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To Harley, or not to Harley?


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  • To Harley, or not to Harley?

    I am looking into buying a motorcycle. My brother just bought a Harley Davidson Sportster 883 Custom. I would like to buy a cruiser, but am torn between getting a Harley or a bike by Honda or Triumph. People who have Harleys seem to swear by them, but everyone else who owns a Honda, Polaris, etc, says that Harleys break down a lot and you are only paying for the name, plus Hondas are more reliable. Anyone who has a Harley or other have any opinions on whether or not to get a Sportster or a bike like a Honda VTX 1300. Thanks.

  • #2
    I'm not into motorcycles so I can't tell you which is better but my friend Joe wanted to buy a custom Harley and he was placed on a 2 year waiting list. He ended up buying a Honda instead because he isn't so great at the patience thing...
    No partner is worth your tears -
    the one that is won't make you cry. - Anonymous

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    • #3
      Originally posted by g8trman:
      I would like to buy a cruiser, but am torn between getting a Harley or a bike by Honda or Triumph.

      Sportsters are OK, but they are considered "entry level" bikes. Kind of slow and IMHO, outdated. I rode one of them and a Heritage Softail and neither impressed me at all. To me all Harleys seem over-priced for what you get, but I understand they have improved on a lot of the reliability issues they once had.

      Hondas are reliable. Period. I personally like the Shadow line of bikes, especially the Sabre. The Spirit 750 is also a good looking bike and both have tolerable performance. Most of the Honda cruisers have small gas tanks so your range will be limited.

      What about Kawasaki? They have the Mean Streak and the Vulcan.

      Yamaha? The V-Star series is good.

      BMW R-1200-CL? Boxer motor AND ABS.

      I own a Triumph so I'm a little biased. However mine is a sport tourer, the Sprint ST. I really like the new Bonneville America though. It's a really sweet bike. And if you can wait a couple months I would suggest seeing the SpeedMaster. I looked at one at the show in Dallas last month. Sportbike performance and twin front discs but you still get the forward controls and the drag bar.

      Whatever you get, make sure to sit on it and try to get a test ride. Haven't seen many Honda/Yamaha/Kawasaki dealers that allowed test rides, but Triumph does and so does BMW. If you want a Harley they can be rented in most larger cities. Don't settle for the first bike you see.
      "Trust me. I'm from the government, I'm here to help."


      • #4
        I ride a Honda Shadow ACE 750. I love the bike. In comparison to Harleys, Hondas are the smart way to go. The price is definatly better as well as the durability and reliability. One myth I love to debate with people; I always hear the arguement "Harleys are American made". Well, so are Hondas. My Shadow was built in Ohio and from what I remember the VTX is built in Maryland.
        The one advantage to buying a Harley is just that its a Harley. Buying into the heritage and image.


        • #5
          I will admit that I like the looks of the Heritage Softails, but wow at the price. I just bought a Suzuki Marauder VZ800 and it's great. Cruiser style with plenty of power and at a fraction of the cost of the Harley. The Yamaha V-Star line is also a good choice. I just got a great deal on the Suzuki.


          • #6
            What are your plans for the bike??
            Are you just going to cruise around town or are you going cruise around the U.S. and CA??
            I think that will play a significant role in what you decide to buy.
            Whatever you decide (if possible) ride it BEFORE you buy it.
            Although I have owned Honda I'm partial to BMW touring bikes because they've taken me to where I wanted to go and back without a problem.
            " Life's disappointments are harder to take when you don't know any swear words." - Calvin


            • #7
              I will preface this by saying I am not the biggest fan of Harley's and I own a BMW R1100GS (although not for long - having four kids prevents the odometer on this bike from turning regularly these days ).

              The new Harley's with the 88 cubic inch motor are a significant improvement over the older 82" motor. The fuel injection is also very squared away even though true Harleyphiles will scoff at it because you can't put cool aftermarket carbeurators on the bike. The new bikes have improved to the point where I would spend my own hard earned money if I desired that type of bike.

              Compared to Honda/Yamaha/Suzuki cruisers I'm sure the Harley will have more mechanical problems. The premium you pay for the Harley is for the prestige of owning one.

              If you are not looking to get a big Harley with the new motor I would steer you toward the Hondas. Also look hard at used BMW R1200C's that Ken mentioned. They are very unique bikes and very reliable.

              Be sure to enroll in the 2 1/2 day motorcycle safety foundation riding course if you do buy a bike. If you are an experienced rider but have been out of the saddle for a while I strongly recommend the one day experienced rider course. The courses teach you excellent riding and collision avoidance techniques so you won't be one of those guys who says after an accident "I couldn't stop in time so I had to lay it down man."
              If you see me running try to keep up!


              • #8
                The one advantage to buying a Harley is just that its a Harley. Buying into the heritage and image.

                I agree with the first statement, but not the second. IMO, the advantage HD has over other bikes is resale, but this is not as true of Sportsters as it is of the other bikes. HD riders will rag you some if you have a Sportster. They call it a girl bike. IMO, the Sportster is the only bike they make that I'd buy.

                FWIW, Chesapeake (VA) PD got a new BMW a few years ago and all they had to do was put their dept. decals on it. It had the radio, radar, strobes, and was still about $4k less than the HD which came with no police gear. The officer who rode it got stuck on a traffic detail with me and we spent all spare time talking about the switch. He was against it at first, but he said after his first shift, he would never go back to the HD.
                "But if it be a sin to covet honor, I am the most offending soul alive." from Henry V, by Wm. Shakespeare


                • #9
                  I saw a t-shirt once that summed up my opinion on Harley's:

                  "If Haley made an airplane would you fly in it?"

                  I have a Kawasaki (crotch rocket) and swear by them. I have never had any major problems and the dealerships have always treated me right. I am very partial to liquid cooled bikes (feel they last longer and have less problems than air cooled) and unless you drop close to $17,500 on the Harley V-Rod, you will have to get one that is air-cooled. Majority of Jap cruisers are liquid cooled, more reliable, and are a heck of a lot cheaper than a Harley.

                  Just my opinion.
                  "The soldier above all other people prays for peace, for he
                  must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war"

                  --Gen Douglas MacArthur 1962


                  • #10
                    if i was getting a cruiser, it would definitely be a honda magna.


                    • #11
                      Why go for a `cruiser` type machine. It seems to me that they are 2 a penny in the states. Yes, they may look good but so do the other million!
                      Like 207 said, what do you want to do with it? It makes alot of difference. If you just want to go in a straight line and take corners at 3mph get a cruiser [Wink] However, if you want to add some fun to your ride try a sports tourer. They're not out and out racers but will easily leave a cruiser in its dust and you can ride them all day long as they are quite comfortable (mostly). I ride an Aprilia Falco. It's a V twin (great exhaust note) 1000cc. It is more on the sporty side but still quite comfy. The plus points are thats its Italian and therefore has great styling, they are not very common, so it always turns heads. The engine is rock solid ( I know of a couple of couriers who use them with well over 30,000 mile on the clock and no major problems) and most importantly, they are quite cheap.Less than $10,000 I believe.
                      Take a look
                      Aprilia home page
                      Scream if you wanna go faster


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Peeler:
                        I ride an Aprilia Falco.

                        Very nice bike Peeler. I'd like to get my hands on a Aprilia RSV 1000 R!!

                        Another sport tourer with a big bang for the buck is the Yamaha FJ1300.

                        " Life's disappointments are harder to take when you don't know any swear words." - Calvin


                        • #13
                          Get a Hardly if you want to spend a lot of time at the shop. They need to have the bolts re-torqued and seals replaced about every 10 or 20,000 miles due to vibration.

                          I have ridden a few H-Ds and the newer ones are great ergonomically, and the vibration actually goes away once the RPMs come up from idle. There is still more vibration than any other bike. The handling is also substandard. There is also the noise.

                          I saw a great sticker the other day. "Fifteen grand and fifteen miles does not make you a biker." I'd like to slap that one on every one of the RUBs bikes that are parked in town on their weekly ten-mile trek while they play Hells Angel.

                          If you want a tourer, get a Gold Wing. Otherwise, maybe consider a sport-tourer like a Honda ST-1300 or Kawasaki Concours. The best of both worlds.

                          What it comes down to is that there is no best bike. If you like Harleys, by all means buy one, because you will love it. If you like racing bikes, get one of those.
                          Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem. - Ronald Reagan

                          I don't think It'll happen in the US because we don't trust our government. We are a country of skeptics, raised by skeptics, founded by skeptics. - Amaroq


                          • #14
                            You buy a Harley for no other reason than it is a Harley. As the saying goes, "Harley Davidson, if I have to explain it to you, you wouldn't understand.

                            Do not buy a sporty unless you are about 5' 2" and are never going to ride the bike more than 5 miles at a time. They are great bar hoppers but that is about it. they also do not hold their resale value like the big bikes.

                            Resale is another big plus for the bikes. In many places you can sell a used one for more than a new one because there are waiting list to get the new ones.

                            If you are at all worried about comfort avoid any of the softtail bikes. Again, unless you are a hardcore rider, you will be stopping every 50 miles to let the vibration in your head slow down.

                            If you are a full time cop, the only way to go is go to the dealer and order the Police Special FLH. They sell it only to full time certified on the job cops and they sell it for MSRP. No huge mark up. You can then customize it however you like.

                            All the maintainence jokes about Harleys come from the pre-evolution head days (read 20 years ago). I can promise you, our maintainence cost on our Harleys are considerably lower than our Kawasuckies.

                            Be all that what it may, if you want a Harley and can afford a Harley buy a Harley. If you don't care, buy one of the others. I've riden most of them and loved them all. The Kawasaki Vulcan was particularly a comfortable bike for me. The next guy might say it sucks. Like somebody said, try to ride anything before you buy one if you can.


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by 207:
                              Originally posted by Peeler:
                              I ride an Aprilia Falco.

                              Very nice bike Peeler. I'd like to get my hands on a Aprilia RSV 1000 R!!

                              even the futura is set up like a sport bike though. you ride in a crouched position. it's like the FZ1; you ride higher than a normal sportbike, but not something for a long haul. if you're just looking for an evening cruise around the lake, a cruiser is great. something for road trips and i'd take no less than a gold wing. if i was into driving fast and had some sort of death wish, a hayabusa or R1 would suit me fine. i know the 883 motors used to be extremely unreliable. i'm sure the quality has gone up some, but i doubt it's that much.

                              2 guys i work with ride harleys. one has an 883 sportster and the other one has a fat boy. the fat boy was bought new, but it wouldn't start when the temp was below 40 degrees. after a trip to the dealership, he learned that you have to buy a heater to keep on it during the colder months or it will not start. the guy with the 883 is waiting on some part to get his running again. i've seen guys put over 100,000 miles on gold wings with nothing more than routine maintenance. that's exceptional for any motor driven vehicle.

                              the only thing i have to say about harleys is there is some nit wit willing to pay you back what you paid originally for it. they don't depreciate; but that's good because you'll need the money for parts.


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