2014 Hog Rally: Harley-Davidson Owners’ Group
Every HOG has its day…
If you don’t own a Harley-Davidson, chances are you don’t know much about the Harley Owners’ Group. It’s not exactly a secret society, with more than a million members worldwide and more than 8000 in Australia spread over 70 chapters.
Each chapter has a sponsoring H-D dealership and the group is for H-D owners only. It started in the US in 1983 and clearly met a need, enrolling 33,000 members in its first year. Since then it has continued to grow and is now the largest factory-sponsored riding club in the world.
Australia’s first chapter was OzHOG, formed in 1987, and was the first chapter formed outside of North America. The first national rally was held in Dubbo in 1990 and, since then, the love has been spread with national rallies all over the country including Wellington, Darwin, Mackay, Perth, Launceston, Canberra, Surfers Paradise, Mt Buller and Margaret River. These riders clearly aren’t scared of distances.
The 2014 rally was held in near-perfect weather over four days in Cairns in early May. Around 1500 registrations were received but many more people were present and involved in the festivities. Most of the activity was centred at the Cairns showgrounds where members could camp and enjoy a range of entertainment and dining options set up for them. Events ranged from piglet racing to a very well-received cabaret performance from soul diva Lisa Hunt after the Friday night dinner.
The feature event was the Thunder Run on Sunday morning where around 1000 Harley-Davidsons rode from Cairns to Port Douglas and back. The noise turns participants into instant celebrities and thousands of waving locals lined the route and welcomed the bikes back to the Cairns Esplanade afterwards for a giant bike show and more partying.
The decision many HOG members made when they decided to ride to Cairns in their chapter groups had a special level of tension. Queensland’s Newman government had recently passed the Vicious Lawless Association Dis-establishment Bill (VLAD), which can make it an offence for three or more members of proscribed patch clubs to associate together.
The laws were specifically targeted at ‘outlaw’ motorcycle clubs, but the Queensland police initially found it hard to differentiate between social riders and the alleged criminal class.
According to a report in Motorbike-Writer.com, a Queensland-based member of the harmless Ulysses Club was pulled over five times on one short trip, the fifth time just three kilometres after the fourth one. Allegedly, the first police officer told him to remove his Ulysses patch or he would continue to be targeted.
HOG chapters generally don’t have patches but riding in large groups was bound to attract police attention. Negotiations between H-D, HOG and the Cairns District Officer Chief Superintendent, Paul Taylor, ensured a smooth relationship over the weekend with two police officers on H-D Police Specials leading the Thunder Run – at a cracking pace – on the Sunday.
To acknowledge the resolve of those who made the decision to attend, a special badge was pressed with Cairns 2014 on it, the HOG logo and the statement, “I choose freedom”. It will certainly become a collectors’ item.
The rally received extensive media treatment in the local paper, the Cairns Post, including an editorial which expressed the community’s appreciation for the event being held in its region.
According to the paper, riders and guests injected around $4 million into the local economy. It’s Tamworth’s time in 2015 and MT will be there again – maybe this time on our own H-Ds.
HOG can clearly become infectious.
Brad & Michelle Hawkins
Bikes: Softail Custom 1200 & 1200 Sportster (lowered).
Chapter: Gasoline Alley.
“We’ve only been involved with Harleys for three years and this is our first national rally although we went to the state rally in 2012. Our chapter has around 300 members so there’s always plenty of company when we ride together. I [Michelle] started out on the back of Brad’s bike but I immediately had the feeling I wanted to be in control so I bought the Sportster and had it lowered so I could get my feet on the ground. I’m happy with my bike but Brad is thinking of moving on to a Breakout.”
Yosemite (Road King), Dowsie (Road King), Caspar (Fat Boy Slim), JD (Road King)
Chapter: South West Sydney.
Yosemite, Dowsie and JD have been involved with HOG for an average of 12 years. They were quick to point out that Caspar’s involvement had so far been less than a week. The South West Sydney chapter has 254 members of whom 56 attended. They’ve been to all but two national rallies in the last 10 years mainly for stress relief – it’s a great getaway. Yosemite said the atmosphere was very relaxing and all agreed that it was refreshing to be in an environment where nobody was judged – there’s a high level of acceptance once you’re in the HOG family.
Phillip & Geoff Mann
Bikes: 50 in total, mostly Phil’s.
“We’re brothers and we grew up in Heidelberg, Melbourne. I learnt to ride fast when I was 16 because we were always being chased by the police. We’ve got Harley-Davidsons now and it was good that we left it so long as H-Ds got better as we got richer. Geoff lives on the Sunshine Coast now – an early retiree – but we usually manage a few 6000km road trips each year. I’m pretty much a Triumph man but Harley is family now – I like that there’s no aggression in the HOG community. I like H-D’s history, I like pushrods and I think we’ve absolutely lived in the best generation.”