As a brand, Harley-Davidson has one of the largest and most fervent fanbases in the world, and every one of those fans will have an opinion on what the best Harley really is.
Even objectively, those of us who aren’t necessarily interested in the brand or the bikes they make will have some sort of opinion. They are simply iconic and have become as much a motorcycle brand as a cultural icon.
With all that in mind, there’s no way we’re committing to a number one, you’ll have to decide, but these are 10 of their most iconic machines that every motorcycle enthusiast should ride at least once. in his life.
ten 1936 EL “Knucklehead”
Until the 1930s, most motorcycles, including those made by Harley, looked like bicycles with small engines (i.e. mopeds).
Motorcycle design made quite a dramatic change at the time of the EL’s launch, and it was arguably one of the first “modern” motorcycles in that regard. Its “Knucklehead” engine was its most distinctive feature, however, and the moniker stuck.
9 1942 W.L.A.
You could make a pretty strong argument that this was the first-ever dual-sport bike, only it rode through battlefields, not trails on a Sunday.
It was truly a war machine, a tool used by the troops to good effect. It also became the most widely modified motorcycle after the war, as it was an affordable army surplus motorcycle.
8 1957 XL Sportster Ironhead
By the end of the 1950s, Harley had become one of the biggest motorcycle manufacturers in the world, but these big Ironhead motorcycles were the motorcycle equivalent of “no replacement for displacement”.
It turned out to be a rather popular model and philosophy, as these bikes remained in production well into the 80s with only minor revisions and updates.
seven 1958 XLCH Sportster
As the pressure mounted on Harley to get more performance out of their bikes as British manufacturers got a head start, Harley delivered on their promise with the Sportster.
The Sportster has been an integral part of their model line ever since, going through several different design phases, but that’s where it all started.
6 1958 Duo Slips
Up until this point in history, the rear suspension on Harleys was entirely in the seat. It was their first bike that incorporated rear shocks.
Not only that, but they were also adjustable. They had three settings, solo, heavy rider (for tall people) and two…although the passenger would have to live without the spring seat and settle for regular foam.
5 1965 Electra Glide
Although you had to tick a few option boxes, this was arguably the first-ever dedicated touring bike.
Checking the right options would give you a larger tank, luggage and a passenger seat if desired. The fact that Elvis bought one didn’t hurt their sales.
4 1970 XR-750
Arguably the best Harley ever made. It was a competition machine and if you wanted to be competitive on the flat track circuit in the early 70s, you needed it.
As famous as he was for his racing exploits, he became even more famous as the bike that Evel Knievel chose for its high-octane stunts and jumps. The lack of front brakes was a committed approach.
3 1983 XR-1000
Harley had its biggest meltdown in the 70s, bikes from that era became infamous money pits and are now worth pennies on the dollar.
By the early 80s they were starting to shake off their unease, as was the whole automotive industry, and were starting to make decent bikes again. The XR-1000 was one of those, although it was a bit overpriced, it was a good high performance Harley.
2 1990 fat boy
The fat boy has to be the most aptly named motorcycle ever madebecause it definitely has a bit more girth than the average Harley of the late 80s/early 90s.
He also shot to fame with his appearance in The Terminator, with Arnold Schwarzenegger’s huge frame looking decidedly fitting for this Fat Boy. A product placement lesson if there ever was one…
1 Buell XB12S/R 2006
Ok that’s a bit of a zinger, but back in 2003 Buell was 100% owned by Harley-Davidson, and the Lightning is still the only sportbike they dared to make (unless you include the very limited production VR1000), although under another brand.
The XB12 is powered by a heavily modified Sportster engine, producing 103 horsepower and 84 feet of torque. We all know those bikes had their flaws, but we’d still love to ride the only Harley that isn’t actually a Harley.