With as long a history as the company has, there’s plenty of room to offer up great picks for those interested in owning their very own Harley. Of course, not every choice is perfect, just like not every Harley is perfect. There have been numerous ups and downs in the company’s history, but so far Harley-Davidson has weathered the storm admirably. So join us here ar AMERiders as we take a look at some of the best choices for your next Harley purchase that are worth the money, and some to avoid altogether.
The Harley name is as synonymous with motorcycles as Photoshop is to image editing. Founded in 1903, the bike maker has forged ahead with all types of cruising and performance machines, to the delight of its owners and fans. From hilltops to the race track, Harley’s assortment of bikes has won them praise from all over the world. Their bikes have been featured in everything from toys to the big screen. We have to admit, whoever does their marketing is doing an excellent job.
The Epitome Of Perfection – 1915-11F
The 11F represented the emerging technological advancements that could be incorporated into a motorcycle back in 1915. Offering a three-speed transmission, an electrical lighting system and most importantly, an 11 HP powerplant, this Harley the first bike to guarantee its power rating in writing, according to How Stuff Works. Bike Curios says the 11F was so popular that 10,000 of them were sold. With features like a Prest-O-Lite headlight and a detachable tail light that could be used as a flashlight, it’s not hard to see why the company became so successful. Some things like the braking system and front suspension still needed to catch up in the advancement game though.
Come Glide With Me – 2009 Harley-Davidson Electra Glide
The 2009 edition of this bike addressed many issues and concerns about the previous generations of Electra Glide, adding a larger fuel tank and rerouting the exhaust system that was heating up so many of the earlier model riders’ thighs, according to Motorcycle. The addition of electronic cruise control and improved handling were also cited as a big plus, says Total Motorcycle. Harley Davidson also commented on the abilities of the upgraded chassis which brought much better control and handling, as well as riding comfort to the masses.
It’s In The Genes – 2011 Harley-Davidson Heritage Classic
Looking every bit like it rode straight out of a time portal from the 1950s, the Heritage Classic was just as technologically modern as any of its siblings. And that’s what the owners of the Softail model love about it. Everything from the running boards to the detachable windshield screams “nostalgia”. This bike was meant for cruising, for taking on the long haul Rider Magazine considers the Heritage Classic to be a genuine touring motorcycle and does what the manufacturer says it will do. We would hope so, as the 2011 Heritage represented the 25th anniversary of the original.
A Cult All Its Own – 1977 Harley-Davidson XLCR 1000
If looks count, then this bike would probably be considered one of the first supermodels on the scene. The XLCR 1000 was classified as a Cafe Racer, something to be admired for its speed and handling far more than actual comfort. For that purpose, the XLCR ( pronounced Excelsior) fit the bill quite nicely. Just about everything about the bike was black, or accented with black, which made for a cool look. The XLCR quickly built up a cult following, its fans spurred on by promises of a 120 MPH top speed and great handling, as long as you weren’t going too far, says Motorcycle Classics. The bike was far from perfect, but at the time it was exactly what Harley needed to offer its riders and worth the money.
Got Hill, Will Climb – 1932 DAH Hillclimber
This is the bike that probably restored Harley-Davidson’s confidence, not only from the company’s perspective but also from its loyal fanbase. Hemmings has an excellent article detailing how Harley couldn’t really compete against the likes of Excelsior and Indian during hill-climbing competitions. Harley’s competitors used 45 cubic-inch machines, while Harley’s best was only an underpowered 30 cubic-inch engine. Enter the DAH Hillclimber, a modernized 45 cubic-inch wonder, which quickly kicked its competition to the curb. Only 25 of these bikes were ever made, their purpose was to dominate the hill-climbing circuit. These are actually the rarest Harley-Davidson bikes ever, so if you find one, keep it, it is worth the money.
Resistance Is Futile – 2007 VRXSE Destroyer
It’s amazing what a bit of horsepower and tuning can do for any vehicle, but it’s mind-boggling when it happens to a Harley. The VRXSE Destroyer is a fitting example when Harley-Davidson decided to make a purpose-built bike for racing. This 165 HP beast is everything its name says, louder, prouder, and more powerful than you’d ever think. A reporter for Cycle World was able to do a 9.9-second quarter-mile run going at 134 MPH on his first-ever run. That got a lot of people’s attention. The bike is truly beautiful and speaks volumes about Harley and its commitment to please riders.
Easy Like Sunday Morning – 1999 FXDX Dyna Super Glide
The 1999 FXDX Dyna Super Glide has achieved icon status not because it’s the greatest bike that Harley-Davidson has ever put out, but because it’s a Harley that had everything its riders wanted from a big bike. It certainly wasn’t the fastest, but for a 650-lb bike, it had adequate power and the body was tweaked and tuned enough to ensure riders wouldn’t be disappointed. Motorcyclist Online mentions that owners should watch out for the 5-speed gearbox, as it can be clunky at times. All said this icon has aged quite well, and it is still well worth its money.
A Real Hog To Get Down In The Mud With – 1990 FLSTF Fat Boy
Before you ask, the term “Fat Boy” refers to the massive appearance this bike has. The 4-stroke, 45-degree V-twin engine pumps out just over 48 HP, more than enough to take 2 people down the roads in leisurely comfort. MCycle mentions that the bike has a top speed of 91.96 MPH and that it weighs 657 lbs. Fat Boy is perhaps the most car-like of any Bike that we can think of. The suspension is so good you could probably ride directly over an open manhole and never notice. Sump Magazine sums it up best when they say that “One minute there was the world without Fat Boy, and then there was the world after.”
Put The Top Down – 2012 CVO Softail Convertible
The CVO is a well-loved Softail because it can be configured quickly to suit the rider without them having to carry a toolbox around to do it. The limited-edition bike came with detachable saddlebags, front fairing, passenger pillion, and windshield, says Ultimate Motorcycling. This was a perfect setup for those needing to change from a two-seat setup back to a one-seater for instance, hence the name “Convertible”. ThunderPress mentions that only 1500 of the CVO Softail were made for the model year, which we’re sure makes collectors happy. Other features that were considered unique that the Convertible was the only bike at the time of any Harley model to offer keyless ignition and lockable, soft-sided panniers. Great bike and well worth the money.
If Looks Could Kill – 2006 VRSCSE2
This limited-edition V-Rod really packs a punch. It has a top speed of 127 MPH pumping furiously from its liquid-cooled engine, which shockingly was built in collaboration with Porsche! The VRSCSE2 wasn’t meant to be a race bike, but more of a Harley that happened to have a lot of power when needed. Rider Magazine mentions in an article that the bike’s engineers did admit they purposely chose style over performance when creating the bike. This is why this model is considered by many to be a performance cruiser more than anything else. We certainly have no problem with a bike that can fill this niche, and its owners agree its worth the money.
Too Heavy For Its Own Good – 1981 HD Sportster
The ‘81 Sportster is a polarizing beast. Though it was generally liked, it was also universally panned because of various problems related to its electrical system and other components. It’s top-heavy stance and elongated forks didn’t exactly help to win over fans either. Thanks to its rather poor suspension, the handling was considered by many reviewers to be atrocious. Live About also mentions that the Sportster also suffered from low-speed maneuverability issues because of the forks. This is one Harley to avoid and not worth the money.
Cut The Cord Now – No, Wait – Harley Davidson Livewire
Yes, it’s a new bike, but the Livewire has had numerous problems in its short on again off again life. The electric bike has experienced problems with its charging system, which in turn led Harley to stop production of the bike in October of 2019. The bike only started shipping in September of 2019. Harley-Davidson has started production again, saying the bike is safe, coming out with a rather vaguely-worded statement according to The Verge. Being that there are going to be problems with the new electrical vehicle of any type, we wish Harley had been more forthcoming in its explanation about Livewire. It is iffy on whether or not it is worth the money at this time.
Don’t Choke Up – 2014 Electra Glide
The Electra Glide brand is famous, but the 2014 model put a damper on things and left many owners with a bad taste in their mouths. Severe problems with the Electra Glide’s clutch led to a massive recall of more than 45,000 vehicles in 2015. According to Motorcyclist, the problem with the clutch not disengaging properly could have led to increased risks of a crash. In total there’s been around 5 recalls for this particular model, and lots of complaints filed with the NHTSA, mostly concerning brake and engine problems. Take extra care if you are considering buying the 2014 model to make sure all recalls have been applied to it.
If It Feels Cheap, It Probably Is – HD Street 500 And 750
The Street 500 and 700 models seem to carry a dark cloud around them. Both models have had their share of problems, including a major worldwide recall concerning the unit’s brake systems in August 2018. The recall affected models from 2016-2019. Apparently Street owners were experiencing issues with dragging brakes and corrosion developing around those areas. Ride Apart says that the brake problem resulted in several crashes and injuries. Though the problems have been remedied, we’d still be careful with these bikes and check them thoroughly before considering a purchase. It is not worth the money.
Keep Your Mechanic Handy – 2005 Softail Deluxe
While everyone experiences engine problems eventually, most would agree that they don’t want this to happen while riding their Harley. The 2005 Softail Deluxe’s twin-cam engine problem, is something you’ll want to avoid, according to many reviewers on the web. UltraCool says the problem with the Softail Deluxe has to do with some of its perceived cheaper components. Specifically, the plastic shoes on the cam chain wear down due to rubbing, When they wear out, you have metal on metal contact. This could lead to a very costly repair job if it’s not noticed in time. We recommend avoiding this model altogether as it isn’t worth the money.
I am not saying you can’t have any of the 5 bikes we mentioned you should avoid, it is just best that you shouldn’t buy them. Some people are going to have a hissy and get upset by this article but people always do when articles like this are written. It can’t be helped.
~And as always…
~Live Free Ride Hard~
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