H-D motorcycles were raced almost from the beginning of the company. In fact the very first appearance of a motorcycle created by William Harley and the Davidson brothers, Arthur, Walter, and William, was in a Milwaukee, Wisconsin motorcycle race.
H-D created an official racing department in 1914, but even before that co-founder Walter Davidson rode a stock single cylinder machine to victory in The Federation of American Motorcyclist endurance and reliability contest of 1908. This race, which had 65 competitors, was a grueling 2-day event that was held on 365 miles of dirt roads in the Catskill Mountains. Davidson earned the only perfect score.
By 1912 H-D had added speed to their successful racing equation by setting a new record at the Bakersfield Road Race. The success of H-D racers, whether on muddy dirt roads, or wooden plank tracks continued despite the interruption of World War I. H-D shattered speed records by 1921, becoming the first motorcycles to reach speeds of 100 miles per hour during a race. H-D racers were known as “the Wrecking Crew, because of this success.
Notoriety continued when a H-D sidecar one the first annual Pike’s Peak race in 1916, and another H-D claimed first place in the 1922 Adelaide to Melbourne South Australia race.
Joe Petrali was one of the best H-D racers of the early Twentieth Century. In the six years between 1931 and 1936, Petrali amassed the most National points five times. The year 1935 proved to be his best season with his winning of every race on the 13-stop National schedule. Petrali also set a speed record in 1937 by riding a 1937 Model E 61 cubic inch V-Twin Streamliner at speeds of 136.183 miles per hour, at Daytona Beach. He also won the National Hillclimb Championship 8 years in a row beginning in 1929. What a guy!
Racing was halted for the H-D team and others with the start of World War II. Petrali did not return to the circuit when the war was over but H-D continued to dominate the scene.
The tradition of great H-D racing continues today with both drag racing and flat track racing. Most national championship races are managed by the AMA in the United States. These include the AMA Supercross Series, AMA Superbike Championship, AMA Motorcross Championship, and AMA Flatrack Championship. The National Hot Rod Association is another great racing venue for H-D riders.
The VRSXE Screamin’ Eagle V-Rod Destroyer is H-D’s current pride and joy of drag racing machines. This bike can do a quarter mile run in less than 10 seconds. This machine is not street legal and ill see limited production.
The Buell Motor Company, a subsidiary of Harley Davidson also produce bikes for racing. Buell motorcycles are available at select Harley dealers. Buell racing teams are definitely up and coming, claiming top spots in several recent racing events. This success is propably due to the fact that the founder of the company, Eric Buell was not only a racer himself, but worked as an H-D engineer before forming his own company.