Church of the MO: 2011 Harley-Davidson Sportster SuperLow
“Easy to drive, comfortable and stylish to start,” concluded D. Gingerelli’s review of the excitingly revamped HD Sportster ten years ago – now with radial tires! To see how far the Motor Company has come in the decade since, take a look at the new 2021 Sportster S: it’s almost enough to give hope.
Harley-Davidson’s best-selling entry-level bike, the XL883L Low, just got better. In fact, it is so improved that one could say that this “Shortster” has reached new heights in terms of ride comfort and stability for the new and experienced riders.
Here’s the deal: Harley gave the Low a complete makeover for 2011 to improve its suspension for a smoother, more compliant ride, while maintaining the low 25.3-inch seat height – like on the 2010 edition. the chassis of the new model is so improved that the revised bike deserves a new name. Enter the SuperLow for 2011.
A super low riding position is SuperLow’s off-the-shelf stock.
Visually, the SuperLow appears to be pretty much the same low-to-ground model that has become a favorite in recent years among Harley buyers and first-time women. Now here’s the catch: in reality, the SuperLow is a brand new model based purely on the low-rider theme. In truth, the SuperLow registers with new front and rear suspension calibrations, new wheel and tire sizes, a new fork and gas tank, even a new, better-padded solo seat.
Although it looks a lot like the 883 Low, the new SuperLow is essentially a brand new model.
“It’s really a whole new bike for us,” says Greg Falkner, project manager. The result is an entry-level bike that performs so well that SuperLow owners may want to keep their bike even after gaining more experience and confidence in the saddle.
“This bike should continue to suit them as they gain more riding experience,” says Falkner. In short, this low-ride bike is more than just a beginner’s bike, a stigma that in the past has haunted the 883L Low. The SuperLow is a bona fide bike that should appeal to riders of all skill levels, especially those with short crotches.
The SuperLow’s new 18 “5-spoke wheel weighs significantly less than the Low’s 19”.
So how did Harley keep the low seat height while improving the ride? “We made more room under the rear fender to increase wheel travel,” explains Falkner. Look at the specs and you’ll see what it’s about. Even though the rear wheel diameter was reduced from 16 to 17 inches, wrapping the new five-spoke wheel with a low-profile Michelin radial tire helped reduce overall height. This reduced rear tire height allows greater wheel travel under the mudguard. So engineers were able to develop a set of longer-travel shocks (about 5/8 of an inch longer than the Lows) for the SuperLow. The new shocks also have recalibrated damping rates to make driving easier. You will especially feel the difference in the compression stroke where the new shocks and springs absorb bumps much better. Engineers also moved the ECM (electronic control module), moving it from under the seat toward the steering point. The vacant space made way for more padding in the saddle itself, in turn increasing the comfort of the rider, but not the rider. You will immediately notice the difference and appreciate it even more after driving a few kilometers on the road.
There are a few subtle upgrades up front, and a lot of the technology has been gleaned from the XR1200 model. First, the wheel diameter was reduced from 19 to 18 inches, and a Michelin radial was also used there. The fork legs have slightly recalibrated settings, so the springs are less likely to melt under normal driving conditions. The wider tees spread the legs slightly for the new, lighter wheel, giving the bike a more masculine appearance and more lock-to-lock rotation.
The handlebars are slightly higher and the triple trees are wider, giving the SuperLow a more masculine appearance.
Additionally, the new triple shafts have changed the steering angle and drag slightly to maintain the neutral cornering attitude found on all Sportsters. HD engineers describe this as “intuitive handling,” which means the bike responds to rider input in an almost programmed way. This is especially important given the main SuperLow audience, which is made up of newer and less experienced drivers.
A more compliant ride is not worth much if the ergonomics of the bike are not suited to the rider. And so, for 2011, the SuperLow registers with more handlebar rise. Think of it as a mini monkey hanger, a particularly fashionable trend among the cruising crowd these days. Your arms maintain a relaxed stretch as you reach the small diameter handles, and the new seat is placed slightly back on the frame so there is more legroom when you place your boots on the controls. intermediaries.
Moving the ECU under the seat increased the padding of the new solo seat.
Gone are the familiar peanut tank, replaced by the low profile tank which actually holds more fuel.
The moved seat also makes room for the new SuperLow gas tank, the larger 4.5 gallon fuel cell from the XL1200C Custom 2004. The new tank (the Low was based on the old tank). 3.3 gallon peanut style) helps lower the silhouette of the bike, while extending the riding range. Cruising at 65-70 mph offers up to 50 miles per gallon, so you can easily go 200 miles on a tank of gas.
Nothing has been changed at the powertrain, so the SuperLow offers the same response from its 883cc engine as the Low’s. After the ECM activates the electronic fuel injection, gently press the thumb button on the electric starter with your thumb. The engine starts right away, settling into a gentle idle. Shift the five-speed transmission into first gear, release the easy-pull clutch lever, and the SuperLow engines are deliberately moved away.
A minor upgrade to the final drive gear also helps transfer power in a smoother and more linear fashion. The final reduction ratio is lower (the number of final reduction ratios itself is higher) for easier and faster acceleration. The aim was to make it easier for the pilot to control the throttle at low speed, especially when crossing parking lots and the like. As an added bonus, the mid-range rolling power is also slightly more responsive to the rider’s controls.
But the big news about the SuperLow is how it delivers a smoother ride for such a low bike. Compared to the Low it replaces, the SuperLow glides easily over most bumps, potholes and gel joints. The radial tires also improve its stable road behavior.
Despite these improvements, you should always keep in mind that the improvements can only help a bike to a certain extent. The abbreviated suspension ends up hitting bottom sooner than you’d like. And, like any low bike, cornering clearance is minimal. As for the SuperLow, the footpegs and lower right muffler tend to rub the asphalt when the bike is leaned too much in a turn. (Our biggest complaint when we compared the Low to a Honda Shadow RS in this shootout.)
Otherwise, owners will be rewarded with a bike that is easy to ride, comfortable and stylish.
Driven like a cruiser, the new SuperLow will be well received by bikers looking for a cool look and a compliant ride.
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