secretariata
secretariata SuperDork
10/16/18 1:01 a.m.

Ok, so let me 'splain...

I ain't getting any younger and middle age is creeping up. I started riding later in life and have been riding for 15 years or so.  This has all been on Japanese bikes that would be classified as either Standards, Sport Touring, or Crotch Rockets.  Always considered Harley's as Barcoloungers due to the feet forward seating position and couldn't really grasp the concept of controlling a bike from that position.  Lately, my riding has been somewhat limited and mostly highway and/or primary routes rather than backroads so I'm considering a switch up.  My job has changed so I am willing to commute year round on a bike (I'm one of those All The Gear All The Time peeps so (I won't fit in with the cool kids) summer sucks if you work in an office and have to dress nice, but I work with contractors now...).  So, considering the possibility of a later model Harley to see if that would increase my mileage and riding frequency.  No hardcore, chopper, lack of suspension, ape hanger, front end in the next zip code, looks cool machines needed.

So, what do I need to know? Fall/Winter is rapidly approaching so now's the time to start shopping. I don't know or understand the Harley FX????XL Wide Glide Slide Upside Downside terminology so Harley for Dummies is appreciated. Interested in bikes with FI not carbs so what years should I be considering?  Looking to stay reasonably priced (under $10k and closer to $5k preferred), no passenger seating requirements (SWMBO has her own cycle), low seat height (whopping 29" inseam here), hard bags would be nice (trunk not necessary but not strongly opposed), removable windshield would also be nice.  Drive belt is fine and probably lower maintenance than a chain.  Less weight than a Goldwing so I can walk it around and out of my parking spot at work and back it into my garage (provided I can find space) at home.

I'm sure there will be more questions to follow, but thanks for now... :)

Cooter
Cooter Dork
10/16/18 1:11 a.m.

That's a pretty tall order. Have you ever ridden a Harley? I'd suggest you start by going to a dealership and looking at the models in person. Maybe even renting one.  Personally, I've learned the "Flying W" riding style doesn't work for me after renting a Street Glide. 

 

 

secretariata
secretariata SuperDork
10/16/18 1:32 a.m.

In reply to Cooter :

I plan on visiting a high volume dealer in the area to check out what they have and go for a test ride or two, but I don't want to spend the time to ride one of everything (I do want to ride one of everything, just not sure I have that much time... :)   )

Never ridden any type of cruiser, only Japanese standards, sport tourers, and crotch rockets...all upright or forward leaning so I do have concerns about the seating position.

My limited list of rides includes:  Honda Nighthawk 250, Kawasaki Ninja 250, Suzuki Bandit 400, Kawasaki Ninja 500, Suzuki GS500, Kawasaki ZZR600, Suzuki GSXR 750, and Honda VFR800.

81cpcamaro
81cpcamaro Dork
10/16/18 11:30 a.m.

I picked up a 2004 VTX 1300S recently, which has the forward controls like a HD. It is way more comfortable and easier to ride than my Katana. Controls weren't hard to get used to at all. Seating was more comfortable on the hour ride to work, I could ride it every day. Not so with the Katana, 2 days in a row was about enough. The Japanese cruisers are something to look at, plus they are way cheaper than the HDs. Plus I love the water cooling, no worries in traffic.

Dr. Hess
Dr. Hess MegaDork
10/16/18 1:33 p.m.

I'm going to discuss big twins, not Sportsters.

In the 5-10 large range, I'd look for a late 90's Evo.  Try to stick with a carb, particularly an S&S or a CV.  The Harley EFI systems didn't really get it right until very recently. 

There are 2 basic big twins.  One is the Softtail frame and the other is the rubber mounted frame.  The Softtail frame looks really cool, but it is more or less the same frame geometry from around 1936.  The rubber mounted frame is used on the FXR and FL bikes and was designed by Eric Buell in the 70's.  They corner and ride much better than the Softtail frame, but "don't look as cool."   If you want a bike that handles relatively well (it's not a crotch rocket) for what it is, go with the FL/FXR rubber mounted frames.  Note that the current iteration of Softtails are also rubber mounted, but the frame geometry is unchanged.  

 

Rubber mounted FLHT frame, S&S carb:

Dr. Hess
Dr. Hess MegaDork
10/16/18 1:35 p.m.

There is a "Low Rider" model.  It is an FXR, rubber mounted, good for vertically challenged people.  Also, the Softtails generally have a lower seat height.  The FLHT, like my bike, above, tend to have a higher seat height.  Avoid "lowering kits."  Problems.

Nick Comstock
Nick Comstock MegaDork
10/16/18 1:44 p.m.

Also in my experience HD dealers don't have a problem giving test rides unlike most other dealers. Back when I was bike shopping I rode three used bikes at the local dealer none of them were what I was looking for and ended up on a Yamaha. I wore all the gear when I had my HD too. It's easy when you don't care what anybody else thinks.

Dr. Hess
Dr. Hess MegaDork
10/16/18 1:47 p.m.

So that was frames.  Now, Motors.  The Evo motor came out in 1984 and was produced until 1999.  I would avoid the 1988-1990 motors, as the castings had some issues.  Otherwise, they are an excellent motor.  Inner cam bearings need to be replace on 1993-up bikes.  An afternoon job.  Lifters at 50K are maintenance.  There are two main divisions, the "bottom breathers" and the "top breathers."  Changeover was in about 1992, I think.  I always forget exactly when.  Either is good.  My bike is a bottom breather. 

1999 had the Twin Cam motor introduced in I think the Superglide (like a Low Rider) model and Evo's in the rest of the lineup like FLHT's.  Early Twin Cam ("Twinkie") motors had some timing chain problems.   A little later EFI models had heat problems.   And the EFI system was garbage.  No Atmo, don't think they even had an oxygen sensor for closed loop.  Later Twinkies seem to be pretty reliable.  You might find something in the ten large range there.  Haven't looked. 

imgon
imgon Reader
10/16/18 2:22 p.m.

I have limited experience with the HD's, rented a dresser on vacation once, it was nice but no sport bike. I generally am not a fan of forward controls, but my wife has a VTX 1300 that I enjoy riding once in a while. I don't know that I could live with a cruiser as my sole ride but the VTX is very comfortable. Around here the HD's seem to still command a high price where the metric cruisers are very reasonably priced. That should open up a bunch more choices. Honda makes a VTX 1800 if a 1300 is too small. My dad had a Star 1800 (Yamaha) for many years and really liked it. If the sound of an HD is part of your appeal you will have to go that route as you can't make a metric twin sound the same no matter how hard you try. Take some out for rides and see what floats your boat.

Dr. Hess
Dr. Hess MegaDork
10/16/18 2:55 p.m.

Also, I don't have forward controls on my bike.  I have some forward floor boards for highway cruising, but the controls are at the regular floor boards.  It's very comfortable cruising, actually.  We just did 2K miles last August in 8 days, 6 of which were riding.  440, 420, 200 miles a day.  We used to do about 550 a day, but damn, this getting older E36 M3 sucks.  The FLHS has bags but no tour pack, maybe a sportier seat. 

FSP_ZX2
FSP_ZX2 Dork
10/30/18 5:30 p.m.
Dr. Hess said:

I'm going to discuss big twins, not Sportsters.

In the 5-10 large range, I'd look for a late 90's Evo.  Try to stick with a carb, particularly an S&S or a CV.  The Harley EFI systems didn't really get it right until very recently. 

There are 2 basic big twins.  One is the Softtail frame and the other is the rubber mounted frame.  The Softtail frame looks really cool, but it is more or less the same frame geometry from around 1936.  The rubber mounted frame is used on the FXR and FL bikes and was designed by Eric Buell in the 70's.  They corner and ride much better than the Softtail frame, but "don't look as cool."   If you want a bike that handles relatively well (it's not a crotch rocket) for what it is, go with the FL/FXR rubber mounted frames.  Note that the current iteration of Softtails are also rubber mounted, but the frame geometry is unchanged.  

 

Rubber mounted FLHT frame, S&S carb:

 

The current Softail (2018+) is ridged mounted, and the engines, like 2001+ Softails, are counterbalanced.  The new Softail is far better handling and riding than either the old Solftail or the previous Dyna platform.  Noticeably better. 

As for older big twin bikes, they were on the Dyna, Softail or Touring platform.  Before the Dyna there was the FXR platform, which many argue is the best handling and riding big twin, certainy in its day.

All big twin bikes are designated with the letter "F".  Next will be an "X" or an "L".  FX bikes typically feature footpegs and "skinnny" front tires.  FL bikes typically feature floorboards and a fat front tire. The next letter will be a "D" (Dyna family), an "S" (Softail family), or an "H" (Electragide or Road King) or "T" (Roadglide).  Any letters that follow are model designations.

Examples of Dynas: FXD--Superglide, FXDC--Superglide Custom, FXDB--Street Bob, FXDF--Fat Bob, FXDWG--Wide Glide

 

Examples of Softails:  FLSTF--Fat Boy,  FLSTN--Deluxe, FLSTC--Heritage, FLS--Slim, FXS--Blackline, FXSB-Breakout

 

Examples of Touring:  FLHR--Road King, FLHX--Street Glide, FLHTCU--Ultra Classic,  FLHT--Electraglide Standard,  FLTR--Road Glide,  FLTRU--Road Glide Ultra

 

All Sportsters are designated with an XL.  There are also XR bikes, which tend to be the most sport or race oriented, an example is the XR1200--which is loosely based on Sportster architecture, but enough is unique to have its own designation.  There are also V-Rod series bikes which are designated with a VR (VRSCF, VRSCD etc)

Grtechguy
Grtechguy MegaDork
10/31/18 5:25 a.m.

I'll just throw this out there,    You mention the Goldwing being heavy compared to the HD.  They really aren't.

Dr. Hess
Dr. Hess MegaDork
10/31/18 8:43 a.m.

Met new friends at Sturgis this year.  He was a long time Goldwing rider.  LONG time.  He bought a something-Glide.  Twincam, windshield, no fairing, no tourpack.  I can't keep up with the names.  Roadking?  Anyway, he was very happy with it and said they were really two very different bikes and he never really understood the Harley thing until he bought one.

Garandman
Garandman New Reader
3/2/19 10:43 a.m.

The only reason to buy a Harley is that you want a Harley-branded motorcycle.

if you want a comfortable, touring-oriented motorcycle, there are many other choices, virtually all of which will cost less to buy, be faster, handle better, and appear to women who are college graduates....

Adventure Touring Bikes are 100% function over form, but can be comfortably ridden all day(s). The shaft-drive BMW R1200GS is the class exemplar, but along with many competitors there are also 650-1,000cc chain drive bikes ranging from the DL650 V-Strom to BMW F series GS twins to the DL1000 and several Hondas, Suzukis, Triumphs, etc.

Many “Standards” are comfortable to ride and great to tear around on. With the addition of bags and a windshield, they are respectable weekend tourers. Honda CB500F, Ninja 650 and 1,000, Suzuki Bandit etc.

Sport tourers may be a little more than you want to buy into, but they are big fast shaft drive bikes with lots of bells and whistles: the usual suspects for IronButt 4 corners riders. Honda ST1300 Blackbird, Kawasaki Concours, Yamaha FJR1300 and a bunch of R, S, and K series BMW’s. 

If you really want a Harley branded bike, be aware that their owner group is aging out, and there is a glut of low-mileage used bikes competing with the now-shrinking dealers. You have to hunt around a bit because more than half of all HD’s are financed, so those owners are either upside-down on their loans or have a completely unrealistic idea of what their bikes are worth. Buy one with the knowledge that their US sales are shrinking 10-15% per year, and Millenials will probably never buy one. 

Dr. Hess
Dr. Hess MegaDork
3/3/19 11:57 a.m.

Garandman, I would say that 5 years ago, your perception on HD ownership was fairly accurate.  However, at Sturgis last year, I saw an increased amount of younger people there.  A lot of former military looking guys with their girlfriends/spouses.  It was good to see younger people getting into it.  I was a bit concerned there for a while myself. 

FSP_ZX2
FSP_ZX2 Dork
3/10/19 1:36 p.m.

I'll have to agree wit The Doc here as well.  From where I sit (in a dealership in Milwaukee) we are selling pretty well to the 30-40 year-old demographic, both male and female.  Far more of my buyers are in that segment than the 60+.  Where we need to improve is in the 18-30 range, and frankly I think that is an industry thing.  Young folk are not embracing motorcycles like the generations prior.  The exception *might* be in the sub-$5000 area of the market.

ShawnG
ShawnG PowerDork
3/10/19 2:53 p.m.

I like the band but generally, can't stand their fans.

The FLHTCVO that I've ridden a few times was an ill-handling, heavy pig around town but great on the highway.

The Heritage Softtail was very pleasant to ride.

I suggest you test ride a few to figure out what you like and then test ride this to see what a good handling cruiser is like: 

 

And it's shaft drive, as god intended.

sleepyhead
sleepyhead Mod Squad
3/13/19 3:14 a.m.

canoe deleted

Cotton
Cotton PowerDork
3/14/19 10:47 p.m.
Garandman said:

The only reason to buy a Harley is that you want a Harley-branded motorcycle.

if you want a comfortable, touring-oriented motorcycle, there are many other choices, virtually all of which will cost less to buy, be faster, handle better, and appear to women who are college graduates....

Adventure Touring Bikes are 100% function over form, but can be comfortably ridden all day(s). The shaft-drive BMW R1200GS is the class exemplar, but along with many competitors there are also 650-1,000cc chain drive bikes ranging from the DL650 V-Strom to BMW F series GS twins to the DL1000 and several Hondas, Suzukis, Triumphs, etc.

Many “Standards” are comfortable to ride and great to tear around on. With the addition of bags and a windshield, they are respectable weekend tourers. Honda CB500F, Ninja 650 and 1,000, Suzuki Bandit etc.

Sport tourers may be a little more than you want to buy into, but they are big fast shaft drive bikes with lots of bells and whistles: the usual suspects for IronButt 4 corners riders. Honda ST1300 Blackbird, Kawasaki Concours, Yamaha FJR1300 and a bunch of R, S, and K series BMW’s. 

If you really want a Harley branded bike, be aware that their owner group is aging out, and there is a glut of low-mileage used bikes competing with the now-shrinking dealers. You have to hunt around a bit because more than half of all HD’s are financed, so those owners are either upside-down on their loans or have a completely unrealistic idea of what their bikes are worth. Buy one with the knowledge that their US sales are shrinking 10-15% per year, and Millenials will probably never buy one. 

Harley’s have their place.  My primary bike is a BMW k1300s and I have several other bikes (Triumph, Honda, Yamaha,  and Kawasaki),  but I’ll probably add a Harley to the stable at some point.  I know a lot of real riders that have gone from euro or Japanese bikes to Harley’s,  or added one along with their other bikes, and it wasn’t for the name or to appeal to non college educated women,  I mean come the berkeley on....

Flynlow
Flynlow HalfDork
3/15/19 9:10 a.m.
FSP_ZX2 said:

I'll have to agree wit The Doc here as well.  From where I sit (in a dealership in Milwaukee) we are selling pretty well to the 30-40 year-old demographic, both male and female.  Far more of my buyers are in that segment than the 60+.  Where we need to improve is in the 18-30 range, and frankly I think that is an industry thing.  Young folk are not embracing motorcycles like the generations prior.  The exception *might* be in the sub-$5000 area of the market.

I would wager harleys are never going to sell well to the 18-30 group, for the simple reason most can't afford a $10k+ bike.   Sure you could finance, or scrimp and save and have that be your one big thing, but if you lay it down now you can't afford to fix it.  In my 20s I much preferred <$3k bikes for that reason.  I had a lot more fun riding knowing I wasn't at risk of writing off more $$ than all my other vehicles worth combined.  I never would have considered a new bike, from ANY manufacturer.  

You're seeing the uptick in 30-40 y/o interest because people start hitting their stride in their careers and have that sort of disposable income.  

I don't know if I'll ever own a Harley, but they are fun bikes to rent for a day.  Almost everything that is plastic on other motorcycles is metal, and the bikes have a feeling of heft and solidity going down the road.   A completely stock and quiet Softail Deluxe was worth the rental.  I don't care for the false macho chest thumping dealer experience.   We got funny looks riding in wearing high vis jackets :).   

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