Are Harleys Safer than Sports Bikes? A Helpful Guide




Harley Davidson and KTM Sports bike example

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Safety is always a priority question when assessing motorcycles and selecting which bike to purchase. Like most cruisers, Harleys offer a chunky, heavy, and stable feel, while sports bikes are slick, streamlined, light, and fast. 

Statistics show that sports bikes have a higher fatality rate in motorcycle accidents than Harleys. Even though fewer sports bikes are on the road, there are more accidents involving sports bikes than Harleys. Statistically, Harleys are safer than sports bikes.

Harly Davidson and KTM sports bike

There is a well-known perception that all motorbikes are not considered a safe means of transport compared to other vehicles. For those who have a love and passion for bikes, safety is still a factor when selecting a bike, and the choices between both Harleys and Sports bikes are tempting and make for a tough decision.

Harley vs. Sports Bike: Fatality Rates

Statistics have revealed that Sports bikes have a higher fatality rate in motorcycle accidents, and there are multiple reasons for this. 

According to studies done in 2010, Sports bikes per 10 000 riders are 4 times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than cruiser bikes like Harleys.

The most common thought process when considering why Sports bikes have a higher fatality rate is built around the assumptions that the fatality of these wrecks is due to their speed, lighter weight, streamlined build, and rate of acceleration

This is not entirely true, and research has provided other reasons as to the statistics regarding Sports bikes and accidents.

Research suggests that an estimated 60% of Sports bike owners and riders are under the age of thirty years old. 

This means that there is a much younger population of riders riding Sports bikes with much less experience of handling high-powered motorcycles and less road knowledge and maturity.

The combination of young and inexperienced riders with powerful and lightweight Sports bikes is a dangerous one.

Information from these studies suggests that the younger population of riders has a higher statistical probability of being in a fatal accident.

Riders under the age of thirty seem to prefer the style, ability, and level of status or appreciation that sports bikes embody. 

Most young motorcycle owners under the age of thirty and who can afford powerful Sports bikes do not have the experience to make wise road decisions when handling that level of speed and power in a bike.

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Many examples of accidents occur because of unnecessary speeds, trickery, and dangerous maneuvering of the bike through traffic.

In many cases, this is because of riders showing off or trying to prove a point. Studies show the direct correlation between the age of Sports bike riders and the probability of a crash.

Three Different Harley Davidson Motorcycles In A Row

This is in stark contrast to cruiser bike owners such as those who ride Harleys. Research shows that only around 25% of Harley owners or riders are under the age of thirty.

This is another reason to suggest the connection between fatal crashes involving Sports bikes and the reasons thereof. 

Harleys have a reputation for appealing to a more mature and seasoned audience or target market. Riders with a passion for being out on the road and with the experience to handle a powerful and reliable motorbike seem to lean towards Harleys as a good option.

The registration information of riders and bike owners is what helps track fatality rates of motorcycles. The information shows that owners of cruiser-style bikes like Harleys have a lower percentage of fatalities. 

Harleys and similar bikes make up the largest group of motorbikes on the road, and research has shown that these bikes are mostly ridden by riders aged 40 years or older.

Owners of Sports bikes, which are high-performance, high-speed types of bikes, represent the smallest group of registered motorcycles. Despite the lower number of registered Sports bikes on our roads, they are overrepresented in rider fatalities’ statistics.

Sports bikes have a high horsepower-to-weight ratio, which means a high horsepower with a relatively low overall bike weight can prove fatal.

The frame of most Sports bikes is made for competitive racing and modified for street use. They were not designed for safety. 

Sports bikes have powerful acceleration, reaching high speeds in short amounts of time. This makes for a dangerous vehicle if the rider is not skilled and experienced handling that kind of power.

The Truth About Motorbikes And Safety

Motorbikes are not built primarily for safety. Harleys and Sports bikes do not have seat belts, airbags, or impact protection. From a collision perspective, neither of these bikes is classified as safe.

Compared to all the other motor vehicles, motorcycles are the most vulnerable and risky vehicles on the road. There is the potential for the rider to be thrown off the seat in a crash, which may cause serious injuries or death. 

There is no protection for the rider apart from the protective clothing they wear. Compared to other types of vehicles, the small frame, lighter weight, and lack of impact protection make any bike dangerous on the roads.

Motorcycles are not purchased for a safe vehicle option. Most motorcycle owners buy their bikes for the love of motorcycles, speed, and adventure.

There are suggestions that Harleys are safer because of the lower sitting position making it harder to fall off, and the bigger and wider size of the bike, making it more stable and visible.

One reason some people prefer Harleys over Sports bikes when considering safety is the loud engine noise that Harleys create, which can be heard a while before seeing or noticing it.

Orange 114 Cubic Inch Harley Davidson Motorcycle With Ape Hangger Handlebars
114 harley Davidson With Ape Hanger Handlebars

Many riders like the fact that other drivers on the road can hear a Harley coming before seeing it, making them more aware of motorcycles on the road. However, as discussed within one of my other articles, Are Loud Motorcycles Really Safer? There are reasons this may not be true.

Some Sports bikes have the same qualities in terms of noise volume that help make others aware, but it is often too late due to their speed.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2018, 4,985 motorcyclists died within America from motorcycle crashes, down 5 percent from 5,229 in 2017. In 2018, motorcyclists were 27 times more likely than passenger car occupants to die in a crash per vehicle miles traveled.

In my opinion, the above statistical data proves beyond doubt that in general motorcycles are a dangerous form of transport.

The Responsibility Of The Rider With Regards To Safety

Any truly experienced rider will say that safety on a motorcycle is mostly dependent on the rider. 

The rider’s ability to control the bike, control the bike’s speed and movements, make mature and informed decisions on the road, and understand when to overtake and when not to are the most important safety factors when riding. 

Inexperienced riders on powerful bikes like Sports bikes and Harleys are a danger to themselves and others on the road. 

Understanding the rules of the road in the context of motorcycles is important. When riding a Harley, it is important to understand its size, weight, and power. 

This knowledge helps make informed decisions based on the type of bike they are riding that can save both the rider’s life and others. Harleys are heavier bikes that can do a lot of damage if they were to fall on top of the rider or anyone else.

Kawasaki 1000 SX Green Sports Bike

Sports bikes are more susceptible to breaking apart and causing serious damage because of their lightweight and small light frame that is not designed to withstand or handle any big impact.

The rider has the responsibility to know their bike well and to acquire the necessary skills to handle a motorcycle with maturity and wisdom on the roads. 

Motorbikes are built for fun and adventure, much of which is decided by the rider. A large part of safety on Harleys or Sports Bikes comes down to the rider’s ability and decision-making.


Statistical evidence suggests that Harleys are safer than Sports bikes based on the higher percentage of fatal accidents involving Sports bikes. 

Despite research providing additional reasons why Sports bikes have a higher percentage, they remain a more dangerous option, especially for inexperienced riders.

Statistics emphasize the rider’s role and age, and ability regarding motorcycle safety; however, if a decision needs to be made by the purchaser around choosing between a Harley and a Sports bike for safety, a Harley would be recommended as the better option.

Remember that motorbikes are bought for their power, speed, and the thrill of adventure, practicability, and adrenaline. Safety is not their primary selling point but finding a bike that gives you all the benefits and the safest ride possible is a healthy way to approaching buying one!

Happy riding!


Goldberg/Noone/Abraham Personal Injury Attorneys

Spaulging Injury Law

About the author

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