Calling on New Riders: The Best Harley-Davidson Bikes for Beginners

A person is shown riding a Harley-Davidson Nightster around a corner.

Do you dream of one day navigating the legendary Twisted Sisters or riding to Galveston Island to put your feet in the sand? Perhaps you’re interested in upgrading your commute. Whatever the case, your search for a Sugar Land Harley-Davidson dealer brought you to the perfect place––Republic Harley-Davidson.

We’re excited to help you make your dream a reality by showing you the best Harley-Davidson bikes for beginners. As with every new rider, we’re thrilled to welcome you into the family and show you what it means to continue the Harley-Davidson legacy. That legacy begins with putting you in the saddle of a bike perfectly suited to your size and riding needs. So, what are your options and our top picks?

Meet the Sportster Iron 883: Perfect for New Riders

Harley-Davidson introduced the Iron 883 in 2009 to entice new, younger riders to the lineup. By giving the bike a classic Harley-Davidson design and an affordable price tag, the Iron 883 accomplished its goal and exceeded every expectation. As a result, it’s become a staple for new riders excited to join the Harley-Davidson family. But what makes a Sportster like the Iron 883 ideal for beginners? Let’s break it down.

Affordability

The 2022 Iron 883 is one of the most affordable bikes in the Harley-Davidson lineup, starting at $11,249.[a] For comparison, the 2022 Nightster begins at $13,499, the 2022 Sportster S at $15,499, and the 2022 Road Glide Limited at $28,729.[a] The Iron 883’s affordability is even more impressive when you shop for a used model. Why is this important?

You’ll likely drop your bike a few times as a new rider. Dropping a new bike that’s barely made it around the block is gut-wrenching, especially if it’s a damaging fall. Investing in a used Iron 883 minimizes your investment and the financial impact that dropping your bike can cause as you hone your skills.

A grey 2022 Harley Davidson Iron 883 is shown from the side driving on a bridge.

Design

One integral aspect of finding the right bike comes down to how you feel in the saddle. What do we mean? Not every bike is built the same, offering different weights, handlebar placements, seat positions, and seat heights. For example, the 2022 Iron 883 has a laden seat height of 25.7 inches, which is remarkably low compared to models like the 2022 Honda CB500X and its 32.8-inch seat height. The Iron 883’s lower height and forward riding position give you more confidence and control over the bike, which is critical for new riders.

Additionally, the Iron 883 makes exceptional use of its stripped-down design by blending a legendary Sportster profile with modern sophistication. The bike isn’t oversized, stretching only 86 inches long and weighing 564 pounds. Its wet or running weight is a stark contrast to Harley-Davidson tourers like the Road Glide, which weighs a whopping 853 pounds.

Capability

A bike like the Iron 883 does an exceptional job of giving new riders a taste of Harley-Davidson’s legendary performers. As Harley-Davidson describes, the Iron 883 offers middleweight power and precision handling. This balance of power and performance comes from the rubber-mounted 883cc Air-Cooled Evolution V-Twin engine that delivers 54 lb-ft of torque and a rumble synonymous with the Harley-Davidson name.

Technology

The Iron 883 takes a minimalist approach to technology, allowing for its more affordable price tag that makes it accessible to new riders. This technology is usually limited to traditional gauges, like the handlebar-mounted speedometer and odometer on the 2022 model. Other features include performance indicators, such as a low fuel warning, a low oil pressure light, and an engine diagnostics summary.

Meet the Softail Standard: Perfect for Novice Riders Looking to Upgrade

Harley-Davidson introduced a new genre of motorcycles known as the Softail in the early 1980s with the debut of the FXST Softail. The bike marked the first time in company history that Harley-Davidson replaced its signature hard-tail frame with a Softail design by hiding the rear suspension to create a vintage aesthetic. The new design was well-received, making the Softail a standard in the lineup and the ultimate option for riders looking for a blank, fully customizable canvas. We recommend it to riders who have some experience in the saddle, and here’s why.

Affordability

Like the Iron 883, the Softail Standard is incredibly affordable and starts at $13,949 for 2022.[a] The 2022 model boasts the classic, stripped-down bobber style that gives you plenty of options to customize the bike to your specific riding needs. Among these options is the opportunity to add Harley-Davidson’s anti-lock braking system for enhanced control and confidence in the saddle.

Design

The Softail Standard is an excellent bike because of its versatile design. While the Iron 883 is slightly shorter in length at 86 inches, the Softail stretches 91.3 inches long and has a laden seat height of 25.8 inches. Like the Iron 883, the Softail’s lower seat height offers a similar advantage with a unique twist. Rather than positioning the rider forward, the Softail Standard stretches the riding position for easier maneuverability and greater control over the bike’s low-slung stance.

The Iron 883’s 564-pound running weight makes it an outstanding option for new riders who are still building confidence in the saddle. However, it also means riders can quickly outgrow the bike, leading them to look for something more powerful and capable. When that happens, the Softail Standard can answer those needs with its 655-pound running weight that’s still light enough to deliver a responsive ride.

A person is shown riding a 2022 Harley Davidson Softail on a city street after leaving a Sugar Land Harley-Davidson dealer.

Capability

The 2022 Softail Standard is plenty capable and expertly uses its design and size to its advantage, making it agile to handle at any speed. Its revolutionary Milwaukee-Eight 107 engine easily outshines the 883-cc V-Twin engine that powers the 2022 Iron 883. The difference is remarkable, with the Softail churning out 110 lb-ft of torque, a crisp throttle response, and a throaty rumble that satisfies the soul.

Technology

Upgrading from an entry-level bike like the Iron 883 means gaining access to newer technology, which you’ll see firsthand on a bike like the 2022 Softail Standard. Although it’s considered a stripped-down bike, the Softail is outfitted with all the necessary technology to enhance your ride. This technology includes a 2.14-inch display with a speedometer, odometer, fuel level gauge, gear map, clock, trip recorder, tachometer indicator, and more.

Choosing the Perfect Bike

Choosing the perfect bike begins by looking at the style of riding you want to do, your budget, and your physical comfort. For example, can you firmly plant your feet on the ground when you’re in the saddle, and can you support the bike’s weight? A model like the Iron 883 is an excellent option for beginning riders because of its unique, lightweight design and lower seating position. It’s also incredibly affordable as a new or used model.

Likewise, novice riders anxious to upgrade to a bigger bike will find plenty of options in the Harley-Davidson family, especially with models like the iconic Softail Standard. More powerful and capable than the Iron 883, the Softail offers a stripped-down, vintage design that’s fully customizable to your specific style and riding needs. As a result, it’s a blank canvas you can easily make your own as you hone your skills and set out for the open road.

Whether you choose the Iron 883, Softail Standard, or another model, remember your comfort should always be a priority. Consider how you feel in the seat and how much control you have over the bike, even if you’re sitting on the showroom floor. A bike that’s too big or too heavy for your physical comfort and skill level doesn’t build confidence or allow you to fully enjoy the ride and the freedom that comes with it. If you need assistance picking out your first bike, our experts can help you find a model in the correct size, weight, and budget.


[a]MSRP may change without notice. See dealer for complete details.