GenZ Biker at the H-D 120 Year Rally
Every rider has a story, their motorcycle love story. The moment they threw a leg over and fell in love with riding. For some, it’s being on the back of dad’s Harley and their feet not even reaching the pegs. For others, it was the definition of their mid life crisis between their 1st and 2nd kid. But for me, the start to my motorcycle love story began in 2018 during the 115th Harley-Davidson Anniversary Rally. I was going into my sophomore year at Marquette here in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and had just purchased my first motorcycle: a blue 2009, Kawasaki ER6N 650. It was my rebellious phase during college (sorry mom!). Within weeks of getting my bike, Milwaukee streets were filled with motorcyclists flocking to the city from all over the world. As my first Rally unfolded, I quickly realized that it wasn’t necessarily about owning a Harley.
You don’t need to bleed orange and black or put on a bad ass biker façade in order to take part in the Harley Anniversary Rally. The Rally is truly something special; it’s an opportunity to see rad bikes, watch stunters & motorcycle races, party hard late into the night, and most of all, bring all walks of life together making damn good memories. Whether young or old, bagger or sport bike, patched club member or a kid on a moped, or even a regular old college girl looking to see what’s up and have a good time, a Harley Rally is the place to be.
Nathan at the 2018 115th H-D Anniversary Rally. The start of a “motorcycle love story.”
The 2018 Rally was just the start to my motorcycle love story.
Fast forward 5 years to the 120th Anniversary and much to my suprise, with many changes in the world along with changes to Harley’s corporate leadership team since the previous rally, the experience only seemed to have gotten better. For starters, there were definitely more motorcycles floating around the city. Activities kicked off at the Harley-Davidson Museum grounds on Thursday, July 13th with a much larger version of their typical Thursday Bike Night. The Motor Company estimated that 73,000 bikes lined the museum grounds and nearby streets throughout the four day rally. Bikers and “cagers” combined, they estimated a total of 130,000 attendees enjoyed the full range of activities throughout the week.
Some of my favorite activities included Flat Out Friday Boonie Bike races, motorcycle displays and demo ride opportunities with LiveWire®, the Division BMX Stunt Show, Mama Tried custom and vintage motorcycle shows, and musical entertainment. I presume the added influx of bikes in this year’s event led to even more “regular people” curiously taking part in the festivities despite not knowing a thing about motorcycles. In my mind, that’s a big win. The more “cagers” turned two wheel enthusiasts the better.
The crowds were impressive, and the city was filled motorcycles.
My goal going into this year’s rally as opposed to the last was to do more. Although the 115th Anniversary Rally was the start to my motorcycle love story, my take away from it was that I needed to get out and experience as much as possible this time. After all, the best memories are made in the heat of the moment, right? Whether I had a riding buddy to join me or not, I needed to immerse myself as much as I could. My first act towards achieving this came a few months prior to the rally when I saw the schedule and realized there would be a Flat Out Friday Boonie Bike race series. Within a week, I purchased a “boonie bike” and began building it out in preparation for the rally. Having no experience with racing, I took the mentality of “no replacement for displacement” and began building the bike.
In collaboration with local engine builder Dan Troyton of Childish Concepts, we swapped out the tired, stock 198cc Hisun pull start engine with a built, Ducar 212. The bike was a certified ripper. While the stock engine topped out at 20mph, the new Ducar was outfitted with ported & milled heads, a cam, billet flywheel and rod, and a VM22 carb. All in, the bike made 16hp on the dyno and topped out at roughly 50mph on the streets. Despite having been a spectator for Flat Out Friday race’s numerous times throughout the last 5 years, I was extremely nervous to say the least. Although these are just over powered children’s mini bikes, the racers I was going up against take boonie bike racing very seriously, some of them even being pro flat track racers! My first race was Friday the 14th in the Harley-Davidson Museum lot so I suited up in a fresh pair of SA1NT “Engineered” armoured motorcycle jeans (review of those coming soon), my REV’IT! jacket and gave it my all. I didn’t get first place but I also didn’t come in last and I learned a lot while doing it. A few of the seasoned racers taught me to look through the corners, hit the apex, throttle out of it, and never touch the brakes.
Nathan throttling through the Boonie Bike course (photo by Brooke Tilidetzke), by the Harley-Davidson Museum.
That was great advice given what I had coming the following day. Saturday the 15th was my second race of the rally: a race called War Run 7. The War Run pulled me out of my comfort zone. I was no longer racing on a small track built in the parking lot of the Harley Museum. It was hosted by Uke’s Harley-Davidson in the field behind the dealership and was a full-on dirt track featuring woops, banked turns, water hazards and a massive jump made of plywood and pallets. Talk about intimidating for someone with no racing experience, let alone no experience riding dirt or jumping anything but a curb! Once again, I didn’t get first place but I also didn’t get last and now I can confidently say I feel comfortable thrashing my boonie and taking it off the occasional jump. In the end, I’m glad I did it. I learned a lot, had a blast doing it, and even made some new friends while at it. Kudos to Harley-Davidson for sponsoring these events.
Nathan sending it (photo by Brooke Tilidetzke) at the War Run 7 races held at Uke’s Harley-Davidson.
While the Boonie Bike races were the icing on the cake for me at this years rally, I’ll never forget the absolute insanity that took place on Brady Street. For the readers that aren’t local to Milwaukee, Brady Street is a half mile strip of great bars and restaurants that often gets shut down by bikers during the rally as it quickly becomes the place to party once the Harley festivities come to a close. Each night, Brady was double parked with motorcycles from side to side and there was never any lack of burn outs, donuts, and intoxicated smiles and laughs. In fact, there was even a makeshift burnout pad in the middle of the street made with sidewalk chalk to egg on hooligan-like behavior. Despite Milwaukee PD’s presence, it got to the point that MPD gave up on trying to stop behavior of the sorts and was seemingly there to ensure general overall safety. Thanks MPD for being good sports to the motorcycle community!
Burnouts up and down Brady Street, Milwaukee.
When I asked first time rally attendee Adam Kerzel to summarize his experience, he replied, “It was my first rally of any kind. I had always thought I understood bike culture, but I had never experienced anything like Brady Street before. It was an absolutely amazing experience filled with people from all walks of life. Never met a group of people that were as welcoming and fun-loving as this. This was my first rally, but absolutely will not be my last.” In reading Adam’s quote, many of you are currently nodding your head up and down in agreement. Whether making new memories like mine and Adam’s or reconnecting with old friends, the rally has been something special. The common theme here: the Harley-Davidson 120th Anniversary Rally brought people together and I’m proud to have witnessed Adam and countless others start their own motorcycle love stories.
Have you ever been to a Harley Anniversary Rally? Let me know in the comments below!
Watch Nathan’s video highlights of the Harley-Davidson 120th Rally, without evert leaving this page: