Harley’s legendary cruiser gets new 1250 Revolution Max engine from the Pan America
The Harley-Davidson Sportster has been a stalwart of the Milwaukee firm’s range since 1957. As ever with Harley, it’s all relative – but the Sportster has generally been the lightest, most nimble bike in the firm’s range – the sportiest, if you will – hence the name. It’s sold in its tens of thousands as a simple, basic, stylish custom roadster, with only a few major updates over the decades.
The original 1957 bike used the ‘Ironhead’ cast iron OHV engine, which gained an electric start in 1967, before being replaced by the all-new Evo aluminium engine in 1986. Sold in 883 and 1200 capacities, the Evo motor was gradually upgraded with various emissions-cutting technology over the next quarter-century, including fuel injection in 2007.
And now, for 2022, the Harley-Davidson Sportster S gets its most radical update yet. An all-new engine, called the Revolution Max 1250T, is similar to the motor on the new Pan America adventure machine, and is bang up to date in terms of technology and emissions (which killed the Evo lump).
It’s a water-cooled 60-degree V-twin with four-valve DOHC heads, hydraulic valve tappets, variable valve timing and ride-by-wire fuel injection, and makes a solid 121bhp@7,500rpm, with 94ft lb of torque at just 6,000rpm. Forged pistons are kept cool by oil jets under the crown, there are internal balancer shafts to cut vibes, and there’s a slipper clutch with six-speed gearbox and belt final drive
The Revolution powerplant is bolted into a welded steel tube trellis type frame, with a stamped cross-member for extra strength and stiffness. Suspension is by Showa – 43mm USD forks and piggyback rear shock with remote hydraulic preload adjuster.
Brakes are by Brembo – yay – but there’s only a single 320mm front disc – boo – with a beefy four-piston brake caliper up front. Tyre sizes are a bit mental to UK eyes – the front tyre is a 160-section 17-incher, with a 180-section 16-inch out back.
Standard fitment is a Dunlop GT503, which will probably be fine, but you’ll struggle to find many alternative fitments in those sizes, apart from other cruiser tyres. No trackday slicks for your Sportster S then, sadly…
Harley has gone large on technology on the new Sportster S. There’s a single instrument display pod with a four inch round colour TFT LCD screen that provides all the info you’ll need. You can control music on your phone via a Bluetooth link, there’s sat-nav using the Harley app, plus the usual tacho, speedo, gear indicator and loads of trip computer functions.
Away from the dashboard, there’s a proper cornering ABS system, using an IMU inertial measurement unit to optimise the brake control, and the traction control also uses the IMU. Engine brake control, customisable rider power modes and tyre pressure monitoring are also present and correct, and it’s all accessed via proper controls on the handlebar switchgear.
An impressive list of features then – though the Harley Sportster is still a bit on the heavy side at a claimed 228kg ready to ride. That’s 15kg more than the 143bhp Honda CB1000R, and the only possible downside on the spec sheet. A bit less mass, two front brake discs, a more sporty riding position plus a 120/70 front tyre, and we reckon a sportier UK-style Sportster could be massive, grunty, torquey fun…
We’ll hold back our verdict until we get a ride on the new Sportster though. The bike is available from September, and will cost from £13,995
Price: from £13,995 (July 2021)
Engine: DOHC 8v, 60° V-twin, l/c, 1,252cc
Bore x stroke: 105×72.3mm
Compression ratio: 12:1
Carburation: Fuel injection
Max power (claimed) 121hp@7,500rpm
Max torque (claimed) 94ft lb@6,000rpm
Transmission: six speed gearbox, slipper clutch, belt drive
Frame: steel tube braced trellis type
Front suspension: 43mm USD Showa fork
Rear suspension: steel tube braced swingarm, preload-adjustable Showa monoshock
Brakes: 320mm disc, four-piston radial mount Brembo caliper (front), 260mm disc, single-piston caliper (rear), cornering ABS.
Wheels/tyres: cast aluminium/Dunlop GT503, 160/70 17 front, 180/70 16 rear
Kerb weight : 228kg
Fuel capacity: 11.8 litres
Equipment: TFT LCD display with sat nav and media control via Bluetooth and Harley app, cornering ABS, cornering traction control, engine brake control, tyre pressure monitor, USB-C charging socket, LED lighting,