Harley-Davidson Sportster S – COOL HUNTING®
On a scorching day in Los Angeles, we got a glimpse into the future of one of motorcycling’s most iconic brands – a brand known around the world not only for motorcycles, but also for the culture that she cultivated for 118 years. While Harley-Davidson was almost synonymous with motorcycling in North America for much of the 20th century, the motorcycle maker was slow to innovate and adapt in the early 2000s. More recently though, Harley has bounced back and their latest releases, including the Sportster S, offer a glimpse of what the next few years could look like for Harley.
By taking the Sportster name – which Harley has used since 1957 on bikes known for having an air-cooled V-Twin and iconic “peanut” fuel tank – and putting it on a retro-futuristic bike that has neither the neither of them made some sort of statement. Nothing is forbidden and the company accepts change.
The most important aspect of the Sportster S (like their new adventure touring bike, Pan America 1250) is the Revolution Max 1250T motor. The previous Sportster was powered by the Evolution which was introduced in 1984, produced 76 lb-ft of torque and had no officially disclosed horsepower figure. Now the Revolution arrives with 94 lb-ft of torque and 121 hp.
Surrounding the motor are components that fit together to create an instantly appealing bike; blending another world with Art Deco design. The Sportster S has familiar touches, including the raised exhaust (inspired by Harley-Davidson’s flat-track bikes of yesteryear) and the low seat and slim fuel tank, reminiscent of pre-war bikes from Harley. Still, overall it feels like something out of an alternate universe where Harley-Davidson places immense importance on rider engagement for a more dynamic ride – and maybe that’s the future to which we are destined.
Confidently pulling the Sportster S out of corners on some of our favorite mountain roads is enjoyable in part because of the familiarity with the routes, but mostly because of the confidence placed in the bike’s abilities. This faith is not misplaced. There are several drive modes to explore on the Sportster S, their primary function being to adjust engine, brake and throttle sensitivity. While it’s great that Harley-Davidson puts this level of thought into their machines, we don’t spend too much time individualizing things as the pre-programmed modes have clearly been well considered and we’re content to just leave the bike in ‘Sport’ and enjoy the ride.
The Sportster S retains much of the tough cruiser look that Harley-Davidson is known for, but replaces the forward controls through the middle to reveal the bike’s true nature. Our test unit, equipped with optional mid-mounted footpegs, seems to like the winding, blazing roads along these. With plenty of power to blast through straight roads, enough braking to lose speed before entering them, and plenty of grip to gracefully maneuver around them, we find a very satisfying routine on this machine.
Details regarding the different sizes of the Revolution Max engine and potential horsepower ratings are still unconfirmed, but we’re confident Harley-Davidson will get the most out of the new engine by building a wide variety of bikes around it, to please. to an equally wide variety of runners.
Whether any of these bikes is a 975cc street-fighter by the name of Bronx or Nightster remains to be seen, but a single click on the internet will show that the rumor mill is working overtime. While we’d love to see the Pan America’s 1250 150hp figure rise to the Sportster S’s 1250 – in a true bobber-style variant, float seat and all – we’re excited to see the range expand, whatever . More choice in the motorcycle world is better for everyone.
Images courtesy of Harley-Davidson