HD motorcycles suck, period. Anyone who's owned a Ducati, a Triumph or even something as pedestrian as a Honda knows that Harley-Davidson's are a load of garbage. So, why are they so obviously bad? Let's go down the list:


The antiquated design is basically asking for it, right? I mean, look at these "Facts":

    Harley Davidson V-Twin:
  • Displacement: 2 hogheads.
  • Horsepower: some, allegedly.
  • Torque: Hopefully enough to justify the price tag.
  • Fuel Economy: 2 1/2 Middle-Eastern oil-barons per driveway.

Useless, right?

Well, let's look at some different facts, without the quotes this time:

What was all that modern-sounding mumbo-jumbo? That was the spec sheet for the "HD Big Twin 110B" engine. That's a spec sheet that isn't out of place on a Japanese bike of the same size.

Air-cooled? Yeah, they are. But no one screams "antique" at a Ducati L-Twin or BMW flat-twin.


"A Harley-Davidson is the most efficient way to convert gasoline into noise, without the side effects of horsepower." -- someone

There is a mantra that goes "Harleys can't rev!" It's not that they can't, it's that they don't. For the same reason a Smallblock Chevy doesn't rev, because it doesn't need to.

They CAN be made to rev, in theory, in the same way Queen Victoria could be made to run. In theory. But Vickie had power without running.

Torque is a big deal. The Harley V-Twin has it. That's not unique, lots of V-Twins have it, but it means that HD is not sitting at the back of the bus. The 2012 HD Big Twin 103ci engine produces 100-ft-lbs of torque. The 2012 Kawasaki Vulcan 1700 with the same size engine produces 108-ft-lbs. Yes, the Harley is down a little, but not much, and the Kawasaki does that with 8 valves, the HD does it with 4 (not that you should brag about having fewer valves).

So, HD is no Yamaha R1. But it ain't no Honda Cub either.


A fully-kitted HD will set you back the best part of $30K in US Dollars.

That. Is. Ludicrous.

But, but, but! A fully-loaded Honda Goldwing will also cost that much (and more if you add the Airbag). A balls-out Victory Vegas or Big-Dog will also clock in at that point.

They are ALL ludicrously priced. But they are also priced in line with each other.

At the other end we have the lowly Sportster 883, coming in at around a little below $8K. Which is a lot for a ride-on vibrator with no windshield but, again, in line with pricing for a similarly sized bike from another major manufacturer.


"Born Again Biker" is a term. It basically means a middle-aged man in the rabid grip of a midlife crisis who decided his plight will be made well by buying a loud, overpowered and expensive motorcycle.

Born-Again Harley riders are instantly recognizable: Their spotless new Soft-tail looks like it was peeled from the HD catalog, dripping with saddlebags and cup-holders and every manner of automotive pornography. The rider themselves is festooned, head to toe, with leather that bears the embossed "HD" logo. This gear is immaculate because they only take it out of storage once a year to justify owning the bike.

But how is that different from the guy who buys a new Gixxer and cocoons himself in a Suzuki-blue leather romper-suit and matching helmet with a mirrored visor all bearing the name of sponsors that are not actually his? Basically nothing. A lot of motorcycling is living the dream, and two different dreams can look equally stupid.

So then, what is the problem, sparky?

So far it looks like I've been an apologist, cheerleading Harley-Davidson against unfair criticism. And I have. Because the problem Harleys has nothing to do with anything I mentioned above. Don't worry, I come not to praise Caesar, but to bury him.

The "problem", if we have to use that term, that that too many HD owners (not all, but many), and the company itself, believe HD is special. It's not just "potato-potato-potato", it's the belief that there is an innate difference that transcends technology.

For some people it's that HD is the oldest motorcycle company in the world. It's not. For others, it's that the bikes are "Made in USA". They are assembled in USA, but that's not the same. Still for others, it's because their childhood idols rode HDs. But James Dean rode a Triumph.

It's all bullshit, really.

Summed up, the problem is: A very visible minority of HD owners are convinced beyond sanity that Harleys are better because they are Harleys. And because of that, you can never enjoy or appreciate your rice-burner, pasta-rocket or Nazi two-wheeler in the same way they appreciate their HD. It may be faster, more reliable, more equipped, but it will never be as good as they think their Harley is.

It's the smug look of self-satisfaction on the face of the Harley rider as he pulls out of the shop on his new, large, monthly payment. The look that says "I don't care what it costs or what people think, I'm getting what I want and screw all of you plebeians who don't like it."

And it sickens me to my core.

Mostly because I want one, too.