For Harley-Davidson enthusiasts, a long weekend of camaraderie

Harley-Davidson celebrated its 115th anniversary last weekend, bringing motorcycle enthusiasts to Prague from all corners of the globe. Some 110,000 people flooded into the city’s Holešovice neighborhood for the festivities, fully 10% more than expected. I visited the anniversary headquarters at Prague’s Vystaviště to find out what brought this gigantic society together from all over the world.

Photo: ČTK/Šimánek VítPhoto: ČTK/Šimánek Vít Photo: ČTK/Omar Marques / Anadolu AgencyPhoto: ČTK/Omar Marques / Anadolu Agency Shams Kazi, who came with a group of 18 all the way from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, had this to say about the camaraderie of event.

"It's a lifestyle, it's just, you know, you get to meet new people, make a group of friends, travel all over the world. Wherever you go on a Harley, you get a smile from strangers. It's just amazing, you know. Especially in our times, you know, you need something like that."

Do you feel a sense of community here?

"Oh, definitely, yes. Very friendly, everybody's smiling. Coming, tapping us up, like when they see the chapter that we're from Saudi and they're so happy that we came over."

Photo: ČTK/Jan A. Nicolas/dpaPhoto: ČTK/Jan A. Nicolas/dpa Many riders boasted leather vests emblazoned with acronyms, like HOG, Harley Owners’ Group, and LOH, the Ladies of Harley. Sheetal Shah, a dentist from India, introduced me to a few more.

"Our whole community is bonded into a group all over India. And we meet regularly, like we have four different rallies in India. It starts as IHR, Indian HOG Rally Goa, and then it's EHR, Eastern HOG Rally, Western HOG Rally, Northern HOG Rally, and Southern HOG Rally. At all different corners of India. And the community is around 800,000 riders that get together every time."

Neil Farley from the group 1066, named for the Battle of Hastings, said that his British cohorts were particularly excited to be attending the anniversary this July, while they could also catch the World Cup at night. He admitted to being a brand loyalist, after 40 years of riding Harleys.

ČTK/ZUMA/Slavek RutaČTK/ZUMA/Slavek Ruta"The bikes are beautiful, they look very pretty, and they're just so unusual, you know? Compared to the modern bikes, which all look very similar. Difficult to distinguish a Honda from a Kawasaki. You can see a Harley down the street, you know it's a Harley, you know? And that's what makes them outrageously beautiful."

Farley repeated what the others had told me--that a sense of community brings riders like him together from all over the world. And that enthusiasm inspires them to get on the road for other official Harley-Davidson events. Here’s Sheetal Shah again.

"The HOG brotherhood, it's the strongest bonding in the world. Everyone is busy in their life, morning to night. I'm a surgeon, I do dental surgeries in patients all day, and on the weekends when you sit on your Harley and you ride now you fly like you have wings, and you get a feeling of satisfaction in something. That is something which is very good."