Visiting together

Harley-Davidson motorcycle owners chat and visit in Oxford earlier today at Cheaha Harley-Davidson for "Rumble on the Loop." There were events all day, including a "bikini bike wash," musical concerts, food and vendors.

The prospect of a consumer boycott against America’s largest motorcycle manufacturer didn’t pose much of a problem Saturday for Oxford’s yearly gathering of Harley-Davidson fans.

“So far, it looks like the crowd is bigger than last year,” said Mark Christopher, co-owner of Mt. Cheaha Harley-Davidson, which hosts the three-day Rumble on the Loop, an annual get-together where Harley owners listen to live music, drink a little beer, show off their bikes and check out what other folks are riding.

The event has typically drawn about 1,500 riders per year since it moved to Davis Loop in Oxford in 2015. For a decade, the event was known as Rumble on Noble and was held on Anniston’s best-known street, but organizers left after support from downtown business owners dried up.

“They said it brought the wrong crowd in,” chuckled Pete Peterson, a retired military policeman from Oxford, who has been a Harley rider since the 1980s. “All those doctors and lawyers, the people who can afford a bike.”

A Harley, Peterson noted, can easily cost tens of thousands of dollars — an expense only a successful person can afford. Despite the price, Peterson said he wouldn’t drive anything else, and that most other Harley owners feel the same way.

“I don’t believe anybody’s going to boycott Harley because of Trump,” Peterson said.

Earlier this month, President Donald Trump tweeted that it would be “great” if American motorcyclists boycott Harley-Davidson. It was the latest escalation in growing tensions between Trump and the company. Harley earlier this year said it expected to take a financial hit from Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminum. Later the company said it expected to shift some production overseas, to avoid tariffs imposed in a budding trade war between the U.S. and Europe.

Trump’s move, possibly the first time an American president has backed a boycott against a large U.S. company, shocked some market-watchers. At Rumble, where support for both the Trump and Harley brands is strong, few seemed worried.

It’s just a tweet, bikers said.

“That’s his opinion,” said John Gerath of Gadsden, one of the few Honda owners at the event. “He’s done a lot of good things. There’s things no one’s going to like, but he’s doing a lot of good things.”

The boycott call was news to Jim Messer of Carrollton, Ga., who works in construction and sometimes tows his bikes to worksites for a little after-hours riding. That travel has increased since Trump was elected, he said, because of an uptick in construction.

“I’m not familiar with it,” Messer said. “But if he said it, I’ll probably do it. I’ll definitely side with Trump, because I love what he’s doing for our economy.”

Even skeptics of Trump’s boycott call say they’re in the president’s corner. Asked if he supported Trump, Peterson, the retired soldier, said “hell, yeah.”

“His best voters are Harley-driving people,” he said.

They also think for themselves, Peterson said. And they know what to make of Trump’s rough-and-tumble style.

“You’ve got to understand, I’m from New York,” Peterson said. “He’s from New York. All he is, is a damn bully, but he’s getting stuff done.”

Rumble on the Loop continues Sunday with a send-off party for bikers starting at 7:30 a.m.


Capitol & statewide reporter Tim Lockette: 256-294-4193. On Twitter @TLockette_Star.