And that line already includes Harley Davidson’s acclaimed Iron 883, 1200 Custom, Superlow and Forty-Eight. When such superhit blockbusters already rule the roads, you must have thought that Harley Davidson has done their job. You might be wrong and I am glad about it.

How do you create something to up the ante? Make it sporty and expensive with the full performance package. The Harley Davidson way.

That is the Roadster model which is a little sparse, a little spare, and an exercise in understatement. The most sport-oriented version of the Sportster series offering an alternative to more conventional cruiser variants. This young generation of a machine is a serious effort to reach customers outside the likes of the classic Harley Davidsons. Always something up their sleeves.

STYLING

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Minimalism and understatement do not always go hand in hand. In this case, it is the whole point of the design. Bringing the designs from their history books and fusing them with cues of early performance models was the intention according to Harley Industrial Designer Ben McGinley; to make a more urban-minded Sportster.

Svelte, athletic, and with roots in the original KHR, the Roadster’s design stands apart from its siblings. The walnut-shaped tank and new paint scheme are a nod back to the 1956 KHR along with that concept of minimalistic appointments where everything and anything that did not contribute to performance got removed or cut off. This Roadster is reminiscent to that belief. A chopped rear fender, the low bars and mirrors lend it the earless look.

The dark theme runs across the length and breadth of this bike from the split-spoke cast rims to the engine, heat shields, finned timer cover, special cast wheels and shock springs. The cockpit is exceptionally tidy and the instrument panel looks great with a combination of digital and analogue gauges but is not the best when it comes to legibility.

Overall Dimension

Length2185mm
Ground Clearance150mm
Wheelbase1505mm
Seat height785mm
Wet weight259kg

POWERTRAIN

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For 30 years the 1202cc Evolution motor has been the heart and soul of all Sportster models at HD and the same gives life to the Roadster as well. Being one of the most upgradable ones in the market, HD has given it a number of innovations and improvements since 1986 to make this mill superior to its predecessors.

The 45 degree V-twin engine has the traditional air-cooled system running on a compression ratio of 10:1. It is a torque-rich engine giving out 96Nm at 4000 rpm and the power is estimated to 65-70 bhp. Although this American pulls strongly, we would have expected it to get more upgraded to really get out the blood pumping.

A five-speed transmission and belt drive makes the final connection to the quick but not necessarily a fast bike. Top speed is 176 kph.

Specification

Capacity cc1202
Bore/ Stroke mm88.9/96.8
Output65 – 70 bhp (Est)
Torque96Nm@4000rpm
TypeAir-cooled, 4-stroke, 45 degree V-twin cylinder, DOHC
Valves per cylinder2
Clutch typeWet- Multiplate
Transmission5-speed

RIDE AND HANDLING

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The riding position remains unchanged from other Sportster models with the mid-mounted bike controls and too far aggressive handlebar placement. The seating position is hence cannot be called very comfortable as the position is halfway between upright and crouch. That being said, it does not fall short of encouraging you into an aggressive riding experience with the adjusted steering geometry delivering more nimble and responsive feel. Apart from that, the two-up saddle is quite padded enough for drifts around town but might not support your back or thighs for the long haul rides. If you want to ride along with a pillion always, then I would suggest you look for something else.

A situation will arise when you have to stop at the signals or parking lots as one would expect to put your feet down in front of the pegs, but the Roadster will force you to put your legs behind the pegs making it an issue every time. This Roadster is not particularly lean-friendly as the footpegs will get sheared off when you do the mistake of taking a curve Rossi style. But is still considerably better compared to other Sportsters.

Everything wrong here is made up by the engineers in the suspension and brake department. The Roadster gets its own 43 mm upside down forks with better damping and lesser dive during braking. The rear shocks are the emulsion unit that sits higher and is adjustable. Impressive suspension travel of 114 mm at the front and 81 mm at the back gives in to a subtle riding experience even on tougher terrain.

The 120/70R19 front and 150/70R18 rear tyres give enough tone to make the ride feel plush. Dual 300mm discs featuring 2 piston callipers at the front is an upgrade from previous models with unique floating rotors transfer heat from the discs more efficiently. Enough power to get the job done without any fuss. Optional ABS will not give any concern about braking ability.

PRICE

When it arrives in India, it will be priced in the range of ? 9.5 lakhs (ex-showroom).

The Roadster will get optional features that include air filters and ABS along with hands-free, factory installed H-D Smart Security System. It will come in four colour options- Velocity Red Sunglo, Billet Silver&Vivid Black, Black Denim and Vivid Black.

COMPETITION

Coming from the same line of Sportsters from the same maker, the Harley-Davidson Forty-Eight is not a contender but another option for the customers wanting a Sportster. Having similar engine and ride dynamics, the Forty-Eight has higher bars, forward-set footrests, fat tyres and an even smaller fuel tank.

Harley Davidson Forty Eight

1. Harley Davidson Forty Eight

The Forty-Eight comes powered by a 1202cc, air-cooled V-Twin engine which produces close to 60bhp of power and 90Nm of torque. The engine is mated to a 5-speed manual gearbox and offers oodles of torque across the entire rev range. Harley-Davidson is offering 292mm and 260mm discs at the front and rear respectively.

VERDICT

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This newcomer to Harley’s Sportster range may not be everyone’s cup of tea. But it is a better fit for the current market. Riders hoping for increased performance may be disappointed; it is compromised yet palatable.

The blend of character, handling and practicality; and more importantly its looks brings to the appealing mind. There are obviously better performing and capable motorcycles in the market but they are not a Harley Davidson. The Roadster is the best Sportster and it looks like it should. That is a meaningful progress.