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HARLEY-DAVIDSON Forty-Eight (2018-on)

Published: 26 October 2018

Updated: 27 September 2019

Like all Harleys, the Forty-Eight is pointless but fun in equal measure

HARLEY-DAVIDSON SPORTSTER 1200 Forty-Eight XL1200X (2018-on)

Like all Harleys, the Forty-Eight is pointless but fun in equal measure

Overall Rating 3 out of 5

The Harley-Davidson Forty-Eight is daft in many ways. It’s heavy, it’s slow, it’s hot, it’s only got one seat, no safety aids and a tiny tank. But it’s also great because it’s so ridiculous.

It also sounds amazing and like it or not, Harley is a brand that the wider public recognise so you’ll always get admiring looks. The truth is, if you don’t ‘get it’ then it’s probably not the bike for you but if you’ve read this far maybe it’s time to take one for a spin?

Ride Quality & Brakes 3 out of 5

The old ‘Harleys don’t go round corners’ tale is a thing of the past and has been for some time. You can ride the new bikes fairly swiftly, as long as you don’t mind dragging a peg or two.

The braking is half-decent complimented by the chunkier 49mm forks but when you’re really getting a lick on you do wish there was a second front disc helping you bring in its 248kg weight.

Again despite appearances it corners remarkably well and the suspension does a decent job on all but the roughest of surfaces, although the whole bike goes a bit loopy when it encounters mid-corner bumps. Some people prefer the foot-forward controls, other people the mids – it all depends on your size and style.

Engine 3 out of 5

Being a big old 1202cc v-twin, the shuddering Milwaukee lump puts out 66bhp and 73 ftlbs of torque – more than enough to screech around on. It’s got plenty of drive out of the corners and when out for a fun ride, you can just leave it in one gear and ride everywhere on a wave of torque. To be honest, that’s by far the best 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. However, it is all starting to feel its age.

The air-cooled engine puts out a lot of heat and around town it really roasts you. The five speed gearbox is basic too, with fairly big gaps between the gears.

Build Quality & Reliability 5 out of 5

The Evolution engine in the Forty-Eight has been around since the dawn of time, so pretty much all the problems have been ironed out. Servicing is fairly simple as the hydraulic lifters automatically adjust the valve lash, meaning it’s basically just oil and filters. If you stick to the service schedule, they’re pretty much bombproof.

Insurance, running costs & value 3 out of 5

Compared to other brands, you easily find yourself questioning just what you get for your money with a Harley.

For their equipment and performance level, they’re very expensive but they’re also undeniably cool and really that’s what you’re paying for. The only thing that just about saves them is amazing residuals.

Take a look on MCN Bikes for Sale now – unlike a typical Japanese naked you get most of your money back after three years.

Equipment 3 out of 5

Harleys are stripped back by their nature and Forty-Eights further still. In terms of electronic assistance, you get ABS and that’s it. There’s one clock featuring an analogue speedo, with a small LCD panel that can display time, mileage, trip, or gear/revs.

The Forty-Eight also has a tiny 7.9l peanut tank and a single seat. There are some neat features though – the rear indicators double up as the brake lights and they're self-cancelling but it’s an otherwise sparse offering. Obviously Harley’s parts catalogue makes the world your oyster.

The first thing most people do is chuck the standard air-cleaner and fit a set of new pipes. Doing this unlocks the odd extra pony but more importantly it improves the sound, although you’ll need to budget around £500 for all the bits needed.

Facts & Figures

Model info
Year introduced 2018
Year discontinued -
New price £9,995
Used price £5,500 to £11,200
Warranty term Two years
Running costs
Insurance group -
Annual road tax £91
Annual service cost -
Max power 65.7 bhp
Max torque 70.8 ft-lb
Top speed -
1/4-mile acceleration -
Average fuel consumption 54 mpg
Tank range 90 miles
Engine size 1202cc
Engine type Air cooled, 2v, V-twin
Frame type Steel
Fuel capacity 7.9 litres
Seat height 710mm
Bike weight 247kg
Front suspension Non-adjustable 39mm RWU forks, 92mm travel
Rear suspension Preload adjustable twin shocks, 54mm travel
Front brake Single 300mm disc, dual piston caliper
Rear brake 260mm disc, dual piston caliper
Front tyre size 130/90 x 16
Rear tyre size 150/80 x 16

History & Versions

Model history

  • 2010: Model launched
  • 2014: Updated with new electrics, brakes, suspension and changed emissions
  • 2018: Forty-Eight Special introduced

Other versions

Harley-Davidson's Forty-Eight Special

Owners' Reviews

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  • HARLEY-DAVIDSON SPORTSTER 1200 Forty-Eight XL1200X (2018-on)
  • HARLEY-DAVIDSON SPORTSTER 1200 Forty-Eight XL1200X (2018-on)
  • HARLEY-DAVIDSON SPORTSTER 1200 Forty-Eight XL1200X (2018-on)
  • HARLEY-DAVIDSON SPORTSTER 1200 Forty-Eight XL1200X (2018-on)
  • HARLEY-DAVIDSON SPORTSTER 1200 Forty-Eight XL1200X (2018-on)
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