HARLEY-DAVIDSON Roadster (2016-on)

At a glance

Owners' reliability rating: 4.3 out of 5 (4.3/5)
Annual servicing cost: £250
Power: 66 bhp
Seat height: Medium (30.9 in / 785 mm)
Weight: High (571 lbs / 259 kg)

Prices

New £9,695
Used £5,500 - £9,500

Overall rating

Next up: Ride & brakes
4 out of 5 (4/5)

Even the most die-hard Harley-Davidson fan would probably admit that for years the American firm’s Sportsters were anything but sporty.

But that ends with this version. Called, somewhat confusingly, the Roadster, it is inspired partly by the fashion for all things café racer and partly by those original 1950s Sportsters.

Although based on an unchanged Sportster 1200 engine, which is H-D’s familiar, middleweight, air-cooled V-twin cruiser family, a significant chassis makeover with credible performance-orientated suspension, brakes and wheels and more, has turned it into a genuine café racer that’s been a surprising hoot to thrash around twisty roads.

All in all, though still clearly a Harley at heart – the unchanged, ‘rustic’ but willing 1202cc V-twin, lumpy gearchange, fat controls and distinctive, ‘Peanut’ fuel tank leave you in no doubt of that – the Roadster is also a credible, café-racer.

Or, to the Sportster, what the old Triumph Thruxton was to the British firm’s Bonneville. And that, at prices starting at under £10,000, is no bad recommendation in itself. A Harley Sportster? Yes, there is, at last.

Harley-Davidson Roadster 1200 scraping a peg

Ride quality & brakes

Next up: Engine
4 out of 5 (4/5)

A bigger 19in front, 18in rear lightweight alloy wheel combo, along with proper, longer rear shocks plus fat 43mm USD forks at the front changes the whole orientation of the 1200’s familiar tubular steel cradle frame, making it distinctly more 'arse up, nose down', in true café racer style.

And that, allied with a decent twin disc brake set-up complete with twin four-piston calipers, semi 'ace' handlebars, more rear-set footpegs plus a beautifully made race-style seat adds up to a bike that’s both a doddle to get on with and one that urges you to hustle and scratch.

It’s a joy to steer, which it does quickly and precisely, the ride is more controlled and sophisticated than any previous Sportster and the brakes are so good it’s as if Harley has finally discovered how good modern brakes can be.

Harley-Davidson Roadster 1200 front brake

Engine

Next up: Reliability
3 out of 5 (3/5)

The familiar 1202cc, air-cooled, pushrod V-twin is completely unchanged from that of its cruiser siblings.

Bumping up the capacity by 30% to 1202cc has had an obvious effect on the power, so the shuddering Milwaukee lump now puts out 66bhp and 73ftlbs of torque – a significant bump up from the 883.

This gives it much more drive out of the corners and when out for a fun ride, you can just leave it in third gear and ride everywhere on a wave of torque. Being honest, that’s the most enjoyable way to ride it.

If you want to get the maximum amount of power out of it, you can rev it until all four of the valves start dancing on top of the cylinder head but all you’ll do is give yourself earache and burn all your fuel without making much more progress. Instead, just sit back, relax and bring on the noise.

Harley-Davidson Roadster 1200 engine

Reliability & build quality

Next up: Value
5 out of 5 (5/5)

The days of Harley-Davidsons with poor reliability are thankfully long-gone. Stick to the service intervals and the Roadster should be fairly bombproof. You will need to keep on top of the finish or the gleam will fade pretty quickly.

Value vs rivals

Next up: Equipment
3 out of 5 (3/5)

The cost of a Harley-Davidson hasn't risen much in the last 10 years, while other brands have let their prices spiral. As such, the circa £10,000 asking price on the Roadster looks pretty reasonable.

They also hold their value, which is great when you decide it's time for a change, but not so great if you're in the market for a used model.

Equipment

3 out of 5 (3/5)

The familiar, cruiser-style chunky switch-gear and, particularly, control levers and footpegs are basically unchanged from the existing Sportster 1200 models. While for me, the humpbacked, 'Peanut' fuel tank, which was originally specifically designed to meet a cruiser aesthetic, jars with the overall look, too.

The bars are one-piece, tubular steel turned-down 'ace' bars of the type familiar (although the Harley’s are wider) from Triumph’s old Thruxton 900.

Harley-Davidson Roadster 1200 ace bars

To continue the café racer theme, footpegs are more rear-ward (although hardly rearset), there’s a new, beautifully made race-style seat, chopped down mudguards, a neat, multi-function single tacho dial which incorporates a digital speedo and three different paint options (gloss black, satin black, metallic red or two-tone silver/black).

There was no 'Harley Performance' orange and black initially even though it seemed ideal for this sort of bike. Harley obviously agreed, because it was added as an option when the paint was updated.

Specs

Engine size 1202cc
Engine type Air-cooled Evolution V-twin
Frame type Tubular steel cradle
Fuel capacity 12.5 litres
Seat height 785mm
Bike weight 259kg
Front suspension USD 43mm fork, non-adjustable
Rear suspension Twin gas-charged emulsion coil-over shocks, tri-rate springs adjustable pre-load only
Front brake 300mm floating twin disc, four-piston, ABS
Rear brake 260mm single disc, twin-piston
Front tyre size 120/70 - 19
Rear tyre size 150/70 - 18

Mpg, costs & insurance

Average fuel consumption 48 mpg
Annual road tax £93
Annual service cost £250
New price £9,695
Used price £5,500 - £9,500
Insurance group -
How much to insure?
Warranty term -

Top speed & performance

Max power 66 bhp
Max torque 71.5 ft-lb
Top speed -
1/4 mile acceleration -
Tank range 132 miles

Model history & versions

Other versions

The term 'Sportster' isn't actually a model name but defines a whole family of Harley-Davidson models. These include:

Owners' reviews for the HARLEY-DAVIDSON SPORTSTER 1200 (2016 - on)

3 owners have reviewed their HARLEY-DAVIDSON SPORTSTER 1200 (2016 - on) and rated it in a number of areas. Read what they have to say and what they like and dislike about the bike below.

Review your HARLEY-DAVIDSON SPORTSTER 1200 (2016 - on)

Summary of owners' reviews

Overall rating: 3.7 out of 5 (3.7/5)
Ride quality & brakes: 3.7 out of 5 (3.7/5)
Engine: 2.7 out of 5 (2.7/5)
Reliability & build quality: 4.3 out of 5 (4.3/5)
Value vs rivals: 3.7 out of 5 (3.7/5)
Equipment: 3 out of 5 (3/5)
Annual servicing cost: £250
4 out of 5 48special
11 April 2020 by Andrew Knightley

Year: 2018

Annual servicing cost: £250

The styling is excellent let down by fuel tank size

Ride quality & brakes 4 out of 5

Pipes can ground

Engine 4 out of 5

Rough around 3000 rpm

Reliability & build quality 5 out of 5

No problems so far

Value vs rivals 5 out of 5

Within budget

Equipment 4 out of 5

Has what it needs

Buying experience: Smooth and easy

3 out of 5
24 November 2019 by Mohammed Alharbi

Version: Roadster XL1200CX

Year: 2018

slow & uncomfortable

Ride quality & brakes 3 out of 5
Engine 1 out of 5
Reliability & build quality 4 out of 5
Value vs rivals 2 out of 5
Equipment 1 out of 5
4 out of 5 Looks and sounds great
26 October 2019 by Chicago Crook

Version: Roadster

Year: 2016

Looks and sounds great

Ride quality & brakes 4 out of 5
Engine 3 out of 5

Needs more power

Reliability & build quality 4 out of 5
Value vs rivals 4 out of 5
Equipment 4 out of 5

Changed the handle bars and pipes for sound

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