Ever wonder why you still see police officers on big Harley-Davidson bikes? If you consider this test data from the Michigan State Police, you’ll wonder even more. Their annual study once again shows that Harleys, fun as they are in their own way, just aren’t as suited to cop bike duty as other models.

In southern California, we have a lot of motorcycle cops. The weather is nice, there is tons of traffic, and lanesplitting makes motorcycles the perfect tool for fighting crime (or writing copious amounts of traffic tickets). But, no matter how many times I see them, I find myself baffled every time I see a cop on some huge Harley. It’s pretty spectacular evidence that actually helping the community matters far less than making money.

This brings us to the Michigan State Police, who conduct testing on the vehicles they have at their disposal every few years to determine which are the best/most appropriate for their needs. The testing includes accelerating and braking tests, as well as timed laps around a cone course. The latest test was done back in January, but is still worth discussing here.


If you were in the business of keeping people safe, or were a citizen who wanted to be kept safe, would you prefer a vehicle that went from 0-100 in under 10 seconds, or over 20?

Unlike the Zero, at least the Harleys were able to get there, but the time it takes and top speeds are pretty subpar for the motorcycle world.


How about braking? That’s sort of an important one too. I actually think brakes are more important than power, because you can’t go fast if you can’t slow yourself down when you need to.

Again, the Harleys round out the bottom of the field. It’s interesting to note that the Can Am, with it’s extra wheel, performed the best here. It’s inclusion at all is puzzling, but it’s interesting to see the areas where it excelled versus where it stunk (see below.)


Obviously, without knowing the course length or design, these numbers don’t mean a whole lot. The thing to compare is how each specific rider did on each vehicle. Officer Johnson, who appears to be the quickest, is ten whole seconds faster on the BMW than the other motorcycles, and more than 15 seconds faster than on the Can-Am.

The data in this report is actually quite similar to one the dog camping guy wrote about back in 2010, which makes you wonder why they keep doing the tests and why they keep riding Harleys.


2015 MY Police Vehicle Evaluation Test Book Compressed 479059 7 2

If this all isn’t enough evidence, I have a little anecdotal proof of my own. In 2013, I was sent to the press launch for the Suzuki Hayabusa, and we were given a police escort so we could “test top speeds.” No, they couldn’t keep up when we 186’d the bikes on the back side of Palomar, but the officers did okay keeping up through the tight stuff. At the end of the day, they said they wanted to let us go ahead, with the lead officer saying “I’ve pushed my luck enough - if we crash they’re going to stick me on a Harley and then I’ll hate my life.”


Before you cruiser guys want to lynch me or call my attempts at getting into cruisers a farce, this isn’t an indictment of cruisers or Harley-Davidson. When we asked why you rode cruisers, none of you said it was because they performed well or better than BMWs.

But, for those of you who care about both how your ride looks and performs, this is vital information. With any luck, this info alongside Victory hitting the cruiser space hard will spur the Motor Co to give us the products we deserve. Because they can do better.


Photos: Getty Images

Contact the author at sean.macdonald@jalopnik.com. Follow Lanesplitter onFacebook and Twitter.