Thursday, September 25, 2014

Pennsylvania Road Trip - Harley Davidson Factory Tour

Outside the visitor center
After leaving the Martin's Potato Chips Factory Tour, we headed a few miles away for a tour of quite another sort.  Have I mentioned in any of my blog posts how much I love taking factory tours?

Harley employees claim visitors will witness "passion forged in steel."  Riders call these motorcycles legendary.   So, we set out to see just how these "legends" are made.

We arrived at an impressively large facility, just at the same time as a parade of motorcyclists zoomed in. There were a lot of shiny, polished bikes, a wholebuncha black leather, and might I have possibly sensed a Harley "tude" wafting in along with those bikers?  In a good way, of course.  I felt just a tad out of place in my pink jacket and blue flowered Vera Bradley purse.

We passed the time until the start of our free tour by exploring in the visitors' center, where there were displays of the entire manufacturing process.  Since photography is not allowed in the actual plant, this visitor area is where I took all of the photos you will see here.

The process starts with the fabrication of the fuel tanks and fenders.  During the actual tour, we saw the massive machines that use force to bend the pieces into the proper shapes.

Next we saw the areas where the frames are produced.  We learned that all joints are connected by immense robotic welders, then are carefully inspected by employees.  We watched the frames being moved throughout the plant on overhead lines, almost like moving clotheslines.

There were numerous assembly areas within the factory based on the type of motorcycle being constructed, where all the required pieces are added one at a time to the frame as it moves down the line.  Each station has a computer monitor, with its screen showing an added green mark when each piece has been successfully and correctly added.  At the end of the line, when the motorcycle is all assembled, the screen is fully green.

Of course there are the painting and decal applications.  We learned that the painting process is what takes the majority of the start-to-finish time.  If it wasn't for the paint process, an entire bike could be constructed in as little as 3 to 6 hours, depending on the model.

Towards the end of the construction, there are quality assurance tests, and each motorcycle gets a "roll test."  At each of four stations, a professional rider was putting a bike through a multitude of tests, including simulated driving through a number of gear changes.  A final technician takes a percentage of the Harleys out of the factory and test drives them on the highways around York, Pennsylvania.

On one long wall were photos of all the various models Harley Davidson has produced down through the years, along with their model names.  I had no idea before seeing this that this one company made such a large variety of motorcycles.

On the floor of this large area was what truly seemed to excite a large portion of the visitors - the motorcycles themselves.  Right there to see and touch, and even, oh yessssssss, to sit on and dream of riding.

All of them, just so shiny, brand spankin' new, and oh so Harley-ish!

The husband/lover/driver just couldn't resist.  He had to sit his little behind up on one of them, and he did remind me that he had indeed passed his motorcycle test.  Yes, I did remember that he does have a motorcycle license.  But really, some of these machines have prices the same as the GNP of some small to medium countries!

Honestly, the wall of testosterone emanating from that area around those bikes nearly launched me down to the end of the room, where the kids play area was located.

There was a very clever activity there for the kids to try assembling their own Harley, using metallic parts that would stick in place.  Sort of like a large wall puzzle.  I'm not too proud to admit that I am a big kiddo and wanted to try this.

Although I have absolutely no large interest in riding motorcycles, I found myself surprised at how interesting this tour was.  There did seem to be a good camaraderie among the workers in the plant, and I sensed a lot of pride in what they were doing.  I was fascinated by the machinery and the processes, too.

Would I ever want a Harley?

Nah.  I'm not a big fan of orange and black.


  1. My son has one that looks just like that red one in 6th picture down from the top. When he was only a couple of years old, he would ride in front of me on my old Harley. Guess he caught the bike fever from that ride. (grin)

  2. Great tour. Will have to add that to the list:)