HARLEY-DAVIDSON is a brand that attracts the most loyal of devotees and the fiercest of detractors, with little in the way of middle ground.
But regardless of your position on America’s most famous motorcycle marque, one thing’s for certain: Harley-Davidson is an iconic manufacturer and one of the few bike brands that spring quickly to the lips of people who know nothing about bikes.
The reason for Harley’s popularity and place in popular culture are plain to see - it’s made some stonking bikes over the last 114 years. We'd argue that Harley-Davidson is the foundation on which a huge swathe of motorcycle culture is built on and arguably wrote the rule book on big stateside V-twins, so we thought we'd share some of of our favourite bikes to come out of H-D HQ in Milwaukee. Not doubt you'll have your own opinions on this, so let us know.
1936 El Knucklehead
The Knucklehead engine is one of Harley’s most famous and it first appeared in 1936, in the EL Knucklehead, which was one of the bikes that helped begin to cement Harley-Davidson position as the American motorcycle manufacturer.
1961 Duo Glide
What’s not to like about this? It’s got styling that harks back to the 1950s thanks to those swoopy mudguards (or fenders, if you’re inclined), plus plenty of chrome. Add in the 1208cc air-cooled V-twin and a long, low riding position combined with bars and a peanut tank that all come together to create one of the iconic Harleys and a look that’s been copied and borrowed from countless times over the years.
The 1986 Sportster was the first bike to use Harley-Davidson’s Ironhead replacement, the Evolution, or Evo engine (in 883 and 1,100cc, which is credited with turning round Harley’s poor fortunes.
Why? Because Evel Knievel, that’s why – it was the legendary stunt man’s weapon of choice for jumping cars and trucks in the 1970s. The XR-750 may not be a production bike but we love it because it looks awesome and has spectacular racing heritage that includes 29 AMA Grand National titles in the US.
The V-Rod is a handsome beast, thanks mostly to its lashings of chrome and brutish, bold good looks. 115hp from the superb 1130cc V-Twin means there’s plenty of fun to be had, and no shortage of torque, so it rides as good as it looks. A tidy handling, high performance, water cooled Harley? Indeed.