Inside Harley-Davidson

Why I Ride

New Product Chief Engineer Jeff Richlen: Carrying on the tradition

05/26/16

Jeff Richlen and his daughter, Sadie, on a 2015 Ultra Limited

 

Jeff Richlen, Harley-Davidson New Product Chief Engineer, joined Harley-Davidson in 1998 when he started working as an engineer. That year, he bought his first motorcycle, a 1999 Harley-Davidson Electra Glide Ultra Classic, and his life was never the same.

Richlen’s dad, Larry, also started riding that year, so the two agreed to share the motorcycle. After a couple weekends, they realized one bike wasn’t enough.

 

The next year, they purchased identical Electra Glide Ultra Classic bikes, beginning their tradition of buying twin motorcycles.

 

The tradition went beyond the dual purchase. Each year, they also rode to the Indianapolis 500 for some father-son bonding, connecting them with each mile and creating memories to last a lifetime.

 

After a decade riding together, Richlen’s dad passed away unexpectedly, leaving an unfillable hole in Richlen’s life.

 

“That day I lost my dad, friend, mentor and riding buddy all in one fell swoop,” said Richlen.

 

Riding also brought Richlen’s mom, Vonnie, closer to her husband. With Vonnie on the back and Larry at the handlebars, the two connected in a new way.

 

“After the funeral, my mom said, ‘Who am I going to ride with now?’ I now understand how profound riding together can be and how it changes lives,” said Richlen.

 

In 2009, as the first Indianapolis 500 without his dad approached, Richlen told his family he wasn’t making the trip. He probably wouldn’t have gone if his 13-year-old daughter, Emma, hadn’t wanted to join her dad, giving him the courage to continue the tradition. That was their first motorcycle trip together.

 

The absence of Richlen’s dad, who served in the U.S. Navy, was evident that year, but Richlen felt his dad’s presence during the ceremonial flyover and the playing of taps as he sat with his daughter.

 

“I will never forget it,” said Richlen.

 

Since then, Richlen has gone to the race with each of his four children. Tradition holds strong in his life. That’s one reason he says he connects with the Harley-Davidson brand. “I’m trying to continue the legacy. I was blessed to have my dad and am carrying on the tradition.”

 

Harley-Davidson helped bring Richlen’s family closer together, and to him, there is no better brand.

 

“You just don’t feel the same connection on other bikes,” said Richlen. “Harley-Davidson motorcycles bring us together, but it goes so beyond the bike. It’s a family.”

Richlen’s dad, Larry, also started riding that year, so the two agreed to share the motorcycle. After a couple weekends, they realized one bike wasn’t enough. The next year, they purchased identical Electra Glide Ultra Classic bikes, beginning their tradition of buying twin motorcycles.
Richlen with his parents and wife on the eve of the 100th anniversary celebration

Jeff Richlen with his parents, Vonnie and Larry (left), his wife, Anna (right), with their identical 2003 Electra Glide Ultra Classic motorcycles

 

 

“You just don’t feel the same connection on other bikes. Harley-Davidson motorcycles bring us together, but it goes so beyond the bike. It’s a family.”

Jeff Richlen, Harley-Davidson New Product Chief Engineer

 

 

Jeff Richlen and his two sons in front of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Pagoda in 2012

Jeff Richlen and his two sons, Nicholas (left) and Joshua (right), in front of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Pagoda in 2012