GIMME gimme. After spending an extended test period with the latest Sportster S, we have to say we’re really digging this bike, and it has left us quiet simply, wanting more. It’s a bold new direction for a motorcycle steeped in history.
The Sportster first found its way into the Harley-Davidson range way back in 1957, and has been a staple ever since. But while this new bike wears the same nameplate, it’s a different beast altogether, and will polarise some of the HD faithful.
The 2022 Harley-Davidson Sportster S looks the goods aesthetically, and has a real flat track roadster vibe about it. Most noticeable are the twin pipes that sit up under where the rear guard should be, and of course, the fat chunky rims.
Rocking its own unique character, the Sportster S definitely blazes its own trail. It not only features distinctive styling cues, which include bronze/copper motor highlights, there’s also an in-your-face flat LED headlight.
And while this isn’t our first rodeo with this bike, having attended its Australian launch, we can tell you, that even after a much longer riding experience, the jewel in the Sportster S crown is undoubtedly the Revolution Max 1250T motor that provides the soul of this beast.
A water cooled 60-degree V-twin with DOHC and VVT, similar to the power plant offered in the Pan America (1250S), boasts 90kW straight out of the crate, with 127Nm of torque on tap should you need it.
Although displacement, bore and stroke are identical to the Pan America (at 1252cc) , the Sportster S features a new top end that utilises smaller valves, different velocity stacks and more aggressive cam profiles.
This delivers the 1250T motor a totally unique character that we absolutely love. It’s a blast to ride, and has enough acceleration that it will surprise a lot of other riders as it sails on past them.
Matched to a six speed gearbox, the package works well and when combined with an ergonomic setup that has you almost leaning over the front wheel, the Sportster S will have you carving up the corners.
Featuring selectable riding modes, including Rain, Road, Sport and a couple of custom options, there’s basically a choice to suit your mood, or road conditions. We found Sport mode the most enjoyable, as it unleashed all the goodness the Sportster S had to offer.
We do wonder if Harley-Davidson have perhaps underestimated how powerful the Sportster S is though, as the brakes feel a little underdone. It’s fitted with a Brembo setup that features a 320mm single disc that utilises a 4-piston single calliper on the front.
At the rear, there’s a single 260mm single disc. If nothing else, it needs twin discs on the front, like the bigger touring models, for a little extra oomph when pulling on the stop lever. Likewise, that would allow you to brake a little later and harder when having fun.
To be fair, the brakes do an okay job in pulling up the Sportster S in everyday riding situations. The suspension is firm, with just 92mm of travel on the front and 51mm on the rear. This equates to a hard ride, which will not be everyone’s cup of tea.
We found ourselves adjusting the suspension setup via the dial knobby thing to try and soften it a little, but there is no getting away from the firmness of this Harley-Davidson cruiser.
The 43mm inverted front forks do a good job, but with that firm suspension and minimal travel, there’s little relief. That said, pushing the Sportster S through a corner is pure fun, and the handling is predictable, good and planted.
There’s a 34-degree lean angle on both sides and you can still put the foot pegs on the road, but this bike is smile inducing, and the motor is an absolute beauty. It even handles the rain well, for the most part, which does brings us to a downside.
The lack of a rear fender in the rain, means a large amount of spray. We saw lots of precipitation during our test, which meant there was plenty of grime up the back of our jacket and helmet.
In a nutshell though, Harley-Davidson has put an engine with naked sports bike performance into a cruiser, and it’s a great thing. Even the simplicity, clarity and functionality of the new full colour TFT tacho has an element of cool about it.
Not only is it stylish, but it’s easy to use and read. Featuring smart phone connectivity (via the HD app), it shows rider info clearly and precisely. Hand controls for the screen, and goodies such as cruise control, are easy to activate, even in thick riding gloves.
All of this Harley-Davidson techy goodness is wrapped into a nimble package that weighs just 228kg on the road. With a seat height of 734mm, we found the standard forward controls to be perfect. Optional mid mounts may be a little cramped for taller riders.
The 2022 Harley-Davidson Sportster S is available in three colours, including Vivid Black, Stonewashed White Pearl and Midnight Crimson (as tested). Priced from $26,495 ride away the Sportster S is backed by a 2-year unlimited kilometre warranty.
In this bike, Harley-Davidson has created a bloody good motorcycle, despite imperfections. It pushes boundaries, and is a shitload of fun on the open road. Incidentally, it’s roughly the same price as the recently upgraded Low Rider S. We know which one we’d choose.