My only real connection to Harley-Davidson began when my husband and I got married in 2003. At the time, he owned a very cool, 1998 Harley-Davidson Fat Boy. I remember the thrill of riding it only one time–a glorious and exhilarating summer afternoon, on the open roads of Ohio before the commitment to family responsibilities forced us to trade the motorcycle in for an ego-crushing minivan. I am convinced a small piece of my husband died the day that bike left our possession.
Fast forward fifteen crazy years, my husband is now a student at the Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania and the Harley-Davidson Vehicle Operations Factory is in York, just 45 minutes down the road.
For Valentine’s Day, I gave him tickets to the Harley-Davidson Steel Toe Tour–our 24th of 100 adventures. 🙂
Harley-Davidson, a classic, American icon, celebrates 115 years of creating captivating and envy-producing motorcycles this year–2018. What started as an idea and some simple drawings in a shed in 1903, paved the road for a massive and über successful company, which completely supports the belief in the American dream.
Little did William Harley, Arthur Davidson and Walter Davidson know, but their engineering genius and marketing abilities would lead to the creation of a motorcycle empire that unites humans from all kinds of backgrounds, diverse cultures, and genders with no regard to age, religious beliefs or political affiliations. In our crazy, divided world, who would have guessed a motorcycle brand would unify and strengthen a varied and often contentious human race?
Enter the phenomenon of Harley-Davidson Motorcycles.
The company began in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and quickly grew due to the popularity of racing competitions in the early 1900’s. Clubs for bike owners, riders and racers started popping up in rural and populated areas, flourishing after WWI. The Harley-Davidson company built cycles for the military, creating a life-long relationship between the brand and American soldiers.
Today, Harley-Davidson offers tours at three manufacturing plants: Menomonee Falls in Wisconsin, Kansas City in Missouri and York in Pennsylvania.
At the York, PA location, visitors choose 3 ways to explore the factory:
- Free, self-guided tour of the showroom gallery and gift shop
- Free, Classic Factory Tour, includes the assembly line and fabrication areas (about 45 minutes)
- $38 Steel Toe Tour, includes a guided, behind-the-scenes tour of the manufacturing floor, assembly line, fabrication center, employee-only areas of paint and polish, and a close-up view of the roll testing area. (about 2 hours)
My family and I experience the Steel Toe Factory Tour at the Harley-Davidson plant in York, Pennsylvania, but photographs are NOT allowed inside the manufacturing area. However, pictures are allowed in the showroom gallery, to the right of the York Tour Center welcome desk.
I purchased the tickets to the Steel Toe Tour online, which requires guests to commit to a specific date and time. When we arrived at the plant, we entered the York Tour Center and checked in with the information desk. Every person with a paid ticket receives a commemorative pin and a safety vest to wear (and keep!). Safety goggles and steel-toe protection, worn over your shoes, are provided for free.
Everyone also gets a $5 coupon for the gift shop and a copy of the very attractive (lol) group photo taken after the introductory film. 🙂
Because the tour is behind-the-scenes and in the middle of a working, manufacturing plant, everyone wears individual audio headsets linked directly to the guide.
The York factory, established in 1973, creates and assembles the Touring, CVO and Trike Harley models.
Captivated by the pure magnitude and intricate attention to detail, the tour exposed us to areas never seen by the public, including the paint and polishing departments. Our favorite part was the roll test area, a coveted job only awarded to those with senority.
We experienced the fascinating process of manufacturing frames, fenders, fuel tanks and mechanical parts. The factory floor was clean, well organized and of course, ran like a well-oiled bike (machine). The professional craftsmen and craftswomen smiled and took a few seconds to demonstrate each of their contributions to the production of the legendary motorcycles.
Walking through the assembly process and viewing the full scope of vehicle operations gave me and my family a brand new appreciation for the powerhouse Harley-Davidson Motorcycle Company and the beautiful motorcycles they build.
Overall, I would recommend the tour to all motorcycle enthusiasts or people interested in seeing the manufacturing process up-close. There was an excessive amount of time spent just standing and waiting on the Steel Toe Tour and our guide stood silently for much of it, only sharing a few sentences of explanation here and there. We all walked away wanting more historical information.
My only other complaint is personal–Harley-Davidson should be utterly embarrassed that they do not offer a military discount on tours.
The Steel Toe Tour at York Vehicle Operations is located at 1425 Eden Road, York, Pennsylvania, 17402.
The tour is $38 and available Monday-Friday at 9:15 am and 12:00 noon. Book your date and buy your tickets in advance online. The experience was sold out on the day we toured the factory.
The York Tour Center is free to visit and open from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm, Monday-Friday.
Tours are also available in Wisconsin and Missouri and the Harley-Davidson Museum is located at 400 West Canal Street, Milwaukee, WI.
For more information, visit www.harley-davidson.com
We supplemented this experience and recommend watching a very interesting and entertaining mini-series (through Amazon Prime) called Harley And The Davidsons, The Story Behind the Name, from the Discovery Channel.
Interested in other adventures, experiences and tours?