As Harley-Davidson turns 115-years-old this year, three Malaysians living in Cambodia have come up with a novel idea of celebrating the 61st Merdeka Day in a unique, yet patriotic, way. They will be flying the Malaysian flag on August 31 as they saddle up on their Harley-Davidson from Seattle, Washington to join the Harley Davidson 115th Anniversary celebration in Milwaukee.
“We saddled up on our bikes on Aug 21 along with several local riders, snaking along the country’s highways and byways, through big and small towns,” said Sean Wong, founder and director of Harley Owner Group (HOG) Phnom Penh Chapter.
In the epic “Harley-Davidson Rides Home”, Mr Wong is joined by two other equally die-hard Harlistas – Khor Wock Hock, pioneer/founder of Cambodia Bikers’ Club (CBC) and Low Kok Shyan, also a CBC member.
“No other brand brings together so many people from diverse backgrounds to rally under one cause, and the Labour Day celebration [in the US] is going to be a lively illustration of that,” said Mr Wong, adding they felt a great sense of pride to fly the Malaysian flag.
The trio struck upon the idea to fly the Malaysian flag because there is a big H-D following in Malaysia, namely in Kuala Lumpur.
“It is a perfect timing of two celebrations. What we are doing is a small contribution to project to Malaysia’s image to the H-D community here in the US,” he said.
He said in addition to the Malaysian flag, they will also be flying a smaller CBC flag and the Phnom Penh HOG flags during the bike parade – one of the major highlights of the celebrations when thousands of riders will be descending on Milwaukee from four corners of the country to Veterans Park to kick off the celebration on August 29,” he said, adding the celebrations which run through to September 2, will also be attracting thousands of avid fans, spectators and the local community.
“From what we gather is that the legendary motor company has planned to celebrate the Rides Home with a bang, inviting folks from all corners of the world and all walks of life to celebrate Harley-Davidson and its significant legacy,” said Mr Wong, adding this major event is the first of its kind, with H-D returning to its roots with a focus on what has made the brand so iconic: the motorcycle. Mr Wong said in Cambodia, there is a small but dedicated Harley-Davidson community with only 10 members in the official chapter and several more in other motorcycle groups.
“Cambodia is such a small country but there is a passionate group of Harley-Davidson riders,” he said, adding there were probably between 50 and 80 active Harley-Davidson riders in Cambodia. But there are clear signs that there is a demand for more Harley motorbikes, especially as the country’s infrastructure and roads improve.
It was only after coming to Cambodia that he and a few other Malaysians got hooked to the Harley. “Essentially, our biking passion started from Cambodia and we hope to continue to advocate safe riding while enjoying our passion with the biker fraternity especially on such a freedom lifestyle brand that you, sometimes, find it hard to explain.”
“I think freedom is the same reason people continue to jump in the saddle of a Harley-Davidson motorcycle 115 years later. Sometimes, part of the joy of riding is just getting out and going wherever your front wheel will lead you,” Mr Wong said.
He is glad that Harley-Davidson opened its first Phnom Penh branch opposite Phnom Penh International Airport in June last year, targeting motorcycle enthusiasts among Cambodia’s more affluent classes. Local Cambodian investment company HGB Group, owned by business couple Ngov Leang Houth and Heng Guech Buoy, holds the franchise rights for the Harley-Davidson brand.