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8 Ways to Make a Harley-Davidson Go Faster

by | Mar 21, 2024 | Motorcycle Performance

The Secret To Making Your Harley Faster is SMT Performance Parts

Looking for ways to make your Harley faster? Here are eight things you can do to add horsepower and improve performance.

Harley-Davidson motorcycles have long been synonymous with the open road, the distinctive rumble of their engines echoing down the highways. While these motorcycles are known for their iconic design and cruising style, many riders also seek ways to push the performance envelope and make their Harleys go faster. Most can attain speeds as high as 125 miles per hour; performance-minded owners can easily exceed that with a few tricks and upgrades.

What are the factors that contribute to enhancing the speed and power of these legendary motorcycles? Here are eight ideas to make your Harley go faster so you can hang on and better enjoy the ride.

creed air cleaner
RaceLox cruiser hub assembled with bolts
astro pulley
RaceSpec 11.5" floating rotor with wave ring black
performance motorcycle tire

1. Reduce Air Drag – Lean In

The simplest way to make your Harley go faster is to ride it like a sport bike, not a cruiser. That means leaning in towards the gas tank to achieve an aerodynamic shape that reduces air drag. The less air drag, the faster your Harley can go.

Also, reduce or swap out non-performance parts. That extra chrome can create more air drag as well as add weight to an already heavy bike.

2. Engine Tuning and Fuel Management Systems

Harley motorcycles can often benefit from customized engine tuning and fuel management systems.

One example is feeding more air into the engine and optimizing the air-fuel mixture, which results in improved combustion and increased power output. A good quality spark plug also helps optimize combustion of the air-fuel mixture, which results in peak power output.

A dirty air cleaner impedes performance; periodically replace the air cleaner to ensure proper airflow. Adding a fuel controller to fine-tune fuel injection and optimize bike performance achieves smoother power delivery and improved acceleration, making your Harley go faster.

We recommend the best. S&S air cleaners with K&N air filters. They improve performance because the filter is exposed for better airflow to add horsepower to your Harley. SMT even creates a cover for it to match your wheel design.

3. Exhaust System Upgrade

A high-performance exhaust system upgrade not only enhances your Harley’s classic throaty sound, but also improves exhaust flow. Better exhaust flow increases horsepower and torque, with quicker throttle response.

In addition, upgraded exhaust systems are usually much lighter than the factory options, and reduced weight helps your Harley go faster.

4. Adjust the Gearing

A quick way to improve Harley’s speed is to adjust the gearing. This is a complicated process, but you want to increase two teeth on the front sprocket and reduce by one tooth on the rear sprocket.

There are plenty of YouTube videos that get into the specifics of gear adjustments, so check them out before you try to do any tinkering on your own.

5. High-Performance Camshafts

Upgrading to high-performance camshafts is another way to increase power and make your Harley go faster. Aftermarket camshafts with more aggressive profiles can enhance valve timing, resulting in improved overall engine efficiency and performance.

6. High Performance Tires

Performance motorcycle tires can improve traction, especially during acceleration and high-speed cornering. These tires are made from softer rubber but longer treads and are lighter in weight.

7. Lightweight Parts

The lighter the weight of the components on your Harley, the less air drag, and the faster it can go. Shop for fenders, hubs, pulleys, rake kits, and rotors made from lightweight materials such as aluminum or carbon fiber.

RaceLox Performance Hubs from SMT are made to be as light as possible, without sacrificing strength. They have special bearings that reduce friction when hot which provides faster spinning and more speed.

Vented PR-1 rotors from SMT are manufactured from 420 stainless steel with an aluminum center option to reduce weight, as well as, better displace heat.

8. Performance Harley Wheels

High-performance Harley wheels provide a distinctive quality look combined with lightweight aluminum alloy to add strength and reduce drag, so your Harley can go faster. SMT Harley motorcycle wheels are made from aircraft-grade 6061-T6 billet aluminum alloy can be up to 60% lighter than other aftermarket wheels or your stock rims.

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10 FAQs About Speeding Up Harley-Davidsons

  1. Can I make my Harley go faster without compromising reliability and performance?
    If you choose reputable aftermarket products, such as those from SMT Wheels, and perform proper maintenance, your Harley can go faster and retain its reliability and performance.
  2. Can I make my Harley go faster simply by upgrading the tires?
    Absolutely. High-performance tires improve grip and handling. Tires play a key role in acceleration and handling, so choosing high-quality, high-performance tires is essential for better speeds.
  3. Why do I need to adjust the engine’s fuel management system?
    Proper tuning ensures that the engine receives the right amount of fuel, optimizes performance, and prevents issues like running too lean.
  4. Can upgrading the camshaft really make a noticeable difference in speed?
    Yes, upgrading the camshaft can significantly impact your Harley’s performance by improving valve timing, which results in better power delivery and increased speed.
  5. Is adjusting the transmission gear ratios necessary for increased speed?
    Adjusting transmission gear ratios is an option for fine-tuning speed characteristics. Some riders opt for aftermarket sprockets or different final drive ratios. However, striking a balance that aligns with your riding style and preferences is crucial.
  6. Are there any drawbacks to using higher-performance parts to make my Harley go faster?
    High-performance parts are generally more expensive than standard parts, though the higher cost is what you are paying for to get higher performance. Some high-performance parts may require more careful maintenance and, in certain cases, may not be as durable for everyday commuting. And with higher speeds, you’ll want to make sure your brake rotors are upgraded as well to handle the extra torque.
  7. How do I ensure my upgraded Harley motorcycle remains street-legal?
    Check local regulations to ensure that any modifications comply with legal standards. Some jurisdictions may have restrictions on exhaust noise levels or modifications that impact emissions.
  8. What’s the first upgrade I should consider for increased speed?
    Consider lighter-weight motorcycle wheels and tires that reduce air drag, allowing your Harley to go faster. It’s not only an easy upgrade but one that results in a distinctive customized appearance. A win-win.
  9. Are weight reduction modifications worth considering for speed improvement?
    Shedding excess weight can enhance your motorcycle’s acceleration and overall performance. Consider replacing heavier components with lighter alternatives, such as carbon fiber accessories or aluminum alloy parts.
  10. Can I perform upgrades to make my Harley go faster myself, or should I seek professional assistance?
    It depends on your own mechanical experience and skill. Some modifications may require professional installation. If you’re unsure, always consult a qualified technician or parts provider such as SMT.
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SMT High-Performance Parts

Getting your Harley motorcycle to go faster involves a combination of strategic upgrades aimed at improving airflow, combustion efficiency, and overall performance. SMT’s high-performance wheels, tires, and parts can help you achieve the speed you are looking for. Get in touch by email, phone, or chat to discuss how we can help make your Harley go faster.