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Harley Davidson Sportster S: Reborn into the future

Updated: Jul 21, 2021

Harley Davidson Sportster S
Sportster S: The most modern Harley Davidson every, along with the Pan America

Harley Davidson made its first motorcycle in 1903 and more than 50 years later in 1957, the first Sportster was launched. The Sportster brand has since been the appetiser in the legendary American company’s motorcycle barbecue. That’s how important the Sportster is to Harley Davidson.

Far from being a true sport bike, Sportsters are still the only playful lot in Harley Davidson’s range. These motorcycles have been thrown around the dirt tracks and flat tracks over the decades and have brought racing success to the company.

Harley Davidson has a reputation of doing things at their own pace, they do not compete in most bike segments and their biggest and perhaps the only competitor today is Indian Motorcycle. And Indian has shown that Harley Davidson responds to the competition. HD’s Milwaukee Eight is the answer to Indian’s Thunderstroke. Also, HD has seemingly realised that it’s time to venture outside the cruiser segment and they have done it with their first ever adventure motorcycle, Pan America, powered by the all-new Revolution Max 1250T v-twin engine. And, in typical Harley Davidson style, this new engine will be the beating heart of their many future motorcycles.

And though many of us might still enjoy the simplicity of the Sportsters, the truth is they are outdated in virtually every aspect of the ownership and the riding experience they deliver. Also, as emission norms tighten, it would’ve been a challenge to continue with the air-cooled 883 and 1200 v-twin engines.

So, it was about time.

Welcome to the Sportster S

Harley Davidson Sportster S
Sportster S: You can always expect a Harley Davidson to have a plenty of style and attitude

When Harley Davidson launched Pan America, they gave a glimpse of their next motorcycle which is now unveiled to be Sportster S, the first of the next generation of Sportsters. And it is powered by the brand new Revolution Max 1250T engine, the same one from Pan America, but in a different state of tune to suit the power cruiser characteristic of Sportster S.

Sportster S is thoroughly redesigned and a completely new Sportster after a long time. In absolute trueness, the bike shares nothing with any previous Sportster model. From the chassis, suspension, wheels, tyres, design, and the engine, nothing is what might remind you of all the motorcycles it replaces. Although, HD has already made it clear that some upcoming Sportster models will have that familiar classic appeal.

That said, launching two all-new motorcycles in separate segments is the right way to make the world aware of the new engine. Because when everything’s new, your attention doesn’t stick to the past and it becomes clear that the company is moving into the future. It is vital to make your intentions crystal clear and that’s what Harley Davidson is doing with the Pan American and the Sportster S.

Revolution Max 1250T: Should you and I be excited about it?

Harley Davidson Sportster S
Sportster S: The Revolution Max 1250T v-twin is HD’s most powerful and advanced engine

Remember V-Rod? This was HD’s first power cruiser and it spawned several variations during its lifetime. And, its engine was designed and developed in collaboration with Porsche. Yes, the German car manufacturer.

That was a long time back though. The latest engine, Revolution Max 1250T, is Harley Davidson’s most powerful v-twin ever and it is completely designed and developed by Harley Davidson. While it is not the biggest engine HD has produced, it is their most powerful one yet at 1250cc with 121 PS of power at 7,500 rpm and 127 NM of torque at 6,000 rpm. It should be noted that the same engine in Pan America makes 150 PS of power while the torque is the same.

But these numbers are only the most basic part of the specifications. The Revolution Max 1250T has Double Overhead Camshaft (DOHC), 4-valve per cylinder, and it is liquid cooled. Even then, perhaps the best part of this engine is that it has Variable Valve Timing (VVT). What this means is that the valve timing is not fixed and it changes to deliver a broader power band and torque across the RPM range. It could also result in better fuel efficiency as VVT is designed for better power and torque management. The same technology is being used in some other motorcycles as well, such as all the BMWs with the 1250cc boxer engine, BMW S1000RR, and the Suzuki GSX-R1000.

The Revolution Max is a proper modern engine with forged aluminium pistons and liquid cooling for extracting high performance out of its twin cylinders that are 60-degree apart. The cylinders are coated with nickel silicon carbide for further durability and keeping the weight low. Every element of this engine is designed to help keep the weight low and optimise performance.

Harley Davidson has paid thorough attention to the longevity of the engine by employing hydraulic lash adjusters to control valve operation. This arrangement helps keep the valves and valve actuators in constant contact even as the engine heat changes throughout its function. HD says they are maintenance free and no manual adjustment is required ever. This is simply amazing because valve maintenance is a key aspect for a healthy and long lasting engine. Also, there’s a primary and secondary balancer to keep the unwanted vibrations away.

With the compression ratio of 12:1, Harley Davidson says that this engine is designed to deliver maximum power with 91 octane fuel, which means that Sportster S and Pan American can happily run in India.

So yes, this is definitely something to be excited about. A lot.

What about the things surrounding the engine?

Harley Davidson Sportster S
Sportster S: All-new everything!

The engine is directly mounted to the steel trellis frame which is also new. The engine acts as part of the chassis and assists in the way the motorcycle handles. This is again done to make the Sportster S more engaging to ride. The swing-arm is also a steel trellis component of the chassis and supports a link-type mono-shock. On that note, both front and rear suspension is from Showa. At the front, there’s a pair of 43 mm upside-down forks that are fully adjustable! The rear link-type mono-shock is also adjustable for preload, compression, and rebound (is this really Harley Davidson!!).

The brakes are a massive improvement as well over the ones in the previous models. There are Brembo components at front and back. The front gets a 320 mm single disc with radially mounted 4-piston callipers while the rear gets a 260 mm disc with 2-piston callipers.

And rider safety technology, does HD even consider these things?

Harley Davidson Sportster S
Sportster S: Loaded with technology like any other top tier motorcycle today

Well the Sportster S is an entirely new breed of HD motorcycle for more than one reason. If you have been impressed so far, be ready for more. There’s a 6-axis IMU which assists cornering ABS and cornering traction control. Additionally, there’s cornering Drag-torque Slip Control System (C-DSCS) to prevent the rear wheel from slipping when it is leaned over in a corner. There’s also the tyre pressure monitoring system that indicates the rider on the 4-inch TFT display in case of low tyre pressure.

There are three riding modes - Sport, Road, and Rain - to choose from. The Sport mode gives full power and sharpest throttle response to the rider while the Road mode makes throttle response a bit gentle. Also, the power delivery is slightly reduced at mid-range RPMs. The Rain mode, obviously, is the most forgiving of them all. And then there’s a Custom mode as well where you can tune the throttle response, torque delivery, C-ABS, and C-TCS according to one’s skill and comfort level.

The tyres are Dunlop radials, designed for Sportster S. The rear is a 16-inch 180/70 while the front is 17-inch 160/70. There’s a TFT display with Navigation capability and Bluetooth phone connectivity on board. The lighting system is all LED. The flat track-style high-mounted exhausts are made from corrosion-resistant 304-series stainless steel and designed to deflect the heat away from the rider’s legs.

Harley Davidson is in the game with the Sportster S

Harley Davidson Sportster S
Sportster S: Shall be a game changer for Harley Davidson, just like the Pan America

Harley Davidson is slowly but steadily moving into modernisation and embracing technology. Finally realising that to stay in the game they have to move forward and offer products that are not just a reminder of company’s glorious past but they can also compete or even outclass the best from their Competition. This bike promises all of these and hopefully more in terms of the overall ownership experience.

Sportster S is launched at a starting price of USD $ 14,999 and we can’t wait to see it here in India. The Pan America is already launched here in both versions and it makes sense to bring the Sportster S here as well.


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