There is no doubt that the name Sportster holds great significance for Harley-Davidson.

In production since 1957, this is the oldest model of the legendary brand. Aside from the short-lived Street lineup, it has also been the most accessible, possibly responsible for bringing more runners into the brand than any since its inception.

Just as an actor can be cataloged in a recurring role, being so well known for something comes with its fair share of challenges. For some riders, the company has come to define itself by the limitations of its outdated air-cooled 45-degree V-twin and aging chassis.

So where does it go from here? The LiveWire has proven that Harley can make a modern electric motorcycle, while the Pan America is proof that it can make a competitive adventure bike. But can Harley make a better Sportster? Yes, it is obviously possible.

Run your engine

The Harley-Davidson Sportster S uses the same 1,252cc Revolution Max engine from the Pan America, but has 121 hp less and 94 lb-ft of torque at 6,000 rpm compared to the 150 hp of the Pan Am. It is also belt driven rather than chain driven.

The new engine is a liquid-cooled 60-degree V-twin with dual overhead camshafts, 90-degree firing order, four valves per cylinder, variable valve timing for intake and exhaust, two spark plugs per cylinder, a dry sump oil system and a compression ratio of 12: 1. The cam profile and valve phasing have been optimized for high acceleration out of line and at mid-range, widening the power range and increasing efficiency.

Primary and secondary balancers have been incorporated to improve sound quality and reduce vibration. The engine was designed to be narrow and maintain low weight for rider comfort and better handling. Materials such as nickel-silicon carbide and light magnesium have been used to reduce weight. The bike’s claimed curb weight is 228 kg (502 lbs).

Style mashup

Not only designed for propulsion, the engine is also a structural component intended to reduce weight and increase rigidity. Aesthetically, the new Sportster is a bit of a mashup, incorporating aspects of Harley’s XR750, Forty-Eight and Fat Bob, but also elements from various other genres. Crouching and powerful, it was designed around the engine. A mix of textures, colors and themes inspired by custom show bikes, it features a large bobber front tire, pill-shaped Daymaker LED headlight, and a two-in-one-two high exhaust inspired by the classic dish. trackers. The license plate holder and taillight assembly extend from the side of the swingarm for a clean, personalized look. If you ask me, it works.

So, were you able to ride it…?

Getting on the bike is an easy task thanks to the 750mm (29.6in) saddle height. Front mounted bars and footrests are easily accessible for most riders. Center controls are optional if you prefer a more athletic riding position, but they would probably be too narrow for me.

The standard riding position and the big tires did not inspire confidence. Designed specifically for Harley-Davidson, the Dunlop rubber – 160 / 70R17 at the front, 180 / 70R16 at the rear – offers a beefy look, but with the ergonomics and chassis geometry they take a while to adjust. get comfortable before launching the motorcycle into the bends. At first I felt like Christian Bale’s Dark Knight version of Batman riding the Batpod, but it just got more and more intuitive as I rolled around.

Handlebars and controls will seem foreign to traditional Hog riders. The grips are narrower and textured, while the turn signal function is housed in a single small metric button operated by the left thumb. It looks fragile surrounded by otherwise high quality material and is located dangerously near the horn button.

As someone who wears 2XL gloves (not bragging) the wet slipper clutch lever seemed a bit out of reach. However, the action was fluid, deliberate, and predictable. The same goes for Brembo brakes, which consist of a radially mounted four-piston monoblock caliper at the front and a single-piston floating caliper at the rear.

Like the Pan America, the engine doesn’t look too intriguing at idle, but the exhaust note has a nice feature when rolled up or during downshifts. The throttle response is always so finicky at first, but the acceleration is robust once you pull your wrist back. This engine sings and wants to pull hard in all gears.

Real world considerations

The 30-degree rake and low center of gravity made slower maneuvers and surprisingly easy U-turns during driving photoshoots for this review, but the ground clearance of 78mm (3.1 inches) and The 34-degree lean angle means if you’re enthusiastically riding even at a distance, you better be prepared to scrape a few stakes.

My biggest gripe would undoubtedly be the location of the rear cylinder head and its proximity to the seat. The exhaust pipe has a heat shield, but the cylinder heads do not. The position of the legs will vary depending on height and stature, as well as ankle placement, but my right thigh constantly coming into contact with a hot engine was not the most enjoyable aspect of the experience.

Fuel consumption is rated at 4.8 L / 100 km. Premium fuel is recommended for the 11.7L tank, but the knock sensors will adjust to a regular octane rating if you’re in a bind and can’t find the right things.

Organized by Harley-Davidson Canada, our driving route was approximately 51 miles until a lunch break, which included plenty of round trips for photo passes. Experiencing each of the different modes while driving on a mix of two-lane side roads and a blast on the freeway back to the hotel, I pulled into the parking lot over the fumes.

Adjustment options

Since the chassis was designed to be light, compact and stiff, the suspension is definitely on the firm side. And the seat too. Unfortunately, the original riding position doesn’t really allow you to prepare for bumps by using your legs to absorb shock, but the suspension is adjustable. The front configuration features a 43mm inverted fork with adjustment of compression, rebound and spring preload, with a piggyback single shock absorber mounted on the linkage with adjustment of compression, rebound and hydraulic spring preload to the rear. ‘rear operated by a button next to the seat and another under.

Riding modes make a noticeable difference to performance, affecting throttle response, engine braking, traction control, and anti-lock braking intervention. The options are road, sport or rain, with the possibility of choosing and saving a profile using ad hoc characteristics.

The system is the default on-road in other parts of the world, however in North America the settings remain in the last mode used, so you don’t need to select the sport every time you get on the road. bike if that’s what you prefer.

There are three levels of intervention, which can be adjusted or disabled. A six-axis inertial measurement unit (IMU) adjusts throttle and brake inputs based on the setting and turn angle. A true wheel lift system also mitigates wheel jumps during sudden braking or deceleration.

Instrumentation and infotainment

The Sportster S features a high contrast, non-reflective four-inch display that includes speedometer, tachometer, gear position indicator, odometer, fuel gauge, clock, trip odometer , an ambient temperature gauge (with low temperature alert), a sidestand and a tip-overtaking alert, a cruise control icon and a range to empty countdown. The tachometer and speedometer are well placed at the top and easy to read, however, I had to squint to see the clock. The lower third of the screen is occupied by a bar and shield logo that could otherwise have been used to prioritize important information.

The system is Bluetooth enabled with the ability to listen to music and answer calls, but it must be paired through a headset and your smartphone using the HD app. Ditto for the navigation system, which does not have a receiver, but the routes can be saved in memory in the event of loss of cellular coverage.

Accessories and customization

Personalization is an important part of the Harley owner experience, especially when it comes to the Sportster. The S, while undoubtedly an improvement in many ways, doesn’t lend itself as easily to the current chopper or bobber aesthetic that many Sportster owners gravitate towards. So I am interested to see how the new model is modified by the owners. .

The Motor Company has been quiet about upcoming products, but the Pan Am and Sportster S are undoubtedly just the start of the Revolution engine platform, so we might see more traditional designs in the future. The initial accessories catalog includes upgrade options for solo seats, as well as passenger seats and footrests, saddle bags, this mid-drive conversion kit, a removable quick-release windshield and handles.

Final thoughts

The 2021 Harley-Davidson Sportster S is a unique and impressive machine. It is an imposing and atypical motorcycle from a company that has long relied on its heritage. Featuring a modern and extremely pleasant engine with variable drive modes and perfectly integrated technology, the S is a big change from the long-standing Sportster formula. Harley-Davidson spends a lot of time looking back, but the Sportster S is proof that it can take a bold step into the future, too.

Pricing starts at $ 17,999 for Vivid Black, but opting for Midnight Crimson or Stone Washed White Pearl will set you back an additional $ 450. It’s on sale now.


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