D.he Sportster series, which had been built for decades, was, technically speaking, always kept simple: double-loop tubular steel frame, air-cooled two-cylinder engine with a 45-degree cylinder angle, two valves per cylinder, camshafts at the bottom. As a 1200 it made a maximum of 67 hp at a modest 6000 rpm and 96 Newton meters. The widest front tire was 130 millimeters wide, the rear tire 150, and the weight was around 260 kilograms. Overall, a rather slim, discreet motorcycle by Harley standards with a graceful round headlight. In 2020 the time of the Sportster was up; It had started in 1957, making the Sportster series by far the Motor Company’s oldest. Now there is another Sportster, the Sportster S. It is the forerunner of the brand’s new family.
Everything, really everything, about the Sportster S is not only new, but also different: liquid-cooled V-engine with 60-degree cylinder angle, four valves per cylinder, two overhead camshafts, variable valve timing, twice as much power, namely 122 hp at 7500 rpm and 125 Nm, only 228 kilos. The front tire is an unbelievable 160 millimeters wide, the rear tire 180. The exhaust pipes, which are laid up like a scrambler, are very thick, the transverse headlights are striking, snarling and, of course, LED-fired. Is that supposed to be a Sportster? Is Harley serious?
Short, clear answer: Yes, Americans are serious. In doing so, however – at least with the debut, which as an S version represents the top model of the future series – they have rather turned to building a power cruiser. At least that’s what the seating position suggests, but the enormous tire dimensions also point in this direction.
When circling the low motorcycle for the first time – the seat height is only 753 millimeters – almost all viewers rub their eyes: This is a bull from Bike, a two-wheeler that has been ruthlessly testosterone-fed by the developers! This is how it drives, at least in the Sport driving mode: The driver feels like Baron Münchhausen, namely as the rider of the legendary cannonball. The four-valve V2 revs up spontaneously, shakes its 125 Newton meters at 6000 rpm out of its sleeve without noticeable vibrations and continues to turn beyond the maximum power until a rev limiter at 9500 rpm puts an end to the furious hustle and bustle. Even if the maximum torque corresponds to the value of the still young Pan America, from which the Sportster engine is derived, the engine, now called Revolution Max 1250T, delivers significantly more power in the lower and middle speed range. A real kick in the cross.
At the same time, the V2 is – not only in rain mode, but especially there – a sociable fellow, also accelerates out of 2000 revolutions willingly at first, later wildly, has no constant speed jerk, needs less than five liters of gasoline. The six-speed gearbox shifts easily and precisely, only the idle search turns out to be a game of patience.
Brakes surprisingly well and reliably
122 HP and only one brake disc in the front wheel? “On the right, on the chocolate side of the bike, we wanted to let the front wheel work,” says Harley’s styling boss Brad Richards. Style dictates function. A point that makes viewers doubt the meaningful thinking of Americans. But on the way, the realization came: With its 320 millimeter single Brembo disc and the radially mounted four-piston caliper, the Sportster S brakes surprisingly well and reliably.
On the other hand, it seems clear that the developers have gone wrong when it comes to choosing the front tire. 160 millimeters in front! But the tire specially made by Dunlop is no less surprising than the individual brake disc: Thanks to the pointedly contoured tire, the Sportster S is easy to turn in and rushes through corners up to the maximum lean angle – Harley indicates 34 degrees – stable, even joyful.
Slowly we are no longer wondering about anything. Not about the round TFT display with its countless functions including navigation, not about the five driving modes, dynamic traction control, cornering ABS, and tire pressure control. Everything works, and very well. All? Yes, as long as the streets are slippery like the often cited children’s bottom. Then the Sportster S glides or sprints so that it is a bliss. Of course, short-legged people have the problem that they have to stretch themselves properly to change gears, because pegs and pedals are mounted quite far in front. The sitting posture of the pilot is therefore not uncomfortable and, despite the forward-facing upper body, far from a jackknife posture. The Sportster S becomes a nuisance when the road quality drops. Manhole covers, edges, potholes, frost cracks – there is always a kick in the extended back. Has Milwaukee forgotten to put suspension on the Sportster? No, there is even an adjustment wheel for the preload, on the rear left. But unfortunately only 51 millimeters of spring travel, of which – estimated – just ten want to start work. The twelve-liter tank harmonises well with the convenience offer.
The trouble becomes a little easier when you have the “mid pegs” installed. The central footrest system costs an additional 850 euros, but the Sportster S not only drives more sportily, but the driver can adaptively lift his buttocks more easily when rough spots come into view. A passenger seat is just as much a part of the range of accessories as a flat, easily removable windshield. The visually and technically convincing power cruiser, built in Thailand, is available from 15,495 euros. Ideally suited for drivers with taker qualities.