Maybe you’ve started to run up the mileage on your ride, or you’re looking for a used Harley and worried about how many miles is too many miles on a used HD?
Well, we have all the answers here for you; let’s get to it.
What Is High Mileage For A Harley Davidson?
High mileage on a Harley Davidson motorcycle would be considered to be somewhere between 80,000-100,000 miles.
Hitting the 50K mark on a HD isn’t uncommon, and if the bike has been properly maintained, seeing three times that many miles is more than feasible.
There is no definite answer on the subject because the American V-twins vary in capacity, the riders who own them, and their riding style, among other things.
Let’s look at the factors that can help you decide if the mileage on a Harley is high or not.
Things to consider when looking at mileage
The best way to look at the mileage on a Harley is to consider these factors as a whole instead of separately, as they all are intertwined for determining whether a bike’s mileage is high or not.
Firstly you have to consider the model of Harley that you are looking at.
On paper, a Harley Sportster with the Evolution 883cc engine should be expected to do fewer miles than an Electra Glide with the Milwaukee Eight 107 engine.
The Electra Glide is built for cruising, racking up the miles for long distance touring.
Whereas the Sportster is more focused on everyday rides, commutes, city-slickers, and as a base for custom builds.
The power band on the Sportster will be different and it is geared differently with more low-down grunt. In contrast, the Electra Glide will have a broader power range and a higher top end so the engine isn’t under strain when logging many highway miles.
Now let’s consider the owner of the bike.
They bought a Sportster from new, kept it for 5 years, ran up around 10,000 miles on it during that time (2,000 miles per year), then sold it on as they moved up to a bigger HD.
They rode the bike hard, constantly chasing the red line, pulling the throttle to hit the top speed as much as possible, didn’t run the engine slowly, just worked it like a Japanese sportsbike from day one.
Those 10,000 miles have been hard miles and will have taken their toll on the small engine.
Another rider might then buy the bike and treat it the same; after all, it’s only a Sportster. It’s an affordable Harley, right?
When the bike hits 30,000 miles, it will be exhausted and showing signs of wear. It could arguably be said that this bike’s lifespan will be pretty short.
On the flip side, another rider might have had a Sportster from new and treated it entirely differently, to the point that even after 30,000 miles, the bike is like new.
It is, therefore, essential to have as much information on a bike as possible before purchasing. Considering how many owners it has had and whether it has been regularly serviced, etc., will give you a good idea if it has been looked after.
Another point that feeds into this is whether the bike has been properly maintained.
If a bike has its service book stamped and up to date, then the chances are it has been cared for during its lifetime, and everything should be good.
An easy way to visually spot if a Harley has been looked after is to look for rust.
Harleys are known to rust; it is just a known thing, mainly due to the amount of metal on display.
Cautious owners will take the time to clean their bikes, spray them with protectants to prevent water and dirt from causing problems.
If a bike’s chrome is flaky and pitted, bolts are rusted, etc., it can indicate that the bike hasn’t seen much love and attention during its life.
This should then be thought about as it pertains to the mileage of the bike because if the previous owners haven’t taken the time to clean the bike, chances are they haven’t maintained the engine as they should have either.
This should be a red flag if the bike’s mileage is high.
So, does a Harley’s mileage really matter?
If you are spending your hard-earned cash on a Harley, then yes, the mileage of the motorcycle matters, but only when it is considered alongside the other factors, we have mentioned.
A Low Rider S with 40,000 miles on it might be considered too high for a dealer to want to buy and sell.
However, in a private sale with the owner having full service history, records, receipts, and the bike in immaculate condition, that Low Rider S is ready to go for another 40, 50, 60,000 miles.
A Harley with high miles will matter less to somebody handy with a wrench and happy to do regular work to keep it going.
There are touring HD’s that have done 150,000, 180,000 miles and Sportsters that have done 80,000-130,000 miles.
Dave Sien set a world record in 2009 after riding for nearly 20 years on his 1991 FXR Super Glide and hitting the 1 million mile mark.
Sure, that is extreme, but it proves what the bikes are capable of.
Further reading: Are Harley’s reliable?
At what point would the bike need major work done?
There is no straight answer to the question of at what point you would need to do some major work on your bike.
You might need to undertake a top end rebuild at 80,000 miles, or your clutch might give out at 30,000 miles.
The key is to keep on top of your maintenance, keep logging the miles, when something works its way loose, get on it straight away, and don’t let it snowball into a bigger problem.
While 25,000 miles on a Ducati Panigale might be considered high mileage, and rightly so, that should be chump change for any HD that has been treated with a proper amount of respect and diligence.