NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - Legendary and iconic are two words that are commonly used to describe Harley-Davidson motorcycles. Riders frequently tout the look, feel, and sound of these bikes as reasons why they own a Harley and stay loyal to the brand.
News 4's Tom Randles, a veteran motorcycle rider himself, recently sat down with Bubba Boswell, owner of Boswell's Harley-Davidson, a motorcycle dealership with deep roots in Middle Tennessee.
"My mom and dad loved motorcycles. And my father loved Harley-Davidson," said Bubba Boswell. Bubba's father, Lannie, opened the first Harley-Davidson dealership in Nashville nearly eighty years ago. Bubba says his grandfather thought it was a bad idea and advised Lannie not to do it.
"November 1st, 1949, he became a Harley-Davidson dealer. And the funny story is the 1st year he went in business, he didn't sell any motorcycles. And the 2nd year he sold three motorcycles, said Bubba Boswell.
The third year he repossessed the same three motorcycles that he had sold the prior year."
Bubba says his dad's business took off after that, because the city bought six police motorcycles. That’s when Bubba's grandfather changed his tune.
"My grandfather took all the credit. after it was successful, he said it was his idea and he gave my dad the money to get started. And then my father took it from there," chuckled Bubba Boswell.
Today, Bubba Boswell owns three motorcycle dealerships and three clothing stores in Middle Tennessee, including a retro apparel shop in Nashville’s eclectic Marathon Village. And the Metro Nashville Police Department is one of his best customers.
"We're connected with the police department. We have a great relationship with Metro Police. We take pride in them riding Harley-Davidson. We take pride in being part of the police charities. It's our 25th year being involved with them and we've raised thousands of dollars for that," said Bubba Boswell.
News 4 toured Boswell's dealership on Fesslers Lane in Nashville, where they have plenty of new and used motorcycles for sale.
In addition to selling a wide range of bikes, Harley riding gear, and clothing, the dealership has a restaurant. Boswell's Harley-Davidson Grill is decorated in nostalgic photographs and other memorabilia. And Bubba says there's a story behind every item.
"My passion, other than riding and racing motorcycles is photography of old motorcycles. And Nashville is blessed with so much great photography of years past of Harley Davidsons," said Boswell.
Since 1903, Harley-Davidson has come a long way. We followed Bubba to the rear of his property to see the crown jewel of Harley's newest multimillion dollar motorcycle technology, a sleek, matte black, electric bike called 'Live-Wire".
"There's no doubt that internal combustion engines will eventually phase themselves out," said Boswell.
He added, Harley-Davidson will be ready when that happens.
"I'm really excited. Harley-Davidson has taken the lead in electrification of motorcycles. And the new Live-Wire we have is probably the most sophisticated motorcycle in the world. It's a phenomenal motorcycle. And It's easy to ride," said Bubba.
And Boswell wasn't exaggerating. I threw a leg over the seat and he gave me a quick tutorial. When he was finished I rolled on the throttle and took off. The strangest part is that Harley's Live-Wire motorcycle makes absolutely no sound. Looking at the digital dash is the only way a rider will ever know it's actually on and ready to go.
Throttle response is plentiful, instantaneous, and gratifying. I caught myself grinning several times during my short jaunt aboard the $30,000 all electric bike. I also caught myself grabbing for the nonexistent clutch a few times. Old habits die hard.
Bubba, who started riding motorcycles when he was just five years old, says he believes that new technology will keep Harley relevant for the next generation of riders.
Shea Wages is a brand new motorcycle rider. She also works at Boswell’s Harley-Davidson clothing store. She told News 4 that she would love to own a Harley bike one day and that she understands why people are so attracted to the brand.
“It’s so much fun. People from all over the world are coming through. And they’re excited to come in and learn about Nashville and what makes us unique,” Wages said.
I asked Bubba what he thinks his father would say about his son carrying on his legacy and the family business.
"He would really love what we've done. That me, my wife, and family have taken what he and my mother started, and really took off with it,” Bubba said.
Boswell claims his passion for riding is what inspires him. He even hopped on a vintage style racing bike and showed off his riding skills in the parking lot behind his dealership.
As a motorcycle racer, entrepreneur, and historian, Bubba Boswell jokingly characterizes himself as a little bit of a hooligan on wheels. In this case, Bubba believes that's a good thing. And after spending an afternoon with him, I would be hard-pressed to argue that point. Ride, Bubba, ride!