Having recently done the Harley-Davidson Factory tour at York, Pennsylvania here’s our review.
The Harley-Davidson York Operations plant offers a free guided tour of the factory floor. The tour guides are mostly ex-workers and they have good knowledge of how the production process works and what the old and new models are. Questions are definitely encouraged. Outside the plant there’s plenty of free parking. It’s also easily accessible being just off the main road.
On arrival, you’ll usually find plenty of visitors but each person registers at the reception desk for a tour time. This may be in a few minutes or, more likely, in an hour or so. This gives you chance to browse the models on display in the entrance hall. You can sit on the motorcycles as they are firmly clamped down.
As you can see there are some mock-ups of assembly stages too.
What tours to do at Harley-Davidson, York
The York factory is also known as “Vehicle Operations”. Here they put together the Softail, CVO, Touring and Trike models. If you want to be assured a place on the tour you can ring ahead and confirm they are open for that day. Some days are non-production days too, usually when they are changing the model runs over, so if you want to go on the “Steel toe tour” then it’s important to ring ahead. The “Steel toe tour” is an additional, paid tour that takes in some of the heavier production areas of the plant. The standard free tours still go ahead though, most days.
You can tour the factory for free but it pays to get there in the morning to get the best chance of a tour. If it’s fully booked it will be on a first-come-first-served basis.
Any children will need to be 12 or over but as long as you say they are then there’s no checking. All visitors are required to have enclosed shoes for all tours (don’t forget this!) and the steel toecap overboots are issued to you for the paid tours.
Harley-Davidson factory tour – opening hours
The tour is available from 9:00AM to 2:00PM Monday to Friday. In the summer it is open on Saturdays from 9:30AM to 1:30PM
Car and motorcycle parking
There’s plenty of parking available and bikes get to park close to the entrance. The car park can be as interesting as the waiting area on a good sunny day. On our tour day there were mostly Harleys in the parking lot, and a few Buells, Triumphs and Ducatis rolled in over the few hours we were there.
Unsurprisingly, the staff parking sported some shiny new Harleys in there. Company bikes perhaps?
Harley-Davidson factory paint finishes
Harley are rightfully proud of the gleaming paint finishes they achieve on their fenders and fuel tanks. The tour guides spent a long time talking about this and there were many areas in the factory dedicated to exploring further. You are often invited to “Touch the frame” or “Feel the pinstripe before and after the lacquer coat”.
Here’s a few shots of the areas you can compare paint finishes at different parts of the production process:
Inside the Harley Davidson factory
Unfortunately, our cameras were not allowed in the factory. It is without a doubt one of the cleanest motorcycle production environments we’ve ever seen and there seems to be a pride taken in each and every section of the shop floor. There’s a large use of robots in the plant but we were pleased to see a lot of manual workers there too. There are some jobs that robots will never do efficiently, especially on the final quality inspection, so it’s good to see a compromise here.
Just before taking the tour, you sit in a mini cinema where you get to learn the history of Harley from 4-men-in-a-shed to current day global operations. The tour guides then issue you with safety goggles and headsets so that you can hear them above the noise of the machinery. As mentioned previously, each tour guide knows their HD stuff, so all questions are answered. At the end of the factory tour you’ll end up in the ubiquitous gift shop where you can buy anything from a bottle opener to a full leather outfit.
I would rate this as a must-do tour if you have even a passing interest in motorcycles. If you are a fan of Harley or an afficionado of the cruiser style of motorcycle then it’s not to be missed. With free entrance you can take the family and have a few hours of fun for nothing. Upgrade to the steel toe tour if you are a biker, you won’t regret it. With nearby Amish country at Lancaster and the Strasbourg Railway close by, there’s even more reason to do the Harley-Davidson tour en-route to seeing the sights that Pennsylvania has to offer.