… | Harley-Davidson Sportster S is ‘just the beginning’

HARLEY-DAVIDSON introduced arguably its most transformative cruiser since the V-Rod this week with the launch of the all-new Sportster S.

Filling a gap in the lineup and answering the calls of HD fans around the world, the Sportster S brings back one of HD’s most popular nameplates to its lineup.

2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America Adventure Motorcycle Video Review

And transformer is just one of the words I would use to describe the new Sportster S – the other is technologically advanced. Until the LiveWire landed a little over a year ago, motorcycle fans were hesitant to use words like technology and came forward in the same sentence as Harley-Davidson. For those lucky enough to fly the LiveWire – and more recently the Pan America – these are perfectly suitable bedfellows.

Until we can swing a leg over the new Harley-Davidson Sportster S for ourselves in August, we’ll have to wait and see if the reality lives up to the promotional bumf, although to get a glimpse of what it’s who makes this motorcycle tick, we might get some idea.

While the rest of the motorcycle press pored over the spec sheet and drank in the glossy PR flick, Visordown spoke to the team behind the Sportster S, trying to dig into the new model and really find out how it came to be. .

On the call, key Harley-Davidson personnel, each playing their own important role in the new motorcycle. We had Brad Richards, VP of Styling and Design, Paul James, Global Head of PR, Kyle Wick, Chief Engineer, and Harley’s UK PR and Marketing team.

Harley Davidson Sportster S | ‘Just the Beginning’

The Sportster’s history dates back to the mid-1950s. Touted as a bike that matched the best the UK and Japan had to offer, it was light, compact and above all powerful. From there, the Sportster went through many iterations, increasing its capability and power, and over the next few years the legendary XR and Forty-Eight models were born.

“There was massive demand in the UK for Sportster and it was very high in the UK,” said Steve Kelly, HD UK Marketing Director. “The Forty-Eight has been one of the best-selling models in Europe for several years. So we know the custom scene is alive and well and really resonates with our brand. V-Rod, obviously, a high performance custom big bike too… we’ve played in this space before.

Indeed, Harley is a mainstay in this industry, effectively reigning the roost for many years now. So why switch from the proven platform to this new high-tech platform?

Progress is one thing, with tighter emissions regulations effectively spelling the death knell for the Sportster at the end of 2020. Pretty much as soon as that happened, dyed-in-the-wool fans of the legendary bike revolted against the loss of such a legendary model.

But how to reintroduce a sacred model like that without alienating the purists?

“You’ll see people who won’t accept the Sportster name on anything other than an air-cooled, 45-degree V-twin,” said Paul James. “I mean, we still have people hating that we renamed ‘Dyna’ bikes to Softails!

“People are truly wedded to this heritage and cannot see beyond it. And then there are those who will throw a leg over the Sportster S and they will ride it and experience it. With its Revolution Max 1250 T in this lightweight frame, it’s a ripper! We’ve said it before internally, we’ve really put the ‘sport’ back into Sportster.”

So it’s Sportster, but probably not as we know it. With 120 hp on tap, high-quality suspension, powerful brakes and advanced driver assistance systems, those yearning for the feel of the Sportster of yore will look tough, but it’s unlikely let them be disappointed when they pilot it. Harley is keen to emphasize that this is a bike that is not designed to outperform any particular model on the market. Instead, it was designed to meet a set of wants and needs, gleaned from market research with Harley riders and non-Harley riders.

It’s clear from talks with the team that they have the top of the cruiser segment in their sights, with bikes on both sides of the Atlantic poised to win a new rival.

“There are a number of bikes in the middleweight category, bikes that are sport oriented but easy to live with. It could be anything from the Indian Scout to things like the Ducati Diavel. For us though, we were aiming less at competing bikes and more at fulfilling a need within our own portfolio and taking this mid-weight platform to a much higher level of performance.

Clean sheet design

Like the Pan America that preceded it, Harley-Davidson took the new Revolution Max 1250 architecture and used it as a tool to create the bike around the engine frame and chassis—not the other way around.

This way the bike can be optimized to answer the questions the team wanted to answer. At 228kg, the new Sportster S is around 20kg lighter than the previous model and more than 50kg lighter than the current featherweight in the range, the Softail Standard. It will also feature a much more optimized center of gravity, which Harley hopes will enhance the capability of the new machine.

Kyle Wick explained the move. “Of course, we talk about it as a modular platform, and the beauty of that is that you can start with that philosophy and build on it. It also allows us to have a lot of freedom…”

Official presentation video of the Sportster S in HD

Interestingly, Kyle also offers a nod to the brand’s future models, most likely a reboot of the Bronx project that was scrapped last year. “As I said earlier, this is just the beginning. There is almost endless opportunity to build from here.

Although he refrains from divulging specific details, there is both a clear ambition at the heart of Harley-Davidson’s ‘Rewire’ era and the importance of the Sportster S as a bridge that spans the gap. between the “new” electrified and adventurous Harley-Davidson. and a more traditional heritage Harley.

In short, Sportster S represents everything Harley-Davidson was and wants to be.

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