Metric Cruisers & Sport Bikes versus Harley-Davidson – Part II

//Metric Cruisers & Sport Bikes versus Harley-Davidson – Part II

Metric Cruisers & Sport Bikes versus Harley-Davidson – Part II

Editor’s Note: Below is the second of a two-part series on the differences in opinion between those who endorse the traditions and heritage behind a Harley-Davidson or other American-made motorcycle, and those who embrace the technological and reliability advantages of a modern metric cruiser or sport bike. Today, Scott Holton advances the advantages of HD and its made-in-America brethren.

When it Comes to HD vs. Metric, Tradition Says it All

By Scott Holton

Metric and sport versus Harley-Davidson is the most galvanizing among the many bones of contention that are found within the society of motorcyclists. I’m asked here to provide you with a counterpoint to Anthony Todd’s blog post that ran yesterday regarding the wonderfulness of the metric cruiser. Personally, I believe the wind doesn’t discriminate, why should I? That being said, let’s take a look at today’s motorcycle scene.

The neat thing I see about HD is four young men in a small wooden shed manufactured their first motorcycle. The year is 1903, and the bike this quartet ended up building was driven hard for more than 100,000 miles and five owners. When you think about the origins of the internal combustion engine, Bill Harley and the Davidson brothers were at the forefront of development. It’s goofy, I know, but when I read stuff like this about the early days, I hear a loud deep voice in my head that proclaims,“IN THE BEGINNING…”

The nation’s roadways back then weren’t very good and you had to be pretty damned dedicated to rack up any miles. When American motorcycles were arriving on the scene, there were many, many different brands from which to choose. One by one they fell by the wayside until today Harley is one of the only American cycle companies that is still around and still successful. Indian (HD’s major rival from the beginning) closed its doors in the early ’50s, leaving HD as the American manufacturer for many, many years.

In the early ’60s, Honda eyeballed the American market and quickly noted that there was only one major player that was supplying product. So they decided to import bikes. From that day forward, the argument has raged endlessly and passionately.

The metric guys were making smaller, more technically advanced motorcycles. With the exception of the V-rod, Harley has played upon its heritage and further refinement of the first OHV design. If you look at a knucklehead, and then at today’s twin-cam, you will see that there are many similarities and a certain amount of design reproduction. HD knew it had a winner and has used the familiar configuration since then.

GI’s coming back from WWII were just itching to ride bikes. And most often, it was a Harley. The next generation got exposed to riding and there were a lot of new riders out there. Children saw what those riders represented and they wanted some of that stuff.

The bike of choice, of course, was an HD. Honda used a marketing campaign based on the slogan “You meet the nicest people on a Honda,” which implied Harley riders weren’t nearly as nice. This just added more coals to the fire, heating up the debate.

Often these days, you hear the phrase, “If I have to explain, you wouldn’t understand” (I actually have this on a T-shirt or two). When it comes down to it, Harley stands for deep tradition and the brand draws a fanatical following of loyalists. I’ve heard “Harley-Davidson” is the most tattooed brand name in history, and I believe that. How many Yamaha tattoos have you seen lately? Harley riders (and loyalists) are rabid in their devotion. As imported motorcycle technology becomes more advanced, Harley clings harder and harder to what it knows works — and what works is the past.

By |2015-04-15T15:20:16+00:00October 3rd, 2010|Categories: Editorial/Commentary Articles|Tags: , , |68 Comments

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  1. Michael Davis September 23, 2016 at 8:32 am

    I started out with 1966 Honda S90. Not real fast, but reliable, with great gas mileage (175 miles per gallon). When I turned 16, I moved up to a 1969 Honda CB350. Best bike I ever had. I put over 20,000 miles on it, and it never stranded me, or incurred excessive repair bills. But I always dreamed of the day when I could finally afford a Harley. In 1981, I bought a Yamaha XLS650. A very fast ride, but highly unreliable. I rode it to work (16 miles each way, 5 days a week) when it was running, but I was never able to keep it running more than 6 months at a time. I bought it brand new, with 3 miles on the odometer, and was its only owner.
    I inherited a 1997 Harley Sportster 883 in about 2006. As I got used to it, and got to know the bike, I was absolutely appalled by the lack of what I considered basic features. 1)For example. there is no center stand. How are you supposed to adjust the main drive belt with no center stand to get the rear tire off the floor? 2)There is no actual lock on the fork lock. There is a loop to put my own padlock in, but really, why isn’t the lock built-in? 3)The seat is bolted down, making access to stuff under the seat time-consuming. Other bikes put a hinge at the back of the seat and a latch at the front. One finger opens the seat. 4)There is no helmet lock, AT ALL. 5)There is no way to quickly check the gear oil level. I have to hoist the bike up to get it level, take off the left foot rest, remove four screws from the derby cover, shine a flashlight in past the clutch to see the oil at all. Ridiculous. Why didn’t they simply put in a sight glass at the correct level on the primary cover? That’s what Suzuki does. It makes checking the oil level a 10 second job. 6)As I have made numerous repairs on the bike, I have discovered many other engineering choices that were seemingly made to make maintenance or repair as difficult as possible. As long as Harley has been making motorcycles, there is no excuse for such shoddy engineering. (And yes, I know about engineering, as I am one myself.) When I finally am forced to retire my Harley, I will definitely NOT be buying another Harley.

  2. Maurizio Pescatori September 7, 2016 at 7:10 am

    I started riding “proper” bikes on a big OHC Ducati single, then graduated to an OHV Guzzi V-twinm, then it was OHV and OHC BMW flat-twins for close to 30 years.
    Then came my first Harley, a Dyna EVO.
    My first impression was “what a let down!”
    An old design with farm tractor performance, poor accelleration, poor braking and a chassis with a definite dislike for leaning into corners.
    It took me a good 4 or 5 months to understand the bike’s character; she’s a bike that doesn’t like to be thrashed (unlike BMW oilheads who just beg to be redlined) but which delivers best when cruising endlessly at mid-range speeds.
    At which point, I tell myself, if only she had shaft drive, she’d be just another Guzzi clone like so many japanese cuisers out there.
    But she isn’t.
    She’s a Harley.

  3. Danis Thomas July 21, 2016 at 12:04 pm
  4. Hank Mausolf February 10, 2016 at 9:42 pm

    I have had both Metric and Harleys all my life. I started out with Knuckle and Pan heads then on to Sportster’s K-Model and CH. The metrics all had one thing in common that the Harleys did not: reliability. Not once was a left stranded by a metric, but Harley left me alone many times. My present Yamaha is totally reliable and fun to ride. This has not stopped me from looking at buying another Harley which I will do soon. I love American bikes and the tradition that goes with them. Ride what you like and enjoy life.

  5. CavScout62 January 29, 2016 at 8:58 am

    Has anybody noticed how expensive Map and Eurotrash “bikes” are these days? I could easily spend a hell of a lot more on a BMW or any of the Jap bikes than the $7500.00 I paid for my leftover ’04 FXD Super Glide. The price argument just doesn’t hold water anymore boys & girls unless you are buying Special Editions and, you can spend just as much or more on the ” Brand X” . My FXD puts 123 HP to the pavement and the same amount of torque, starts every time and has never left me stranded. BTW, it cost my right at $1100.00 to modify the bike to it’s current performance level and about 12 hours of wrenching time which was alot of fun with my Brother to get done. Oh yeah, it’s also not fuel injected, just a good old Flat Slide 42mm Mikuni carb. Easy to tune, and IF it ever doesn’t start I’m sure I can work on it without any computer diagnostic equipment. Bottom line? Buy and ride what YOU LIKE and SCREW what anyone says/ thinks!

  6. Tom January 17, 2016 at 10:27 pm

    The tattoos are a small part of the loyalty to Harley. Metric bikes wish they could have the same, that may explain why they make so many models that look similar. They sell them for less then a used Harley because that’s the only way they can sell their bikes, to those that don’t know. Harley’s are an American icon. No explanation needed for those who understand.

  7. Jim September 10, 2015 at 9:00 am

    While I own 3 Honda bikes I see no reason to join the debate. With one exception all my riding buddies ride Harleys. They give me a hard time about my “rice burning ” VLX…OK it’s a rice burner so have at it. They don’t like the rice smell from my VTX which puzzles me for two reasons. One they can’t get close enough to smell it unless I keep it in 2nd gear & ride the breakes. Second the VTX until 2012 was built in America (more so than the Hardley). They have the same problem with my Wing (mostly envy I think) & until 2012 it was built in America. I never tell them about the Honda’s being American made because who wants to spoil their fun or their desire to be just like everyone else? I also never say anything thing about their American made frame being made of steel tube from China nor the electronicsame from China. That too would spoil the fun. Just listening the horror stories about the cost of their frequent repair bills is enough.

  8. Don Taylor April 25, 2013 at 1:31 pm

    I have had 2 Harleys and 3 Yamaha and 1 Honda. IMO. The Yamaha Raider is by far the package of raw hourse power and attitude. Unlike the abaumination vrod.HD please step up. Your fans say its the original heritage. 1903, you can only do so much with ancient technology.give us something new and affordable. With some power. Don’t just add a other gear.lmao…

  9. Roy A Rogers! February 13, 2013 at 11:47 am

    I have ridden for 40 years many different bikes .
    My two best bikes were my Harley and my honda .
    The harley was my first bike and I got the honda 3 years ago
    And still riding it .
    I tell people buy what you can afford and what you like .
    These are the only two I would pick .

  10. Leon February 12, 2013 at 2:43 pm

    I absolutely love my VTX 1800T! A great, reliable ride that is comfortable to cruise on all day long. And, it was made in the USA. The best of both worlds!

    • Eric Kent August 30, 2013 at 4:08 am

      Leon AMEN to that brother. I love my VTX 1800 R as well. When I first saw my bike I rode it gave the man a deposit sold my Harley Heritage and never looked back.1800CC made in Ohio at Marysville over 100 HP and over 100 Ft LBS of torque . It is a truly GREAT BIKE .

    • Jim September 11, 2015 at 3:58 pm

      I can’t say anything about the 1800 but I wouldn’t trade the gas cap on my VTX 1300 for any other cruiser I know of. Like you say the dependability is the best of the best. I also love my 1832 in my Gold Wing.

  11. Luggage prices July 26, 2012 at 6:36 am

    Hey Scott, while it is difficult to disagree with your reasonning, the harley seems to be getting more popular with the baby boomers these days.

    All I can say is “One mellows with age…”

  12. rob September 18, 2011 at 9:57 pm

    To be completely honest I have a 2002 harleysoftail and a 1993 yamaha virago and i actually enjoy riding the yamaha more. the harley sounds better, looks cool, and cost a hell of a lot more. If you care more those things buy a harley. If you want a easy fun to ride, low cost, buy a jap bike.

  13. greg November 19, 2010 at 7:34 am

    can’t harley (HD)or victory (Polaris)make a sport tourer style motorcycle? I want to buy an american made motorcycle sooo bad, but don’t want a 700lbs.+ crusier style scooter. It would be such a money- maker- seller. (Buell was on the right track.)

  14. […] Metric Cruisers & Sport Bikes versus Harley-Davidson – P&#1072rt II | Motorcycle P&#1072rt&#1… […]

  15. Dicky November 8, 2010 at 5:48 pm

    ALL metric cruisers are clones of American born and bred cruisers. The fact of the matter is, they are copies. They are NOT cheaper in the long run, not by a long shot. The Only metric bike I would ever consider buying new is a Gold Wing, and then I’d plan on putting 150k on it or more within a few years. Otherwise you take it in the pants with those too. No heritage=No resale value

    • Don Taylor April 25, 2013 at 1:38 pm

      You are right on the clone thing. However, what was cloned was a good idea gone bad. The new clones got all the genetic mistakes taken out and what you have now is perfection,performance,looks and affordability… satisfaction…reliability

  16. r4fthrs November 6, 2010 at 4:55 pm

    I have owned many different bikes Triumph, Yamaha, Honda, and now an HD. I have ridden a variety of others as well. The line I saw once strikes a cord in me `I never particularly wanted a Harley but I always wanted a Sportster’. Of all the bikes I have owned, I am very attached to this bike. It isn’t the fastest, particularly comfortable, or the smoothest ride, but to me it is the best bike I have ever ridden.

    I don’t wear a doo rag or leathers, I don’t have any branded accessories and I’m not into the HD lifestyle. I usually ride alone and don’t belong to any clubs. So why am I such a fan? The way it makes me feel, the same way as when I shoot my series-70, 1911 (instead of a Glock), or when I drive my 66 Mustang coupe (instead of a new BMW), or read a good hard bound book (instead of a Kindle). It brings me back to the fond days of my youth, to a simpler time.

    Ride what like, and like what you ride, but just ride!

  17. mad mike November 4, 2010 at 1:16 pm

    I bought what i could afford. 09 suzuki blvr c109rt (heavy) love it. even the harley riders i ride with like it. who cares what you ride…. just keep the knees in the breeze !

  18. A. Scott November 3, 2010 at 10:56 pm


    Much love and respect to anyone on two wheels…regardless of brand. That’s the brethren we should be nurturing. Ride what works for you and your wallet. If you feel you must take part in comparison discussions: HD riders PLEASE go and test ride some CURRENT metrics. Metric riders PLEASE go and test ride some CURRENT HD’s. Many improvements have been made to both over the years and test rides are being given for both.

    Once you have given each a FAIR once-over you can then speak from experience and not hype!

    I have had many motorcycles including Honda’s and Kawasaki’s and currently ride Yamaha’s (2). I have test ridden the entire Yamaha line as well as a couple of Victory’s and a couple of HD’s. I’m in the market for another cruiser and the HD’s have not yet impressed me over the Yamaha’s. The HD culture is impressive but that has nothing to do with the bike itself.

    I will test ride at least a couple more HD’s before I decide to drop an extra 10K on bike. Or, not. At least I will then be able to speak from experience about my decision.

  19. chris November 3, 2010 at 7:32 pm

    If metric cruisers are so great and reliable why don’t they stick with an engine for any more than a couple of years. Most of the guys talking about their metric crusers and sport bikes probably can’t go buy a new one because they only made that size and model for a year or two. Why change something that works, harley knows this. I’ve had numerous jap bikes my last was a GSXR 1000, had it for one year, lost 5G when I sold it to buy my 2000 springer. 75000 problem free miles later I would never go back to a jap bike. Theres just no comparision.

    • Don Taylor April 25, 2013 at 1:41 pm

      You got lucky.

      • CavScout62 January 29, 2016 at 9:07 am

        Not lucky, he got QUALITY. Like I said in a previous post, bring your current daily ridden Jap bike to a meet 20 years from now and I’ll bring my ’04 FXD and we will compare the 2 and see how they stack up.

  20. Ron Hall November 3, 2010 at 7:08 pm

    I currently ride a 2007 Vulcan 1600 Nomad and I enjoy this bike more than any other I have ever owned. The five bikes I owned prior to this were all H-D’s, and all served me well, even though I did experience some mechanical difficulties from my ’99 Electra Glide when we rode to Sturgis in ’02. The reason I won’t own another Harley is very simple – the Motor Company doesn’t stand behind their products. I bought a new ’04 Road King and a new ’07 Electra Glide, both of which had warranty problems that the dealer didn’t fix, and letters to the Motor Company went unanswered. Even when they sent their surveys and I responded, they didn’t care. On the last survey I wrote that I would never own another Harley if the problems weren’t corrected, but there was never a response, so I’ll never own another Harley. The way I see it, if they don’t believe in their products, why shold I? Sign me a metric convert thanks to H-D.

  21. Tom Triplett November 3, 2010 at 1:54 pm

    Here’s a factoid the rice riders won’t like . . . . in 2001 H-D became the leading seller of “heavy” bikes (700cc or more) . . . . . .in JAPAN ! ! ! ! In the 70’s, the metric mfgrs. tried to end HD by dumping their heavy bikes in America below mfr. cost. . . . the motor company responded by restructuring and employees bought the brand back from AMF . . . now Harley OWNS the market share WORLDWIDE and WROTE THE BOOK on brand loyalty, which translates into demand, high resale, and word-of-mouth marketing. . . . . so if you must, extoll the techno-dominance of your slant bike, but remember you’re paying way, way more than me because of DEPRECIATION. By the way, look at the chart in modern cycle that compares metirc vs. H-D costs then and now, inflation, and value for the buck. . . . . .

  22. Kayla November 3, 2010 at 12:22 pm

    American Made!!! Do I need to say more??? What I have seen is, people may start off with something other than a Harley, but seem to buy Harley when they can. Why would you not want that Harley roaring underneath ya! The sound alone will make you want one! Plus, they are hot to look at! Of course my first bike is a Harley! Couldn’t ever seeing buying anything but! Love my Super Glide Custom!

  23. AJ November 3, 2010 at 9:30 am

    Even though the first 750 Honda inline 4 crushed the super bikes of the day, Sportster & Brit , they soon showed up as choppers. In my opinion they looked great.
    Being air cooled helped.

    You can’t deny that the metric cruisers have taken the styling from the Harley. I think that Harley took it’s cruiser look from the chopper builders back in the day.
    They (H-D) didn’t build “cruisers” in the 60’s. So the metric cruiser riders are riding an advanced version that the outlaws were building here in the states.

  24. Dan November 3, 2010 at 9:22 am

    My riding experience on my (purchased off the showroom floor for $2000.00 new ’73 Shovelhead) 1st bike ’56 Panhead, & present Putt, ’99 Sport Model Sportster(blow ME away on th road?….I don’t think so: NO metric rider is gonna get 100 miles of street/highway before I do. If you wanna try, sign your title & I’ll sign mine. a third party can give it to the first one that gets there, the next 5 or six towns down th road) The feel of the machine & quaility of the build says it all. my Adios M.F. ’73 had some parts issues but the Road & aftermarket parts took care of that in a few years. The ONLY disagreements I’ve ever had with HD Putt involved scraping a Fukkin Primary Cover on a Left turn & scoonchin the rear tire over a couple inches in the rain{& maybe that’s a disagreement with Avon} RIDE LIKE HELL IF YOU WANNA GET THERE WELL.

    • jeffry October 27, 2016 at 5:03 pm

      I don’t know, Dan. I just don’t know. Your proposal seems risky. A ’99 Sportster 1200 weighs almost 500 lbs. dry, delivers 52 hp to the crank/drive sprocket (11% of which is lost through the belt system on its way to the rear wheel – sending a whopping 46 hp to the road), and it has a 5-speed. Without mods, (according to CYCLE WORLD’s road test), your Sportster will top out at 98 mph, hitting 87 mph through the quarter mile traps, with a time in the mid 14 sec. Not bad. But not something a sane person would “bet the ranch” on in a 100 mi. race, imo.
      Without even getting into newer Italian and Japanese sportbikes (the 240 mph Ducati Diavel, for instance, could easily do the 100 mi. AND BACK before your poor Harley had even made the first 80), how ’bout we compare the ’99 Sportster 1200 to an even older “UJM” (Universal Japanese Motorcycle) – the ’91 Honda Nighthawk Cb750 Four?
      As CYCLE WORLD also reported:
      Dry weight: 468 lbs.
      747cc (vs. the Sportster’s 1200).
      75 hp @ the drive sprocket (74+ to the road through its O-Ring chain drive)
      5-Speed transmission
      Hydraulic valves (no adjustment required)
      47-49 mpg highway
      Quarter mile 12.4 sec. @ 106 mph
      Top speed as tested: 117 mph.
      People LOVE HDs, Dan. They’re LOUD. They VIBRATE like nothing else. But they’re NOT FAST. Not at all. And most Harley-Davidson owners don’t care.

  25. Erdem November 3, 2010 at 3:04 am

    I am a PROUD owner and a rider of Harley Davidson ’07 Street Bobber… in Mongolia.

  26. igor November 2, 2010 at 9:29 pm

    i ride metric for several reasons, price being a strong point. i’ve also always riden yamaha: enduro, yz, 4 cylinder & v-twin — my own tradition.
    there is a brotherhood among riders. keep it strong & foremost. who cares what it’s on, in the end, just ride.

  27. Colin November 2, 2010 at 8:39 pm

    Apart from a lot of other bikes in my younger days, Triumph, Yamaha, Kawasaki and my favourite of all the Jappa’s was the Valkyrie by Honda, I owned 3 over a 10 year period, what a great cruiser, apart from its fuel consumption. After a trip to the States with a bunch that mainly rode HD I came back to New Zealand and sold the last two Valk’s and bought a Ultra Classic….now I understood what it was about Harley that I wasn’t getting from the Valk, it was a sorta Soul feeling. I have since sold the Ultra and a 97 Wide Glide that I aquired and have bought a 2011 Road King with the 103 Motor. Awesome is all I have to say about that.
    Harley completes my riding like no other bike could, maybe it’s the history of them, who knows. These modern Harleys are as good and certainly as reliable as any Jappa on the market and I will be staying with HD till the end of my riding days

  28. Jimmy King November 2, 2010 at 7:37 pm

    I have read the comments from Part-1 and Part-2. I own an 05 Goldwing and a 06 Kaw. Vulcan 2000 Classic Lt. For power, speed, reliability and quality of ride I don’t think Harley can beat either. In the power dept. I know they can’t. I have ridden the interstates with both and THE DRAGON with both. I love them equally. I will say that I rode my first Harley 6 months ago (not impressed, broken spokes in rear wheel. I have since ridden the same bike with new wheels and tires on THE DRAGON and even though it had a 88″ motor and lacked for power as compared to the Honda and Kaw, I must say that I was impressed with the ride and handling. I have reached the conclusion that I will own a Harley before too long. I will keep my “metrics” though. I still like the power. I am just 63. Ride what you like and I will too. I like a choice.

  29. Ben aka 50-n-Rider November 2, 2010 at 7:08 pm

    OK….. this is like a “no-brainer”!

    I ride a “metric”, Boulevard to be exact. And of course, I prize the ease, smoothness, and simplicity of operation. But when I see a Harley, even on my best days of cruising, its just second-to-none! Its not because of the bike, its because of the heritage, the tradition, the “American brand”. So I command respect from Harley Riders with the soft “woof” of my twin-V…. but they will always get my respect as avid riders of American engineering.

    Besides, in my travels, I have noted there is plenty of road for both, Metrics and Harleys! So, let’s all “ride on”!

  30. Gary Walls November 2, 2010 at 5:35 pm

    Alot of my friends ride Harley’s, but many also ride metrics. I have no problem with either! But, the cost factor must be considered when buying a bike; the Harley’s are definitely overpriced compared to metrics. I have owned both; and now ride a Goldwing. Now that’s a bike! It is considered by riders on both sides to be the cadillac of all bikes, and I can say it is definitely the best ride I have ever owned. I know it’s not “Goldwing”, but I do wish it could have the rumble somewhat closer to the Harley. That would be great!!!

  31. Colin November 2, 2010 at 4:06 pm

    I gave my Harley riding buddies much grief over the years, extolling the virtues of the Valkyries that I rode…great bikes, that did everything well, except that they never seemed to give me the feeling of passion for them that my HD buddies had. So I thought what the heck, I have to give this a go so I bought a 2008 Ultra Classic….now I understood what the feeling was that I was missing. I have also just taken delivery of a 2011 Road King.
    No reliabilty issues and certainly no handling issues anymore and the new 103 motor is a real blast….

  32. mick November 2, 2010 at 3:11 pm

    Harley must lower the price as metrics are much, much better value for money. In this day and age when money is short you buy the best bike you can for your pocket, and that is not a harley sorry guy’s. The Yamaha Raider woops the pants off them and is half the price. Metrics will do what the britt’s did in the 60’s if they dont.

  33. sam November 2, 2010 at 2:06 pm

    Wanna hear something funny? Scroll back through the replies on both parts of the blog. Ever notice how metric riders, whether in person or in print, are loudly proclaiming how thier bikes are better than Harleys…”dude, the power to weight ratio…” Now scratch your head and try to remember when the last time you heard a Harley rider trying to explain how great thier ride is.
    Now, I’m not saying it’s an inferiority complex these metric riders have, but dude, give it a rest. If you’re happy on a rice burner, then go ahead and ride one and be happy, but if you’re can’t resist regurgitating the sales pitch that made you buy your’s, just know that you’re wasting your time with Harley riders – we’re not listening, we’re not bragging, not trying to convince you. We’ll likely just give you the same polite smile we give to our children when they try to convince us they really know more than us…and then we’ll ride off into the sunset with a big smile on our faces. No really, we’re smiling, not laughing at you…really.
    Have fun, ride safe, and be happy with your ride.

  34. RandyM November 2, 2010 at 12:38 pm

    I rode Hondas in the 1970’s (up to a 750) and have ridden my 2000 Harley Night Train 52,000 miles since the 88-95 ci Screaming Ragle conversion along with the 300 mm rear tire conversion.
    Been to Sturgis, Yellowstone, Denver, Key West all from Tampa, Fl with NEVER a breakdown, Never a leak. Sit a week and no floor spots.
    Mine’s counter-balanced, no “shake” at the light. Do feel bad for the “other” Big Twin Harleys. That said, for pure smooth comfort, can’t beat a Goldwing.

  35. Jimmy Knuckles November 2, 2010 at 10:32 am

    Harley’s poor rep for dependability is a myth that the metric riders foster. Makes them feel better I guess. My 8 year old Harley has never left me stranded and never demanded more than normal maintenance. Underpowered? It gets up to highway speeds and as far beyond as I want to go – I’m not racing anyone, I’m traveling. The only metric worth the money is a Ducati – the Japanes bikes are like the Japanese cars – souless appliances.

  36. OBtech November 2, 2010 at 9:43 am

    I owned many Honda dirt bikes in my younger days and when I recently decided I wanted to get a cruiser for my first street bike, I naturally went to the Honda dealership. I was awed by the beauty of the Shadow and pleased with the prices as well. But before I took the leap, I decided I needed to go see what the big deal is with Harley Davidson. So I went to my local HD dealer and started looking at the bikes (absolutely beautiful) and i asked the salesman, “Ok, I am actually looking to by a Honda Shadow, but I want you to tell me what is the big deal about a Harley?” He looked at me wide-eyed like I had grown a second haed, like he couldn’t belive what his ears had heard. I thought it was rather comical and started laughing, thne he caught himself and laughed as well. Once he guided me through the list of Harley’s advantages (look at the Harley Website for details), I was impressed.

    I now look at the metric bikes, and while I have a lot of respect for them, they just don’t look quite right to me. The tank on the Honda Shadow in particular just looks a bit odd how it is so wide at the back where the Harley narrows to a nice smooth transition into the seat. And the Harley turn signals are just so much more intuitive to me. No the self canceling isn’t perfect but it is better to me than no self canceling.

    Harley Davidson just does a cruiser right!

  37. Lew Morrill November 2, 2010 at 9:41 am

    To put it another way, if you want a Harley, you need to buy a Harley. If you want a motorcycle, there are a lot of good motorcycles out there to consider. One flaw with the rice grinder cruisers is they have little resale. From a life cylcle cost standpoint Harley fares pretty well. From a personalization standpoint, Harley stands alone as the king.

  38. Doug Greutman November 2, 2010 at 7:54 am

    Unfortunately tradition doesn’t build bikes. You like what you like and feel good on. I have tried both HD and Metric and for reliability , power, cost of fixing and such, metrics hold their edge. HD is more expensive to buy and maintain, and is underpowered compared to metrics. If it is the badboy or girl image then HD is king. But who cares. Its just an image not what it is.

  39. Grumpybutt November 2, 2010 at 3:27 am

    Mr. Fernberg, Apples and rice ? I’ve seen and have gotten bad apples, I don’t ever remember getting bad rice. I’ll take my 2005 Royal Star anywhere, no tools no trailer ! If a Harley isn’t broke down on the side of the road, it’s behind me. Sorry they just don’t make them like they use too, and never will again. All they want is your $$$. Metric ? Lord only knows how many care free miles I’ll get out of my 2005 Rune.

  40. AZMIke November 2, 2010 at 3:13 am

    S#@T!? Only American Made major manufactured bike Try VICTORY. More American than a HD. Be straight how many parts on a new HD are farmed out to foreign manufacturers? Even in their dealerships all the HD Stamped fluff is made in China as Victory so lets be straight about Buy American HD owners because even HD doesnt support American made products in its own show rooms! But if you want bang for your buck and a American Made Bike that wont leave you stranded and will beat down any stock Harley buy a Victory! I laugh everytime I blast by a chrome show boat HD.

  41. Alden Sachs October 12, 2010 at 5:33 pm

    Almost all of the Metric cruisers out there today were designed with vintage Harley Davidson styling. When was the last time you saw a Harley that tried to look like a Metric Bike? That says it all.

    • Garry January 28, 2015 at 11:40 am


  42. Charles J Henry October 8, 2010 at 12:49 pm

    I will predict that within 5 yrs ,Harley Davidson ,will itself, be a metric bike….and if not, it will no longer be in business……and that’s just how far ahead the metric bikes are…

  43. Jerry October 6, 2010 at 8:42 am

    Is it not true that nowadays most of the HD parts are made overseas and just assembled here in the USA? If so, they are not completely American made bikes anymore, so where is the heritage and the last great American bike! Just saying…

  44. Colleen October 5, 2010 at 2:10 pm

    This pretty much sums it ALL up:

  45. Softailman October 5, 2010 at 1:52 pm

    Great Subject, even Greater Rivalry. Like any Great rivalry, at the end of the day, we all walk off the field with our fellow players (Riders). I am an avid supporter of Harley Davidson, for many of the reasons already noted: Heritage, American, the Unity, etc. I also started out as a young 16 year old rider on a Yamaha Special 650, then on to a Honda Shadow 750 2 years later. I loved that Shadow, it was a blast. But I now have a 2002 HD Softail Springer. It has 55,000 miles on her, and going strong. While you can say that Harley is living in the past with their air cooled engines, but Harley is not sitting on their arses. They are constantly working to make the most of a great long lasting heritage and design. So say what you will about the plastic rockets technology, but you cant say that Harley isnt staying on top of “Their” game. Ride on, Ride Safe and most importantly, Just Ride.

    • Frank December 6, 2015 at 10:21 am

      Not sitting on their asses? tell me more about the twin cam cam chain tensioner and pressed flywheel issues….Where The MO CO’s fix was to back off the tensioner spring tension using hydraulic tensioners.So the problem showsup at 50k instead of 15K? Good thing I stumbled across this issue online; because the dealers won’t own up to them when I asked…

  46. James October 5, 2010 at 12:12 pm

    If it was not for Harley-Davidson being purchased by motorcycling people you would be buying, fixing and riding AMF junk and H-D would be nothing but a memory today. If those same people had not recognized what Honda, Suzuki, Yamaha and Kawasaki were providing the motorcycling community, current and future, H-D would be a memory. The Japanese manufacturers were the best thing to happen to the American motor vehicle buying public, car, truck, motorcycles, etc.

  47. David Fernberg October 4, 2010 at 4:20 pm

    Harley vs Metric, Apples & Rice get it. American made works for me. I’ve owned both but now its all Harley took me awhile to get it myself but this is my country and I feel we the people owe our selfs And our forefathers to help this great Country, Buy American!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  48. Tommy R. Ratliff Jr. October 4, 2010 at 7:43 am

    First off thanks for the great artical about this topic. I ride with a very diverse group of guys who ride every thing from rigid customs to sport bikes and every thing in between. My current bike is an 09 Fat Boy that has been a 20 year dream for myself. A long way from my first bike (that i still own) a 1978 Honda Hawk 400 2 speed automatic that me and my son are rebuilding for him to learn to ride on. I have owned other bikes over the years of all makes and styles and realy feel it does’nt matter what you ride as long as you are riding. The group of guys I ride with all feel the same way, sure theres the friendly ragging about brands and types but in the end we all enjoy and share one thing together, the love of RIDING our bikes and each others friendship. Sure I am part of the Harley family for life but does not mean that i will not decide to buy another metic as my next bike. Some say that I am not being loyal to my current brand and I would have to say they are right, it is not about being loyal to a brand but rather being loyal to riding regardless of the name on the tank. Thanks for letting us have this opportunity to share our thoughts on this much debated topic. Tommy Jr.

  49. wayne October 4, 2010 at 5:53 am

    My Yamaha Road Star Rules the road !

  50. Kennie Rattlecan Cauthren October 3, 2010 at 10:19 pm

    I totaly agree with the heritage and traditions of Harley. Old motorcycle history inparticular Harley is fasinating to say the least. About metrics, long before the Honda, Yamaha and others don’t forget the poor mans Harley back in the day the vinerable Triumph and BSA’s. The first motorcycle I owned and the only one I ever owned that was’nt a Harley and modified was a Triumph 500.I owned it for about 2 yrs. I sold it to buy my first Harley around 1968 was a 1961 Harley Pan Head. I have never looked back.

  51. Dave October 3, 2010 at 10:00 pm

    First I would like to say I am a proud Harley Davidson owner. I think more motorcyclist should own Harleys , they are a part of our modern heritage and an Icon . I also think Harley Davidson needs to believe that it is their duty as an Icon and the last American Motorcycle company to set the standards in quality and reliability. Harley should also believe it their duty to not only rely on heritage to sell motorcycles but also be leaders in cutting edge motorcycle technology. While the V-Rod is not cutting edge , it is a step in the right direction. I think it is good that Harley has compitition so that they must strive to be better and design better motorcycles for us to enjoy , especially at the prices the bikes sell for. I think technology and price adjustments are going to be the only way to get the average age of a New Harley buyer below 54. More young American motorcycle riders need to learn what a special feeling it is to ride a Harley. While metric motorcycles are awesome, more Americans need to realize how important it is to manufacture our own products and keep American companies with their jobs, operating on our own shores. I would hate to see Harley Davidson go down the same road and make the same mistakes as the American auto industry. Due to over importation of foriegn made motorcycles , lack of technology, and a lack of a younger audience , Harley Davidson has a tough job ahead of then to stay viable in todays market.

  52. Doc October 3, 2010 at 9:33 pm

    For me, the strength of HD has always been availability of aftermarket parts for customizing your machine. When I had my ’06 Yamaha Venture, the catalog was full of products the dealers refused to stock and often were on backorder from the catalog. Never had that problem with my Eletraglide. If one vendor doesn’t have it, another one will and I can get it in a couple of days. Customer satisfaction means simply keeping the customer satisfied.

  53. Dogg October 3, 2010 at 8:43 pm

    this is all well and good but, buying a 20k bike using 40 year old technology doesnt make any sense unless you just want to fit in with the “in” crowd. My metrics out perfrom, outlast and out do everything a harley can do but, that might just be my bikes.
    It’s ok to be like everyone else. sell your soul to willy G. noone will think less of you. But!!!! If you want to ride, ride hard and ride alot-a long ways before the inevitable major motor rebuild bill hits you, buy a metric and never worry aobut it again. I would love to own a harley. as soon as they update their current powerplants to be as dependable and as reliable as my hondas. Until then,I will keep riding my 12 year old bikes and never look back.

    • CavScout62 January 29, 2016 at 9:23 am

      Performance you say? What Motorcycle owns the ProStock Motorcycle Title? Oh yeah, Harley-Davidson. Performance. What motorcycle company OWNS the Factory Stock Drag Racing Title? Harley-Davidson. 120R BAGGER! Performance. Harley-Davidson.

    • JenFromAL November 18, 2016 at 12:24 am

      2003 Honda Shadow 750 ACE Deluxe in the Carport alongside a 2006 HD WideGlide. Both are great. Status issues with the Honda, I ignore due to many having to ask what kind of bike is this? Then the, “Oh, it’s not a Harley.” Nope, but she’s a loyal beauty. Do I want to trade mine? Never! (HD seems to drink oil. …)😉

  54. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by jpcycles, Kristin Frank. Kristin Frank said: RT @JPCycles: New Blog Post: "Metric Cruisers & Sport Bikes versus Harley-Davidson – Part II" […]

  55. Willard G Wood October 3, 2010 at 8:40 pm

    I own a Harley Davidson Electra Glide Ultra Classic, nice bike, but at times, I long for a smoother power pulse. Ride the Harley Twin, ride the Gold Wing Six, ride them at least 500 miles each, leave sound out of the comparison, forget everthing else, but the ride for the experience, forget tatoo’s, brothers, atititude, all that hipe, get into riding the machine. After, this, then tell me about tradition and technology. I want Harley to build something new!

    • CavScout62 January 29, 2016 at 9:31 am

      Yeah, I’ll take that 45 degree American design V Twin Motorcycle every time too!

  56. Chuck Brown October 3, 2010 at 8:31 pm

    I think the author summed it up in the last sentence. Harley has and is living in the past. My 2003 Yamaha Roadstar has given me over 50,000 trouble free miles and will blow the fenders off every stock HD excluding the V-Rod. And i payed 10,400 for it brand new.

  57. Wild BILL Thomas October 3, 2010 at 8:26 pm

    I have owned several HD’s & have 3 now.I started out in ’74 on a Honda.I’ve owned several metrics and the arguements will go on forever.To each there are pros & cons.I will continue to love the Brotherhood of HD family…My choice,my lifestyle, I’m not alone….

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