Purchasing your first Harley is probably more important than finding a spouse. I'm kidding, but seriously, I believe that your first HD can make or break your experience with the company.
Is this your first cruiser? Are you on the smaller side?Then I doubt a fully-dressed ultra classic will be a great first experience. On the other hand, are you tall and of bigger stature? Then I would be hesitant to recommend a Sportster 883. Now, I know there are plenty of people out there that will say: "well I am bigger person and own an 883." That is totally cool, but I would say that it is probably not the norm. It is my goal for this post to present to you a variety of factors when considering your first harley davidson.
The first thing to consider when purchasing your Harley is: "what is its purpose?" Are you looking for a small commuter bike to zip between the lanes in San Francisco? Or are you looking for a touring bike to enjoy long weekend trips to Yellowstone? Think about what you are really looking for. Yes, you can make most Harley's dual purpose (i. e. - put saddlebags and a windshield on a Sportster and use it for long trips), but the reality is that a Street Glide will be a much better experience for touring than a Sportster 1200. The same goes with inner-city community, you can easily commute on an ultra-classic, but manuevering a Street 750 will make for a more pleasant commute while splitting lanes. One of the best things about Harleys is the endless amount of customization you can do to make it suit your needs. However, I think starting with the appropriate model can make the expierence all the better.
The motorcycle's purpose is a really important driving factor. If this Harley is going to be your only means of transportation, you might want to take that into consideration. While it may look super awesome, a 2003 FXDX with 60,000 miles might not be the best daily commuter for a one-vehicle individual. On the other hand, a brand new Softail Street Bob may not be the best selection if you are only riding one weekend a month. I think setting realistic expectations for you and the motorcycle will allow you to figure out which Harley will be best for you.
Second, lets discuss build. I don't mean different bike builds; I mean personal build. While there are plenty of amazing, smaller people riding baggers and plenty of bigger people stunting Dynas, I am talking about how to find the right Harley for your first Harley. Harley has a vast range of different size motorcylces, ranging from the smaller Street 500 to the monstrous Road Glide Ultra.
For the smaller framed individuals (such as myself), I recommend starting out on a lower-weight Harley that can be customized to your size (I mean, afterall, you are going to want to change some things...its a Harley. So let's take that into consideration as well). On the smaller side, Harley has a bunch of different models that fit smaller-framed individuas really well. The Street, Sportster, and Softail series all work really well for us light-weights. In addition to those models, there are some discontinued models that are easily found which make great first Harleys, to include the Dyna and FXR. Each of these models can be fitted with mid-controls or forward-controls, so leg length wont be a huge concern. The real winning factor for these models is the weight. For us smaller folk, the weight of these models is easier to manage in those "uh-oh" moments (i. e. - you just hit the brakes too hard in a slow turn and the bike is starting to tip).
Now, for the Andre the Giants, Undertakers, and Hulk Hogans, you almost have your choice of the liter. However, I will recommend keeping one thing in mind when selecting your first Harley--growing room. While the Sportster 1200 or Street 750 may seem fun to zip around the city on, it may not provide you with the adequate leg room for those longer trips. If possible, try one with forward controls and see if that works for you. Like I said, plenty of bigger individuals ride smaller bikes, but you need to keep in mind the bike's limitations and yours.
Unfortunately, the last factor to consider is the one most people don't want to think about: budget. While some individuals can easily go out and buy the latest CVO, some of us are on a budget. There are plenty of components which can influence a budget. Are you mechanically inclined and feel comfortable working on your on motorcycle? If so, a used bike may fit the bill. Not so mechanically competent? A new bike with a warranty and maintenence plan may be a better choice. Now I will say that one of the biggest components of the Harley community is fixing your own bike. A lot of individuals buy the service manual (the official Harley service manual, please don't use anything else) and a set of tools and figure it as they go, but that isn't for everyone.
I think the discontinued models provide a great balance for many individuals. You can find low mileage Dynas and FXRs for a great price. This offers you a budget solution, as well as a great first experience for almost all-size riders. However, with all used bikes, one must take into the consideration that there will be a need for maintenence sooner than later when compared to a new Harley.
While I do believe any individual can ride any Harley model, I think rider-motorcycle fit play a huge part in the Harley experience. Feeling like you just purchased the perfect Harley for you will always outweigh the feeling of getting a good deal. Congrats, you got $3000 off an Ultra-Classic, but you commute in bumper-to-bumper traffic in LA. While I have definately split lanes on an Ultra-Classic during Friday rush hour in Pasadena, I would have preferred doing it on my Dyna. Nevertheless, the bike will get the job done, but for your first Harley, really think about what you are looking for, as it could make all the difference in your relationship with the legendary machine.
Comments, critiques, questions? Hit me up at email@example.com. I will make sure to reply and maybe even address your question in a following post (with the appropriate shoutout of course!)
Cheers and Happy Riding!
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