Monday, March 31, 2008

Harley Davidson Fails LAPD

Mayor Sam writes that the LAPD is complaining that their Harley Davidson fleet endangers motor cops:

The report cites that the Department has experienced "an abnormal number of repairs due to design deficiencies and poor workmanship in the initial assembly" of the Harley moto-cop bikes… The situation was so bad that in 2007 that all of the Harleys had to be taken out of service for a time for inspection and repairs "to ensure officer safety." One of the chief problems are the brake lines… were not secured properly to the motorcycle causing them to move, vibrate and rub up against one another or other parts of the bike. Harley's supplier network was not able to provide replacement parts quickly enough, eventually leading to several meetings between the LAPD and Harley Davidson. The LAPD claims that Harley has yet to develop a "permanent solution" to the problem… other maintenance issues… include premature starter failure, breaking shift linkages, exhaust pipes falling off and assorted electrical problems.

Harley blamed some engine failures on LAPD using the wrong type of motor oil; yet Harley did not recommend what type of oil should be used.
One reliable source told me that the LAPD went with the more costly Harleys over better performing and lower-cost Hondas because the “command staff was afraid police officers couldn’t handle high performance motorcycles.”


Cops are very hard on police bikes. Unlike most motorcycles, police bikes go from OFF to 70-plus pursuit to OFF within a minute. Throttling from zero to sixty in three or four seconds is hard enough on a warm bike. Doing that for 200 days each year is really tough on the bike, and a rider must rely on performance to do that safely.

Kawasaki commanded the market for twenty years. Their KZ1000s were reliable and inexpensive workhorses that could handle the punishment. Many retired LAPD KZ1000s are still patrolling in Mexico.

I’ve never been a fan of Harley Davidson. Having ridden hundreds of thousands of miles on motorcycles around LA and North America, I’m accustomed to passing frustrated riders as they supervise the towing of their gleaming Harley’s to a repair shop.

For those who belittle rice burners, Honda is engineered in Torrance, California and built in Marysville, Ohio.

Beyond their rumble and shake, it’s hard to imagine what attracts people to Harley Davidson today. They once complained that Honda’s Shadow sounded and felt too much like a Harley. Honda engineers told me they built flaws (like imbalanced cam pins) into their engines to rattle like Harleys. Imagine that – building flaws into a machine so it’ll sound like other flawed machines.

As for the Harley Davidson mystique, I suspect that weekend riders like to boast that theirs is unique among the majority of oil-dripping lemons that other Harley riders own. That they must spend $20K to $50K to turn it into a reliable classic is telling.