Harley-Davidson’s new Sportster S might not appeal to heritage fans, but it’s about to succeed, Lifestyle News
The Harley-Davidson Sportster has a history dating back to 1957. And although there have been many changes over the years, the heart of the bike is over half a century old. Some would say that the heritage and dedication to a classic formula is part of the brand’s charm. Others will complain that it’s fundamentally outdated.
Now there’s an all-new Sportster available, one that’s sure to herald a whole new era for the brand. What to argue on both sides…
At the heart of the all-new Sportster S is the Revolution Max V-Twin engine first introduced on the Pan-America.
This is a big deal. Obviously, the engine was developed with emission standards in mind, but it changes the overall characteristics of the bike. This motor is the 1250T and has been tuned for more low end torque. Personally, I find it more appealing to use than the Pan-America, including how the exhaust still occasionally pops when you close the throttle.
Above all, it makes cycling much more accessible. The motor is very powerful, smooth, quiet and easy to use. At 90 km/h, the bike spins at a quiet 3,000 rpm. Vibration is also significantly reduced, adding to the overall refinement of the bike.
Some people will definitely appreciate this. I know I do. I think it also opens up the bike to more potential riders. True, long-time fans of the brand may regret the characteristics of the previous engine.
Handling-wise, the Sportster S is pretty generous. The seat height is low, the handlebars comfortably positioned and the riding position forgiving. The fat front tire means negotiating tight corners at low speeds requires extra effort, but beyond that, this is a very easy bike to ride.
Several driving modes are also available. Sport mode really increases the excitement, allowing you to decisively deploy the 121 hp and 125 Nm of torque. A healthy dose of throttle provides quick acceleration.
The design of the Sportster S is new. It’s still retro-inspired, but it’s lower, while having a longer, more modern look. The overall aesthetic is mean and aggressive, and I think it looks really good.
However, the location of the exhaust system isn’t quite ideal, as you can never really fully extend your right leg downward. As it stands, when you come to a stop, it’s better to “grasp, left foot down” (the way we learned) than you’re “neutral, right foot down” (the way the most of us probably do).
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The Sportster S also received a digital upgrade. You now get full LED lights, a fully digital dash, plus a whole bunch of handlebar controls that are very untypical from Harley.
Yes, a lot of this new gear debuted in Pan-America. The carryover is obvious (there are even submenus for functions on the Pan-America that this particular bike doesn’t even have). But it certainly helps to have access to key information like your bike’s diagnostics.
Features like Bluetooth connectivity are useful, but not essential. But I like the digital promise – it’s a model that looks forward rather than backward.
The big question with a bike like this, especially a Harley, is character. Does it still exemplify the Harley spirit?
I’m inclined to think so. While it may not be as raw as before, the Sportster S still captures that cruising spirit. I really like the way it looks, I think the digital enhancements improve the quality of everyday life, and the new engine makes the bike more refined and accessible, but also more powerful.
As the new entry-level model in Harley’s lineup, I think the Sportster S is poised to succeed. While he may not appeal to legacy fans, he has the ability and personality required to win over new customers. 65 years after the original Sportster, it’s high time to do just that.
This article first appeared in sgCarMart.