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A red 2022 Harley Davidson Fat Boy is shown from the side while parked.

Choosing the Right Harley-Davidson to Match Your Riding Personality

When it comes to the world of motorcycles, it’s easy to assume that anything on two wheels goes “vroom! vroom!” and will get you to your destination quickly with little fuss. There are others who instantly think that being seated on a hog means you’re zipping in and out of lanes and moving at the speed of a brisk breeze. However, that’s not entirely true. There are different grades, levels, and variations of different kinds of motorcycles. Even from renowned brands like Harley-Davidson, the type of motorcycle will vastly change what your riding experience will be like.

Entry-level motoring enthusiasts may not necessarily know the difference between an Adventure and a Grand American Touring bike, but trust me when I say that the differences are important for deciding which one is best for you. Of course, if you’re already considering going to a Harley-Davidson dealer, you probably already know what you want. But for the cycling neophytes out there who haven’t quite committed to the idea of buying a motorcycle, you might be inclined to find out how the different types of bikes gel with different types of enthusiast riding.

Harley-Davidson’s Motorcycle Classifications

When it comes to Harley-Davidson, you actually have six different categories of motorcycles to choose from. Each category relates to what you can expect from the riding experience in terms of comfort levels, luxury, passenger capacity, storage, infotainment, fuel economy, power, and handling. Each category also relates to where and how you plan on riding the motorcycle, which alters what kind of suspension setup, powertrain configuration, and tire type the motorcycle comes with. Simply put, there are a lot of nuances to motorcycle riding, and everything from fork height and handlebar width to fairing and fender styles can alter how the motorcycle rides and handles.

Harley-Davidson’s six different categories presently include the Sport category, the Cruiser line, the Adventure Touring, the Grand American Touring, Electric power, and the Trike build. Each of these categories varies in style, performance, and especially price. The different categories of motorcycles also relate to what level of experience rider you are, and choosing the right kind of Harley will make or break your experience on or off the road. So let’s talk about the different motorcycle categories Harley-Davidson offers.

The Electric Options

Harley-Davidson has some electric bicycles to choose from, as well as an all-electric motorcycle known as the LiveWire One. Technically, if you really have never ridden a motorcycle before, have no experience with motorcycles, and aren’t mechanically savvy, you might be able to find a good deal on the H-D Electric Balance bikes or the Serial 1 eBicycles from a Harley-Davidson dealer. These are the most entry-level ways to get some experience with having a powered motor vehicle propelling you forward on two wheels.

Expect this category to expand and blossom over the years as eMotorcycles become more of a thing (depending on how the market takes to them, of course). If you want to graduate from motorized bicycles to the real thing, Harley has the LiveWire One, an all-electric motorcycle. The LiveWire One has limited customization due to being an electric motor hooked up to a large battery pack tucked into the center of the frame. But it’s still a good way to get your feet wet when it comes to a motorcycle that requires little in the way of mechanical maintenance.

The Cruiser Line

Consider the Harley-Davidson Cruiser as the more casual, laid-back offering out of all of the available motorcycles. Instead of being hunched over the handlebars and whizzing between lanes or zipping in and out of traffic, the Cruiser line is designed for those who want to soak in the sights and enjoy the ride. The Cruiser is best for those who like to…well, cruise. If your goal is to cruise around town, along winding country roads, or along lengthy stretches of highway, these are the bikes you want. The Cruiser line of motorcycles is also the most affordable to get into, making them great entry-level models for potential enthusiasts shopping around for a good deal on a Harley-Davidson.

Harley-Davidson’s Cruiser line is also a throwback to classic motorcycles that have that retro feel, yet today’s generation is designed for modern times. Unlike the larger offerings and sport bikes, the Cruiser line typically has a lower center of gravity, moderate power, and a relaxed riding position with mid-mount foot controls. These also typically have smaller engine displacements and are easier to handle on the road than the Sport or Touring variants. As an entry-level motorcycle or for those who want a relaxing two-wheeled ride, Cruisers might be the preferred option.

A white 2022 Harley-Davison Sportster S is shown from the side while driving past a wall.

The Sport Line

Tear up the road, burn rubber, lean forward, and avoid eating bugs with the Sport class of motorcycles. If you want speed, then these are the bikes you’re going to want to lean toward. The profile of Harley-Davidson’s Sport brand of bikes is varied but still fits within the theme of those who want something powerful, fast, and fierce on the road. Plenty of torque, a great RPM range, and long gear ratios mean you can maximize the performance out of a Sport variant on or off the road.

If you understand how to handle a motorcycle and have experience staying steady on the road, lane transitioning, and maintaining power without letting the bike get away from you, then Harley-Davidson’s Sport brand of motorcycles would work well for you. There’s enough heft there to keep you grounded but enough power to keep you enthused. Nameplates like the Nightster or Sportster S give you the classic Harley-Davidson aesthetic but with the kind of power and performance one would want from a traditional two-wheeled sports bike.

The Adventure Touring Line

The Adventure Touring series from Harley-Davidson is designed to be nimble, agile, and quick. They’re great for those who want something that can zip in and out while on the road or can make easy transitions and absorb all the thrills that off-road riding has to offer. Electronically controlled active damping and compression, higher ride height, greater ground clearance, and a shorter rake angle means you have more direct control over the motorcycle at all times. It favors a more aggressive stance and intuitive riders who want something that pushes the boundaries on the excitement of riding.

Now the highlight of an Adventure Touring class bike from Harley-Davidson is that they’re typically cheaper than the Touring and Grand Touring models, offer a bit more oomph when it comes to horsepower and torque than the Sports bikes, but are easier to handle than the larger bikes. In short, the Adventure Touring class wouldn’t make for a bad entry-level bike if it fits your budget, but it’s also scalable in terms of customization and versatility for those who want more than just a basic Cruiser or an off-road motorcycle.

A red 2022 Harley-Davidson Street Glide Special is shown rounding a corner after leaving a Harley-Davidson dealer.

The Grand American Touring Line

This is probably the classification of motorcycle that Harley-Davidson is best known for. The Grand American Touring line of motorcycles is pure Harley-Davidson, even though, technically, they arrived much later in the production cycle compared to some of the other types of motorcycles that the company was producing during the early days. Nevertheless, when most people think Harley-Davidson, they’re thinking about the Touring line of motorcycles. Typically seated low to the ground and classified as being mammoth bikes that approach the 1,000 lbs range, Grand American Touring motorcycles are perfect for those who know exactly what they want from a motorcycle and can handle everything that the two-wheeled monster has to offer.

These are not motorcycles for newbies, beginners, or entry-level enthusiasts. Why? Well, they’re designed for long engaging travels, hence why they often come with large frame-based fairings, saddlebags, and compartments for storage. Their seating and powertrain are designed for long hauls, hence the “Touring” classification. Simply put, these are great motorcycles for those who know what they’re doing and know where they’re going.

The Trikes

A variant of the Touring class of motorcycles, the Trikes are three-wheeled monsters that are large enough to comfortably carry two people, plus plenty of cargo in the rear trunk. Much like the Grand American Touring class of motorcycles, you also have access to something few of the others don’t: infotainment. Obviously, this is designed for those who want a luxury motorcycle with stability, weight, and power at their disposal for a safe, steady ride.

It’s a lot of motorcycle to handle, which is what makes it more-so geared toward those who know their way around the road. The extra storage capacity and fuel tank also mean it’s going to appeal to motorcycle enthusiasts who want something that can take them quite far with few pit stops in between. The Trikes aren’t really designed for those who want a speedy, two-wheeled roadster that can weave in and out of traffic, and it’s closer in terms of riding comfort to the Touring and Cruiser class of motorcycles but has a higher ceiling of skill due to its larger frame and requirement of knowing how to get in and out of spaces with the three-wheeled beast.

Consider Your Options Carefully

Motorcycle riding is exciting, but it can quickly become stressful if you don’t have the right bike. Make sure you take the time to consider your current riding skill level and the various bike styles before you commit to a model. Take some test drives and get a feel for how these designs handle, then choose the one that feels right for you. No matter which Harley-Davidson model you pick, you are going to get an exciting ride that will take you far.