Top 10 Harley-Davidsons of All Time

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7. XR

1972 Harley-Davidson XR750 courtesy motosolvang

Unsurprisingly, Evel Knievel’s favorite Harley was on the lists of many of our panelists. Another racing legend, the XR750 took the mantle from the KR and zoomed away with it, and remains to this day the winningest bike in AMA racing history.

For Will Benedict, a Brooklyn-based software engineer, avid builder and motorcyclist, there’s no doubt which Harley is the choice of the enthusiast who relishes diving and dodging. “All time? I’d take an XR750,” he says. “And even if we’re talking production Harleys, I’d pick the XR1200. It was unique and compelling model in an endless sea of giant cruisers. Dunno why they stopped making them.”

That question is also on the mind of the Seattle musician Andrew McKeag, who races vintage motocross at AHRMA events when he’s not touring. “Mine [XR1200] is my favorite!” he laughs. “But of all time, I’d have to say the XR750. It’s got racing heritage [going] back to board trackers of the teens, and it’s still winning today. Name another bike that can say the same.”

Lucifer's Hammer

The XR spawned another racing legend. Jay Springsteen, Gene Church, and finally Scott Parker rode an XR1000 known as Lucifer’s Hammer to championships well into the ‘80s. “I made my bones on an eighth-mile track here and could only imagine an XR tearing up that thin blue line of speed available to our Oklahoma red dirt,” Shannon “Shoe” Gower, owner of HotShoe Customs of Tulsa told us. “Kenny [Roberts] destroyed the competition on his smoker and then, there was Lucifer’s Hammer. It was the fiery flame-out of Harley’s true racing cred!” – Photo by Craig Howell

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  • sem

    #10 Evo FXR – First image isn’t an Evo.

    • Jonny Langston

      Oops, you guys were right. More of a typo than wrong photo. Consider it fixed.

  • bert

    #10 looks like a shovel fxr to me.

    • Dana P Rockwell

      Folks knew something new (engine) was coming because of the extra space above the Shovelhead engine, waiting for something taller (the Evo in ’84

  • Craig Howell

    Glad you liked my photo of Lucifer’s Hammer that I took at the 1985 Champion Spark Plug 200 at Lagguna Seca! Photo attribution & linkback are always appreciated. ( ) – Craig Howell

    • Jonny Langston

      Consider it done, Craig! Thanks again

  • Keurig Mikuru

    1959 XLCH Sportster, any K-Model (1952-1956) especially KR, JD for it’s appearance. Got to vote down the FXB Sturgis for that ugly air cleaner. It looks like something AMF designed; oh that’s right it did.

  • Harrison Withers

    Another vote for the xr1200 here, I love mine and just wish they would make it again, with an eye towards weight reduction.

  • Dana P Rockwell

    The FXRP never caught on as a police bike either…

  • ACG

    No V/Rod??Best Harley ever water cooled&fast!

  • Kevin

    My great-grandfather was a Denver motor cop, one of my earliest memories of him was visiting him at his house and watching a movie from the late 1930s in which Fred McMurray is pulled over by a cop on a Harley-Davidson. The cop pulled up alongside the car and issued the ticket through the window while still seated on the bike. As the cop rode away the movie went to commercial and Gran-dad asked my father if he knew why they did that ( ride alongside and pass the ticket through the window). When my father replied no, Gran-dad offered “To actually catch a speeding car on one of those damn things would pucker your butt so badly you couldn’t get off of it for 20 minutes!”
    H-D has been around for 115 years, had its share of ups and downs, survived 2 world wars the great depression, and even AMF. As time and technology has progressed so has H-D, albeit too slowly at times. It is for that reason that I believe the best H-D of all time is one of the 2014 FLH models even to admit my seat time is limited to a single test ride. No other motorcycle company has a more faithful and loyal customer base and no other motorcycle company has more passionate critics. Love ‘em or hate ‘em every body still thinks and talks about them. They are better bikes now than they have ever been and my bet is that my Grandson will someday be talking about them one way or another long after I’m gone.

  • Mark Brenneman

    No way to list a top 10. However, my ’74? 350 Sprint SX was a good starter bike. My ’71 FLH ranks high on my list as I rode it from Oh to the top of Mi and to Fl in the same summer. My ’38 UL (74″) Flat Head was slow to get rolling but turned a lot of heads. My ’73 Sportster w/ a hack was my most fun bike. Way to many people had too much fun on it. My ’89 Heritage Softail has a place because it was a nice bike and the only new Harley I ever bought of over 30 + of them. Before someone goes off, I have had both sizes of Shortsters, the moped looking step through with 3 speeds on the twist grip, to a 110″ Kick only Shovel in a custom frame with suicide clutch and jockey shift. I even had a 2 stroke Enduro Model.

  • BUCK Ronald Bucholtz

    1968 XLCH sportster with P cams and magneto the bike would not idle it ran best wide open only I passed a new cop in town and he could not get close ,the sound that bike made coming on cam was unreal it made the hair on my neck stand up , I also owned many 48 up pans they,were great bikes as well ,being only16 I did many stupid things you can not get away with do day but that XLCH was WICKED bike .