There’s more to Harley bikes than meets the eye. They’re distinctive from all other bikes, and yet no two Harleys are alike. What the brand offers is endless customisation, with hundreds of aftermarket accessories. It allows riders to get the most from their bikes, whether it’s more power when turning the throttle or enhanced comfort for those longer rides. While upgrades to stock seats and tweaking the suspension are the most common mods in this respect, fairings often get overlooked. Yes, the bigger touring bikes like the Road Glide and Ultra Limited get them as standard, but you can also bolt a fairing to base-spec Softails, Street Bobs, or any of the Sport models with the right hardware. This adds a bit more wind protection, increased comfort, and the ability for a few convenient additions.
What Are Fairings, and What Do They Do?
Fairings are the protective panels wrapping the bike around the front. They’re mostly a feature of sports bikes (as opposed to something like naked bikes) and do quite a few things for the bike and rider. They reduce wind buffeting when fitted with a windshield of the right shape and size and drag when getting to higher speeds. This means better use of engine power and higher top speeds.
The accompanying benefits are increased wind and weather protection for riders, a more stable riding posture at varying speeds, and, of course, more comfort. Riders won’t need to adjust seating positions as much to maintain balance, and leisurely cruising is what almost all Harleys are about. That’s why you’ll see bigger or full fairings on more HD models. Here, panels in different shapes and sizes add a style element, another feature that makes Harleys easily recognisable. But these aren’t the only things going for the wide range of Harley Davidson fairings.
Why Have Them on Your Bike?
Improved Performance and Increased Safety
Harleys are big, brash, and not exactly brimming with a whole lot of ponies. They do, however, have truckloads of low-end torque, so they can pull from a standstill even with a minor nudge at the throttle. What fairings for heavier bikes do is curtail wind resistance, especially in higher gears and at highway speeds. This lends more stability and a more aerodynamic bike, so riders can get to cruising speeds faster.
With airflow moving over and around the bike, there’s also a reduced likelihood of accidents. An often overlooked benefit is also the reduced fuel use, something to consider on longer highway trips.
If you like the plush seats and the forgiving suspension on bigger tourers, then you’ll also appreciate the work a fairing does in elevating comfort levels. Rides are undeniably more enjoyable without wind belting at you at 100 miles an hour. And this is more evident in exceptionally windy or rainy weather, which most riders typically encounter in the UK year-round. Colder air is deflected away from the head, hands, legs, and body, so there’s more warmth and heightened comfort, and fewer adjustments are needed to get cosy behind the bars.
Customisation and Convenience
Outfitting your Harley Davidson just the way you like it is one of the reasons you got one in the first place. Harley fairings come in a range of styles and can cover part or all of the front end, so they complement the overall look of the bike. You can also choose between different materials and colour options. While bike body parts makers have their lineups of fairings for specific Harley models, you can also get one-off designs of your liking at a decent price.
Another selling point is the level of convenience a fairing adds to the bike. They can house systems like navigation and stereos, as well as add more storage space for necessities like keys, wallets, and phones. For older bikes, this is one way to get with the times, and have all your gear in one neat and accessible place.
The weight of larger bikes is both a boon and a burden. It adds more stability at speed but can be hard to control when accelerating from a standstill. A Harley front fairing helps keep the bike and crucial components intact in sudden accidents or when dropping the bike, and prevents injuries in such cases, particularly to hands and feet.
Additionally, with less road debris hitting the main engine parts, you’ll also be doing the bike a favour and extending engine longevity. This goes hand in hand with the performance benefits stated above, so your V-twin will be humming no matter the road or weather conditions.
Choosing the Right Fairing
Both aftermarket and OEM options abound, and you can change your stock Harley fairing if it’s seen better days or succumbed to a bit of damage, and add a fairing to bikes that don’t have them as standard. This means the whole Harley lineup of current bikes, as well as older favourites, can get one installed. Here’s what to look for when buying:
You’ll come by quarter, half, and full fairings—basically names that denote the size of the fairing and how it wraps around the bike. A quarter fairing is often quite small and encircles the headlamps with some wind protection left and right. Move up to half fairings for more wind protection, with added realty extending up over the lights and merging with windshields, while lower sections remain exposed.
Lastly, get a full variant if you like the look of bigger HD tourers, albeit in a smaller package for something like the Softail. Both Batwing and Shark Nose, found on the Glide models, can be added to smaller bikes. These protect more of the bike and the rider and have some additional space to house things like larger stereos.
Hardened plastics such as ABS, fibreglass, and a range of hardwearing composites are the main materials that make up Harley Davidson fairings. Each has its pros and cons and comes at different price points. ABS plastic, for instance, is an inexpensive option, but can crack or fade in accidents, long exposure to the sun, or inclement weather. Fibreglass is priced the same but has the added benefit of being flexible. This allows it to sustain minor impacts better. And composite materials do a better job in all areas, including strength, flexibility, and lower weight, but are somewhat pricier.
How fairings hold up in general riding tasks also depends on the quality of the mounting hardware, which ensures a seamless fit with the rest of the bike. Check if these are provided or sold separately.
Pricing and Brands
Prices vary depending on size, type, and materials, as well as brands. For instance, for a full ABS fairing that’ll fit a Sportster or Softail, you’ll be looking at variants hovering around 200 pounds. Major brands that produce aftermarket fairings, mounts, and accessories for all Harley-Davidson bikes include Memphis Shades, Kuryakyn and Cult Werk which are well-regarded among the HD community.
Some niche brands that make more unorthodox designs and fairing accessories like headlight surrounds and vent trims are Burly Brand, Custom Dynamics, and C-Racer. You can find these and more in well-stocked bike shops that carry Harley Davidson and other big bike brands.