Published on July 14th, 2021 | by Joshua Chin


Harley-Davidson’s New Sportster S Packs A Powerful Punch

There are big changes afoot with Harley Davidson’s radically revised Sportster lineup. 

Having been produced continuously since 1957, the Harley-Davidson Sportster is perhaps the American motorcycle manufacturer’s most iconic models within its lineup. Iconic it may be though, it was becoming a bit of a dinosaur in this age of increasingly leaner and greener bikes. 

Its air-cooled Evolution engine especially had fell way behind the times, to the point where it forced the Sportster discontinuation in Europe as it ran afoul of Euro 5 emissions regulations. This ageing icon however has fortunately been given a radical revision recently, with the big story being the new Revolution Max 1250 v-twin that is to be seen bulging out from within the frame of this all-new iteration of Harley Davidson street bike. 

Essentially the same water-cooled unit as to be found in the new (and extremely successful) Pan America, the Revolution Max 1250 featured in the Sportster S has however been retuned slightly to yield a flatter torque curve that peaks at a lower rpm. This final result therefore is a slightly titchier 121 hp at 7,500 rpm and 127 Nm of torque at 9,000 rpm when compared to the 150 hp adventure bike sibling, but it is nevertheless still a whole chunk more than 60 hp produced by the Iron 1200 of its prior iteration. 

And continuing on major improvements from the old bike, the new Sportster S also sheds a not-insignificant 28 kg over its predecessors thanks to the use of subframes replacing the conventional frame design. Attached to those new subframes too are a set of fully-adjustable 43 mm Showa upside-down forks up front and Showa remote reservoir monoshock round the rear, hence bringing this Harley-Davidson bang up to date in terms of suspension technology. 

Bringing proceedings to a stop meanwhile falls to the responsibility of a Brembo hydraulic setup at either end, clamping onto a single disk on the 17-inch and 16-inch wheels up front and round the back respectively. A lean-sensitive antilock braking system is also included as standard on the Sportster S, in addition to a lean-sensitive traction control, Drag Torque Slip Control and a plethora of riding modes to make for easy riding on this tech-laden street bike. 

Speaking of tech toys with the Sportster S, this new Harley-Davidson brings with it too standard cruise control, a USB-C charging port, a 4-inch TFT-LCD screen with Bluetooth connectivity and LED lighting up front and round its rear. There is still however only the one thin seat as standard here, though the pillion seat is available as an option.

Available in three colour schemes — Vivid Black, Stone Washed White Pearl, Midnight Crimson — the Sportster S is priced from $14,999 (RM 63,000) when it hits North American dealerships in the fall. Harley-Davidson is also naturally offering the usual host of add-ons on this all-new street bike, details of which is can be found in the press release below. 

PRESS RELEASE: The Harley-Davidson Sportster S model is an all-new sport custom motorcycle designed to deliver a thrilling riding experience and ushers in a new era of Sportster performance. A 121-horsepower Revolution Max 1250T V-Twin engine puts the Sportster S rider in command of unrelenting, on-demand torque. A taut, lightweight chassis and premium suspension deliver responsive, intuitive handling. From stop light to stop light, and corner to corner, the Sportster S model offers riders extraordinary power and performance and creates a new standard for the most enduring Harley-Davidson model. 

An addition to the 2021 Harley-Davidson motorcycle line, the Sportster S was unveiled today at the global virtual launch experience “From Evolution to Revolution”.

“The Sportster S is the next all-new motorcycle built on the Revolution Max platform and sets a new performance standard for the Sportster line,” said Jochen Zeitz, chairman, president and CEO, Harley-Davidson. “This is a next generation Sportster defined by power, performance, technology and style. And it’s part of our commitment to introduce motorcycles that align with our strategy to increase desirability and to drive the legacy of Harley-Davidson.” 

Styling Communicates Power 

In profile, the Sportster S model appears crouched and powerful. The fuel tank and tail section frame the engine as the predominate centerpiece of the motorcycle. The massive front tire recalls the fenderless front end of a classic bobber, while the tail section, high-mount exhaust and slim solo seat draw inspiration from the Harley-Davidson XR750 flat tracker. The thick inverted forks and wide-profile tires suggest high-performance sport bike. 

“Every visual design element of the Sportster S model is an expression of the motorcycle’s raw power,” said Brad Richards, Harley-Davidson vice president of styling and design. “This is a wolf in wolf’s clothing.” 

The powertrain is highlighted with a Chocolate Satin finish on the lightweight magnesium engine covers. Textures, colors, finishes and details were selected to give the Sportster S model the look of a custom show bike that just happens to be parked in the owner’s garage. 

Amplified Performance 

The 1250cc Revolution Max 1250T engine is the mechanical heart of the Sportster S model. This new version of the latest Harley-Davidson liquid-cooled V-Twin engine is tuned to make tremendous torque at low RPM, with a torque curve that stays flat through the powerband – engine performance designed to deliver strong acceleration from a start with robust power through the mid-range. To minimize overall motorcycle weight the engine is integrated into the vehicle as the central member of the chassis. The use of lightweight materials helps achieve a desirable power- to-weight ratio. Ready to ride with the 11.8 liters fuel tank topped off, the Sportster S model weighs just 228kg. A high-mount 2-into-1-into-2 exhaust is designed to produce a pleasing low-frequency tone. 

Technology Enhances the Ride 

The Sportster S model is equipped with a host of technologies designed to the enhance the riding experience. Three pre-programmed, selectable Ride Modes (Sport, Road and Rain) electronically control the performance characteristics of the motorcycle, and the level of technology intervention. Two Custom modes may be used by the rider to create a set of performance characteristics to meet personal preference or for special situations.

Cornering Rider Safety 

Enhancements by Harley- Davidson, a collection of technologies intended to enhance rider confidence during unexpected situations or adverse road conditions, are designed to match motorcycle performance to available traction during acceleration, deceleration and braking, in a straight line or while in a turn. 

A round, 4.0-inch-diameter TFT screen displays all instrumentation and supports infotainment generated by the rider’s Bluetooth-equipped mobile device and helmet headset, including music, incoming and out-going calls. All-LED lighting includes a Daymaker Signature LED headlamp designed to produce a homogenous spread of light, eliminating distracting “hot spots.” The headlamp has a distinctive oval or capsule shape that adds style to the front end and will identify the Sportster S model to other riders and motorists. 

Optimized Chassis 

The powertrain is a stressed member of the chassis, eliminating the traditional frame, a design that significantly reduces motorcycle weight and results in a very stiff chassis that contributes to precise handling. A welded tubular steel trellis swingarm features a braced design and stamped X-member to further stiffen the chassis, while its shape adds distinctive style to the motorcycle. 

The Sportster S model is equipped with fully adjustable, premium front and rear suspension – SHOWA 43mm inverted cartridge forks and a SHOWA Piggyback reservoir rear shock. Rear suspension features hydraulic pre-load adjustment using a convenient knob located on the left side of the motorcycle. Lightweight cast aluminum wheels with a staggered, five-spoke design are shod with wide Dunlop/Harley-Davidson Series GT503 tires. Premium Brembo braking components produce outstanding braking feel and performance. The single front brake features a new Brembo radial monoblock four-piston caliper and a 320mm diameter disc. The rear brake is a two-piston Brembo caliper and a 260mm diameter disc. 

Forward foot controls and a low handlebar put the Sportster S rider in an aggressive posture on the bike. Unladen seat height is 755mm, low enough for most riders to get feet down at a stop. Brake and clutch hand levers are adjustable for reach, to best match rider hand size or preference. The Sportster S model is pre-wired for accessory heated hand grips for added comfort in cool weather, and is equipped with two dedicated power points for heated riding gear (heated hand grips and heated riding gear/apparel each sold separately), plus a USB-C port for charging a phone or other device. An external ambient temperature sensor and a low-temp warning on the display screen alert the rider to changing conditions. Cruise control and a proximity-based security system are standard equipment. The steel fuel tank holds 11.8 liters. 

Paint Colors: Vivid Black; Stone Washed White Pearl; Midnight Crimson 


Sportster S model accessories available at launch through Harley-Davidson Genuine Motor Accessories include these key items: 

  • Mid-Control Conversion Kit
    Relocates the left and right rider foot pegs and foot controls from the Original Equipment forward position to a mid-position on the bike. This may place the rider in a more athletic position and may also provide an improved fit for riders who cannot comfortably reach the forward controls.
  • Passenger Accommodations
    A Pillion Kit, Passenger Footpeg Kit and Passenger Backrest Kit (each sold separately) may be installed. The pillion and backrest feature upholstery styled to match the rider seat.
  • Sundowner Solo Seat
    This seat offers an enhanced bucket design and spherical-void foam construction for improved long-haul comfort and shaping for more-aggressive riding. Seam sealed stitch lines prevent water from soaking into the foam and leaving the rider with a damp bum. Details in the top seat cover enhance overall style.
  • Compact Detachable Windshield
    Black mounting hardware and support brackets, and the dark tint of the windshield, are a style match for the motorcycle. The windshield mounts to the forks with quick-release clamps, and can be installed or removed quickly and easily.
  • Sportster S Tailbag
    This tailbag is designed specifically to fit and look great on the Sportster® S model, and gives the rider a convenient luggage option for ride essentials. It is recommended that the Tailbag be installed over the accessory pillion (purchased separately). Luggage capacity is 2.26kg. The main compartment volume is expandable from 8.2 liters to 11.5 liters.

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Automotive journalist. Professional work on and Personal writing found at Instagram: @driveeveryday

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