Posts Tagged ‘steel toe tour’

Turns out that for $38 (US) you can get a behind the curtain tour of the Harley Davidson factory in York, PA. Called the “Steel Toe” tour, you get a guided excursion to places in the plant (like paint and polish) that the free version does not.

I purchased the tickets online Thursday for a Friday tour (click here for the Harley Steel Toe Tour website). We showed up a bit early for the 9:30 AM tour and, it turns out, there were only three of us for the tour; Debbie, me and a guy from New Jersey.


I wish I could say that we rode the motorcycle to the tour, but it was 25 degrees when we left the house for a 2+ hour trip to the plant. Yes, call me a wimp! (I am adding heated gear to my wish list).

ijustwant2ride.comOnce we got to the “ Tour Center of the Harley-Davidson Vehicle Operations” and checked in we were issued 2 commemorative pins, safety vest (which we got to keep (value $10? at WalMart), safety glasses and steel toe safety “booties” which we did not get to keep. Additionally, our receipts for the tour acted as a $5 off coupon for the gift shop. So, with all said and done, I think we got the tour for about $20.

Our tour guide, JoAnn, started the tour with a short 10-minute video overview of Harley Davidson. After the video and putting on our radio headsets (the plant is very noisy) we started the tour with the stamping of tanks and fenders.

Just a short note about JoAnn.  She has been giving the tours at the plant for 17 years.  It was obvious she knows her way around the facility and the details of how the bikes are assembled. IMHO she is an asset to the factory.

Though out the tour it was as if we were watching “Dancing with the Stars” factory edition. Between the robot machines and the human workers there was an intricate play of just in time parts and assembly. We saw motorcycles being created for not only the US but Europe, Japan, Australia, Canada and other places around the globe.

After an hour and half tour, I have to say I was most impressed with the how the paint is applied in a two-day process. I understand why Harley motorcycle paint jobs look so much better than most other motorcycles. Every painted part is hand inspected for flaws by a team of auditors. If they can fix it there it, they do, otherwise it is sent back for a redo.

Some of the other items we learned during the tour is that the plant is expanding to include the Sportster and Street lines and maybe the Live wire as well. This is mainly because they are closing the Kanas City factory. The expansion is expected to be completed during 2019.

The one thing I did not like was the fact that we could not take photos during the tour. Really, like Indian and others could not buy a ticket, LOL.

We really enjoyed taking this tour. It is so much more interesting then the self-guided walk though of the annual York Open House. I highly recommend this tour, even if you don’t own a Harley Davidson.



harley Davidson

Harley Davidson Vehicle Operations, York, PA Open House

Debbie and I decided to ride to the Open House at the Harley Davidson factory in York, PA on September 19th.  The factory, which is officially known as the “Harley Davidson Vehicle Operations, York, PA”, has an annual open house and allows the public a chance to see how HD Softails, Trikes, Touring and CVO are built.

We left the house a bit later then we wanted but hit the road mid-morning.  Taking US Route 15 North to Gettysburg (after stopping at Deb’s favorite, Chick-fil-a for breakfast).  The ride on 15 between Frederick, MD and Gettysburg is nice smooth, picturesque trip through Farm County.  But, you need to be alert on this road as there are many, many crossroads that require attention!

When we reached Gettysburg we turned on to US Route 30, also known as The Lincoln Highway, which is the third longest route in the US.  The exit for Route 30 is also the exit for Battlefield Harley Davidson.  I was surprised at the number of motorcycle related small businesses were along the road between Gettysburg and York.  While we did not stop, we were running a bit later then I wanted, I counted at least 5 bike related stores including Battlefield Leather and the Iron Horse Repair Garage.

The worse part of the ride occurred just outside the town of New Oxford. The major crossroad in the town is being repaved and had traffic backed up at least 5 miles.  The GPS showed no way around without a lot of back tracking and Deb would not allow me to skip traffic by riding on the shoulder.  Once we reached the city limits I was able to ride through the back streets and bypass the traffic and construction.  All in all the road worked added another 30 minutes to the ride.

We arrived at the factory a bit before noon. There were all makes and manor of bikes there, even for a Thursday afternoon.  After registration we were issued safety glasses and told to stay inside the yellow lines.

harley davidson

Debbie having lunch outside the factory!

During the walk through we witnessed the birth of a Harley (the VIN stamped onto the frame), fenders and tanks stamped from sheet metal, fairings and saddlebags attached, and bikes tested then loaded into trucks.

We talked with a few of the workers that were assigned to keep us on the path and out of the way of the robots moving the bikes and parts along the assembly line.  They all like working at the plant and enjoyed having us walk through and see what they do to make the bikes.

The walk though ends with you in the gift shop, of course.  There were many “Vehicle Operations” labeled items including the ubiquitous t-shirts.  Because this was an open house the factory had invited several local dealers to “setup shop” in the parking lot along with some food vendors and the “Globe of Death”!  In a different part of the factory campus there were demo rides of the new 2014 bikes as well as the HOG (Harley Owners Group) Pin Stop.

All in all we had a great day (with the exception of the town of New Oxford), so much so that we are considering going back for the “Steel Toe Tour”.

I recorded this at the Harley Davidson Vehicle Operations, York, PA Open House!