The Sportster: The motorcycle with multiple personalities!
The Harley-Davidson® Sportster is a staple in today’s modern day motorcycle line-up. It was officially launched in 1957 with the old “Ironhead” overheated-valve engine. I’m particularly fond of the “Ironhead” because that’s the motorcycle I first learned to ride on the streets on.
The older Sportster motorcycles were a kick-start only motorcycle with the electric start being introduced in 1967. The bigger v-twin Harley-Davidson® motorcycles got their electric start two years earlier in 1965 with the “Pan Head” engine.
The other unique characteristic about the old “Ironhead” Sporties was that the gear shifter was on the right hand side and the rear brake was on the left. That changed in 1975 due to a DOT mandate.
Sportsters were always the more affordable motorcycle throughout their history. They were (and still are) among the most customized. From big rear wheels, to long stretched handlebars and front forks, Sportsters have seen many changes.
The modern Sportster sprung to life in the 1986 model year line-up with a 1200cc engine. In 1988, the constant velocity carburetor replaces the butterfly carburetor and in 1991 the 4 speed got an upgrade to the 5 speed.
The mid 90’s saw the most upgrades including a belt drive that replaced the chain drive and an improved oil tank, battery try, and clutch were all made standard. The Sportster saw an electronic speedometer and a brand new XL 1200 Custom model introduced.
Approximately 10 years later another set of changes were introduced to the Sportster line-up including an all-new frame including a rubber mounted engine for decreased vibration. The exhaust balance pipe was moved from running under the air filter and it was disguised and hidden behind the silencers to show more of the engine.
One of my most favorite features of the Sportster was announced and implemented with the 2007 model year. For those of us who burned through spark plugs, the carburetor was now fuel injected. This made it even easier to own an entry-level sportster.
Most recently, in 2014, a new electrical harness, new larger brakes and an ABS option were introduced. The sportster even received the keyless entry, new speedometer with gear indicator/tachometer and an increased engine compression ratio.
From a really simple motorcycle in the 1970’s the Harley-Davidson® Sportster has come a long way and there are many models available in the 2019 model year.
For example there is the SuperLow for riders that have a shorter inseam. The Iron 883 is for riders who want a blacked-out look for their motorcycle with a smaller engine. The Iron 1200 carries on the dark theme but with a larger 1200 cc engine.
One of my favorite modern sportsters is the Forty Eight. It features a skiny frame, fat engine and a peanut tank that you would have seen in the heyday of customization. The front and rear fenders are bobbed and it has a solo seat.
The Forty Eight Special is a step up from the standard Forty Eight with higher handlebars and more chrome to accent the darked-out frame, engine, and wheels.
Another nice bike is the Roadster. It has a café racer look and feel to it. The shifter and brake controls are back a bit, the handlebars are below the gas tank and the front and rear fenders are bobbed. It almost looks like a “European” Harley-Davidson® motorcycle.
Rounding out the 2019 model-year line-up is the 1200 Custom. This is the sportster you want to take on the long haul. It has the largest tires, the 1200CC engine, comfortable controls and a larger, softer seat for both the rider and the passenger. It also has the largest fuel tank in the Sportster class.
We have all of these models on display at Hot Metal Harley-Davidson® and we encourage you to come out and sit on them, try them out and if you have a motorcycle license, take a demo ride. Once you find the one that fits your personality, you’re going to want to take it home with you!