IT WAS a staggering 12.5 million kilometres (12,551,499 to be exact) ... that was the final distance covered by Harley Davidson riders around the world after the official World Wide Ride drew to a close earlier this week.
Taking place over two days, June 24 - 25, the event showed the loyalty, spirit and camaraderie of one of the world's strongest brands.
"Tens of thousands of riders around the world participated in H-D World Ride on June 24 and 25. It was a celebration of spirit, community and of just getting out on the road and enjoying the ride," it said on the Harley-Davidson website.
Arriving at Brunei's Harley-Davidson dealership at the Lambak Industrial area, and you'd be forgiven for thinking it was a small turn out. Until you actual toured the whole compound and saw that there were bikes parked on the opposite side of the building, blind to any passerby driving out the front.
Closer inspection and more bikes had lined up and set their stall out in the front, again unseen to those who hadn't actually gone around the building. By the time the majority of the crowd had arrived, a modest thirty motorcyclists had settled in ready for the briefing on a Sunday afternoon, to join the Brunei Chapter of the Harley Owner's Group for their official World Wide Ride.
Walking up to complete strangers that afternoon I'm greeted with a smile, polite hellos and warm handshakes. People ask how I'm doing, without even knowing who I am and what I'm doing there. It is a stark contrast from the reputation that's been forged of what other road users think of motorcyclists, not just Harley Davidson riders.
Bikers in Brunei frequently received a reputation for being rogue road users, detached, and unkind on the road. That has more to do with their regard for safety and other Bruneian drivers' inherent disregard for anyone else but themselves.
Before setting on a safety briefing on what was to happen, prayers for everyone's safety, and they're off. There is so much that the organising committee of car events in Brunei can learn from the motorcycling community.
When on the road the riders take a "safety in numbers" approach, it works too as cars give way and are extra careful when they are around this group of riders. The convoy itself has certain signals to point out dangers, pot holes, other cars, stray objects on the road, which anything else on two wheels could care less about.
If anything it was a great example of how to behave on the road, then being polite and courteous to other road users is the motto.
Despite Brunei being such a small country, the reach of Harley-Davidson is long and far.
Riders from all over the country came to participate and it didn't just extend to those that attended the Sunday ride, but to others in the country too. Prior to the official journey, other Harley owners that couldn't join were preparing their motorcycles too.
In Jerudong, while filling up my car, I saw a rider who wasn't at the afternoon ride. He had obviously been clocking up mileage on his own, to submit to the Harley-Davidson World Wide Ride registry online.
Others had gone the day after, and in smaller groups, all contributing to the worldwide tally.
People think that Harley Davidson owners are all about chrome, big flashy bikes, and more about image and presence rather than riding itself. Personally I think that's just a part of the heritage that the company can't escape from, and its something that should be celebrated as part of its history.
At the centre of it all is the machine, the Harley-Davidson motorcycle. It ties everyone together, and is instantly recognisable thanks to the sound of its engine and exhaust note, and believe me, there is nothing like it.
Many have come and pointed out dated designs and flaws, but tell that to the millions of riders around the world that have a soft spot for the American motorcycle.
While there are other bikes that are faster, more practical and fuel-efficient, the character of Harley-Davidsons, and to a certain degree their owners, are what sets them apart.
Such a varying degree means that it accommodates for almost everyone, and that the ownership is part of the experience. Nothing highlights this more than the different activities carried out across the board.
There's a Harley-Davidson for everyone and you won't know it until you actually go and see for yourself.
The Brunei Times
Sunday, July 1, 2012
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