As a former politician, Dave Zien has built a reputation for defending motorcyclists' rights – as well as cruising the country with patriotic flags hanging off the back of his Harley-Davidson motorcycle for millions of miles. So it came as something of a shock when Harley rejected a warranty repair Zien sought for a broken clutch on a new Harley trike — citing his flags as the real cause.
Zien, who bought the bike new in March, has voiced his displeasure throughout the biker community, telling Fox News that Harley-Davidson informed him he was "blocked" because of his flag displays, and can "never get any warranty work" for seven years.
Harley-Davidson responded to the Journal Sentinel of Milwaukee, stating that Zien's warranty is still valid, but that it denied this claim due to the the "terrific drag (the flags create) on the engine and transmission." The company also says that the flag mounts used were not Harley products, which played a part in the claim's denial, despite Zien arguing that a registered Harley dealer installed the mounts.
Zien, aged 64, served as a U.S. marine in Vietnam in the late '60s, prior to joining the Wisconsin State Senate between 1993 and 2006. His stint in the senate brought him some local recognition, but it was his full-size flags – including a 3-foot-by-5-foot American flag – waving proudly from behind his Harley that ensured an avid following of bikers.
Zien rode into the motorcycle Hall of Fame in 2000 by logging more than a million miles on his 1991 Harley alone; in total, he's completed more than 2.5 million documented miles over the years. It's not been all fun; Zien suffered a horrific crash in March 2011 during a cruise to Florida. The incident nearly killed him, leaving the former politician without much of his left leg.
Harley-Davidson said it empathizes with Zien and appreciates his patriotism, reiterating that it has products designed specifically for those that want to show their American pride. "But because of what's been done to this motorcycle," a Harley spokeswoman said, "and how it impacts the motorcycle's performance, we just didn't cover the warranty claim."
Zien now rides a Harley trike due to his injury, and since purchasing his latest bike just two months ago, he has already amassed over 15,000 miles, a drive that can't be stopped by a dispute over who's paying for a broken clutch. "God bless Harley-Davidson," he said. "We're heart and soul Harley-Davidson, all the way. We'll just have to see what happens."