For the first time since 2013, Harley-Davidson is hosting a national Harley Owners Group rally – this one in Milwaukee as part of Labor Day weekend motorcycle events.
Harley Owners Group, also called HOG, has more than a million members worldwide — affiliated with about 1,300 chapters tied to Harley-Davidson dealerships.
In its 34th year, HOG is the official riding club of Harley-Davidson Motor Co., the Milwaukee-based world’s largest manufacturer of heavyweight motorcycles.
The chapters are well known for group rides, charitable giving and the pins and patches adorning members’ vests showing some of their biking accomplishments.
Experienced members mentor new riders and make them feel at home in a motorcycling family.
“There’s really something for everybody in HOG. I think a lot of folks are familiar with the image of the guy with the pins and patches on a vest, but our membership is really much broader and more diverse than that,” said Harley-Davidson spokesman Matthew King.
“For most folks it’s about the camaraderie. They go to events and meet other people like themselves or people who are completely different than themselves. They’re from all over the world but they’re connected by the bike. That’s the one thing they have in common.”
The last national HOG rally was in Milwaukee during Harley-Davidson’s 110th anniversary party in 2013. Before that, there was one in 2009 in Oklahoma City, Okla.
“We wanted to bring back the national rally concept, and we decided to do it this year in Milwaukee. Maybe it’s a bit of a warmup for some folks for the 115th anniversary” in 2018, King said.
Harley-Davidson isn’t predicting how many Harley owners will come to the HOG event, but at least several thousand have preregistered.
“There will be folks from all over the United States and some from around the world. It was long overdue to bring back the national rally,” King said.
The HOG events get underway Wednesday and continue through Saturday, Sept. 2.
Motorcyclists can get some of their first opportunities to test ride model-year 2018 Harley-Davidson motorcycles, including the all-new Softails, at the company’s Pilgrim Road manufacturing plant in Menomonee Falls.
Tours of the Pilgrim Road operations will be available Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
Much of the partying will take place at the Harley-Davidson Museum at S. 6th and W. Canal streets. At the same time, Milwaukee area Harley dealerships are hosting a Milwaukee Rally with live music and group bike rides.
If that’s not enough, the museum will have its own events and partying as it’s done on previous Labor Day weekends.
“We are really trying to bring it all together … It’s going to be a weekend full of music and all kinds of cool, motorcycle-centric activities,” King said.
“All of the (party) activities will take place at the museum and the dealerships. We aren’t doing anything at the lakefront.”
HOG has partnered with the Full Throttle Saloon in Sturgis, S.D., to bring an event called Throttlefest to the national rally.
Full Throttle Saloon, known as the world’s largest biker bar, was made famous during the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally that attracts thousands of bikers.
Throttlefest will include live music, Una’s Circus high-wire thrill show, and the Wall of Death motorcycle stunt show.
The national HOG rally kicks off Wednesday night with the band Déjà vu, followed by Hairball on Thursday night, the Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band on Friday and Jackyl on Saturday.
Labor Day weekend is also the last chance to view the “Race of Gentlemen,” a special exhibit at the museum.