New Harleys on show at birthday bash

Published: 09 September 2003

HARLEY revealed its full 2004 model range at the weekend’s 100th anniversary celebrations in Milwaukee – but there were no great birthday surprises.

The biggest change was to the Sportsters, which get a rubber-mounted engine rather than one bolted straight to the frame – and that change has required a totally new chassis design.

On the old bike, the engine was structural, and provided much of the Sportster’s rigidity. Now, with rubber mounts, the engine no longer takes any of the strain – so the new frame has to be stiffer to compensate. Harley claims it the new frame is 26 per cent stiffer on its own than the old one was in conjunction with the engine.

The strength comes from larger, thicker-walled tubes – so the basic look of the chassis remains the same. The extra metal in the frame, along with the more complex engine mounts, add around 22kg to the weight.

Harley reckons the new found refinement will encourage riders to rev harder so they’ve updated the motor to cope with the additional stress.

The 45-degree V-twin – still available in 883cc and 1200cc versions – gets more fins on the cylinders to increase cooling, as well as new oil-sprays under the pistons to cool them further. The firm has also upgraded all the engine’s gaskets in an effort to cut oil leaks.

The 1200cc version gets a 15 per cent power hike to 70bhp thanks to new cams, pistons and rods, all shared with Buell’s new XB12. These push revs up by 500rpm to a heady 6000rpm.

The 883 doesn’t get so many improvements, but power is up 2bhp to 53bhp.

All Sportsters get redesigned brakes to cut lever pressure and a wider 150-section rear tyre. There’s also a new fuel tank carrying 3.3 gallons.

Prices are expected to stay around the same as the current Sportster range – from £5145 to £7445.

There’s a new V-Rod to run alongside the current one with lower gearing to raise acceleration plus new colours. The new VRSCB has a black frame and a new speedo, too. It will cost around the same as the VRSCA – £14,500.