REVIEW: HARLEY-DAVIDSON FORTY EIGHT SPORTSTER
I’ve been a Sportster fan since I was a little kid and Michael Parks was tearing up the TV screen as Jim Bronson in the cult classic show “Then Came Bronson”. For you younger readers that have no idea what I am talking about… that was about 1969… and since then I have had a long-lasting love affair with the entry-level Harley-Davidson.
In recent years the Motor Company has wisely given some extra attention to the baby Harley, releasing some vintage looking spin-off models including The Nightster and the Iron 883 and this year they continue to emphasize that you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg to own a piece of the Harley mystique by offering the model Forty-Eight Sportster. I’ve been reading about this bike for a few months now and when my friends at Bumpus Harley-Davidson in Murfreesboro, Tennessee extended the offer to test one out, I jumped at the chance.
Right off the bat let me just say… this bike is plain-old cool. And when I say old… I mean old. Drawing inspiration from WWII era bobbers, the package includes a fat front tire (MT90B16 72H), a 1948-like Peanut Tank, a slammed speedo, under mount mirrors, combined stop-turn taillights, side-mount license plate holder, forward controls and a super low 26” seat height that all add up to a head-turning, old-school vibe. It looks great!
But looks aren’t everything… so after drooling over the Forty-Eight for a while I hopped on for a 30 minute ride that included everything from a 4-lane Interstate to curvy backroads and even some stop-and-go urban traffic.
Power was of the typical 1200 Sporty type with adequate punch and while the lowered stance offered a better ride than I expected, there was a slight but noticeable instability at take-off and in steep turns. I am assuming it is because of the larger front tire but the bars tended to want to wobble when departing from a complete stop and when pushing hard through a corner.
From an ergonomic standpoint I’d have to say that this bike was a bit awkward for my short 5’9” frame. The low seat combined with forwards and drag style bars left me stretched out and by the end of the 30 minute ride my lower back was beginning to feel it… but you have to take into consideration my back has seen stronger days and the fact that I am used to riding an Electra Glide Standard. One other noticeable issue for me was the position of the forwards. You can see by the picture here that the shifter was hitting my foot at the very tip of my size 8.5 work boot. I had no problems shifting but I would have felt more comfortable if the shifter had rested an inch or so closer to my ankle.
As you can tell… this is definitely not the most comfortable bike I have ever ridden but that’s not the point here. I believe Harley-Davidson has nailed it again in their quest to offer entry-level priced bikes (Sportsters) that appeal to the James Dean lurking deep within all of us. The Forty Eight is oozing with old-school attitude and while I can’t recommend it to anyone who plans on taking long road trips… it is well worth consideration by those looking for a bad little bar hopper or daily commuter that is cooler than the norm. Besides… who needs geezerglide comfort when your bike looks this good!
A Few Key Stats:
MSRP: Vivid Black $10,499, Color $10,789
Seat Height: 26”
Ground Clearance: 3.9”
Fuel Capacity: 2.1 Gallons
Dry Weight: 545lbs
This review indicates my own personal opinion of this product and should be taken as just that. Yours may vary and you should try this product yourself before drawing any conclusions about it.
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