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60 years ago, a legend was born into the world of Harley-Davidsons. This year is the 60th anniversary of the Sportster and bike enthusiasts all over the world are paying tribute. The most versatile of Harley Davidsons, the Sportster is a favourite for a lot of bikers and not just for Harley lovers!

History of the Sportster

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The Harley-Davidson Sportster is a legendary motorcycle line that has been in continuous production since 1957.

A lot of the features on the first Sportster replicated those of the KH model that came before it. However, the KH had a sidevalve engine (or flathead) and the Sportster had an overhead valve engine.

One year after the birth of the Sportster, the KH was discontinued. After three years, the production of its replacement had increased nearly 40% from the first year.

Since the early Sportsters, Harley-Davidson has made many changes to the bike including multiple upgrades to its engine. The move from an 'Ironhead' engine to the new Evo engine in 1986 was arguably its most radical upgrade. This change brought about a choice for Harley riders; a choice between the bike with an 883cc engine or a 1100cc engine - the Sportster's biggest engine yet.

The Evo engine came with fantastic benefits but that didn't mean that Harley fans abandoned the Ironhead. Many of them still favour the Ironhead for its true authenticity and traditional carburettor-fed engines. In 1988, the big engine got even bigger with an upgrade to 1200cc which replaced the earlier 1100cc.

Performance of a Harley-Davidson Sportster

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The Sportster ticks a lot of boxes as an all-rounder which makes it versatile and accessible to a wider audience. Harley-Davidson motorcycles aren't always recognised for their performance but the Sportster has a history of achievements. The bike was the first made by Harley-Davidson to compete with top-performing sports bikes at the time such as the Bonneville.

Famous rider, Cal Rayborn, set the world land speed record at 265.492 mph in 1970 on a bike with a Sportster engine. In 1972, he won three out of six races at the Transatlantic Matches Races in 1972 on a Harley-Davidson XR750, also from the Sportster line.

1983 was the year of the XR-1000, a Harley Sportster well-known for its performance and power. The Daytona BOTT race in 1983 saw a bike nicknamed 'Lucifer's Hammer' take first place on the podium - it was an XR-1000 built for racing.

However, this bike didn't make Harley-Davidson any money. They hoped it would be cheap to manufacture so they could put an affordable price-tag on it to sell more. This wasn't the case - the modifications cost more than anticipated so the bike went on sale for a whopping $7,000. And, even though it was a fantastic bike to race, the vibrations were way too strong for a casual ride. These contributing factors made the XR-1000 a hard motorcycle to sell.

Sportster models offered in 2017

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The Harley-Davidson Sportster has continued to evolve along with its sub-models which means the bike appeals to a wide audience and is available at a whole range of prices. It has also had some great design improvements in the 21st century. Today's modern Sportsters come in the following models; Iron 883, SuperLow and SuperLow 1200T, 1200 Custom, Forty-Eight and the Roadster.

Celebrate 60 Years of the Sportster with Strastone Harley-Davidson

The British Motor Museum situated in Gaydon, which holds the largest collection of historic British cars will celebrate 60 years of the American-V Sportster, where it will feature static displays and industry traders showcasing everything from motorbike parts to clothing.

Our Harley-Davidson dealerships in Birmingham and Wolverhampton are encouraging riders to attend the two-day event which starts from the 24th June between 10:00am and 5:00pm. A range of packages are available to purchase from £9, including a weekend camping ticket.

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