Harley-Davidson Iron Elite | Museum Archives
Late 2010, Harley-Davidson (H-D) launched an outreach initiative recognizing the contributions and roles African-American’s have played throughout the motorcycle community entitled Iron Elite.
In February of this year, H-D along with RIDES magazine and NEXX UNLIMITED expanded on this outreach effort with their Brothers of the Bike Exhibit (see our coverage here) held in NYC at Jay-Z’s 40/40 Club with yours truly in attendance.
During the Brothers of a Bike Exhibit, I had the chance to share my history and experience with an H-D film crew for their online Iron Elite video section which ultimately awarded me the opportunity to play a larger part in their upcoming African-American motorcycling exhibit in Milwaukee. In addition to myself, two of the coolest and most dynamic riders I’ve had the fortune of meeting – Goldie Sowers of goldie1779blackbikers.com and Gunz of Savage Skulls of NY were also selected. Compared to these two veterans on the set, I’m a newbie in the game and can only hope to reach their level of riding experiences and accomplishments.
While on our trip, we had the opportunity to briefly check out H-D’s astounding museum encompassing their vast collection of bikes and memorabilia from their humble beginnings launched in a 10×15 shed to today’s top end machines. We were also given the rare opportunity to check out H-D’s massive archives facility. Housed within this limited access area are vintage bikes, historic documents and an incredible collection of items from stunt/showman extraordinaire Evel Knievel, who performed his death-defying feats on a Harley-Davidson XR-750. Words can’t begin to describe the overwhelming sense of “WOW” I experienced to see my childhood super hero’s (in my mind he was a super hero) items. Another surprise (more like a shock) was laying eyes on H-D’s prototype of their chrome laced 2006 three-wheeled vehicle code name “Penster” along with an earlier 1999 mock-up. The Penster featured an advanced computer controlled electro-hydraulic system that monitored the lean of the vehicle in the turns. To say H-D created a bit of controversy when they introduced the VROD would be an understatement, so imagine seeing a Can-Am like bike with an H-D flair that was created more than 10 years ago. Needless to say, this design and engineering marvel was well ahead of its time and remains in their archives as a testament to their innovative efforts.
H-D continues to be one of the few if not only manufacturer that has dedicated outreach efforts towards the many segments of this melting pot we call America. In addition to their Iron Elite, there’s also their Harilistas segment for the Latin American population, WE Ride geared towards female riders and lastly, but equally as important is their outreach to our military and veteran riders.
H-D is set to open their Iron Elite/African American Motorcycling Exhibit in early 2012 in Milwaukee at the Harley-Davidson Hall of Fame Museum with myself, Goldie and Gunz as special invited guests.
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Written by: Leon L. Brittain
Motorcycle Journalist and photographer