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Interview with Harley-Davidson’s VP of Design


Ed. Note: This article originally appeared on American Rider’s website, a sister publication to PSB.

Brad Richards, Harley-Davidson’s VP of design, knows he needs to keep an ear to the ground about what’s happening in the custom and culture scenes so Harley’s products stay relevant in an ever-evolving landscape.

Brad Richards Harley-Davidson VP of design
Brad Richards Harley-Davidson VP of design (Photo: American Rider)

We saw Richards (and his stunning Panhead custom) at the 2021 Born Free show, and he popped up again at Mama Tried in December. He was also at the 2022 Paradise Road Show, where he discussed the new generation of Harley fans and their aspirations with MoCo products.

Although he is an executive at a billion-dollar company, this is about as corporate as Richards gets.
“I go to nearly all of these types of events – Born Free, Mama Tried – but none of them have the unique atmosphere that the Paradise Road Show makes possible,” he told us while the party was in full swing at the Saguaro Hotel in Palm Springs. “Here, people come to show motorcycles in a very unique setting. The choice of bikes and cars, the vendors, and the music by the organizers is very thoughtfully done – great curation.”

Richards was in his element at this event, where organizers strive to reinvent the classic American motorcycle/car show for the new generation. Richards said he was surprised by the younger crowd at Paradise.

Between the handlebars of the Best in Show winner is Brad Richards immersing himself in Paradise.
“I have been attending motorcycle shows for years,” he related about usually seeing lots of familiar faces at bike shows. “But here, I don’t recognize anyone! They come from another generation – completely new.

“This is obviously a great thing,” Richards continued, “to see the next generation embrace the brand, our lifestyle, and the bikes like this. It’s inspiring, and that’s why we come to these shows. Each new generation discovers and identifies with Harley-Davidson in their own unique way. The Paradise Road Show is evidence of this. In that respect, and as evident at other well-curated regional shows, the brand is extremely healthy and will be here for generations to come.”

Richards observed that traditional custom shows mostly feature bikes that are built in exaggerated dimensions and totally extreme. He says the new generation rebels against that mindset and prefers bikes that are more usable.

“That is why we have come to Palm Springs,” Richards continued. “It’s very important to understand what the upcoming generation is passionate about, how younger customers are identifying with the brand – what is relevant in their eyes and what they are looking for. We see the seeds of future trends appear at these shows.”

Richards notes that H-D’s customers come from a variety of backgrounds, from geezer graybeards to Millennials and younger.

“We always strive to keep the brand and its products relevant,” Richards elaborated. “That’s why we create things like LiveWire, Pan America, and Low Rider S. Creating desirability is a cornerstone of our Hardwire plan, and we have many different customers who use the MoCo’s bikes in many different ways. So, balance within the product portfolio is key. Electra Glide Revival, from our new Icons Collection, is evidence of this. It proves our continued commitment to the core products that made this company so great – creating balance within our product range.”

To read the full story, head on over to American Rider.

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