Plant tours highlight gathering of the faithful
York, Pa., Sept. 28-30—For over 20 years, the Harley-Davidson York Vehicle Operations facility has held an annual open house, where Harley enthusiasts tour the plant and partake in other activities surrounding the weekend. This year’s York Open House kicked off September 28 at 9:00 a.m.
When I entered the plant on Friday at 10:30 a.m., two of the parking lots were already full. The weather was beautiful and riders were coming in from all over the U.S. and Canada. For all three days we could hear the roar of bikes coming from both directions of U.S. 30, the highway that leads to the plant’s location at 1425 Eden Road in Springettsbury Township. Just walking through the parking lots looking at all the customized bikes could take days, especially if you spoke with the owners about their builds.
As I walked towards the main building, I met Bob, a tour guide who spoke with me about the tour and plant for about 45 minutes. If you are at all interested in Harley-Davidsons, this tour is a must-do; it’s great to see how your bike was built. CVOs, Touring models and Trikes are assembled here, and the plant also manufactures major parts like frames fuel tanks, and fenders. It’s amazing to see the processes the employees go through and the pride the employees take in what they do makes you proud to be an owner.
Back outside, the United Way had a dunk tank with a clown; I just had to check it out. In the upper lot was a band stand where Madison Rising played Friday night, and they rocked the stage. There were food vendors as well as a few other displays such as Exotic Chrome and Fastenol Racing Team, and H.O.G. members could pick up their pins at the H.O.G. pin stop. Five area Harley-Davidson dealers, Appalachian, 1st Capital, Lancaster, Susquehanna Valley, and White’s, had set up tents packed with merchandise. This was also the culmination of the Roll With Us Dealer Pin Ride, where riders visit each of the five participating dealerships and had their cards stamped between September 1 and September 30. The completed card had to be turned in at the Eastern Harley-Davidson Dealers Association tent set up at the Open House by 3:00 p.m. on September 30 to win a $500 Harley-Davidson gift card. And the first 500 people to turn in their completed cards received a commemorative event pin.
Demo rides of the 2018 models proved quite popular. There was at least a half-hour wait to test ride a new Softail, Sportster, Street, Tourer, CVO or Trike. While waiting for a demo ride, attendees could watch the stunt show at the other end of the lot. A police team went through a course of cones and it was amazing how they maneuvered without laying the bike over. Afterwards was a demonstration of how to pick up a fallen bike. Then Derek, the emcee for the IllConduct Stunt Team took over and introduced Cole and his 13-year-old protege AJ. What a show these two performed! They did things with those bikes that left a lot of the bikers with their jaws hanging down in disbelief. It’s hard to visualize a bagger doing a near-vertical wheelie with the taillight touching the asphalt. Once Derek explained you started to hear clapping and yelling when you realized what just happened. Cole and AJ finished with some crazy burnouts leaving a smoke trail that could be seen from across the lot. You could get a collector T-shirt for only $10 and take a souvenir picture with them for free.
As an added attraction, for the past 23 years, the city of York also holds its annual Bike Night on Friday night, kicked off by a motorcycle parade from the York Expo Center to downtown York. This year was the last that Bike Night will be held on Friday. Starting in 2018, Bike Night will be held on Saturday night of Open House weekend to attract more visitors.
You don’t have to wait for the annual Open House to take a tour. Free “Classic” tours are held from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Monday through Friday all year round, and if you want to see what goes on behind the scenes, you can sign up for a Steel Toe tour conducted twice daily Monday through Friday.