Croatia Harley Days – the media point of view

Oxford (July 17, 2014) - When the return of a Harley Days event in Biograd, Croatia after a three-year hiatus was announced, many UK H.O.G.® members made the decision to travel to this event to soak up the atmosphere and meet old friends. And why not? The last time Harley Days visited this venue it was hailed as the ‘party of the summer’. With the inclusion of the 23rd European H.O.G.® Rally, this year’s revived event in June was definitely a repeat performance and then some…

Set within the stunning location of Biograd na Moru’s harbour, itself holding the calm water of the Adriatic sea at bay, visitors to Croatia Harley Days soaked up the warmth of the sun while experiencing everything we’ve come to expect from such exceptionally well-organised Harley Days events. Official reports gave the figure of attending Harley-Davidson owners, H.O.G. members, fans, local families and non-Harley riders as 50,000-plus. That’s an amazing figure to achieve from what is basically a new four-day event on Croatia’s Dalmatian coastline.

Entertainment of live music, played across two impressively large stages, kept the party feel going into the early morning hours. Despite rain falling early Saturday morning, it didn’t deter participants in the Bike Parade mass ride-out from neighbouring Zandar to Biograd. Many thanks were heaped upon Croatia’s Pleter Chapter, who ensured the Bike Parade ran without a hitch and treated the riders to some stunning coastal roads.

With demonstrator rides booked to over capacity, it was a delight to see the amount of happy faces returning back to the Demo Area – many of the smiling faces were obviously from people who had just had their first experience of riding a Harley-Davidson. These people and thousands more visitors then went on to take part in the many other event organised activities.

Biggest smiles were reserved for visiting media journalists from the UK who had never experienced first hand what a Harley Days event had to offer, and also what was involved attending an event outside of the UK.

To enable UK media to see the fun and friendliness of being part of H.O.G. – the largest motorcycle owners club – Harley-Davidson UK & Ireland invited three non-specialist and one specialist media journalists to join their staff in riding to Biograd from The Times, the Daily Mirror, and a freelance motoring writer for the Press Association. The one specialist ‘journo’ was Andy Hornsby of American V magazine.

With the exception of Andy Hornsby, the invited journalists had never completed a long-haul ride onboard official Harley-Davidson machinery. Over the course of the trip, the riders rode the Street Glide®, Road King Classic® and Electra Glide Ultra Classic® from the Touring range and a Dyna® Fat Bob® complete with accessory windshield. Needless to say, the riding group were very impressed with the long distance comfort offered up by all of the bikes. The one area that did provoke some jealousy was the Touring bikes’ ability to lay down some awesome sounds from the latest onboard Boom!™ Box infotainment systems. Saying that, being new to such luxuries, there were ample genres of music for the Fat Bob rider to choose and listen to from behind each bike.

The motorways and some A-road action through France, Belgium and Germany lead into the winding roads of Austria. These roads cut through towns and resorts famed for their winter skiing. An overnight stay in Zell am See was enough to recharge human batteries in order to tackle the Hohe Tauern National Park, home to the highest mountain in Austria, the Grossglockner (3,798m) and its spreading glacier, the Pasterze. The Grossglockner High Alpine pass is one of the most pleasurable riding roads for all types of motorcycles. Reaching 2,504 metres above sea level, the view from here is truly awesome.

Continuing south-west along Austria’s magnificent A111 led the riders to the Wurzenpass Strasse, an old border crossing into Slovenia. A former customs and military-manned border post, with the growth EU states it is now virtually abandoned save for a small tourist shop and café and was described by the group as a modern-day ghost town.

Slovenia has its own playground of national park roads to keep anyone with an eye for natural splendour and twisting tarmac happy for hours and hours. Except when torrential rain is falling and time is against you. Fortunately, we had already made use of a fuel stop to buy motorway toll passes (vignette) to stick on the bikes and match the Austrian versions. For these reasons, a decision was made to cross Slovenia and into Croatia by direct route of motorway. Foldaway waterproof oversuits from panniers were quickly put on for the four-hour blast to another overnight stop, this time in Crikvenica, a coastal resort across the Croatian border.

The next day involved a simple four-hour run south through Croatia to the Biograd destination along coastal roads and a section of new motorway leading into Biograd. It’s worth pointing out that Croatia’s back roads aren’t the smoothest in the world but the views are worth the slow progress made. The motorway is quicker, but until the new road signs are in place, can be a pain to navigate the right exit point. Also, the new open and wide motorway doesn’t lend to any shelter from the coastal wind. The sideways gusts are a little disconcerting for the first few miles and it’s best to slow down and be aware of surrounding traffic in case a strong gust blows you off course.

Needless to say the time spent in saddles was worth it. Like the other visitors at Harley Days Croatia, all the attending media had a good time. Fraser Addecott of the Daily Mirror heaped praise upon the Electra Glide Ultra Limited in his report (here) and summed up perfectly what everybody thought about the event: “The first time I have been to a HOG rally – and what a fantastic event. It seems the old cliché about Harley owners all being one big happy family really is true. We met riders from almost every country in Europe – and beyond – and everyone was friendly, helpful and out to have a good time. Well organised and with a great atmosphere throughout. I can't wait for the next one...”

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