Which Harley-Davidson is right for you? There’s a notion in the Harley-Davidson world. The four distinct families of Harley-Davidson can be classified as Miatas, Corvettes, Cadillacs, or SUVs. A lot of first-timers will be intimidated when walking into a dealership. How do you know which Harley-Davidson is right for you? Hopefully this will help.
The first time I heard this comparison was from a Sales Manager during one crazy summer as a sales associate at a Harley-Davidson dealership. If you were one of my customers, you probably heard this speech from me. Nothing else I ever said made more sense in figuring out which bike fit your style and personality best.
Please remember these are general descriptions of each bike, how they perform, and how they fit different riders. Has someone taken a Sportster across the country? Yes. Is that the norm? No it isn’t.
The Miata – The Sportster Family
Its fun. Its trendy. The Sportster is the bike you cruise the strip on for a couple of hours to have some fun with your friends. You take it down to the store to pick up a few things. You might even have it as a spare in your garage as a novelty or project.
This is a fun bike for anyone, not just women, and I’m a big fan of the Sporty line. Look up the Harley-Davidson Sportster 48. It has a sweet bobber style seating position with big fat tires: how bikes looked back in the day. Its just one gnarly, sexy machine. It is an amazing entry into the Harley-Davidson world, and very easily customizable.
From the factory this isn’t the motorcycle that you take across the country or feel comfortable riding two up on day trips. But if you’re just starting out, if you’re a weekend warrior with no desire to have a passenger, or if you want to casually ride the strip and have fun for short money, here is your bike.
The Caddilac – The Softail Family
The Softail line includes the Heritage, Fat Boys, Breakout, Deluxe etc. These Harley-Davidsons offer a very plush and comfortable ride. They are usually very attractive to look at. Think lots of chrome and decorative additions.
Softails come with an internal suspension, which has a very long travel. This can make the bike feel bouncy and soft. They also probably handle the worst in the Harley-Davidson line. They are beasts in corners, usually requiring a lot of effort to handle.
This is not the motorcycle you ride hard, but if you’re looking for a nice relaxing cruise then you are barking up the right tree. Take the day on this bike if you plan to poke around through back roads or highway and you notice that the ride is amazingly smooth. A Softail will handle you and a passenger with ease. If you like luxury, or drive a Cadillac, this is the bike for you…
The SUV – The Touring Family
Loaded with saddlebags, fairings, gauges galore, radios, bluetooth, cruise control, and even GPS! No matter where you are going, these motorcycles can take you there. Going across the country? Pack up that comfy SUV and head out on the open road. These are probably the most easily identifiable Harley-Davidsons, Street Glides and Electra Glides have the very distinct looking “Batwing” fairing.
Road Glides have a shark like looking fairing with dual headlights. This fairing is secured to the frame versus secured to the forks like the Electra Glide. The Road Glide is easily the nicest riding bike in the touring group, possibly Harley-Davidson somewhat due to the fairing design, but it is the gold standard in Harley-Davidson touring bikes in this writer’s opinion.
Want to do overnights on your motorcycle and 500+ mile weekends? Here you go. Not only can you have a passenger, but you can probably fit the damn family on this bike with you. The negative is the weight of these bikes at over 800 pounds it makes a simple turn around in your driveway a pain. If you ever drop it, its near impossible to right the ship by yourself.
Pack those bags up, look at all the gauges you don’t need and take off for 2 weeks. This is the most comfortable motorcycle you’ll ever have.
The Corvette – The Dyna Family
My favorite and the type of Harley I own, the Dyna Family! Some examples are Superglides, Street Bobs, etc. These are the last remaining factory bikes of the Hardtail frame.
These bikes are stripped down, mean, ready to roll. They easily offer the best handling and performance in the Harley-Davidson lineup. They are the get-on-and-ride-hard type of bikes. They are also the most versatile. You can take this bike for a hard run up to the strip or coast, or spend all day eating up back roads.
This is what a Harley-Davidson is truly meant to be. By far the most customizable bike in the lineup to truly make it your own. Go ride with your friends or lone wolf it all day. These motorcycles will take you anywhere and everywhere alone or with a passenger. They have great power to weight ratio, handle with ease and are very responsive.
Can you take the bike for a week trip doing 500 mile days? Yes but you’ll be hurting, so go get an SUV instead.
Miscellaneous – The Others
The two types of Harley-Davidsons I didn’t cover are the V-Rod (Porche, literally they helped design the engine) and the new Street (Prius). Those are specialty motorcycles and haven’t become relevant enough yet, however they have their niche and their riders love them.
– Andrew Boisvert (Follow him @drewbovy on Twitter)