Text by Sajeet M. Rajbhandari
There are a few things in life that instill the same kind of excitement and thrill the way the deep growl of a Harley Davidson V-twin engine does. The raw power and the rustic appeal of this all-American two-wheeler catches the eye and the imagination even on the jam-packed Kathmandu rush hour street. But to really give justice to all the horsepower that a Harley gives, you’ve got to take to the highways where you can really let loose. In less than a year since arriving commercially on the Nepali black top, Harley Davidson has certainly been a key gear in driving the market for high-end luxury two wheelers in the country. Here’s all you need to know about what this Milwaukee brand has been up to here in Nepal.
The road to Nepal
The journey to Nepal, for Harley Davidson, has been a long one. While Harley Davidson has survived two world wars and two economic recessions, the two-wheeler manufacturer only started commercial sale of its products in Nepal after it made its first official debut at the NADA Auto Show in 2018. Since then Harley Davidson Nepal has been retailing their Iron 883 motorbike from their Sportster line up at their exclusive showroom in Gairidhara, Kathmandu. While the company has imported other motorbikes for their clientele and is planning to introduce af ew more from the Harley Davidson’s extensive line up, Mahesh Thapa, showroom manager for Harley Davidson Nepal shares, “Nepalis generally have a smaller physique than their Western counterparts. Given the demographic, introducing the Iron 883 was a good step since it’s one the more ergonomic motorbikes from the Harley line.” The Sportsters are also one of the more affordable series that Harley Davidson has to offer. However, while the Iron 883 is priced at only about $8999 in its native country; shipping costs and steep taxation on high CC automotive imports by the Nepal government hikes the price to become almost five times more than the actual retail price, ending up at approximately 45 lakhs in Nepali currency.
Thapa also shares details on how the company operates, “Harley Davidson Nepal is part of Harley Davidson Asia Pacific which is headquartered in Singapore. The brand answers directly to Harley Davidson in Singapore, with Harley Davidson India being the next closest region to Nepal.” Furthermore, the company has also just started the Nepal chapter for Harley Owners Group, more fondly known as HOG. Not only does the team hope that HOG will introduce Nepali riders to the Harley Davidson culture but also that the group would put Nepal on the map for Harley riders all around the world.
The showroom and the team
When you first enter Harley Davidson’s showroom in Gairidhara, you’ll be amazed at how the space has been able to recreate the signature Harley Davidson style. Started off as just a bare concrete space which was still under construction, the Harley Davidson Nepal team managed to transform it to its current state. It’s hard to miss the black and orange colours that signify the Harley theme. From reusing mango wood for floorboards to oxidizing the metal pillars to achieve the rustic Harley vibe, The Harley Davidson showroom is certainly a motorcyclist dream.
However, high-end motorbikes aren’t the only thing you’ll find yourself browsing through at the showroom. It also serves as a retail store for authentic Harley Davidson merchandise, gears and equipment. With products ranging from handlebars and engine oils to Harley Davidson apparel, the showroom is certainly a mixed bag. In fact, Thapa explains that the showroom was designed to have a very modular design, which in turn means that the showroom will have a new look to it each time you visit. Since the apparels are kept relevant to the season and style, the shelves are constantly changing. Harley Davidson Nepal has also come up with apparel closer to home with 20 odd different styles of tees and sweatshirts that flaunt graphics that shout Nepal and Harley together. Besides, the showroom also features a fully functioning service center built for Harley Davidson motorbikes which operates with a small but dedicated team of mechanics and technicians who have undergone extensive trainings at the Harley Davidson University in Bangkok.
The Harley Davidson lifestyle
If you are in the market for a vehicle that is just to get you from point A to point B then a Harley Davidson is definitely not for you. Thapa boldly claims, “Harley Davidson is not just a motorbike but a lifestyle.” As a matter of fact, one the major reasons riders are drawn towards a Harley is because of the subculture that it has built around it. Not just for the Harley riders here in Nepal but also for riders from all around the globe, the brand has grown to become a brotherhood of sorts. “It really isn’t a bike that you drive daily.” shares Thapa, “It’s more a bike that you drive on the weekends with your friends with your leather jacket on.”
Over the course of less than a year since their arrival to Nepali roads, the brand has managed to sell 25 units. When asked about their stance on other luxury motorcycle brands in the market, Thapa explains that if people are willing to spend such large amounts of money on a motorbike, then they already know what they are looking for.
Thapa elaborates, “You don’t need to sell a Harley Davidson, in reality people come purchase it themselves. When we first came to Nepal, people were thrilled to see Harleys driving down the streets of Kathmandu. People would come check out our bikes and people who own older Harleys came to us for maintenance.”
When it comes down to it, owning a Harley Davidson would seem a lot like having something that is an extension of you. While anybody with the resources can go to a showroom and ride one home right away, Harley Davidson is a brand that truly shines its brightest when it comes to personalisation. People who seek to buy a Harley often have specific demands when it comes to their purchase; and while the Nepali government prohibits modification of vehicles, people are can still play around with various visual aspects of their motorbikes in order to make their ride stand out.
The road ahead
For a luxury brand that only just arrived into the country, Harley Davidson has been making steady and consistent growth. “We are the only official licensed dealership in Nepal, but that doesn’t mean we are always going to be the only licensed dealership in Nepal.” shares Thapa as he discusses that Harley Davidson is looking into the possibly opening up more dealerships in other cities in the days to come.
Looking to make a mark in the riding culture that has been growing in Nepal, the brand is also looking into conducting tours and events with its growing HOG Nepal group. While the bikes that Harley Davidson offers might not be the best for trips on rougher terrain of the Upper Himalayan region, the motorbike brand is counting on promises of the government in building good highways and freeways throughout the nation. Flat top roads such as the belt road project and the recently finished road to Muktinath are promising tour routes for Harley Davidson riders.
The company is also looking towards expanding its target demographic by bringing in and reselling refurbished Harley Davidson’s for a relatively lower price tag.