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Harley Davidson Sportster S

by editor

It may be a Sportser but it’s like no Harley you’ve ever seen.

‘Sportster’ is a name Harley-Davidson has been using for quite a while. In fact, it’s been in the H-D line up since 1957. There have been a few variations on the basic theme, but it was always pretty much a lighter, sportier alternative to the big cruiser bikes which established the American manufacturer and elevated the brand to be one of the world’s strongest and most recognisable. The latest incarnation of the Sportster – the Sportster S – is a thoughtprovoking and exciting mix of the ‘more agile’ concept with a downright aggressive and threatening-looking presentation that’ll turn heads in the toughest neighbourhoods and leave earthmoving equipment embarrassed for lack of grunt.

The heart of the Sportster S is the engine.

Harley made a strong point at the media release of the bike being built around the new Revolution Max 1250T V-twin donk. While the look of the bike was clearly very important – it’s a Harley after all – the engine came first, and the rider being able to use the 121 horsepower wasn’t far behind on the list of priorities. There’s a stack of rider modes and a suite of electronics that’d make Stephen Hawking’s laptop look like a Nintendo by comparison. But most of all, the bike looks seriously horn.

It’s hard to believe what appears to be a stripped-back bobber can house such an incredible array of high-performance tech and performance gear, but it does. From the whopping great front tyre along the incredibly low-slung chassis and upswept pipes to the chopped rear, the Sportster S glows with the appearance of barely contained evil intent.

If a hungry five-metre grey nurse could somehow be turned into a motorcycle to quietly cruise inner-city streets scaring the smashed avo out of passers-by, this is what it would look like.

WTW was lucky enough to get a short ride on the Sportster S under the watchful eye of some of Harley-Davidson Australia’s incredibly competent and likeable staffers. We were coached through the high points of mechanics and electronics – while being plied with cappuccinos and delightful little baskets of chips and snack treats – before being let loose on a short lap which gave a taste of what the bike could do. The course included a few landmarks where the bikes turned plenty of heads, some freeway running where the cruise control and excellent ergos showed their worth, and even a little closed-circuit rorting on a wharf alongside Sydney harbour where high speeds, late braking and other outer-limits behaviour were allowed under supervision.

Then it started raining and lightning struck nearby a couple of times. Very suddenly everyone decided they’d ridden enough, and the chips and cappuccinos began to flow again as riders changed soiled undergarments and ducked for cover.

So what did we learn during that one brief, but very pleasant, ride?

The bike has performance to match its looks, and it has looks which wouldn’t be out of place in the latest, big-budget superhero movies.

The motor is a smooth, grunty stonker of a unit, with really nice torque at low revs to make city stop/start riding a very pleasant experience. Braking is strong and felt great – although we thought it had a tendency to pull off line against the single front disc under heavy use – and flicking from one mode to another meant the bike could change personality like a politician during a pandemic. In Rain mode it was a wellbehaved, responsible, sit-up-straight bike. Cracking open the throttle in Sport mode meant hanging on tight, leaning forward, and praying the front wheel stayed down (there’s wheelie control to keep that safe for those who want it) and the rear wheel didn’t shred a tyre.

Other modes offered variations between those two extremes, and there was plenty of scope for the rider to tune individual aspects of the bike’s performance to suit the rider’s wants and needs.

We thought it was interesting a naked bike which had us seemingly stuck up in the airstream didn’t buffet our head clean off our shoulders on the freeway, but it didn’t. We don’t know why. The compact LED headlight can’t have been deflecting much air, but somehow, our riding was fairly smooth going the whole time.

Overall our impression was of a bike with stunning good looks and Schwarzenegger muscle, all of which could be kept under control, or set free to run wild, with an excellent suite of electronics and a good level of comfort.

Harley is offering a big set of accessories for the Sportster S, including a pillion kit, some very sexy trimmings and ornaments, luggage, mid controls (instead of the standard forward controls which have the rider’s feet way in front of his knees), and of course some very cool-looking apparel.

We loved it all: the bike, the riding, the look of the thing, the way we felt we looked when we were on it and the sheer, unarguable performance of the thing. Harley’s been kind enough to make a Sportster available for a longer ride, probably for next issue, and we’re quietly trying not to pee our Kevlar-lined riding jeans waiting for it to get here.
We’ll let you know how we go.

Meanwhile, the Sportster S is on dealer floors around The Wide Brown Land at a starting ride-away price of $26,495. Get in and see for yourself what we’re so excited about.

WTW’s editor isn’t much to look at at the best of times, so when we knew he was going to front up at a Harley- Davidson function – the motorcycling world’s masters of style and cred – we knew something had to be done about his appearance.

A quick call to accessories importer McLeod Accessories had the ed’s thongs, footy shorts and high-vis T chucked in the shit tin, and he was set up with some beautiful Argon gear. Argon’s a fairly new brand in Australia and it’s ritzy stuff. The ‘jacket’ is actually the Cleaver Shirt and features casual styling, heavy-duty stitching, Stretch DuPont Kevlar, YKK zippers, CE shoulder and elbow protectors, and a few pockets.

The Argon SNK-R boots are the dog’s bollocks for catwalk styling and real-world protection. The uppers are breathable, water-resistant microfibre in combination with high-performance mesh, and EVA with hot-melted PU, Latex and EVA foam reinforcement give top-shelf ankle and toe protection. But the best thing about the boots from the rider’s point of view is the A-TOP fastening system. Just stick the hoof in, wind the little ratchet winder thing until they’re snug, and off you go. No laces or Velcro.

Ask for Argon riding apparel at your nearest bike shop.

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