Police motorcycle photo courtesy of Harley-Davidson

Police motorcycle photo courtesy of Harley-Davidson

The iconic law enforcement motorcycle is most visible conducting traffic enforcement on highways and participating in special events and motorcades. These vehicles serve vital functions, allowing officers to quickly and nimbly maneuver around other vehicles and get to places cars and SUVs can't. They also have an undeniable cool factor, which contributed to the popularity of the much-loved 1980s TV show CHiPs that has just gotten a modern reboot. For officers who already love motorcycles, improvements in performance, functionality, and comfort make riding them on duty even better.

Motor officers spend most of their shifts on their bikes, so anything that can be done to improve their comfort can make a huge difference over the course of a day (or night). It can even help officers be more energized and effective when it's time to take action. And when that time comes, speed, agility, and overall performance are essential.

Manufacturers are continually working to improve performance and comfort for motor officers. Here's a look at motorcycles currently available for law enforcement.


The biggest changes in law enforcement motorcycles for 2017 come from Harley-Davidson. While the models' names might sound the same, and they may look like last year's models, there are actually some major differences. Harley-Davidson has three police models for 2017: FLHTP Electra Glide, FLHP Road King, and XL 883L Sportster. Back in 2014, Harley-Davidson redesigned the look of its police motorcycles, adding a noise-dampening feature, additional one-touch controls, and a brighter headlamp to its 2014 Electra Glide police motorcycle. The outside hasn't changed much since then. But if you look inside, the engine and suspension are now drastically different.

Harley-Davidson's new Milwaukee-Eight Engine is the most powerful and coolest-running engine it has ever built, according to the company. It features larger displacement, 4-valve heads, and higher compression ratio to produce 10% more torque. It also has made the vehicles two to three bike lengths faster from 0-60 mph, and one to two bike lengths faster from 60-80 mph in top gear.

Believe it or not, the new engine can provide improved rider comfort thanks to reduced heat absorption, increased heat rejection, and a redesigned exhaust system. Plus you can add an accessory called the CoolFlow Fan that will pull hot air away from the rear cylinder and exhaust pipe, and directing it toward the ground instead of the officer's legs. The engine's new internal single counter balancer also limits vibration for a more comfortable feel at idle, according to the company.

New front and rear suspension on all 2017 Harley-Davidson police motorcycles are designed to improve feel and performance. New Showa SDBV Dual Bending Valve front suspension technology provides 117 mm of travel so the motorcycle stops faster from 0-60, which was evidenced in testing at the recent Michigan State Police vehicle testing. Hand-adjustable emulsion rear shocks allow for 15-30% more pre-load adjustment with the turn of a single knob, no tools required. Unlike air shocks, once pre-load is set there is no adjustment needed and no leak-down. New, bigger pistons are designed to improve damping performance over the range of the suspension travel.

In some smaller changes, the bikes' handlebars position and grip have been adjusted so they are more ergonomic, and an adjustable solo saddle seat provides more cushioning and better support.

Harley-Davidson police motorcycles are still offered in 31 different colors from the factory, so there's no need to send the vehicles to an upfitter for custom paint.


BMW Motorrad

Police motorcycle photo courtesy of BMW

Police motorcycle photo courtesy of BMW

BMW Police Motors are being ridden by more than 450 agencies in the United States, including the three largest U.S. fleets operated by the California Highway Patrol, Los Angeles Police Department, and Los Angeles Sheriff's Department. BMW Motorrad USA's R 1200 RT-P is its new generation police motorcycle, which includes improvements that have been made in the non-police version such as standard ABS brakes with traction control, rain or road riding modes, and heated handlebar grips.

The R 1200 RT-P also features a new boxer air/water-cooled engine producing 125 bhp and 92 lb/ft of torque, a multi-plate self-adjusting wet clutch that can be changed in an hour, e-gas electronic throttle control, weather protection, and an integrated lighting system and emergency light system with alley and take-down lights plus a wig-wag headlight.

New standard features on every R 1200 RT-P include heated seat and heated handlebar grips (new 5-level adjustment for heat settings), BMW ABS with traction control, tire pressure monitoring, electronic cruise control (controls down to 9 mph), and a rider information display including system voltage and ambient temperature. For an improved rider experience, optimal air management keeps engine heat from the rider and a standard electrically adjustable windshield provides convenience.

The R 1200 RT-P includes 6,000-mile oil change service intervals and comes with a 3-year/60,000 mile limited warranty at no extra charge.



Police motorcycle photo courtesy of BRP

Police motorcycle photo courtesy of BRP

Designed as an alternative to a traditional two-wheeled motorcycle, BRP's three-wheeled Spyder F3-P is based on the company's Can-Am Spyder F3, which already provides stability with its three-wheel Y-frame and comes with advanced safety and security systems. The F3-P for law enforcement also comes with a siren, LED emergency lights, increased cargo capacity, and wires with 12V and USB connectors to meet motor officers' requirements.

This instantly recognizable vehicle fea tures a cruising riding position and a low center of gravity to go along with its distinctive Y-frame, thanks to two wheels in the front and one in back.

Officers can customize their bike's fit with the Spyder F3 UFit system of five adjustable foot peg positions and alternative handlebars. You can position the footpegs according to your height and choose from five handlebar options based on your riding style. A tilt adjustable driver backrest is designed to flex with the rider and add back and lumbar support throughout the day. A tough 4.5 mm polycarbonate mid-height windshield is specially designed for a warm ride.

When it comes to the inner workings of the vehicle, the F3-P's Rotax 1330 ACE engine is an in-line triple-cylinder configuration for maximum torque in every gear, to deliver excellent roll-on acceleration and throttle response. It's also built to be efficient and low maintenance. The F3-P's 6-speed transmission has a sophisticated hydraulic clutch system and uses thumb and index finger paddle shifting. Developed in partnership with Bosch, the F3-P's Vehicle Stability System integrates anti-lock brakes, traction control, and stability control.



Police motorcycle photo  courtesy of Honda

Police motorcycle photo  courtesy of Honda

Honda's ST1300P Police Motorcycle features a powerful and lightweight V-4 engine with the added performance of an anti-lock braking system, and is designed to be exceptionally quiet and smooth with PGM-FI to produce a smooth and linear throttle response. This bike is created from a base model of Honda's 2015 model ST1300 that can then be upfitted to agency specifications for law enforcement use.

On the inside, ST1300P's V-4 engine is longitudinally mounted for maximum drivetrain efficiency while the Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS) features an electric-motordriven modulator for quick, precise braking-pressure adjustments and smooth ABS operation. The Combined Braking System (CBS) uses second master cylinder and a Proportioning Control Valve (PCV) to couple three-piston calipers of dual-disc front and single-disc rear brakes. The ST1300P's low center of gravity contributes to improved low speed handling.

This motorcycle also comes with more visible features that improve rider experience. A motor-driven, adjustable windscreen and adjustable three-position dual-density solo seat allow officers to customize the bike to their needs and preferences, while a remote preload adjuster makes it easy to change the suspension setting to accommodate various loads and conditions. Specialized handlebar, patrol speedometer, and mounting brackets help make the ST1300P ready to handle law enforcement duties. Integrated saddlebags are lockable and detachable and hold 35 liters each, and a special rear cowl and rack offer law enforcement officers additional carrying capacity.


Zero Motorcycles

Police motorcycle photo courtesy of Zero

Police motorcycle photo courtesy of Zero

Zero Motorcycles manufactures electric motorcycles. The company offers three police models designed to provide nearly silent, exhaust-free operation with minimal heat production and instant torque from zero RPM.

The Zero DSRP is a dual sport with the ability to patrol both on and off-road, and with no emissions, even indoors. It incorporates Zero's high-performance motor and 660 amp controller to deliver more torque and more power, with a range of between 58 and 141 miles depending on speed and location, 70 hp, 116 lb.-ft. of torque, and top speed of 102 mph. The Zero DSP has the same range but offers 60 hp and 81 lb.-ft. of torque and delivers a top speed of 98 mph. Both of these models come with an optional power tank for additional range. The DSRP. The Zero FXP has a range of 29 to 79 miles, and offers 46 hp, 78 lb.-ft. of torque, and max speed of 85 mph.

Benefits of an electric motorcycle include "fuel" cost of a penny per mile, maintenance-free powertrain, and nearly noiseless operation for stealth patrols, according to the company. Tactical advantages include greater maneuverability with a lightweight vehicle, instant acceleration from idle, and the ability to ride indoors or in close confines.


This story originally appeared on PoliceMag.com