Harley-Davidson Sportster S launch review: the best so far in the type’s 64-year history – Geoff Hill
The secret to happiness is finding a loving wife, a kind wife, a woman with a good sense of humor, and a loyal wife.
And to make sure these four women never meet.
The secret to happiness for motorcycle builders, meanwhile, is to create a great engine and then use it in a variety of bikes.
Well, Harley pulled off the first shot with the sweet but characterful 1250cc beast of his Pan America, launched earlier this year and a very impressive pop debut on an adventure motorcycle from a company best known for mainstream cruisers. .
And now he’s fine-tuned that engine and inserted it into the Sportster S, the most powerful version of the Sportster lineup that debuted in 1957 and went through the 750, 883 and 1,200cc versions.
For this one, Harley changed the upper end of the engine to reduce power from 150 hp to 121 hp, but giving it more torque at low and mid-range.
And a good thing too, because his research has shown that riders spend virtually no time accelerating and at full power, and the lower usable torque is a much nicer place to get away from lights and corners and overtake. .
Approaching the bike he certainly looks out of place, as sleek and muscular as a leopard on steroids.
It comes in three colors, which Harley describes as crimson, but is actually a rich chocolate brown, which, combined with the Harley lettering on the tank, makes it look like a Snickers bar.
Remember, since the Moto Guzzi V85TT looks like it’s made from all kinds of licorice, it may only be a matter of time before the Triumph Twix and Honda Haribo are in stores, ready. to roll and snack.
Nice idea too – an edible motorcycle would have come in handy for the days I was hungry in the Atacama Desert on my drive from Chile to Alaska for the book The Road to Gobblers Knob.
Where was I anyway? These columns would be written much faster if I didn’t keep interrupting.
Ah yes, get on the bike and admire the comfortable sitting position, just on the sporty side of the neutral with the optional mid-mounted footrests, the fabulous rear-view mirrors at the end of the handlebars and the classic 4-inch round TFT screen.
This can be linked via a Harley app and Bluetooth to your phone for navigation, and has just about enough information including speed, tachometer, speed, and what mode you are in – rain, road, sport. and two customizable – although rather oddly no fuel gauge, just a light that comes on when you need to refuel, folks.
Harley counts on a range of over 100 miles from the 11.8-liter tank, which is at least better than the 7.9-liter one on the company’s Forty-Eight, which ran out of fuel when you ran out of fuel. left the gas station.
Get started, and although the engine has been modified from the Pan America, it retains the same nice blend of smoothness and character. If it was a Bond, it would be Sean Connery.
Acceleration is satisfactory even in road mode, so you won’t need to approach the 9500 rpm rev limit for maximum growl.
The six-speed gearbox is firm but sufficiently precise, and handling, even with that big 160mm wide front tire, is light and neutral, aided by the bike weighing reasonably light 228kg and a seat height of 753mm, which although higher than the previous Sportsters, is still low enough for the shorties to feel comfortable.
Strangely enough, Harley only used one brake disc in the front, but considering the weight of the bike, this is sufficient, although the rear brake is surprisingly made of wood, with little bite and bite. sensation to drag around downhill bends.
Still, ABS and cornering traction control should keep you from becoming a cropper.
The rear suspension is adjustable for preload, but even though it was set to medium the travel was so short that after a particularly rough stretch of road I had lost two inches of height and none of my clothes were snug.
The only other minor complaint was that the indicator switch, alone among a collection of substantial controls, felt a bit shaky.
Right, halfway through the scenic Peak District crossing, and it’s time to change bikes for a bike with the standard front footrests.
Now this can ruin a motorcycle, like when Ducati released the XDiavel version of the Diavel, and it can work the other way around, like when Triumph moved the pegs on the Rocket III a bit to create the more nimble Roadster, but surprisingly, it seems to suit the Sportster S.
Because your feet are a little more forward, it makes you lean forward in a sportier riding position, which makes handling even lighter. Weird, but satisfying.
It was also time to switch to Sport mode for noticeably more aggressive power delivery, and briefly to Rain during a torrential blackout, which felt safe but slow.
For relaxed tours or to filter in city traffic, Road is perfect, then Sport for fun and play in the bends, where it is a sportier ride than the Softails of the cruiser range, and at the same time less expensive. and more powerful than the 92bhp Fat Boy at £ 19,995.
Overall, I think this is the best Sportster in the type’s 64-year history, and it’ll be interesting to see what other uses Harley puts this excellent engine to.
Harley-Davidson Sportster S
Engine: 1252 cc liquid-cooled V-twin
Power: 121 hp at 7,500 rpm
Torque: 94 ft-lbs at 6,000 rpm
Colors: Black; White; crimson
Price: From £ 13,995