Editor's Note: This piece has been revised to correct an error in the reported growth rate of finance debt.

I have to admit, I was surprised that the Street fell for it. Harley Davidson (NYSE:HDI) beats by a nickel? Come on. We all know companies lead analysts by the nose toward their earnings estimates, in effect painting the target around an arrow they've already shot. But that's only one reason why the press's positive spin on the earnings seems, shall I say, a bit overdone.

My colleague Stephen Simpson described it as a mixed bag yesterday, but I'm even less sanguine. Here's the lead for my harsher version of the truth: The only reason Harley "beat" last year's quarter at all was that it bought back about a zillion shares. (Stephen did point this out. I want to underline it.)

Take a look at the percentage changes in our numbers breakdown, and you'll see much of what's got my plugs fouled. Sales inched up a scant 0.4% during a period when retailers across the price continuum, from Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) to Coach (NYSE:COH) have bucked the pundits' doom-and-gloom prognostications on consumer spending. Clearly, people aren't just shutting their wallets on everything. So why isn't the appetite for Hogs growing as quickly?

Heck, even GM (NYSE:GM) is moving product again. OK, GM might be giving away the store in order to make it up with the banking, but with both gross and operating margins dropping on motorcycles and products, a similar trend might be emerging at Harley. Is Harley losing its pricing power? Is the brand as bulletproof as we thought? Could it be that American garages are finally full? How much growth is left here?

And no, I'm not buying the "international" story. The release's cherry-picked 23% increase in the European market isn't well-contextualized. (A plunging dollar couldn't have hurt. What will happen now that the buck's back up?)

Shall we discuss the hefty increase in annualized credit losses, from 0.63% to 0.89%, for the first half of the year? You might want to consider what that ugly trend could mean when finance debt is up 5.3%. Again, please compare this to the meager sales increase.

Am I too big a worrywart? Stephen pointed out yesterday that brands like McDonald's (NYSE:MCD) and Disney (NYSE:DIS) have been great investments when people were worried about their future. Of course, neither of those companies has to keep giant factories running, or depend on an ever-expanding pool of Hell's Yuppies snapping up $20,000 frivolities.

I'd say Harley is pretty richly priced for a company that's slowing at the top line. The P/E might look tasty, but don't be fooled by it -- or the big share buybacks. While the execs have been happy to spend a billion dollars of shareholder money on the shares, they still haven't dug into their own wallets.

I wonder, "Why not?" Could it be the stock's really not that cheap?

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Seth Jayson switched from motorcycles to bicycles a few years ago so he could hear something other than muffler tunes. At the time of publication, he had positions in no company mentioned here. View his stock holdings and Fool profile here. Fool rules are here.