The 20 Best Harley Davidson Motorcycles Ever Made
Harley Davidson is not a motorcycle brand. Harley Davidson is a lifestyle. That’s for certain. And there’s no other brand out there that has reached the same level of fame as the one that started its journey a long, long time ago in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
After all, it’s the name that pops up in everyone’s minds when they think of freedom on the open road.
Harley Davidson has long been associated with the freedom of motorcycle travel, and their cruisers and tourers are the image that shows in most people’s dreams of riding into the sunset.
Harley is the quintessential motorcycle, but out of everything they’ve produced since their inception back in 1903, there are a few that have achieved legendary status over the years. And there are even some recent additions among them as well.
Without further ado, let’s have a look at the 20 best motorcycles that Harley Davidson has ever produced.
- 20. 1958 Harley Davidson Duo-Glide
- 19. 1949 Harley Davidson FL Hydra-Glide
- 18. 2007 Harley Davidson VRSCDX Night Rod Special
- 17. 2007 Harley Davidson XL1200N Sportster Nightster
- 16. 1953 Harley Davidson KR750
- 15. 1983 Harley Davidson XR-1000
- 14. 1940 Harley Davidson WLA “Liberator”
- 13. 1958 Harley Davidson XLCH Sportster
- 12. 1965 Harley Davidson Electra Glide
- 11. 2012 Harley Davidson CVO Softail Convertible
- 10. 2009 Harley Davidson FXSTB Night Train
- 9. 2009 Harley Davidson FLHT Electra Glide Standard
- 8. 2006 Harley Davidson VRSCSE2
- 7. 2012 Harley Davidson FLHR Road King
- 6. 2008 Harley Davidson FXDWG Dyna Wide Glide
- 5. 1970 Harley Davidson XR750
- 4. 1990 Harley Davidson FLSTF Fat Boy
- 3. 2002 Harley Davidson VRSCA V-Rod
- 2. 1936 Harley Davidson EL Knucklehead
- 1. 1915 Harley Davidson 11F
20. 1958 Harley Davidson Duo-Glide
The Harley Davidson Duo-Glide that came out in 1958 was their first motorcycle that came with a rear suspension that used a swingarm with coil-over shocks.
This suspension was a game changer, crucial to the upcoming long distance tourers developed by the company and cherished by touring riders, and one that led Harley Davidson into a new era.
The Duo-Glide, which got its moniker after being referred to by riders as the “glide ride”, has come to be loved by many people all over the world, and it’s often rated as one of the best bikes of all time.
19. 1949 Harley Davidson FL Hydra-Glide
When it appeared, back in 1949, the Harley Davidson FL Hydra-Glide brought with it a hydraulic telescoping fork that was developed by the company right after the end of the Second World War.
The new fork wasn’t introduced immediately due to the economics of building a production line for it and using up the already existent supply of girder forks as well.
The FL Hydra-Glide thus brought with it the much awaited comfort that long distance riders craved for, leaving behind the traditional “rigid” frame that Harleys were using prior to it.
18. 2007 Harley Davidson VRSCDX Night Rod Special
The more recent lineup of Harley motorcycles brought the VRSCDX Night Rod Special, a two wheeled marvel that impressed the motorcycle world since 2007 when it started roaming the roads.
The V-Rod, or V-Twin Racing Street Custom (which is what VRSC stands for), was a lean and mean machine, powered by a 1247cc liquid cooled DOHC Revolution engine developed in partnership between Harley Davidson and Porsche.
Out of it, riders got 125 horsepower and 85 pound-feet of torque. And with everything blacked out on the DX, the bike also looked the part.
17. 2007 Harley Davidson XL1200N Sportster Nightster
Another 2007 Harley Davidson motorcycle is the XL1200N Sportster Nightster, which quickly became known for its impressive performance. Despite its bobbed rear fender, side mounted license plate, and front fork gaiters, this model wasn’t as impressive when it came to style.
But what made it so sought after was the air cooled 1200cc Evolution V-Twin engine that used an Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI) system, and was delivering the power through a very efficient 5 speed transmission.
This combination made the motorcycle extremely versatile and prized by long distance riders.
16. 1953 Harley Davidson KR750
The 1953 KR750 is a Harley Davidson legend in the AMA sports, marking the beginning of Harley’s success on the AMA tracks.
In fact, the KR line of bikes were the dominating player in AMA for about two decades, between the early 1950s and the late 1960s, with the 1953 KR750 being the bike that started it all.
Opening the road for flat-track racing, the KR750 quickly became an iconic bike that everybody knew as “the” racing motorcycle in the United States at the time.
15. 1983 Harley Davidson XR-1000
When it came out in 1983, Harley Davidson’s XR-1000 was poorly received by the motorcycle community, mostly due to its high price of nearly $7,000. The bike also had some peculiar issues that made it a little bit annoying for some, like its strange desire to go left.
Despite all its shortcomings, the XR-1000 is a sought after piece of Harley Davidson history today. Due to its misfortune, not many were built in the two years that the bike was in production, which makes it a rarity today.
It may not have been the most comfortable of the Harley bunch, but it was still an impressive and performant machine, raucous and fit for a certain kind of biker.
14. 1940 Harley Davidson WLA “Liberator”
During World War II, the American military was in need for a tough and reliable motorcycle that could be used in the field. Harley Davidson set to work and released the WLA, nicknamed the “Liberator”, in 1940.
With over 90,000 WLA produced during the war, and many more produced for various allied armies, like Canada, South Africa, or the UK, it’s safe to say that the bike was a clear success. Even the USSR received over 26,000 WLA motorcycles through and special lend and lease program.
The bike was powered by the extremely reliable 45 cubic inch “Flathead” engine, which was also very tolerant to poor quality fuel, thus suitable for military use, had an increased ground clearance, a skid plate, and a heavy duty air cleaner. All these features made the WLA a proper military use motorcycle.
13. 1958 Harley Davidson XLCH Sportster
The 1957 Sportster was born out of a desire of the biker community for a performant bike. It came with a new overhead valve engine and plenty of parts from the KH line, and despite its best intentions, everybody saw it as just a touring machine.
The 1958 variant on the other hand, the XLCH Sportster was a whole new and radical motorcycle, with the H in the name screaming high performance, and the C standing for stripped bodywork – so no lights, mufflers, or any other parts deemed unnecessary for a TT race.
The success soon followed, and now the Sportster model is the longest running in Harley’s lineup.
12. 1965 Harley Davidson Electra Glide
The 1965 Harley Davidson Electra Glide is the model that set the foundation for the outstanding touring machines that would come out under the name for years to come. It’s the cornerstone of touring machines.
This was the first of the FL Harleys to benefit from an electric starter, and with an increased fuel tank capacity – the Turnpike tank, the Electra Glide got some extra range.
Also, there was a variety of accessories available to further expand its potential as a touring machine.
11. 2012 Harley Davidson CVO Softail Convertible
With its excellent touring capabilities and long distance ride comfort, the Harley Davidson CVO Softail Convertible that came out in 2012 is the model that stood out the most from its brothers.
It’s a cruiser with exceptional street manners, making riding around in town a lovely experience, and the windscreen, removable backrest, and the large and comfortable passenger seat, made it roadworthy for long days in the saddle.
10. 2009 Harley Davidson FXSTB Night Train
Well regarded for its jaw dropping performance, the FXSTB Night Train from 2009 is among Harley’s best two wheeled machines. They got the design just right, and the beefy 1584cc Twin-Cam 96B engine, paired with the six speed Cruise Drive transmission, made this a true freedom machine.
But the Night Train was a lot more than just a speed seeker’s toy.
The bike’s riding position was everything a rider could ever want, the black coating from the engine to the frame gave it a stunning appearance, and the extended front end, plus drag bars, and the 21 inch front and the fat rear tire, all these made for one of the greatest bikes in the world.
9. 2009 Harley Davidson FLHT Electra Glide Standard
Harley Davidson’s 2009 FLHT Electra Glide Standard deserves its spot in the Harley hall of fame as one of the greatest motorcycles of all time.
A trusty combination between its 1584cc air cooled V-Twin engine and the Electronic Throttle Control, or ETC, made this bike a dependable machine for touring riders all over the world.
Then there’s the air adjustable suspension, the six speed cruise drive transmission, and the many other useful features, all of which made the Electra Glide Standard a staple in the motorcycle touring industry, a long haul motorcycle that was known as the most stable Harleys ever made.
8. 2006 Harley Davidson VRSCSE2
Harley Davidson’s CVO team, short for Custom Vehicle Operation, has brought to the world what has become known as the power cruiser motorcycle. That came in the form of the 2006 VRSCSE2 model, a bike so well balanced between beauty and beasty performance that no one could help but love it.
The Harley Davidson VRSCSE2 was extremely popular for its combination of a powerful 1247cc Revolution engine and a handling so good that it made riding through city traffic incredibly easy for everybody.
The muscular design of the bike was elevated by its three colorways. It came in either charcoal slate and scarlet red pearl, platinum pear and chrome yellow pearl, or black and electric orange.
7. 2012 Harley Davidson FLHR Road King
It’s not for nothing that the 2012 Harley Davidson FLHR got its title as the king of the road. The bike is a true long distance tourer, fully capable and fully equipped to handle long days on the road.
It came powered by a 1690cc Twin-Cam 103 engine that sends its power to the rear wheel via a six speed cruise drive transmission, making for a near perfect powertrain.
Besides that, the bike was equipped with plenty premium features, among which there’s ABS, adjustable rear suspension, and electronic cruise control.
6. 2008 Harley Davidson FXDWG Dyna Wide Glide
The original FXDWG Dyna Wide Glide was introduced back in 1993, but after a decade and a half, the much improved 2008 model came out.
Among the most impressive features, the Dyna Wide Glide had Tommy Gun 2-1-2 exhausts, massive back end and chopped rear fender to match the bobber style that was gaining traction.
Another nice feature was the lower seat and forward pegs, making the ride a lounge like experience.
5. 1970 Harley Davidson XR750
After the initial success of their KR line in the AMA championships in the 1950s and the 1960s, Harley Davidson kept on going even further, and in 1972 they brought out a newer and better motorcycle for flat-track racing, the XR750.
The motorcycle was a very successful one, but it wasn’t the only one, as the XR range won 29 of the total of 37 AMA Grand National Championships between 1972 and 2008, which is not an easy feat to achieve. But still, Harley Davidson did it.
4. 1990 Harley Davidson FLSTF Fat Boy
One of the most beautiful creations to come out from Harley Davidson is the much adored FLSTF Fat Boy that came out in 1990, impressing everyone with its newly designed solid 16 inch wheels.
The silver paintjob, flared fenders, and a pair of “shotgun” exhaust pipes also boosted the bike’s elegance to a whole new level, one not seen before by bikers of that time.
The Fat Boy came powered by a 1337cc air cooled four stroke V-Twin workhorse, which was able to produce a decent 48 horsepower. It stayed in production up until 2017, when Harley decided to replace it with the FLFB and FLFBS variants that were to come out one year later, in 2018.
For those who might not remember, this was the motorcycle that appeared in “The Terminator”.
3. 2002 Harley Davidson VRSCA V-Rod
The 2002 Harley Davidson VRSCA V-Rod is one of their fastest machines, which is why its cousins have taken the drag racing world by storm.
The blend of high performance and unmatched beauty left everyone in awe, with a remarkable top speed of 140 mph, a feat few motorcycles achieved in those early years of the 21st century.
The 1130cc liquid cooled V-Twin Revolution engine brought to play 115 horsepower and 74 ft-lb of torque, more than enough to grab the attention of the whole world at the dragstrip.
2. 1936 Harley Davidson EL Knucklehead
Going back to Harley Davidson’s early years, we’ve got the 1936 EL Knucklehead, a legendary pre WW2 motorcycle that was incredible for that period, featuring an innovative overhead-valve engine design that brought more power than ever.
The Knucklehead was one of those bikes that changed the industry and it’s highly sought after by any bike collectors worldwide.
1. 1915 Harley Davidson 11F
Going even further back, the 1915 11F blinks its headlight at us from back in time, when motorcycling was in its infancy.
The Harley Davidson 11F was the motorcycle that took the company to a whole new level and really put them on the world map.
It packed so many changes and new features, like a V-twin engine, a chain drive, one of the world’s first bike clutches and a two speed rear hub, that it also forced the industry to keep pace with Harley Davidson.
Though they had and still have their share of issues and limitations, Harley Davidson motorcycles are still among the most prized in the entire industry. And that has to do both with innovation and culture, of which Harley had plenty across the years.
This list is by no means cast in stone. It’s merely a humble and subjective opinion on what Harley Davidson did best so far. And you have to agree there are quite a few legends in there.
Special thanks to Mecum Auctions where we found some of the most incredible photos with these Harleys.
Leave a Comment