Riding a Harley Makes You Cool…But Just How Cool?

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Times have changed. Nowadays, things like tattoos and piercings just aren’t as intimidating as they used to be. So, it begs the question: Does the simple act of riding a Harley make you cool? 

Harley built its image over the course of the last 115 years. And that image is of a rebellious, hardcore, super-cool alternative mode of transportation. Who needs things like safety features and air conditioning when you’re a badass, after all? No, real men — and women — prefer to turn a blind eye to those kinds of things, worrying more about their image and freedom than anything else.

This perception really took hold in the ’60s and ’70s, when popular culture became enamored with two-wheeled rebels and outlaws. And for the following couple of decades, anyone riding a Harley and donning leathers was immediately deemed cool. Even if, in reality, they lived in the ‘burbs, wore slacks on weekdays, and fathered 2.5 kids.


But in recent years, many feel like that image has changed. No longer do people cower in fear when they hear a rumbling exhaust coming their way. Things like tattoos and piercings just aren’t as intimidating as they used to be. So it begs the question: Does the simple act of riding a Harley make you cool? At least, that’s what H-D Forums member Super Glidester was wondering.

“I pulled up in front of a friend’s house on my Harley a while back, and he walked up and said something like “having a Harley isn’t what it used to be, like back in the 90’s when having a Harley was cool.” Is there any substance to that? Like does riding a Harley make me cool?”

We get it. Everybody wants to be cool, as soon as they step foot in kindergarten. And for some, the answer to this query is rather simple. At least in our minds.

“Sure it does,” says wideglideCVO.

“Nope,” says SWThomas. “There are plenty of dipshits riding Harleys.”

“Riding my Harley makes me hot,” quips TriGeezer. “Especially, when it’s above 80 degrees in stop and go traffic.”

Then again, baka1969 uses an ancient phrase to bring up a good point.

“If you have to ask…”


On the other hand, maybe riding a Harley isn’t enough. Maybe it only works if you have the right accessories.

“Only if you wear a three-panel Sons of Anarchy vest, chaps, and fingerless gloves,” says PFWiz. “Then you would be really cool!”

“Tattoos will help you look cool,” adds wideglideCVO.

“Riding in a flannel shirt in 30 degree weather will ensure your coolness,” says Mark @ Baker Drivetrain.

Then again, maybe times have just changed. Riding a Harley used to be a lot different when they broke down all the time, according to Halojumper.

“I think we’re looking at a reverse cause and effect thing here. Back in the old days, when bikes weren’t so mainstream, nor as reliable, it took a special breed of man to own and ride one regularly. So what happened is, over the years, what it took to be a biker (there are other threads to argue those specifics) became watered down and it was easier for non-bikers to play make believe. However, during that transition, the bike and attire was still seen by many as part of what it took to be that person. So people would get the bike and attire (some only got the attire), figuring that the act of doing so would make them into the type of person they were mimicking.”


But hey, as long as you know you’re cool, who cares what others think?

“There was an obscure forum member years ago that said something that stuck with me,” says TwiZted Biker. “He said, ‘I’m a balding middle aged chubby guy, but when I’m out on my bike, I’m as cool as I can be.’ As with anything else it’s a perspective thing.”

If there’s one thing we’ve learned from the wide range of responses here, it’s that everyone’s definition of cool is clearly different. And we want to know what you think! Head over here and chime in with your thoughts on whether it’s “cool” to ride a Harley, or what constitutes it!

Brett Foote is a longtime contributor to Internet Brands’ Auto sites, including Chevrolet Forum, Rennlist, and Ford Truck Enthusiasts.

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