Doubtlessly, Harley Davidson has built some legendary motorbikes of all time. However, they have also brought massive disappointments to the clients with some models.

Whenever we think of some elite motorcycle brands, Harley Davidson is the first and the foremost name that comes to mind. It is one of the most popular yet old times companies that have a huge fan base.

While some bikers won’t ride any bike other than Harley, some consumers hate Harley Davidson due to all the well-documented issues that fall within H-D ownership.

If you are looking to buy a Harley Davidson Sportster, read this before buying because specific models are probably best to avoid. These bikes have a long list of issues that caused Harley Davidson’s negative reputation and recalls.

So, here we have updated the list for a few models that must be avoided.

Harley Davidson 1981 Models to Avoid at All Costs!

During the 1970s, Harley Davidson was owned by AMF and their productions, which were considered a dark period for Harley Davidson.

During this dark period, AMF had almost entirely stained the reputation of Harley Davidson motorcycles; their reputation was later regained in the year 1981 after they regained ownership.

Harley had faced the most challenging times in their career as in addition to ownership problems; they also faced several recalls. So, for this reason, Harley Davidson has had some setbacks when it comes to a few models that were a big mistake to invest in.

To help other motorcycle fans who think that all Harley Davidson Sportster is great, we will take you in the right direction with this in-depth guide on which Harley Davidson Sportster models could be the worst decisions.

Let’s Take a Closer Look at the Harley Davidson Sportsters (Years That Are Best Avoided and Why?)

The 1981 Harley Davidson Sportster was the worst invention Harley ever made! These two bikes are brothers with the only fundamental differences in their nature, such as fuel weight and total bike weight.

Yet the 81 sportsters were featured as “the worst handling motorcycles of all time” by Thought Co.

To be honest, Harley Davidson made great efforts to produce top-notch, high-quality, and effective bikes in their darkest times, yet these 1981 models were also a product of the AMF-era. So these two models from 1981 are best avoided because they are a complete breakdown of the 1981 Harley Davidson Sportsters of that year:

  • 1981 Harley Davidson Sportster XLH 1000 and XLS 1000 Features
  • The 1981 Harley Davidson Sportster XLS 1000 Roadster Features

Other than these two models, it is highly recommended to avoid the AMF (American Machinery and Foundry) years that bought Harley Davidson in 1969.

So before 1969 and after 1981 (when Harley Davidson was sold to a group of thirteen investors including Willie G. Davidson). During these years AMF has produced bikes that were of quite poor quality and were not great bikes, so they are best avoided as well.

According to the Reddit reviews, the majority of the Harley Davidson Sportster-users tend to make this major argument that Harley Davidson Sportster of the years 1996 to 1999 is highly preferable. The strongest opinions were for the late 90s sportsters. More specifically, 1994+ is more ideal than earlier models (1991 to 1993).

If we look into some other models from the years after 2000. So Harley Davidson’s 2004 to 2007 sportsters are strongly condemned by different owners, majorly for the reasons that specific issues that need to be addressed by Harley Davidson for improved performance and reliability.

The reasons for the 2004-2006 Harley Sportsters were that they had a 1200 conversion that urged the riders to upgrade their oil pumps which was a major drawback because the oil came out the breathers at highway speeds.

However, the 2007 Harley Davidson Sportster was fuel injected. But the outcome was not satisfying because it lacks the fuel level stuff which does not work efficiently and builds a barrier for the fuel gauge to work even properly, and the add-on unit is trash.

To conclude here, for the best Harley experience, Harleys 1991 to 2000 Sportsters are great from the Harley Davidson inventions. And, it is best to stay away from the Harleys Davidson Sportsters of the year 2004 to 2006.

Harley Davidson 883 Sportster, Pre 1991

As you all know, Sportster has proven to be a great of all times for anyone. But let’s look deep into Harley Davidson 883 Sportster and see if they stood the test of time. So the old four-speed 883 engine was as hard at turning as it could be.

The 2.1-gallon tank gets completely dry only after the 883 Sportster runs 80 miles. The vibration of the empty tank was so bad that you could hardly bear it. So before 1991, when Harley Davidson gave it a five-speed transmission, the 883 Sportster was a bad idea!

Bottom Line

Harley Davidson is the brand of choice for most motorcycle clubs and communities, which has turned Harley Davidson into a subculture. Despite this, Harleys happen to do less with the actual quality of some of its vehicles.

To be fair, this is a ground for a massive disappointment from Harleys that are bound to live up to the higher expectations of its consumers.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What year is Sportster best?

According to the Reddit reviews, the users recommended the Sportster models of 2000-2003 and 2007 and later ones.

What were years bad for Harley Davidson?

The year 1981 Sportster was generally a bad year for Harley Davidson. At that time, Harleys produced the worst Sportster as owners complained about the bike’s handling, which often dragged them in dangerous circumstances.

What year did Harleys have the death wobble?

The Road King, Electra Glide, and defunct Dyna are some of Harley’s models that had come with a death wobble since 1999 when the first motorcycle was built.

 How long does a Harley Davidson Sportster last?

Harley Davidson Sportster is one of the elite brands and most maintained models of today. The expected life span of a Harley Sportster is over the range of 20,000 + years and over 20,000 miles.


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