Here Emily takes a look at the best beginner Harleys including current and previous models to help you choose your first big motorcycle.
Harley Davidson is an institution, an iconic and historic motorcycle manufacturer of some of the most popular and well loved two-wheeled machines that have ever been produced.
However, they are not always acknowledged as being particularly beginner friendly.
With that said I am here to change the narrative as actually some of Harley’s past and present motorcycles do lend themselves to the novice and can make pretty great bikes to learn your craft on.
Ultimately the best Harley Davidson for a beginner rider is the one that the rider is the most comfortable on.
Comfort creates confidence and confidence creates an enjoyable ride.
With that in mind, the best Harleys for beginners have certain qualities that make them better for the novice, bikes that have a low center of gravity, a seat that’s low and lighter weight are all helpful features for new riders.
Harley has 6 categories that their 2021 line up is split into:
- Adventure Touring
I have looked at the entire 2021 range across the categories and also older models that can easily be picked up on the used market at bargain prices.
So here’s my pick of the 7 best beginner Harleys.
Table of Contents
- Harley Davidson Street 750
- Harley Davidson 2021 Sportster S
- Harley Davidson Sportster 883 Superlow
- Harley Davidson Street Bob
- Harley Davidson Softail Slim
- Harley Davidson Livewire
- Harley Davidson Freewheeler
- Final Thoughts
Harley Davidson Street 750
The Harley Davidson Street 750 was discontinued along with the Street Rod (which shared the same engine) and the Street 500 in 2020.
Together with the Street 500 it was built as an entry-level motorcycle into the Harley Davidson brand as a way to attract new bikers and a younger demographic.
For new riders looking for an entry level Harley the Street 750 is a great bike and on the used market you can really pick up a bargain.
In the US Harley riding schools were actually teaching on the Street 750 and Sportster 883.
It is a great motorcycle for those shorter in stature.
It is a relatively low powered engine at 750cc, is easy to handle, has an upright seating position, is low to the ground with a seat height of 25.7” and weighs in at 514lbs.
The Street 750 wouldn’t be the best Harley for taller folk from a comfort perspective. The mid mounted controls and low seat would feel cramped quite quickly.
Harley Davidson 2021 Sportster S
For 2021 Harley brought out a new Sportster with a completely new engine called the Revolution Max 1250T.
It is currently Harley’s smallest displacement machine in the UK. However, in the US the Iron 883 and Iron 1200 are still in production.
It weighs in at 502lbs with a low 28.9″ seat so from a handling perspective the Sportster S is more than manageable for new riders.
However, it produces a huge 121 horsepower so you would have to be conscious of the bike’s performance and go easy on the throttle.
There are plenty of modern features thrown in such as ABS with enhanced cornering abilities and traction control. All of which are great to help aid beginners and keep them safe.
Harley Davidson Sportster 883 Superlow
The Iron 883 Superlow was also recently discontinued from the line-up but again there are plenty of affordable options on the used market.
The seat height sits at 26.7” and it is one of the lightest Harley models at 568lbs.
The weight is carried low, so the center of gravity is pretty good making it an easy to handle bike.
To be honest, any Harley Sportster from years gone is going to be a great bike for beginners.
Being the lightest Harley, even the smallest biker should be able to manage the 883 and it was one of our top motorcycles for women picks.
The 883 engine is also a great engine for the novice. It is not too powerful, but has plenty of grunt for you to grow into.
They have been in production since 1957 so they carry the Harley heritage through every pop of the engine.
The later moodier Iron 883 bikes are my favourite, the idea is that you can customise to your heart’s content, starting with a blank canvas.
On any Sporty you are going to feel the true long-lasting Harley heritage, for me the traditional sportster is the quintessential Harley Davidson motorcycle.
Harley Davidson Street Bob
100lbs heavier and 1,000cc bigger engine capacity than the 883cc Sportsters the Street Bob is a popular choice for riders moving up the Harley line-up.
The new 2021 model has a super low 25” seat, which is great for riders moving from the Street or Sportsters model as it helps to compensate for the extra weight.
The Street Bob is a good choice for riders who like the Bobber looks and who want a ‘Big’ Harley but don’t want to deal with the extra weight that comes with one.
The power is there, the aggressive riding stance is there, the 2021 paint schemes are pretty awesome, and it gives that big Harley vibe without actually feeling like one.
For taller and heavier riders the Street Bob would also make a good choice over a Sportster.
Harley Davidson Softail Slim
The Softail Slim is a traditionally styled bike, harking back to the 1950’s.
It has a low seat of 25.5” and has a relaxed riding position. The bike is perfect for confident riders looking for a traditional laid back cruiser.
The centre of gravity is nice and low, the weight balanced perfectly to instill confidence across the broad powerband.
If you want something a little darker and moodier, then the blacked out Low Rider S might be a good choice, but it is a bit faster than the Softail Slim with sportier ergonomics.
Neither the Softail Slim or Low Rider S should be taken lightly however, as they are big V-twins so you need to be sure you can manage the weight and control your throttle hand.
Harley Davidson Livewire
As one of the leading electric motorcycles on the market, it would have been rude to leave Harley’s electric offering off the table as a viable option.
The main selling point for all riders here will be the fact it is an electric motorcycle, so it’s definitely a good option for those who are looking to make that move.
The bike has a seat height of 30” and weighs in at 549 lbs. It has a very upright riding position which is great for beginner riders as you are in full control of the bike and have great visibility.
Harley Davidson Freewheeler
The Freewheeler is one of three of Harley’s trikes. So yes it is not quite a traditional motorcycle but is a great way for people to get out on the road.
It is the lightest option, but also it is just a really good trike.
Picked for this list based on its build for solo riders, it isn’t as big as the other options and is super comfortable for a short trip to the local food spot, or can be fully loaded for long tours.
If you have experience driving, then turning to a trike as your first foray into the world of motorcycles would be a confidence inspiring one.
Needless to say the three wheels offer stability that two never could.
You do need to be committed to owning a Harley Davidson in order to buy a Freewheeler as they are quite pricey.
Although it could be said it would be a purchase to last a lifetime that could take you as far as you wanted to go.
Of course Harley Davidson motorcycles have bigger engines and are heavier than what some would consider to be traditional beginner bikes.
However, confidence, comfort and respect for the machine you choose is far more relevant than the engine capacity.
Understand your limits and riding ability and you will be good to go for as many miles as your Harley can take you.
The last thing to think about is whether you shoot for a new or used Harley.
The fact is that generally HD bikes are capable of lasting a really long time when they are looked after.
An average Sportster engine lifespan is 80,000 miles before it might need some work or parts replaced, but even then with a bit of TLC it is good to go again.
You can find some great used Harley bikes on the market which might be good for a beginner as you would be less precious about potentially dropping it etc. Equally, a new bike with a warranty is a good option too.
There you have it, a round up of the best Harley Davidson motorcycles for beginners.
Surely there are few things cooler than starting out your life on two wheels than doing it on a Harley Davidson.