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History of Harley-Davidson: How Old Are They?

How old is Harley-Davidson®? The answer may surprise you. 

Harley-Davidson® is an American motorcycle manufacturer with more than 100 years of history. It was founded in the early 20th century by William S. Harley and Arthur Davidson. With more than a century of motorcycle manufacturing to its credit, it has become one of the most iconic brands in the world.

How old is Harley-Davidson?

Harley-Davidson® was founded in 1903, making the company just over 116 years old. However, it can trace its roots back even further. 

In 1901, William S. Harley and Arthur Davidson began working on a motor-assisted bicycle. The two men eventually succeeded in creating a prototype. In 1903, they founded the Harley-Davidson® Motor Company. Since then, Harley-Davidson® has become synonymous with American motorcycles.

The first Harley-Davidson

The first Harley-Davidson® was built in 1903 by William S. Harley and Arthur Davidson in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Motorcycle.com reminds us.

This prototype motorcycle was created in a backyard shed by William and Arthur. The company sold those production models in 1904-1905. Then, they began working on a new bike with a bigger engine, which they completed in 1904. This bike was raced at the Milwaukee State Fair Park that year.

The first Harley-Davidsons® were named Model 0 and Model 1. They were built on a bicycle-like frame with a rear coaster brake. These old Harley-Davidsons® were simple machines, but they laid the foundation for the powerful and stylish motorcycles that have become synonymous with freedom and adventure.

The oldest motorcycle company isn’t actually Harley-Davidson

In fact, Peugeot Motocycles is the oldest motorcycle manufacturer in the world. 

Founded in 1898, Peugeot presented at the Paris Motorshow the first motorcycle equipped with a Dion-Bouton motor. Today, Peugeot Motocycles offers a range of traditional and electric motorcycles, scooters, and mopeds. 

Old Harley-Davidson® fans will appreciate the vintage design of the Peugeot 103 moped, while those looking for something more modern can check out the sleek Peugeot Metropolis scooter.

The oldest known Harley-Davidson motorcycle

When you ask, “what is the oldest Harley bike?”, You just have to look at how old Harley-Davidson® is as a company. They’ve been producing Harleys since the company’s inception in 1903. 

So, the oldest Harley-Davidson® is the first prototype — model 0 — that they produced. It looks a lot like a cruiser bike with a motor attached. But, despite its small engine, it could reach speeds of 35 miles per hour. However, it couldn’t climb up the Milwaukee hills without the rider pedaling. They immediately began production on newer, more modern motorcycles. 

The Harley-Davidson® Model 1 was the first actual motorcycle — not just a prototype — created by Harley-Davidson®. They sold the old Harley for $200 and created 38 copies. Models 2 and 3 came next, sold 1906–1907. 

These old Harley-Davidsons® had a dual-spring front-end suspension. The partners were experimenting more and more with motorcycle innovations, cementing a name for themselves as forerunners in the industry. Little did they know it at the time, but they were laying down the roots for American motorcycle culture. 

Harley-Davidson and WW1 and WW2 

During both World War I and World War II, Harley-Davidson® manufactured motorcycles for the US military. In fact, during World War II, the company produced over 88,000 motorcycles for the war effort, as well as provided training for soldiers on how to maintain and repair them. 

Harley-Davidson 100-year anniversary 

In 2003, Harley-Davidson® turned 100 years old. This historic event was commemorated by biker parties across the USA, but the official anniversary party was a four-day long bash in Milwaukee. 

Thousands of people came to enjoy the festivities, which included music, food, and of course, plenty of motorcycle riding. There were plenty of old Harley-Davidsons® to look at! It was a truly memorable event for all who attended. 

The anniversary was commemorated with a 100-year anniversary bike. Like the other Harley-Davidson® anniversary bikes, the centennial is displayed on the engine. But this bike has a special insignia and new paint schemes, with a liquid metal effect. The Harley-Davidson® 100-year anniversary bike retails for $18,695. 

If the 100-year anniversary bike is up your alley, be sure to check out the 105th year Harley-Davidson® anniversary motorcycle and similar model. Bikes like the Road King® Screamin' Eagle® offer a unique experience.

Harley-Davidson® may be old — they have been an American icon for over 100 years — but they show no signs of slowing down. 

Harley-Davidson today 

Today, Harley-Davidson® is one of the most recognizable brands in the world. The company offers a wide range of motorcycles, including cruisers, sportbikes, and touring bikes. 

They also offer a wide range of clothing and accessories, making them a one-stop shop for motorcycle enthusiasts. Whether you're looking for a Harley-Davidson bike or just some new gear, we’re sure to have what you're looking for. Check out our wide selection of new Harleys.