We recently took a trip to The Reading Public Museum to see their exhibit about Harley Davidson motorcycles. Now, I want to be clear that I am not a fan of motorcycles. As a doctor’s daughter, I was repeatedly told about the many horrors witnessed from motorcycle accidents, and as a result, have always avoided them at all costs. That being said, my father-in-law is actually an avid motorcycle enthusiast and collects them (I think he owns seven at the time of this blog entry). Of course, Harley is his brand of choice, so we decided to take him to the exhibit to check it out.

Sebastian, Mommy, and Pop Pop. This is probably the closest I will ever come to riding a motorcycle.

This exhibit was actually comprised of two separate, but related exhibits. The first was a smallish (about 10) collection of various historical Harleys, including a replica of the bike from the film “Easy Rider”. My father-in-law explained a lot of the various history and terminology to me, which was actually really interesting. For example, I learned that the bikes’ were named for the shape of their rocker covers, such as the “panhead” for those shaped like pans or the “shovelhead” for those shaped like shovels.

The second part of the exhibit was much larger and consisted of a series of hands-on exercises which demonstrated various types of motion, a couple of mock Harleys to ride on and to work on, and a “store” with the parts to do so. While this part was meant to be a children’s exhibition, we all really enjoyed participating in the many activities.

I loved that the exhibit not only provided the history of the brand but put so much focus on the dynamics of motion. There were several exercises to demonstrate different properties of motion, such as momentum, inertia, and acceleration. While they didn’t use motorcycles to do this, they explained how these dynamics could be applied to riding one.

Overall, I was really impressed with the exhibition. I feel as though blending actual examples of Harleys with science-related activities really helped the exhibit reach a wider audience. And while I still don’t think I can ever see myself riding one, learning about the mechanics and history behind the bikes really helped me to look beyond their obvious dangers, and gave me a greater appreciation for the mechanical wonders that they are.