Skip to main content

“Fast” and “Harley-Davidson” aren’t terms motorcyclists typically pair. Hell, my dear dad called them “Hardly-Dangerous” after a lifetime of riding heavily modified Kawasakis, Laverdas, and Hondas. However, times have changed; the MoCo’s motorcycles feature modern components like electronic fuel injection (EFI), dual-disc front brakes, and high-torque twins. As such, you can have a fast Harley-Davidson.

You can turn your lazy Harley-Davidson into a pretty fast motorcycle with a few upgrades

Whether you have a twin-cam Harley Dyna, Evolution-powered Sportster, or Milwaukee Eight-powered Softail, a fast Harley-Davidson is a possibility. Some of the Wisconsin company’s bikes, like the Low Rider S, are already on the right path. 

However, others, like the Softail Standard or Street Bob, could be quicker with a few simple, easy modifications. For starters, a 2-into-1 exhaust system, a performance air cleaner, and a tuner with a complimentary mapping are a great (and easy) place to start. 

A black 2016 Harley-Davidson Low Rider S like this is one of the fast bikes the brand makes.
A 2-into-1 exhaust system and a heavy breather air cleaner are a good start | Erik Sherman, MotorBiscuit

Beyond bolt-on parts, you can stick to the stages. For instance, a Stage IV kit will take a factory Milwaukee Eight big twin to new heights by increasing its displacement from 114 cubic inches to 131 and adding Screamin’ Eagle performance parts. Whether it’s go-fast bolt-ons and tune or an engine rebuild, you can get more power and torque out of your Harley-Davidson. 

Of course, your MoCo motorcycle will be far from sport bike speeds

Admittedly, some of the club-style bikes I rode with in Southern California were pretty nimble, albeit with a caveat. They were “fast for Harleys.” You’ve heard the footnote at the end of motorcycle smack talk. More accurately, even the most hellaciously modified performance cruiser won’t keep pace with a seasoned rider on a 1,000cc BMW S 1000 RR. 

Still, even with a Stage IV kit, forced induction, rear sets, and taller geometry, a Harley will have a hard time keeping up with a purpose-derived liter bike, especially in the corners. Of course, if going fast in a straight line on your Harley-Davidson is the primary goal, a drag motorcycle is a real possibility. For instance, a fat-tire VRSC is a streetlight-to-streetlight performer.