Harley Davidson and Indian Motorcycles are iconic American motorcycle brands with a rich history. Since their launch in the early 1900s, the two brands have shaped public perception by introducing novel motorcycle models.
The first major introductions of the two brands to public attention were during the First and Second World Wars. The US military called on both companies to make motorcycles to help in the war effort.
After successful delivery, Harley and Indian Motorcycles stamped their authority as leading motorbike manufacturers in the US.
The two brands still rule the American motorcycle industry to this day. Their cruiser and bagger models remain the most popular on the American streets.
In this article, we look at each brand’s history and manufacturing. By the end of this Harley Davidson vs Indian Motorcycles comparison, you’ll be able to decide which motorcycle brand between the two is right for you.
Image: Harley-Davidson Official Website
The Harley-Davidson motorcycles company is famous for making some of the best cruiser models of all time.
Although the company manufactures bikes in other segments, too, you can’t talk about cruisers without mentioning Harleys.
Let’s dive into Harley Davidson’s history, how they manufacture their bikes, and some of the famous motorcycles from the company.
Harley Davidson History
Harley-Davidson, also referred to by many as Harley, is an American motorcycle manufacturer founded in 1903. Harley was founded around the same time as the Indian Motorcycle company.
Harley-Davidson’s engine idea came from a 20-year-old boy—William S. Harley. In 1901, Harley designed a 116cc engine strong enough to power a normal pedal-bicycle frame.
Harley and his childhood friend Arthur Davidson later improved on the engine idea to create a better version. The two worked from a friend’s machine shop in Milwaukee.
The engine was completed in 1903 with help from Arthur’s brother—Walter Davidson. Unfortunately, the power cycle failed to climb the hills without pedal assistance. They wrote it off and termed it a learning experiment.
The trio didn’t give up. They started working on a bigger and better engine. They built a 13kg-engine (402cc) with an advanced loop-frame pattern, similar to the Milwaukee Flying Merkel 1903 motorcycle.
The advanced loop-frame design marked the beginning of the production of motorized bikes. With much help from West Milwaukee rail shops, Harley and Davidson’s brother assembled another bigger engine which debuted in September 1904.
The Harley-Davidson prototype motorcycle participated in a Milwaukee motorcycle race in the same year and emerged fourth. This was their first major breakthrough.
Harley-Davidson began selling its engines to other manufacturers during that period. They also produced a few complete motorcycles.
Today, Harley-Davidson produces heavy-weight bikes and air-cooler cruisers. The company is also famous for the customized bikes that gave rise to modern-day choppers.
Materials and Manufacturing
Harley-Davidson assembles its bike lineup in York, Pennsylvania, Kansas City, and Missouri. Most of its engines are made in Milwaukee.
Harley uses fiberglass in some of its components made in Tomahawk, Wisconsin. Their bike frames and chassis feature steel construction.
The company also uses aluminum, magnesium, titanium, and carbon fiber in some of its models.
Popular Harley-Davidson Motorcycles
Harley is famous for making some of the most comfortable and powerful cruisers today. The company extends its product lineup to other segments like sports bikes and touring bikes.
Harley’s Road Glide is one of the most popular performance bagger bikes with a West coast styling and sport-touring profile. Other popular bikes from Harley-Davidson include Softail Standard and Fat Boy.
Harley-Davidson Motorcycles FAQs
Harley-Davidson is a famous bike brand globally. Although the bike has been around for more than 120 years now, most people still don’t know much about this highly loved motorcycle maker.
Below we answer some common questions people usually ask about Harley-Davidson motorcycles.
Are Harley-Davidson Motorcycles Worth It?
Statistics show that motorcycle ownership has gone down, especially among millennials. Many say cars are more comfortable than cycling. This also explains why cruisers continue to dominate the motorcycle market to date.
Harley-Davidson is among the most famous manufacturers of cruisers in the US.
Most Harley bikes have low seats and provide room for relaxing positions. They come in different models—lightweight and heavy bikes with powerful engines.
Harley doesn’t stop at cruisers. The company also manufactures sports bikes, touring bikes, and baggers.
The typical Harley-Davidson motorcycle riders comfort, stability, durability, and speed for those who love racing. All these qualities make Harleys worth every penny spent.
Are Harley-Davidson Motorcycles Expensive to Maintain?
With good maintenance, Harley motorcycle engines can last over 100,000 miles. All it takes is responsible riding, proper storage, and regular servicing.
The company recommends an incremental bike check at 5,000 miles intervals.
The average cost of a 5,000-mile service interval would be about $400. That would translate to only $1,600 if you service your Harley four times per year.
Are All Harley-Davidson Motorcycles Made in the USA?
Harley-Davidson assembles its US-market motorcycles in the US and has several places overseas to produce parts. The company has its leading factories in Wisconsin, where it is headquartered.
Some models are made in specific locations for sale also in particular countries.
Other locations include:
- York, Pennsylvania
- Manaus, Brazil
- Pluak Daeng, Thailand
- Haryana, India
- Kansas City, Missouri
- Tomahawk, Wisconsin
- Milwaukee, Wisconsin
- Buell, East Troy, Wisconsin
Harley-Davidson sources parts from factories in locations like:
2. Indian Motorcycle
Image: Indian Motorcycle Official Website
The Indian Motorcycle company is two years older than its main rival Harley-Davidson. Below we look at the company’s history, including manufacturing location, materials used, and some of the popular Indian bikes on the market today.
Indian Motorcycle History
Indian is an iconic American motorcycle brand founded more than a century ago. The company’s first motorcycle was built in 1901 by Oscar Hedstrom and a former bicycle racer George Hendee.
The company produced its motorcycles in Springfield, Massechutes, between 1901 and 1953. Hedstrom and Hendee formerly named the bikes “Hendee Motorcycles”, before rebranding to Indian Motorcycle in 1923.
The Indian Motorcycle company has maintained its reputation of building some of the most powerful bikes in the world.
In the 1910s, the company was named the world’s largest motorcycle manufacturer. This was after winning the top three positions in 1911 in the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy.
During that period, Indian Motorcycle made top bike models, including the Scout and the Chief, which are still popular to date.
The company went bankrupt in 1953 and stopped independent operations.
Indian Motorcycle resumed its operations in 1999 in Gilroy, CA. Polaris Industries acquired it in 2011. The company is now headquartered in Minnesota and is marketed by Polaris, Inc.
Materials and Manufacturing
Indian Motorcycle predominantly uses steel in its bikes’ frames and chassis. This is mainly due to the high malleability of steel, which makes it easy to work into many different shapes.
Other components feature fiberglass, carbon, and aluminum, depending on the bikes’ specifications and intended application.
Popular Indian Motorcycles
Indian Motorcycle company boasts a wide range of bikes, including cruisers, baggers, touring bikes, and standard bikes.
Like their counterpart Harley-Davidson, Indian Motorcycle thrives more in manufacturing some of the most renowned cruisers.
Indian Motorcycle FAQs
Despite being an iconic American motorcycle brand, many people usually have questions about the Indian Motorcycle name, the worthiness of the bikes, their maintenance, and if the bikes are 100% American-made.
Below we address the questions.
Are Indian Motorcycles Worth It?
Indian Motorcycle manufactures some of the highest-performing bikes on the market today.
The company’s bikes have a unique style, but with keen attention to quality. The Indian Scout is among the most reliable cruisers from the company.
With regular service and proper maintenance, Indian motorcycles are dependable and hold their value.
Are Indian Motorcycles Expensive to Maintain?
It takes routine servicing to realize the full potential of an Indian bike.
Indian Motorcycle engineers recommend the first major service after 24,000kms. That costs about $550, although the figure might vary depending on the bike and the required service type.
Are Indian Motorcycles 100% American Made?
Indian Motorcycle is an American company with factories in Spirit Lake, Iowa, and Medina, Minnesota.
Although some Indian Motorcycle parts are imported, most assembling and manufacturing work occurs in the US. Indian Motorcycle engines are majorly assembled in Osceola, Wisconsin.
Indian Motorcycles vs Harley Davidson: Which Motorcycle Brand is Right for You?
The debate on Indian Motorcycles vs Harley Davidson motorcycles does not have an outright answer on which one performs better.
The two American brands manufacture a variety of lightweight and heavy-bike models suited for different applications.
For instance, the Indians tend to exhibit more power in terms of raw performance on their high-end models than the Harleys.
Most Indian Motorcycle models such as the Indian Scout have lighter clutch pull, advanced powertrains, double overhead cam setups, and more efficient braking systems.
Harleys, on the hand, offer a more alluring charm mostly associated with a traveling American man. The bikes have low ground clearance and relaxed riding positions.
Most Harley big engines tend to heat up more and may not be fit for off-road riding.
The choice between a Harley and an Indian will depend on what you are looking for in a bike. In essence, Indian Motorcycle models are more associated with power. Harley focuses more on charm and comfort and tends to hold more on to its American identity.