Harley-Davidson is the king of badass motorcycles. Throughout the last century, they’ve made some of the coolest bikes of all time. With so much attitude and charisma behind the brand, Harleys project a slick, tough image that is recognizable all over the world. Whether it’s for their historical significance, performance or style, there are a few Harley-Davidsons that are even cooler than the rest.
Harley-Davidson should be known for more than just their cruisers. From a wartime hero bike to EV innovation, they have never been afraid to branch out. The Pan America adventure bike and LiveWire electric motorcycle are two prime examples of this. Harley-Davidson remains the go-to motorcycle brand if you’re looking for a badass bike that’s certain to turn heads.
One of the coolest and most important American motorcycles is the Harley-Davidson WLA. Based on a civilian motorcycle, the WLA was created specifically for the US military during World War II. Additional equipment included a luggage rack to carry radios, blackout lights to reduce visibility at night, a submachine gun holster, a skid plate and crash bars. Usually finished in olive drab with a blacked out motor, the WLA was a bona fide war veteran.
9 FLH Electra Glide
Born in 1965, the Harley-Davidson FLH Electra Glide is one of the most iconic Harleys ever. The Electra Glide name comes from the fact that Harley-Davidson equipped it with an electric starter, making it one of the first bikes to have one. Along came the ‘Batwing’ fork-mounted front fairing and with the option of hard panniers and a windshield, the Electra Glide became the first proper touring motorcycle.
A great example of Harley’s versatility comes in the form of the Harley-Davidson XR750. They built this motorcycle with one thing in mind — flat track racing. The motor was based on the 883cc ironhead from a Sportster, although with a shorter stroke.
The XR750 went on to win the most races in American Motorcycle Association history, claiming 29 out of the 37 championships from 1972 to 2008. So next time someone says that Harley-Davidson only makes cruisers, point to the brilliant XR750!
At the turn of the millennium, Harley were trying to evolve, and they feared that their air-cooled V-twins might be outdated. Using the liquid-cooled eight-valve overhead cam motor from the VR1000 sports bike, the Harley-Davidson V-Rod was supposed to signal the new direction for the company. This tubular-framed muscle bike wasn’t very well-received, though. Purists distrusted the move away from the old reliable motors and simply couldn’t get on board. A couple of decades on, the V-Rod is still one mean-looking brute of a motorcycle that was ahead of its time.
Harley-Davidson is genuinely producing an electric motorcycle. Nobody really believed it at first as it was such a departure from the brand. The LiveWire combines the rugged appearance that Harley owners know and love, with the futuristic elements of electric vehicles. Capable of getting from 0 to 60 mph in 3 seconds and topping out at 110 mph, the LiveWire is no slouch! Time will tell if electric motorcycles catch on, but few will be as badass as the Harley-Davidson LiveWire.
5 Pan America
Yet again, Harley-Davidson surprised the masses with the release of a motorcycle that falls way outside their core customer base. The Harley-Davidson Pan America is a 1,252cc adventure bike that can take you around the world. Producing 150 hp, the Pan America is one of the most powerful Harley-Davidsons ever. With its upright riding position, you can cover huge distances in comfort, on one of the most impressive adventure bikes around.
4 Street Glide
These days, the Harley-Davidson Street Glide is the quintessential Harley. Its iconic silhouette is synonymous with rebel culture and reckless spirits, living life their own way. Powered by the beefy Milwaukee-Eight motor, the Street Glide makes every ride an event. Capable of long-haul trips, downtown cruises and anything in between, the Street Glide is the ultimate modern Harley-Davidson. Plus, if the standard 107 cubic inch motor doesn’t quite cut it, the gargantuan 131 cubic inch behemoth is also an option.
3 Sportster S
The Sportster is often the butt of many jokes inside and outside the Harley community. The ‘baby Harley’ is too small and too slow for many. To counter this, Harley-Davidson released the Sportster S — a completely new take on the Sportster name. With the same rowdy 1,252cc Revolution Max motor as the Pan America, the Sportster S is lightning fast. Its chunky tires and thickset looks really give it the feel of a proper muscle bike too, perhaps meaning that the Sportster S will surely succeed where the unfortunate V-Rod failed.
Many classic Harleys look great but seem as if they would struggle at the first sight of a corner. For the most part, it was an accurate assumption. Until the Harley-Davidson FXR came along, that is. Engineers worked tirelessly to maintain the unique style of a Harley-Davidson while improving the handling performance. Due to a new, stiffer frame, the FXR was much more capable in turns, and its EVO engine was a real peach. In the FXR, Harley-Davidson built a wicked motorcycle that wouldn’t be left behind on the twistier roads.
1 Fat Boy
The Harley-Davidson Fat Boy is not just the most badass Harley-Davidson of all time, but probably the most badass motorcycle ever. The beefed-up front forks and solid cast wheels let you know that this is one tough bike. Showa suspension front and rear make it a joy to ride, and the mighty Milwaukee-Eight expertly fits in with the dominant heritage of the Fat Boy. Making an appearance in Terminator 2 solidified the Fat Boy as the most badass Harley-Davidson of all time.
Sources: Harley-Davidson, Deadbeat Customs, Iron City Motorcycles