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Harley-Davidson Sportster: A 60 Year History

15th Jun 2017

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

History of the Sportster

 

 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 or 1100cc engine - the Sportster's biggest engine yet.

Performance of a Harley-Davidson Sportster

Harley-Davidson Sportster Superlow 1200T

 

The Sportster ticks a lot of boxes as a versatile all-rounder which makes it accessible to a wider audience. Harley-Davidson motorcycles aren't always recognised for their performance but the Sportster has a history of achievements.

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 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.

These days, the 67 bhp Air-cooled Evolution V-Twin Sportster models offer lively performance and impressive economy of 45 mpg. 

Current Sportster Models

Harley-Davidson Sportster 1200 Custom Harley-Davidson Sportster Forty-Eight Harley-Davidson Sportster Forty Eight Special Harley-Davidson Sportster Iron 1200 Harley-Davidson Sportster Iron 883 Harley-Davidson Sportster Roadster Harley-Davidson Sportster Superlow 1200T Harley-Davidson Sportster Superlow
Harley-Davidson Sportster 1200 Custom Harley-Davidson Sportster Forty-Eight Harley-Davidson Sportster Forty Eight Special Harley-Davidson Sportster Iron 1200 Harley-Davidson Sportster Iron 883 Harley-Davidson Sportster Roadster Harley-Davidson Sportster Superlow 1200T Harley-Davidson Sportster Superlow

The bikes that make up the current Sportster lineup all offer power and quick handling in equal measure, while maintaining the authentic custom styling that Harley-Davidson bikes are known for. 

  • The Forty-Eight and Forty-Eight Special models offer fat tyres and the iconic peanut tank, along with its 'signature' bulldog stance. 
  • The Superlow is exactly that. Low seat, low centre of gravity, but high fun and easy handling.
  • The Superlow 1200T combines the features of a touring bike with light weight and easy handling. 
  • Iron 1200 models offer blacked-out features and throwback styling touches along with modern performance. 
  • The closed loop exhaust system and chrome detailing mark out the 1200 Custom as a statement of individuality. 
  • If you're after an adrenaline-thrilled ride with custom styling, the Roadster is the bike that has it all. 
  • Completing the lineup, the Iron 883 is an icon of dark custom style with street-inspired paint and slammed suspension.
The Harley-Davidson Sportster really is an icon of not just motorcyling, but American culture. Its timeless style, agile handling and sports performance make it a great bike for those of all levels of experience, whether they want something just for the weekend or for longer trips. 

Want to experience a Harley-Davidson Sportster for yourself? Visit our Harley-Davidson showrooms or view the latest Sportster offers here.