"You have caught Harley fever ... an affliction that causes a normally sane and sensible man to turn into a wide-eyed, drooling, impulsive, overspending, freak ... although there is no known cure, other than a HD purchase ... God have mercy on ya." (a member of HDForums.com)
Well, this past week, I have begun shopping in earnest for a used Harley. I've scanned the Internet for bikes for sale at Harley dealers; independent dealers; online classifieds; eBay and Craigslist.
I'm finding that most Harley dealers have a limited selection of used bikes, and most of their used bikes are late-model years. Few H-D dealers in my area have 2000-01 or older model years (I saw a sharp 2001 Wide Glide at a dealer, but it's a bit more than I had hoped to spend - more on this bike to follow).
Online classified sites like Cycle Trader, Chopper Exchange or HD4sale.com, have few bikes I like in my price range.
I've seen some Harleys in my price range on eBay, Craigslist and some independent used motorcycle dealers. Buying a motorcycle halfway across the country through eBay doesn't appeal to me for obvious reasons, so I made a few calls on bikes listed on Craigslist. None of the bikes I called about sounded promising, though. There was a 1993 Wide Glide near me, but I didn't want to look at it since it had a heavily-modified engine and had probably been ridden hard (it sounded like a young dude on the phone).
Other Craigslist bikes in my price range were either a bit older (late '80s/early '90s) than I'm looking for, or else the owners knew little about the bike's maintenance and repair history. I was kind of hoping to find a one-owner Harley that had been lovingly cared for, but apparently there are few out there when you're talking about bikes between 1995 and 2001. At least I didn't come across any so far in my search.
There are two used-motorcycle dealers in Massachusetts and one in New Hampshire that have some used Harleys within my price range, but they tended to be higher-mileage bikes or had some minor damage. One of the Massachusetts dealers had a really clean 1998 Softail Custom advertised for $5,995, but the listing didn't mention the mileage. I called about the bike and was told the odometer was inoperative, therefore, the title was listed as "total mileage unknown." I knew there had to be a reason for the low price. Next ...
Besides calling dealers, I've been doing research on Harley-Davidson discussion groups about the merits of the Evolution (Evo) 80-inch Big Twin engines (pre-1999), versus the 1999-up Twin Cam 88 engines. I'm told the 1999 and some 2000 twin cam engines had problems with cam bearings, so I'm avoiding those two years. Another weak link on twincam Harleys is the cam chain tensioner shoes, not limited to any particular year or years.
Then there is the decision of carbureted versus fuel injection; all Harleys 2004 and newer are fuel injected.
It's enough to make this newbie's head spin, so thankfully, my brothers in CMA - Spike, Roland and Cameron, all Harley guys - have been helping me sort through these issues. All of them have been more than helpful in schooling me.
I was on the phone tonight with Cameron and told him I'm finally about to join the "club" of Harley owners.
"It's the ONLY club," said Cameron, who rides a 2002 Road King. "I'm excited for you!"
At least I've narrowed down (somewhat) the particular models I like, and have even ranked them in order of preference. My first choice is the Dyna Wide Glide (FDXWG), followed by the Dyna Low Rider (FXDL), Softail Custom (FXSTC) and Softail Standard (FXST).
I would consider some other models, such as a Dyna Superglide or Sport; a Fat Boy; a Softail Springer; a Heritage Softail; or possibly a Road King. But for me to choose a bike in this second group, it would have to be an extraordinarily good deal.