by: Peter Henshaw
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-845843-03-8 Publisher: Veloce Publishing Publication Date: May 2011
64 pages. 195 mm x 139 mm x 4 mm List Price: $19.95
The Essential Buyer’s Guide series from Veloce Publishing now covers about 53 vehicles, from the Volkswagen Bus to this most recent volume, The Essential Buyer’s Guide Harley-Davison Big Twins.
The Harley-Davidson Big Twins guide is brand-new; in fact, it won’t be officially released until May 15, 2011, but pre-orders are being accepted.
The book covers only the Big Twins from the “Evolution” engine onwards (post-1983), because the author feels that the Evo engines are better suited for first-time Harley owners in terms of reliability and ease of maintenance.
This is a slim 4 mm thick volume and it deliberately does not contain a lot of information on model year changes, paint colors and options for each model and year. It’s a “practical, straight-forward guide”, and the author is right up front about that in the introduction.
I’m not enthusiastic about this book, because much of the information seems fairly generic and is relevant to the purchase of any motorcycle and not just a Harley.
For example, checking the vehicle ID numbers on the frame and engine to make sure they match is always important, as are things like checking the paint, chrome, oil, drivetrain, tires, etc. all of which is briefly described. The problem is that there doesn’t seem to be a lot here that provides specific tips that only Harley-Davidson owners would know.
I’d estimate that about 30% of the information is specific to the Harley-Davidson, but I can’t say that I know all that much more about how to buy a used Harley-Davidson Big Twin than I did before I read the book.
Just for the record, I do own a metric cruiser, although I know next to nothing about Harleys, having only been on a couple of them during my entire riding career. Actually, this makes me one of the primary target customers for this particular Essential Buyer’s Guide.
I think the book may be more useful to beginning motorcycle buyers or first-time Harley buyers who know very little about motorcycles in general, and that may be the real target audience. But I’m not sure if a first-time motorcycle owner should be looking at a Big Twin as a first bike. For anyone with existing motorcycle ownership experience, the book is less useful because much of the information is generic to buying any motorcycle, Harley or not.
My feeling is that if you’re already into cruisers and Harleys, you’re probably not going to learn much from this book that you don’t already know.
So I wouldn’t say that the book is necessarily a “must have” guide if you’re considering the purchase of a used Harley. If you know anything at all about motorcycles and once you know where to check the VIN numbers (and they’re easy to find on a modern Harley), you’d probably be better off going to look at the bike with a Harley-owning friend.
I suppose that if you don’t have another resource available, or you want to use the book as a checklist, it’s probably a decent guide. It does seem expensive for what it is however, although that probably has more to do with the weak U.S. dollar than anything else. The book has a list price of £9.99 in the UK, which translates to a steep $19.95 in the U.S. Thank goodness for discounting!
I guess I’m giving it a lukewarm endorsement. I do think it would have been nice to add that section on model year identification, because many Harleys are customized or painted and there have been (and continue to be) so many different variants through the years that it can be difficult for a Harley newbie to recognize which model they’re looking at.
Instead, the last chapter that might have been better used for that type of information is instead taken up with a generic discussion about where to buy a motorcycle, with some pretty useless information (e.g., you can buy on eBay, through local classifieds, etc.).
The bottom line is that it’s difficult for me to make a strong recommendation for The Essential Buyer’s Guide to Harley-Davidson Big Twins. I think in the effort to make the book usable for first-time Harley buyers, the author left out some information that could have proved useful.
I’d estimate that only about 1/3 of the book is specific to the Harley-Davidson Big Twins, while the rest is fairly generic information that is relevant for the purchase of any new motorcycle. If the book had a retail price of, say, $9.95 in the U.S., I think it could represent more of a value.
By the way, the printing is excellent and the many color photos are nicely done but also somewhat generic.
From “J.L.W.” (05/11): “I bought my first H-D 2 years ago after having ridden a variety of motorcycles over the past 25 years and I think there are two types of Harley buyers.
The first type are buying the bike because it’s a Harley and don’t much care about anything else. The second group in which I am included, want to know more and there’s a lot of info out there on the Internet for free.
For a first time Harley buyer who is interested, there is not much to learn. Ground clearance and lean angles can be found in the specs section of H-D’s website. Other info such as when they switched from a 5 speed to a six speed, when they adopted fuel injection for all models, when they started rubber mounting and counterbalancing is not hard to figure out. Same with when they increased engine sizes.
Okay, so now we have about 5 pages, maybe. What’s in the rest of the book?”