HARLEY-DAVIDSON Roadster (2016-on)
At a glance
|Owners' reliability rating:|
|Annual servicing cost:||£250|
Overall ratingNext up: Ride & brakes
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.
Ride quality & brakesNext up: Engine
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.
EngineNext up: Reliability
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.
Reliability & build qualityNext up: Value
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 rivalsNext up: Equipment
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.
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.
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.
|Engine type||Air-cooled Evolution V-twin|
|Frame type||Tubular steel cradle|
|Fuel capacity||12.5 litres|
|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|
|Used price||£5,500 - £9,500|
How much to insure?
Top speed & performance
|Max power||66 bhp|
|Max torque||71.5 ft-lb|
|1/4 mile acceleration||-|
|Tank range||132 miles|
Model history & 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.
Summary of owners' reviews
|Ride quality & brakes:|
|Reliability & build quality:|
|Value vs rivals:|
|Annual servicing cost:||£250|
Annual servicing cost: £250
The styling is excellent let down by fuel tank size
Pipes can ground
Rough around 3000 rpm
No problems so far
Has what it needs
Buying experience: Smooth and easy
Version: Roadster XL1200CX
slow & uncomfortable
Looks and sounds great
Needs more power
Changed the handle bars and pipes for sound