If you're new to the world of Harley-Davidson, you might be confused by the seemingly endless assortments of model names, none of which tell you much about the actual motorcycle. Deluxe, Street, Ultra, Softail, Special, Glide, King, Low Rider, Custom - these names loom large in Harley-Davidson lore, but they don’t provide much information when you’re trying to decide which on of them to ride on a two-week tour.
So we’ve put together this Guide to EagleRider's Most Popular Harley-Davidson Motorcycle Models to make it easier for you to choose which bike is right for you and your pillion (if you’re bringing one along).
Firstly, there are four main families of Harley-Davidson motorcycles that are available from EagleRider: Touring, Softail, Sportster and Trike. Let’s look the Touring family first, which is EagleRider's most popular line.
There’s a new 8-valve, “Milwaukee Eight” motor in the touring family of bikes. It's oil cooled, rubber mounted in the frame and includes an internal counterbalancer for vibration reduction. These changes mean that the touring family bikes ride smoother, generate less heat and deliver more power than any previous generation of standard HD motor.
The touring family bikes are generally designed to provide superior comfort for both the rider and passenger, although the styling of the individual models can impact this (see model descriptions below for more on this). These bikes feature air suspension in the rear, which can be adjusted based on rider, passenger and luggage weight.
Depending on the model, the passenger will either get floorboards or footpads to rest their feet on. All the touring bikes feature good luggage capacity. Most will be fitted with heel & toe shifters, (downshift with your toe, upshift with your heel) which feels odd at first, but most riders adapt in just a few minutes.
The Electra Glide is the ultimate for in rider & pillion comfort, and as such is one of EagleRider’s most popular models. Wind and weather protection is superb due to the “bat wing” fairing and large windscreen. Seating is exceedingly comfortable, with back and arm support for passengers.
We sometimes hear from pillions that they fell asleep while riding on an E-Glide! The locking side bags and top case offer outstanding luggage capacity, which you’ll appreciate on longer tours. For two up, long distance riding over many days, the Electra Glide is really your best choice.
It can feel a bit heavy at low speeds fully loaded and two up, so we’d recommend this bike for experienced riders. If the size of the bike seems intimidating, we suggest hiring an Electra Glide for a couple of days before your tour to get comfortable with it - it’s an extremely well balanced, rideable motorcycle, but sometimes it helps to get to know a bike before you head out for a big ride.
We LOVE the Road King. Out of all the models H-D manufactures, perhaps no other bike distills what is great about riding a Harley more than the Road King. You can tour or cruise on it equally well. You’ll be amazed at how light on its feet this 800-pound motorcycle can feel, how connected to the road it is. With a quick detachable fairing up front, you can ride in the wind or out of it. Passenger comfort is excellent, with floorboards, thickly padded passenger seat padding and grab rails (some bikes will include an optional passenger backrest). Luggage capacity is good with locking hard saddlebags. If you’re willing to give up a little passenger comfort compared to the Electra Glide, or are riding solo, the Road King is an excellent choice.
Uniquely among traditional Harleys, the Road Glide has a frame mounted fairing, so wind resistances don’t get transferred to the rider’s arms. This means more control and less rider fatigue. And the Road Glide sports a unique look - perhaps less traditional Harley, and more like a drag racing bike.
Passenger comfort is excellent, although slightly down on the Road King as the RG features passenger footpegs, not floorboards. If you’re looking for something a little different, the Road Glide really is the secret weapon in Harley’s arsenal - superb handling, eats up the miles, with a little naughty baked in.
The Street Glide is the “looker” in the Touring family, with a sleek, “slammed” look care of the lowered suspension. Clasps and chrome have been toned down and smoothed out, giving the Street Glide an elegant, almost understated appearance. With the lowered suspension, the SG makes a great partner for those with inseams on the shorter side, but it’s roomy enough to fit riders of nearly any stature.
And now EagleRider has a special version of the Street Glide in the fleet - the “Grand Touring”. The bike includes an upgraded Electra Glide style seat, which provides improved comfort (especially for pillions), a tour pack for increased luggage capacity, and a taller windscreen. The Grand Touring Street Glide is the way to go if you want a low bike with a great look that can really eat up the miles.
The Softail family of motorcycles was substantially revised for the 2018 model year with a host of features: a new frame and suspension for improved handling, new motors with twin internal counterbalancers for decreased vibration, engine oiling by wet sump for less heat, and an average weight loss of 32 pounds from each model in the line. Less weight, less heat, more horsepower and torque and better handling make the new Softails the most competent, enjoyable versions of the bikes ever.
Why ride a Softail? Some riders feel that Softails provide the most responsive, raw feeling of the Harley-Davidson family, and prefer them for this. Their look is old school, they’re lighter than the Touring bikes, simpler. Softails might provide less pure comfort to rider and passenger than the touring bikes, but for many, their personality and look are worth the tradeoff.
The Heritage adds touring comfort without diluting the raw personality that makes the Softail so desirable. Raised bars, a detachable windscreen, thicker passenger seating pad and rider floorboards transform the Heritage into an extremely capable long-distance touring bike.
Think of the Heritage as the Road King’s bad boy twin brother. Pillion riders will have very slightly less comfort than they would on the Road King (and a lot less than on the Electra Glide) but they just might have more fun.
The Low Rider is a pure, old-school Harley in both look and feel. While we wouldn’t recommend this bike for two-up long-distance touring, a solo rider looking for a responsive, minimal yet capable motorcycle will really enjoy the Low Rider. If the film “Easy Rider” made you want to hop on a big Harley and ride across America, this is the bike to do it on. Luggage capacity is ok with optional saddlebags, so you’ll want to bungee a bag to the back unless you travel extremely light.
HARLEY-DAVIDSON SPORTSTER FAMILY
The Sportster is a timeless mainstay of the Harley-Davidson family, dating back to 1957. The current 1200cc version is perhaps the most friendly of all Harleys, with relatively lightweight, manageable power delivery, easy handling and a low seat height.
The only downside is the 4.5 gallon tank, which means stopping for fuel more often than bikes with larger tanks. On guided tours, this won’t be an issue as the fuel stops are carefully planned, but on unescorted rides and in remote areas, fuel capacity can be a consideration.
We don’t recommend the Sportster for long distance, two-up touring (unless your pillion is especially hardcore!) but for cruising rides, the Sportster is an easy choice.
When is a Harley not a motorcycle? When it’s a trike, or in Harley-Davidson vernacular, a TriGlide. The HD trikes have been developed and improved over the years to optimize safety, comfort and rideability while retailing their unique visual appeal.
Luggage capacity, rider and pillion comfort are all the best that HD can provide. Trikes can enable some riders who have challenges managing a traditional two-wheeled bike to get out and ride, which is wonderful. But there is a misperception about trikes that they are “easier” to ride than a traditional two-wheeled motorcycle….the reality is that trikes require a different riding approach.
You don’t have to balance a trike like a two-wheeler, but where you place the bike on the road, how you turn and stop all require a different technique. Harley has put together a great new video with trike riding tips if you are not an experienced trike rider we highly recommend that you WATCH IT HERE.
We hope you’ve found this Guide to EagleRider's Most Popular Harley-Davidson Motorcycle Models helpful. Keep in mind that you can always call us toll-free and ask more specific questions, we’re happy to help!