There's a common perception among the motorcycle community that Harley-Davidsons are extremely overpriced. It's true that a new Street Glide will run you $21,999, an Ultra Limited costs $28,699, and a LiveWire goes for $29,799. All of these are more expensive than some new cars, let alone models by other brands that serve pretty much the same purpose.
If you go back in time, however, you can find some genuinely affordable Harleys. I'm not talking the old AMF Harleys with a reputation for their horrible quality, but genuine Harleys that, while not exactly new, are still seriously cheap to buy and to run. That's how Bikes and Beards came across this 1988 Sportster for just $1,200.
What does $1,200 buy you? Well, the saddlebags filled with leaves and other debris from sitting outside are included at no extra charge. (They went straight into the dumpster). It's low on gas and low on oil, but contrary to the reputation of old Harleys it's not from the oil leaking out of the engine. In fact, it's amazingly dry. It starts and runs just fine, and after topping off the oil and giving it a quick cleanup, they take it out for a ride.
Okay, fine, so it sputters out and comes to a stop in the middle of the test ride. That's just the kind of poor reliability you expect from a cheap old Harley, right? Not so fast. Not only did they neglect to top off the gas before setting off, but they also went right past a gas station on the way without filling up. After a quick rescue and a bit of gas in the tank, it starts right up. In fact, it runs even better before with fresh gas and a full tank.
I've bought a lot of cheap bikes in my time. All of them have been Japanese. Yet this Sportster looks to be in as good condition, or better, than any of the bargain basement Honda and Suzuki UJMs I've owned. You might think this is the exception to the rule, but Bikes and Beards also bought a 2010 Wide Glide for $3,300, a 2003 Fat Boy for less than that, a 1995 Ultra Classic for $2,200, and a 1997 Sportster 1200 for $1,500. All of these bikes cost less than I spent on my Honda PC800. I'm no Harley fan boy by any means, but I have to admit that after seeing all these good cheap Harleys, I'm actually going to keep one in mind for my next bike. I've never owned a Harley before and I like cruisers, so why not?