The Harley Sportster vs the Honda Fury. Two motorcycles, one question: Which one should you buy?
The Harley-Davidson Sportster has been around since 1957. The bike has seen continuous improvements over six decades and is one of the longest running motorcycles of all time. It’s going up against the Honda Fury, a motorcycle introduced as a “factory custom” in 2010 that stayed virtually unchanged for all of its 11 year production run.
These two motorcycles are definitely an apples to oranges comparison, but I’ve been riding Sportsters for over a decade, and recently completed a four part series on the Fury. The audience asked which motorcycle I would pick between the two, so that’s what we’re going to cover.
If you’re thinking about buying either a Harley-Davidson Sportster or a Honda Fury, there are four main things you should consider:
- Different aesthetics: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. What do you like better?
- Different dimensions: Motorcycles of different sizes require different levels of skill. What’s your level of comfort with big motorcycles?
- Where you’ll be riding: A larger motorcycle will be trickier in smaller places, but an air cooled motorcycle may not be ideal either. Where will you be riding?
- Honda vs Harley-Davidson: No little kid dreams about riding a Honda cruiser when they grow up. Do you care?
In-Depth Comparison: Harley-Davidson Sportster vs. Honda Fury
Let’s look at how our criteria for picking which motorcycle to buy is going to apply to the Harley-Davidson Sportster and the Honda Fury
The Fury is a “factory custom”, some even go so far as to call it a chopper, heavily inspired by the Jesse James and Orange County Choppers vibe of the early 2000s. Other than paint jobs, the Fury remained 99% unchanged in it’s 11 year production run between 2010 and 2020.
On the other hand, the Sportster was first produced in 1957 and has stayed fairly true to her origins. The Sportster has seen a long list of upgrades over six decades of production, with most recent big changes including the switch to belt drive in 1993, adding engine rubber mounts in 2004, switching to fuel-injection in 2007, and beefier tires in 2012.
Takeaway: These two motorcycles look nothing alike, and even just within the Sporster family lineage there are so many options to choose from, so your personal taste and preferences will probably play a big part in your selection.
Dimensions and experience
The differences in size between the Sportster and the Fury will have a big effect on how each motorcycle handles. That will have an impact on how easy to ride one motorcycle is versus the other.
If you’re coming from a four-wheel background, imagine navigating a tight parking lot in a little BMW sports sedan, versus in a Dodge RAM pick-up truck. The smaller vehicle will always be the easier to handle and the more beginner friendly.
Takeaway: Based on your level of motorcycle riding experience, the smaller motorcycle may or may not be a key consideration for you.
Where you’ll be riding
Putting aside your level of motorcycle riding experience, the difference in the size and handling characteristics of the two motorcycles may impact you more or less depending on where you’ll be riding.
In tight, high traffic areas, a smaller motorcycle will be more manageable for both beginner and experienced riders alike. A longer vehicle, like the Fury, will probably be better suited outside of big city urban traffic.
However, you should also keep in mind that while the Fury is longer, it is also liquid cooled, whereas the Sportster is air cooled. Here’s a breakdown of the pros and cons of air cooled versus liquid cooled motorcycles, but long story short, a liquid cooled motor is preferable if you’ll be riding through high traffic cities like Los Angeles, New York, and Toronto.
Takeaway: In high traffic density areas with a lot of vehicles in tight spaces, neither the Fury nor the Sportster are ideal, but in suburban or rural roads both should do fine.
Honda vs. Harley-Davidson
Lastly, there’s the age old debate. Hondas are known for reliability, albeit producing relatively boring motorcycles, but let’s be honest – no little kids dream of riding a Honda when they grow up.
Some will argue Harley-Davidson doesn’t come close to touching Honda’s legendary reliability. Others will point out that many Harley-Davidson motors have hundreds of thousands of miles on them. They don’t always mention that those Harley motors have been rebuilt once or twice, but hey, a rebuilt is just an excuse to add performance upgrade parts, right?
Takeaway: It doesn’t matter what you say about Honda vs Harley-Davidson on the internet, someone else will come along and tell you, based on their own arbitrary experience, that you’re 100% wrong. Ride whatever you like.
My own opinion on the Honda Fury vs. Harley-Davidson Sportster debate
Both the Fury and the Sportster have reliable motors, big online following with lots of supports from Facebook groups and forums, and lots of excellent DIY how-to content available to help you learn and save some money.
An upside to buying a Harley-Davidson Sportster over the Fury, is that the Sportster definitely has a much bigger selection of aftermarket parts and accessories available to it. That’s the upside to Harley-Davidson having a dominant market share and the Sportster outselling the Fury by a long shot.
An upside to buying a used Fury is that many of them were “garage queens”, motorcycles that spent more time looking good in a garage then they ever spent out on the road. While you might not find as many used Honda Fury motorcycles for sale as you will Harley-Davidson Sportsters, a used Fury could have much lower mileage.
A downside to the Sportster is that it is considered “the poor man’s Harley”. Many Sportster owners do fantastic, original, creative, beautiful work on their machines. But there are also many Sportster owners who MacGyver things together, with fixes that aren’t always done correctly, cheapest parts the owner could find bolted on haphazardly, while leaks and other issues may be neglected, so buyer beware! I spent many, many hours, just undoing all of the previous owner’s work on two of my Sportsters.
A downside to the Fury is that because they aren’t a very popular motorcycle, they may be harder to come across, which could mean getting less motorcycle for your dollar, depending on what your local market is like. This will depend on where you’re looking and if you have a motivated Fury seller or not.
Which motorcycle would I buy, the Honda Fury or the Harley-Davidson Sportster?
Remember that what’s best for me will not necessarily be what’s best for you, but given the two options, I would pick neither, and here’s why:
I ride day in, day out, in the most densely populated city in the country. The Fury’s size is manageable in residential areas, but would be annoying downtown. Likewise, I sold my Suzuki Boulevard M50 to buy a Sportster, just to get fed up of the Sportster’s air cooled motor while sitting in traffic, and sold it to buy another Suzuki Boulevard M50.
I would rather have a couple cheap motorcycles that give me variety, than one motorcycle that I dress to the 10s but leaves me limited. For example, my current setup is a cruiser for the highways, a dual sport for rough roads and touring adventures, and a little Vespa for picking up takeout and running shopping errands in the neighborhood.
The Sportster and the Fury are both excellent motorcycles, I can confidently recommend you get either one. If you’re anywhere outside of a densely populated megapolis, you’ll love them. Just keep in mind that motorcycles aren’t necessarily the most versatile though. Neither motorcycle will do well off paved roads, nor will they do well in densely packed cities. Anywhere else and these two motorcycles will be fantastic, it’s just about figuring out which one is right for you.
If you have a question about motorcycles, I’d love to answer it, so please leave your question in the comments section in this article or on YouMotorcycle’s YouTube channel and I’ll try to help you out.