Harley-Davidson (NYSE:HDI) shares motored to a new 52-week high today after the company reported first-quarter earnings that exceeded analysts' expectations and contained a breath of optimism missing in recent months. Harley's been nagged by doubt, as investors wondered if it was time to lose the faith in the iconic biker legend, especially after the success of its centennial 2003 year. However, today's news indicates that Harley still hasn't lost heart.

The company reported first-quarter earnings of $204.6 million, or $0.68 per share, as compared to $186.2 million, or $0.61 per share, in the same quarter the year before. Revenues increased 4.7% to $1.17 billion.

Indeed, Harley said it booked the highest first-quarter retail sales in its history. That's no small feat in the first quarter -- the winter months. Not a bad showing considering the rash of Harley buying this time last year, when net income motored up 55% and earnings increased 56%.

Although Harley didn't alter its outlook for the year, the first quarter showed up investor sentiment in January, when it was tempting to worry that Harley's growth was leveling and that demand for its motorcycles might be stalled, especially after the success of the centennial.

Despite concerns of the effect that so much 100th anniversary Harley hoopla could have on demand, with the economy showing improvement and people lightening up on their wallets, it's a good bet that Harley hasn't had its last hurrah. LouAnn Lofton expounded on the strengths of the Harley brand last year, and navigated the difficult third quarter the company had.

It's hard to argue with her point that the huge ranks of baby boomers contain more than their fair share of weekend warriors who covet Harleys. Furthermore, motorcycles appeal to the younger generation as well. I know a decent number of hobbyist bikers, some you may not expect (a couple who each rode their bikes 30 miles one way to a recent baby shower spring to mind). Many of them aspire to the Harleys that they will one day own.

Signs that sales are back on an upward swing right now is a good argument to say hello to Harley. Despite tough comparisons this year, it's a good bet that Harley will keep on motoring, just like it has for years.

Talk to other aficionados of Harley -- both the chopper and the stock -- on the Harley-Davidson discussion board.

Alyce Lomax does not own shares of Harley-Davidson. In the town where she went to college, bikers motor in from far and wide to the annual "blessing of the bikes," which is quite a sight to be seen.