Harley bike worthy of its sporty name
It’s easy to see why Harley-Davidson sees style as a bigger seller of its bikes than sporting appeal.
If we track the 58-year history of the Sportster family and focus on two recent models – the XR1200 of the mid-noughties and the Forty-Eight of the early-teenies – we can see that the XR was a bit of a showroom wallflower while the 48 was, and still is, a rampant sales success.
But times have changed for HarleyDavidson. Sales in its domestic market are stagnant, South America has gone nipples-up, and Europe and Asia now represent the best opportunities for growth. So cue the new Roadster model tested here. It’s a reprise of the cornerfriendly values that once made the longdeleted XR my favourite Harley, but one that doesn’t stray too far away from the long n’ low styling cues that continue to make the Forty-Eight such a success.
Something has also happened to the marketplace since the XR was dropped (more than five or six years ago if memory serves). A younger generation of riders began customising their bikes on a various range of themes – Cafe´ Racer, Bobber, Flat Tracker – and posting the results on social media to attract as many ‘likes’ as possible.
A custom-looking bike therefore quickly became as essential as a taste for craft beer, facial hair, and brown shoes to the urbane hipster lifestyle. So there was further reason for HarleyDavidson to resurrect the more sporting theme of the XR1200 than just the motor company’s geoeconomic shift in sales growth. The XR was arguably the right bike built at the wrong time, while the Roadster now arrives in our wellmanicured Harley showrooms while surfing a trend.
Harley has created the Roadster by doing what any selfrespecting customiser would do to the FortyEight. Fenders have been carved back for a leaner look, the instrument display is more minimal, and the headlight has been tucked more tightly into the bulk of the bike.
The handlebar looks like it was stolen from some 1920s board-track racer.
Digital speedo hard to read in bright sunlight so it’s best to memorise bike speeds.