the highway, esp. during lane splitting.

I like this ad. I am disappointed with the dated terminology and the idea that the only people who want to ride Harley’s are middle age (is 50+ middle age?) men going through some type of crisis.

16 malingerer September 14, 2008 at 3:44 pm

If it’s possible to be bi-partisan on this, i’m it. i think rider makes a good point about the ad appealing to the consumer’s ‘love to ride’, but then again, the way that the ad refers to terms like MPG, it almost sounnds as if being concerned for fuel economy and gas efficiency is competely unwarranted. they probably meant to leave it ambiguous like that; i mean the more times a consumer has to look at an ad and think about what it means, the better for the person selling the product, right?

good design too.

17 CarpeNoctu September 15, 2008 at 1:51 am

My wife and I just went out to buy a new car… We got a hybrid from Toyota, because we do care for the environment and definitely want a greener mode of transportation… That said, I will die before I give up my gas guzzling 1969 Camaro! Yes, we have a responsibility and a duty to the Earth and to our fellow man, but if we are going to go to such extremes as to deny ourselves those things which give us pleasure… What is the point? Why exist if there is no life?

18 Kyle September 15, 2008 at 11:43 pm

Wow, most of you are so utterly wrong it makes me sick. buzz killington got the closest answer, that if you worried about gas mileage you shouldn’t be riding a motorcycle. Get a fricken prius you wuss.

Second off I have an XL12o0C (sportster) and i definitely get 50-60mpg…So I don’t know WHO said they’ve “never heard of a harley that efficient” but they’re insane.

Third of all it’s about the RIDE, people. Hondas and other bikes are for people who just want a commuter and maybe some riding. Harley’s are all about the ride and the classic look.

Some of you have replaced the idea of “classic styling” with being out of date. You’re crazy too. Harleys styling can not be beat. My Sportster has more style and is sexier than any Gold Wing you can show me. Also, besides V-Rods, Harleys aren’t built to be high performance racing machines. They’re built to be an enjoyable ride. Though they are an efficient alternative to a car for sure, if that’s ALL you want then you don’t deserve (and are too inexperienced) to sit in the saddle of a harley.

19 jpenney September 16, 2008 at 10:20 am

The “German Harley” comes from the DKW 125. This was built as the Harley Hummer as well as the BSA Bantam and the MMZ M-1A Moskva.

I get 48 MPG on my 1200 Sportster. I don’t ride it easy and I have a lot of mixed city/highway driving. I’ve gotten a best of 52 and worst of 46.

My 79 GS550E got 45 – 50 MPG. My 1997 Vulcan 500 got 45 – 50 MPG. Pretty avereage for a motorcycle. Also … a lot more fun than a car!

20 vulcanrider September 18, 2008 at 4:35 am

Kyle you need to take a look at Kawasaki and Suzuki. They have a much style as a Harley, And I get 52 to 58 mpg. I also get an easy ride at a good value. Also not all H. D. are loud it is the people who ride them that make them that way. It doesn’t matter what you ride it’s the fact that you ride. I see nothing wrong with the ad for harley and I understand what they are saying. Oh, and If more people rode Bikes, there would bee less traffic congeation and more parking spaces.
On the plus side it would cut down on the population, They couldn’t text message or put on their makeup going down the rode.

21 Mick D September 18, 2008 at 10:32 am

Well, even if the emission numbers are correct, I’ve been riding motorcycles almost exclusively for 29 years (no exaggeration here folks, I’m the real deal) and am pretty confident that the amount of petrol I’ve used in that time wouldn’t warrant anyone dying in a war over it. Can this blogger say the same? Can anyone who has driven a car for the past 29 years say the same? In case you’re wondering about the tone of this post, I do feel better than you, superior in many ways in fact, because of living life on two wheels. These are times that make up for the tone of voice behind years of hearing the question from people like you, “You mean you don’t own a car?” That’s enough for me but then again there is so much more: :traffic congestion, parking, character development and self-discipline (I actually pay attention to the road unlike cagers who insist on doing just about anything other than actually driving while they are on the roads), a spiritual connection to the surrounding environment that most only pay lip service to (try motorcycle camping sometime), and did I mention maintaining my resource consumption to non-war inciting amounts. Big picture, knucklhead, big picture. Try to see it.

22 Mick D September 18, 2008 at 10:47 am

Oh, as far as the ad is concerned, I’ll translate it for you.

“Don’t sweat the current gas situation too much, you own a vehicle that gets 50mpg. Filling up your Sportster and traveling 100+ miles is only going to set you back about 8 bucks or less, so you’re ahead of the curve. Relax, go for a guilt-free joy-ride.”

For the record my Sportster gets between 45 and 55 real world MPG and my Ninja 250 easily gets 60mpg around town and 70 mpg (going 65-70 mph) on the highway.

23 Gerard September 19, 2008 at 7:24 am

I have been riding bikes for 25 years, Japanese, BMW’s even a Triumph, they all have their qualities and failures, I have now settled on a Harley and despite some of it’s misgivings I really enjoy it, it is a personal thing.

As far as fuel goes we know about peak oil etc and plenty of things are being done to enlighten folk and take action where I live but if you don’t like Harleys then don’t critisize it,just piss off and go tell someone else how to make choices.

24 почивки September 19, 2008 at 8:57 am

I bought my first Harley 25 years ago and I still have it. I also have a Honda crotch rocket and a Yamaha dirt bike. Each gets good gas mileage, that s important. However, they re all a great deal of fun to ride, which is also important. If fuel consumption were king, I d bicycle or walk everywhere.

25 McQuade September 19, 2008 at 9:47 am

The funny part about all of this is that everyone on this page that is critizing this add has no idea what they are talking about. I will now proceed to shoot down all of your stero types about the motorcompany.
1. H-D used to making leaking oil pieces of shit. Today they are much more refined machines.
2. The emissions myth if the motorcycle is left in stock trim they meet all emissions requirements. They have actually made them more epa friendly after up the displacement of the motor without sacrificing mpg.
3. Harley is stock in the past with an old school air cooled v-twin. FALSE. They have three models of a liquid cooled 60 degree twin which is totally different from what they mostly sell.
4. MPG- Harleys most high performance motorcycle the V-Rod gets 40 mpg thats pretty good and also thats city not highway. Their best gets 65 on the highway.
5.If you havent ridden a motorcycle for at least 200 miles in one day, you have no right to talk about loving to ride. People that ride for the most part do love to ride so dont talk trash if you dont know.

26 Mick D September 20, 2008 at 10:37 pm

Go McQuade!

I’m all for educating people about motorbikes, I’m an evangelist for them as practical modes of transportation. No one who truly loves to ride motorcycles should let the ideas of someone who doesn’t have real experience in the matter go unchallenged.

Motorbikes are here, now, a real world practical solution to a number of ills associated with private transportation. Little talked about among those ills is guilt about having fun with and taking pride in your choice of transport, especially alternative transport.

How many Prius owners have as much fun as motorcycle owners with their vehicle? Sure, they have a reason to be proud of their choice but how much visceral jump-up-and-down joy does it bring to their life? Oh, and where in the big picture do all those spent batteries go? That alone has to be a bit of a joykiller.

Contemporary humans like to have fun (although I imagine pre-industrial hmans also liked to have fun too) and they’ve created a colorfully storied history of seeing personal transportation as one of the means to do so. There is nothing wrong with that, especially if it can go hand-in-hand with solving some serious contemporary problems.

27 Mick D September 20, 2008 at 10:51 pm

Here’s a thought experiment to try:

Imagine what it would be like if everyone who currently has a job that doesn’t require a jockey box or even a briefcase and currently drives to work solo suddenly, starting Monday, rode a motorcycle to work. Sure its a crazy idea BUT its not an impossible idea the elements to make it happen on such a scale are all currently in place. Right now. This second. Yesterday.

28 HD owner October 3, 2008 at 7:54 am

I have had two harleys. One was an 883 and the one I have now is a Dyna. I don’t think I have ever reached 50MPG on either bike. I don’t think the Dyna has ever reached 40. I’d say the reason to not buy a Harley for 50MPG is because you’re setting yourself up for a great deal of disappointment.

29 Keith October 3, 2008 at 11:38 am

So I read all the ranting and raving. To get a couple things straight here. I am a motorcyclist that regularly rides 400 plus miles in a day, I live in WI, I do not ride a Harley, and I wear all the proper gear when I ride. I ride because I love to do it, I love the smells, the sounds, the sights, and the people you meet. I don’t care what you ride as long as you are having fun doing it.

I see the ad as trying to get someone to buy a bike so they can feel good about helping the blue collar worker and then pull up at the bar to show off their new “american made bike”. Good job, it goes along with all their other ads and marketing.

To get a Harley you can spend $9K. To get a “decent” Harley, you need to spend at least $18K. To own a “nice” Harley you need to spend $22K. Who are you guys kidding, do you ever look at their prices. Lets be serious here. You walked in and got sucked into the “image” of the HD motorcycle, not anything else, including reliability or safety. The bikes are old, heavy, loud(99% fo HD’s have aftermarket pipes), and there is nothing new or cutting edge about those bikes. (Excluding possibly the V-Rod). Everyone knows the expression “you can put lipstick on a pig but it is still a pig”. That is what it is. The lipstick is the chrome and glitz, but underneath that is an old bike. You just walked out of the store with your new bike that you and every other Harley rider knows deep down that they got ripped off on. But hey at least you got your image and you can fit in with the other HD riders. Don’t forget to get your protective gear to save that image. Loud pipes don’t save anything, your pipes face behind you. So when you get on the throttle it isn’t to save you, you just, piss off your neighborhood, your community, other motorists, and mostly other motorcyclists because you are giving them a bad rap too.

As for the Jap bikes, there isn’t a ton of soul in those bikes but they aren’t buying an image. They got a heck of a bike for a steal! And you know what, it is faster, safer, and just as fun to ride as every other bike out there. Those are the guys you HD people should be waving at, make friends with them because they are the smart ones! OK except for the moron with the helmet strapped to the side of the bike.

German and Italian bikes are still the best, I don’t care who you are. Yeah they are expensive but not as much as an HDs. Plus they will most of the time out handle and sound better than anything out there. Plus there is technology, feel and safety. You may say some of them are unreliable, which is true but you also have to think that someone has to take the leap outside of the box and then the rest will follow. These are the guys you want to meet, you may think they are snobs but maybe you should talk to some of them. Most of the time they are the safest riders out there.

I love motorcycles and I love riding. I hate the idiots that don’t wear the proper gear. Because when they go down it is everyone else who has to pick up the pieces. I still feel and smell everything that another unprotected rider does, but the bonus of wearing the proper gear is that you can ride longer at one time and hopefully longer in your lifetime.

As for this comment:
“Actually, no, America will just lose that many more union, family-wage manufacturing jobs.”

Did you ever think that the old Union way doesn’t work in today’s workplace. Most Union employees are overpaid for the job they do which in turn creates a huge overhead, Which forces companies to move their labor elsewhere or cut costs where they shouldn’t be such as R&D. If all the Union employees would make what they “should be” American companies could compete. Believe me a lot of my friends work for big Union factories and they laugh all the way to the bank about what they get paid but then when people get laid off, they don’t get it.

Maybe if Unions were not there everyone could buy products made in the US that are reliable, well build and competitively priced. This would be a move in the right direction.

I hope this gets some of you thinking.

30 J. franks October 3, 2008 at 6:43 pm

They are advertising fuel economy without sounding like a bunch of pussies or self righteous self congratulating wienies about it.

Also if you feel inadequate about your bike, well, don’t blame someone else’s bike or try to justify your purchase to others. You made your bed…

31 Travis December 2, 2008 at 8:29 pm

Wow, I think someone totally missed the sarcasm on this site. I don’t know any riders who aren’t sarcastic with 99% of their lives and anyone who is would see that the point of saying “don’t ride because you get 50 MPG” is telling them “check it out 50 MPG on your harley!”


32 Jamie December 13, 2008 at 6:58 am


We have two Harleys in the family, 2000 Low Rider and 2006 Sporty. The Low Rider gets a consistant 54 miles per gal on highway. The Sporty gets 60 – 62 highway. Most of the driving is at 65 and above. My little 4 cyl truck gets 24, do the math. Only drove my truck 4 times this summer. Another 25,000 miles on the HD. Ride on!!!

33 markit December 22, 2008 at 9:18 pm

If you could have the performance of a Vette and 50 mpg, wouldn’t ya? No? Why are you reading or posting about a Harley ad? Just go away, you’ll never understand.
Some knot head was posting that there are plenty of cars that will get 50 mpg and haul 4 people, woo hoo! That’ll be a fun ride in the gay parade! My Harley will get 48 mpg cruising 75, two up, against the wind, hot day, loaded down with bags for a weekend. Obviously, the ability to cruise loaded down, against the wind at 75 is more important to me than the 48 mpg. I was just curious. On a cool day, just me + no gear, I have no doubt it’ll do better than 50 mpg. And this is not a light weight, uncomfortable, junky plastic throw away bike either. This is a full size, comfortable, fast, tire burning street rod that is a blast to ride! But you econo box freaks won’t get that either. Why were you reading this ad?
Some other knot head was posting that his jap bike was half the price of a HOG. Yea, and it’ll be 10% of the price 5 years from now when you want to trade it in. Ever see a 20 year old jap bike that still looks like new? They build em to be throw aways, like they build TVs. Ride em for a few years and they’re ready for the junk yard. But if you pull into a place with a group of HOGs parked out front, you’ll find half of them with 50,000+ miles and still sparkling like a new bike. That’s fit and finish. That’s quality. What’s the carbon foot print for all the junk jap bikes in landfills?
Harley doesn’t build them to scrap the pegs around every turn, buy a Buell if you want that. Don’t compare apples and oranges. BTW, Harley outsold Honda in 2006 & 2007. Honda sells to a far broader market than does Harley. With all those choices at the Honda shop, you’d think they’d sell more bikes compared to the limited market Harley targets? Must mean the brass at Harley is stupid. And since Harleys are so expensive, the people that buy them are stupid too. Though I’d love to hear your spin on why poor people are all so smart and richer folks are all stupid. If you can’t afford a Hog maybe…
Oh, and for the knot heads who can’t understand why anyone would buy a Harley? Don’t worry about it, we don’t want YOU on one anyway. You’d trash our image.
Getting 50 MPG is cool. Not filling land fills with junk is cool. Great resale value is cool. Bikes that last 30 years are cool. Bikes that can lay rubber AND get 50 mpg are really cool. And so on and so forth. Go read a movie review, the ad wasn’t for you anyway.

34 lurch March 24, 2009 at 3:25 pm

keith–your uninformed, ignorant anti-union [and by extrapolation, pro-Republican] comments tell me YOU don’t get it. Without unions, we’d all be working for less-than-starvation wages while executive bonuses would become even more outrageous than they already are. If you think this is anything new, read Steinbeck’s “The Grapes Of Wrath.” Pay attention to the part where the wage for peach pickers was cut from 5 cents a box to 2 and a half cents. But the orchard owner, who also owned the cannery, made his money. So if unions are such a bad thing, go work for non-union company and do twice the work for half the money. And just to keep it on topic, my slightly modified ’01 Harley Night Train gets 46 mpg city, 59 mpg hwy, [two-up riding at that] and nobody has ever said anything about the pipes [out of earshot, out of mind].

35 Stinly April 27, 2009 at 11:59 am

Bah, Harleys are for wannabe bikers. Most are ridden by lawyers and doctors that are bored. REAL bikers buy a classic and work on it. If you cant tear the bike down and rebuild it, you AINT a biker. you’re a poser.

36 miller April 27, 2009 at 5:13 pm

stinly…with all do respect your argument makes no sense.

You’re claiming that:
1) A harley can’t be a classic (?!)
2) No harley riders can work on their bikes
3) That every professional motorcycle racer/rider whatever knows how to rebuild an engine.

I’ll have you know that I own and 85 harley sportster that I personally rebuilt, and it’s more of a classic with a timeless style that puts your POS hunk of metal to shame. I scorn your ignorance. Oh and by the way, I’m 20 years old, so definitely not a doctor, lawyer, or those other professions that you were too stupid and lazy to attain. And at least they’re rich.

37 olle July 7, 2009 at 1:26 pm

there is nothing bad-ass about HD, just baby boomer american lard ass 🙂

38 Phil December 11, 2009 at 2:55 pm

McQuade – 3 liquid cooled models? Uh no, Harley only puts out air cooled engines. Other than that, spot on.

I am now on my 2nd Harley, I had a 1200 Sportster and last year bought an Ultra Classic Electra Glide. Highway, I get about 45. I’ve had Honda’s and Yamaha’s, they’re good bikes, but I’ll keep my HOG.

39 Zopa January 22, 2010 at 7:46 am

If I was concerned about fuel economy, I’d ride a bicycle. BUT, since I believe that the “Human-Caused-Global-Climate-Change” issue is really a hoax, scam, ploy and generally an attempt to exert further control by “Progressives”, I’ll just keep riding my gas-hog HOG.

40 Kyle January 26, 2010 at 6:39 pm

VulcanRider – Much respect to you. I understand your opinion, and want you to know that I did indeed ride a Suzuki before I bought my harley. Granted, it was an 03 Suzuki Savage LS650, but I will admit that there is quite a bit of culture behind that particular bike…

Then again, I stand by my opinion. The styling of harley’s is both unique and classic, functional yet sexy. And, fyi, I don’t do the loud, obnoxious thing. Stock pipes have a great sound to em. I focus mostly on the comfort and smooth ride…

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