Harley Davidson. Not a motorcycle that many people are neutral about. Opinions abound, from their design, performance and handling, through to the whole Harley lifestyle thing. But there's no denying the loyalty and defence of their chosen ride Harley owners propound, and being astride a Harley in the US is almost a patriotic act, despite the fact that around thirty per cent of the components are now manufactured in other countries.

The Sportster is one of the more stripped back machines the company produces, and it's been in production since 1957. The engine, as with all Harleys, is the familiar 45 degree V-twin. Initially this was produced with what they termed the Ironhead engine, but in 1986 they were fitted with the new Evolution engine. Replacing the iron cylinder heads with aluminium, provided improved cooling, lighter weight and reduced wear on the head gasket seals, because the block and head were now of the same metal, reducing the expansion and contraction stress that was previously experienced by using two different metals.

1957 Sportster

The Evolution engine in the Sportsters were largely unchanged between 1986 and 2006, on both the 1200 and the smaller bore 883. Carburettors were standard until 2007 when they were replaced by a Delphi Electronic fuel injection system.

Moving up a gear

Amongst other significant changes for the Sportster down the years was in 1991 when a five speed gear box was introduced, and then from 1991-1995 belt drive was adopted on all models. In 2004 a new rubber mounted frame was introduced – Buell had been following this method of vibration reduction on V-twin engines for a number of years. Last year (2014) further improvements came in the shape of a new electrical harness, larger brakes with abs,  increased engine compression and catalytic converter, and keyless entry for starting.


Ringing the changes

The company have rung the changes by bringing new versions to market. In 2007 the XL1200N Nightstar, an all black configuration with minor design changes. Then in 2008 the XR1200 was introduced in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. They tweaked the Evolution engine on this one to produce 91bhp, and gave it four piston dual front brake discs to cope with the additional power. It wasn't made made available in the US until the following year.

Shake rattle and roll

V-twin engines vibrate, rumble and shake, and that's what the fans of this configuration like about them. And now that rubber mounting has 'ironed out the rough spots' the Sportster and Harley ride is more comfortable and with its feet forward position, laid back, literally. Acceleration is not an issue because these bikes just move forward, and gear changing is positive and by today's standards a slow clunk. Critcisms from other motorcyclists about handling are largely irrelevant. They are not designed to be tipped into a bend at speed.'re riding a Harley.

That doesn't mean the Sportster cannot change its shape and purpose. The ever inventive US Roland Sands Design company have shown how versatile these bikes can be with some poetic conversions. As they put it: “Sportsers really are the most versatile bike out there. You can easily transform a Sporty from Cafe Racer to Scrambler to High Bar Cruiser, just by swapping out a few parts”

Harley riders, perhaps more than others, like to gather, mingle and ride together. The main UK riders club lists enough rallies and events going on throughout the year to keep the diary full and the wheels turning almost every weekend

Begin at the beginning


And because Sportsters are so versatile, here's the beginning of a Sportster story from one of our very own Wemoto staff members who has just bought one and is going to customise it.

The first thing which needing attention are the brakes which are not really fit for purpose and would not stop a rolling apple, let alone several tons of Harley Sportster.

He will be returning the footpegs to their regular position from the even further forward ones the last owner has put on!

If anyone has any suggestions about what he should do to his Sportster (preferably printable ones!) then write in to Wemoto News with your suggestions, and he will do them if he can and write it up in the blog. Looking forward to hearing from you...

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Posted by John Newman
for Wemoto News on 03 February 2015 in Company News

Edited By: Daisy Cordell



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