Feature article

Best Harley Davidson Motorcycles Available in NZ: Buying Guide

Harley Davidson is a storied American motorcycle maker that is now more than 120 years old.

Last updated: 25 June 2024

Harley Davidson is a storied American motorcycle maker that is now more than 120 years old. Recently it made a foray into electric motorcycles to counter the loss of ageing owners. That wasn’t regarded by subsequent management as the answer to its declining sales, so it has instead diversified into new areas and updated its existing line-up. That has been more successful.

LAMS bikes from Harley

The firm that traditionally makes high-displacement V-twin cruisers launched the popular Street 500 and 750 a decade ago. It has recently reprised these with the X350 and X500 entry-level bikes that are based on Chinese products and have just hit the market with competitive price tags.  

The X500 is more expensive ($12,750 vs $9450 for the X350) and while it isn’t a V-twin, it sounds quite interesting for a parallel twin. Neither is a cruiser; they’re standard bikes. The X500 is a well rounded learner machine. It’s worth the extra spend over the X350, also a twin, if you’re taller and want to investigate riding life outside of the suburbs. It also has better brakes, suspension and gearing. 

View Listings on Trade Me Motors: X500

Sportster S versus Nightster

Two relatively recent cruiser additions are the Sportster S and Nightster Special. The former borrows the Revolution Max 1250 engine from the Pan America ADV. However, in the $25,750 Sportster S it is retuned for added midrange. The Nightster uses a 975cc version of that engine. In both, the V-twin acts as a stressed member, helping to reduce overall kerb weight. 

The V-twin engine is up to the minute, with variable valve timing, liquid cooling, double overhead cams and dual balancer shafts. They also have ride modes and modern safety features like cornering ABS and cornering traction control. 

The Sportster S is like a modern power cruiser and is the fastest Harley we’ve ever ridden. It is almost superbike quick against the clock. But the smaller Nightster Special, while not quite as rapid, is better balanced, with an easier riding position, nimbler handling and extra travel at the rear for a better ride. It looks a bit more traditional Harley cruiser too.

View Listings on Trade Me Motors: Nightster and Sportster 

Breakout and Low Rider ST

One of our favourite Harley-Davidsons is the Breakout 117 ($42,250). It’s an absolute beast, chromed to the max. With modern custom design, raked out forks, an enormous 240 rear tyre and 1923cc Milwaukee-Eight engine, this goes hard, sounds and looks fabulous. Rear suspension features preload adjustability and 75mm of rear travel so the ride isn’t bad either. Available in black or orange, either looks amazing. This is a whole lotta bike.

If you’re after something a little more practical, the Low Rider ST ($41,250) may suit. It’s similar in many ways to the Breakout 117, with the same brawny easy-going engine. Only its mid-mount pegs make it a bit more comfy. It also gets a fairing and hard panniers. However, if you’d rather shed these, the base Low Rider S costs $5k less ($35,995).

View listings on Trade Me Motors: Breakout 117 and Low Rider S


Kyle Cassidy
Kyle Cassidy
Editor NZ Autocar magazine - autocar.co.nz

Kyle has been reviewing cars since starting at NZ Autocar magazine in 2003 and has been editor since 2009. In that time he’s become an expert on what makes for a good vehicle while also gaining insights into the local automotive industry.