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Return of the Road Hogs

Reports on the strong demand for motorcycles since 1991. 'The Art of the Motorcycle,' exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum in New York; Two views of the motorcycle.

Long associated with rogues and outlaws, motorcycles have come roaring into the mainstream: U.S. sales have shot up 43% since 1991. Who's astride these lean, mean machines? CEOs, civil servants, Sunday-school teachers—anyone looking to borrow their raffish edge. This year's celebrations of the motorcycle further demonstrated its diverse appeal. The Guggenheim Museum in New York drew record crowds to its exhibit on "The Art of the Motorcycle," while the Hog Rally, a biker jamboree marking the 95th birthday of motorcycle manufacturer Harley-Davidson, attracted more than 50,000 leather-clad enthusiasts to Wyoming.

These two views of the motorcycle aren't so hard to reconcile, according to Willie Davidson, grandson of the company's founder. "Motorcycles are rolling art," says Davidson, who likens the two-wheelers to jewelry. That may explain the ease with which an erstwhile emblem of the counterculture has become the year's latest fashion accessory.