Harley-Davidson launches its 2021 Super Sportster S



Harley’s Sportster S is a real customer with a flashy look.

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I recently spent time with Harley-Davidson’s very first adventure motorcycle, Pan America (keep an eye on Roadshow for this review). Among the many positive attributes of this bike, the Revolution Max 1250 engine stood out.

It was remarkable because of Harley’s non-traditional feel. It is an engine which makes a prodigious power and which likes to turn. Experience left me wondering what would be the next bike to have this engine, and now we know it. Harley debuted its 2021 Sportster S on Tuesday, and to borrow a phrase from my colleague Andrew Krok, “It’s a firecracker.” (He was talking about Radiohead at the time, but that applies here.)

The Sportster line has ridden a bit of a sine wave since its introduction in the late 1950s. It was the company’s sportiest and most versatile platform at launch, and in the years since it was launched. has become the cheap and cheerful entry point for the brand’s small engines.

The Sportster S definitely leans towards the roots of the model; in this Pan America court, it’s the most powerful bike Harley makes, and it has plenty of other sporting credentials that should make it a real rival for The excellent Indian FTR1200.


It’s a bit like Harley’s old VRod, but not exclusively for dads.

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The Revolution Max 1250 gets a bit of readjustment for its duty in the Sportster S. This is done to reduce peak torque in the rev range and flatten the curve. The result is significantly less horsepower than the Pan Am, but 121 horsepower is more than enough, and the 94 lb-ft of torque isn’t to be despised either. The engine also sports a 9500 RPM redline, which should make it an absolute crier in canyons.

The next real key to the puzzle when it comes to making the Sportster S truly sporty is its suspension. This comes from Showa and features 43mm inverted forks and a piggyback reservoir rear shock with remote preload adjustment.

Things are starting to get a little weird in the braking department, however. There’s only one front brake disc, which is an odd choice on such a powerful bike that sports a curb weight of 500 pounds. Luckily Harley went with a unique Brembo big brake, at least, and who knows, maybe it’ll be fine. I’ll let you know when I ride one next week.

The Sportster S electronics package is also worth mentioning. Things start with a tilt-sensitive anti-lock braking system, which is paired with tilt-sensitive traction control. These are made possible by a six-axis inertial unit.


The 4 inch TFT screen keeps the cockpit tidy while providing tons of information.

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Harley also added its Drag Torque Slip Control, which alleviates rear wheel lockup due to engine braking (very useful on a large, high-compression engine like the Revolution Max) and a tire pressure monitoring system. Harley also gave the bike a 4 inch color TFT display which is a nice modern touch. The S also offers several driving modes, including two user-programmable modes.

Style wise, the Sportster S is a true statement of intent. It has the very aggressive front light of the Fat Bob; it also has large tires on light alloy rims, which should provide enough contact patch to handle the power of the engine. The raised exhaust is reminiscent of the company’s legendary XR750 flat track bike, as is the simple, slim saddle – no passengers here.

The only thing I don’t like about the styling is Harley’s decision to stick with the foot-forward controls. I get it, though – it’s been a Sportster thing forever, but luckily, since Harley as a brand is so crazy about accessories, they offer a factory mid-control accessory conversion kit. It would be mandatory for me. Other accessories include a mosquito net, passenger seat and saddle bag.

The Sportster S will start at $ 14,999 before dealer fees and is expected to hit showrooms in fall 2021.

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