Buying a New or Used Harley Davidson
By James Russell
1. If money is a problem, then stop putting it off and buy what you can afford to buy. Buy new, if you can, or at least a used low mileage bike (with a one-year warrantee if you
can). The bike you need to look at
is the Sportster if you can only afford what this bike will cost. Get
the largest cubic inch engine available. At this writing it is 1200
cc. The Sportster has problems; it vibrates badly, but the 2004 model
year and beyond will now have anti-vibration features.
It also has a small gas tank so you will always be on the lookout for a gas
station, but the gas tank is slowly increasing in size. It is a small bike, so it is easy to learn to ride it (though
just as dangerous as any bike can be and is a very fast accelerating bike). It is fast
quick due to its
power/weight ratio, but let's keep this in perspective. It is not
considered a fast bike, just that it is faster than the bigger heavier
Harley's. It will not stand a chance with other brands of bikes of
even lesser cubic inch engines. The Sportster sounds great with aftermarket exhaust pipes.
The biggest problem? You will outgrow the bike and want a bigger
Harley that handles and reacts slower and rides smoother and has larger
tires for a safer ride.
2. Consider not buying a bike with
one of those skinny 21 inch front wheels. They look cool, but they
bite into every crack and groove in the road and often, the shocks on these
bikes are inferior and make for a terribly sloppy ride, and you better hang
on because cracks in the road can rip the handlebars right out of your grip
creating loss of control and a crash to the pavement. This "fighting the road" will wear you down and taking a long ride
will be awfully tiring.
3. Don't buy a bike with spokes.
Yes, they look fine, but if you get a flat tire away from home you have a
big problem. Today, you just can't pull out your old set of tire
irons, peel back the tire to patch the tube because the rubber sidewalls are
too stiff. Tires must usually be mounted using tire mounting machines in a
shop environment or use many tire-irons, rim protectors and compressed air
to get the job done. The problem is the tube in spoke wheels going flat
there is no practical way to fix a flat tire on the side of the road. Get a
bike with mag wheels. Now no tube is involved. If you get a flat
tire? You can plug it yourself with a tubeless-tire plug kit and
inflate the tire with a portable CO2 canister designed to inflate tires.
Or, you can call a tow service and they can fix the flat right on the spot
for you with a plug, just as to a car tire. Any service station can
fix the flat tire. At least you are not
waiting for a tow truck to get you to a dealer on Sunday with no dealer
open. With the mag wheel and the plug repair you are on your way, but
get a new tire as soon as you can. It's not a good idea to ride with a
plug in your tire for any distance. Drive at lower speed and with
caution. Plugs do work, but if the plug fails the tire will go flat
again, and flats on a motorcycle are always risky business.
Will they fit your bike? How much will they cost? Don't assume
that all accessories will be available for your bike. Some bikes can't
even carry saddlebags due to the shock absorbers blocking the mounts, etc.
Now, you may never want saddlebags or a windshield, but if you do a lot of
distance riding, you will eventually be forced into getting saddlebags and a
windshield. Keep in mind, you want a bike you can't outgrow, so get a
bike that can handle the accessories when you want them. It's not fun
dishing out $17,000 (or much more) and find out you can't put the options on the bike, or
you got to spend a horrific amount of money to get them to fit.
5. Don't buy a Softail Standard or
a Deuce or a Fat Boy (and I have a Fat Boy at this time, too). Here's why; these bikes may look cool, but
look at the price tags. You can walk away with a nice Road King for
less than the price of a Fat Boy, likely equal to the price of a Deuce, and
only a couple thousand more than the Softail Standard. Save
yourself a bunch of money and grief, go look at the Road King model, it is
Harley's best value. I bought a new Softail Standard and found
it a bike that handled dangerously at times and the forks could not take
typical road bumps. I upgraded to the Fat Boy and this bike rides
nice, but vibrates at all speed, even though it is a balanced twin-cam
engine. It's tolerable, but annoying for long rides beyond one hour
duration on the freeway. The vibration gets worse above 60 m.p.h.
The next Harley would be the Road King or ElectraGlide. The engine is rubber mounted
and isolated from the frame = very little vibration felt.
6. Get a bike with large front and
rear fenders or you will forever be cleaning the bike more than you want to.
Those skinny fenders look cool, but they sling dirt and mud and water all
over the engine and frame and yourself. It is not fun. Remember,
it need no rain to ruin your day. Water in the road from a
construction or fire hydrant flush will dirty up the bike real nice.
If the fenders are too low the bike will need to be raised very high to
remove the wheels to replace tires, so this can be a factor for those who
which to change their own tires, so you will need a motorcycle lift that
will raise the bike high enough to do the job. Also, consider a bike
that has too many accessories to be removed when installing tires;
saddlebags, luggage, wind deflectors, fairing, exhaust pipes. If these
items must be removed on tire change or on other maintenance work, your
dealer labor bill will be higher than other bikes.
7. The bike should have a throttle
stop or friction device to regulate the throttle at highway speeds, tour
trunks or saddle bags, a tall windshield. They say the top tip of the
windshield should level with the tip of your nose, but I find your head on
windy days will be vibrated badly as the air flow is no longer laminar.
Try to get a windshield that adjusts up or down and you can be seated behind
it like a shield looking through the windshield. This way the
rain and hail will not plaster your face.
8. Stay clear Sportster, the
Softail standard model, the Duece, the Night Train and other similar models.
These bikes are expensive and they have poor features. They only look
good on the showroom floor due to their cool style, but for actual touring
use or long rides you will need to buy too many accessories to make it work,
and when all is said and done, they won't work well for you at all.
The Fat Boy is another poor choice. I bought a new one and it vibrates
badly at and above 60 miles per hour. The engine is counterbalanced,
but is solidly mounted to the steel frame without rubber isolation.
It's a nice bike for cruising the mountain roads near Sturgis, but forget
driving on the freeways with it as it will vibrate you to death. It's
a strong, persistent and annoying buzzing of the handlebars and vibrating
foot rests that wears you down forcing you to cut back to 50 miles per hour
to ride in comfort. Harley offers a high performance Screaming Eagle
Fat Boy model. If the engine is not rubber mounted to isolate
vibration, this monster will vibrate so badly it will be of no practical
use. Heritage Soft Tail models are okay, but you should just buy
the Road King instead.
9. The best Harley to buy? It
is the Road King model. For the money you spend you get the most
features and a high quality ride. Just about everything you need is
already on this bike and the price is usually dead on right. The
Electra Glide model has a full fairing and larger storage systems, but it is
not needed for most riders, unless you plan to do a lot of highway touring.
You simply can't go wrong with a Road King with mag wheels.
10. All said and done, you now know
the best Harley to buy. But if you look at the v-twin competition you
will find for the price you would pay for a Harley you will get a lot more
bike and a ton of extra power from the competition. If you attend a
motorcycle rally you will find eye candy "custom bikes" with "big cube"
v-twin engines at equal or less cost than a stock Harley. That is if
you want a custom bike. If you look at the competition v-twin
cruisers, you will pay a lot less and get much more of a machine. Of
course, they are not Harley's, but if you must have a Harley, at least you
know which one to buy. Recommended Services:
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