Harley-Davidson Sportster S: Cool cruiser

The Harley-Davidson Sportster has been around since 1957 and evolved throughout the years while keeping some of its distinctive styling.
However, the new Sportster S has a fresh design and very little resemblance to the classic looks that fans are used to.
For a start, the latest edition is a 1,252cc machine which comes with twin exhaust pipes placed at the right that will not go unnoticed.
The high mount of the exhaust is inspired by the glory days of the Harley-Davidson flat track racing.
Not only that, but the unique design of the front light is also something that will grow on you.
At first look, I cringed but after a few days, I began to like it.
But few of my riding mates loved it.
The only part that resembles the classic Sportster is the fuel tank.
The bike is a low rider with an aggressive riding position even though it is an upright sitting position.
The bike has forward foot control with stretched riding position.
Riders have the option to bring the foot control to the mid-section of the bike hence reduce the stretching of the legs and arms.
The Sportster S is fitted with a round digital display which offers a variety of useful information.
I was able to access the rider’s aids on this bike via the buttons on the left side of the handlebar.
The bike offers three modes for riding and one for customisation.
I was able to change the riding modes with the motorcycle on the move.
The sports mode is much more aggressive where throttle response is at its best with all the power promised by the bike.
Meanwhile, road mode offers a pleasant throttle response with decent horsepower.
Finally, the rain mode should only be used during rain because the power of the Sportster S is muted and does not reflect the bike’s true character.
The rider’s saddle is wide and firm, and there is no space for a pillion.
Because of the forward control design, there is very little room for the leg to move around.
My legs got tired after riding non-stop for a good 1.5 hour. I took a 10-minute pit stop before continuing my journey.
This 230kg bike comes with huge tyres, a 160/70R17 at the front and a 180/70R16 at the rear manufactured specially for the Sportster S.
Many motoring journalists complained that it was not easy taking corners with these tyres.
I admit that it takes a lot of effort to take corners because of the size of the tyres but after two days of riding, I got accustomed to them.
I was able to take all the corners and twisties at Genting Highland with ease.
Truth to be told - the bike does not glide into the corner naturally but once you are in the corner, exiting it was effortless.
As the lean angle of this bike is limited, I had to be mindful when carving out corners.
The Sportster S’ low centre of gravity made it feel planted when taking corners.
Meanwhile, the rear suspension comfort is something this bike needs some work on.
On smooth roads with minimum imperfections, there is good cushioning to the rear end.
On imperfect roads and even on shallow potholes, you are in for some unpleasantries if you are riding above 100kph.
You can’t expect much from 51mm of travel in the rear suspension.
The upright sitting position with stretched leg did not allow me to stand up while riding over bumps and humps.
For some unknown reasons, I had a niggling feeling that this bike will be difficult to ride in the city.
Surprise, surprise... the bike offers good torque to overtake and wiggle the way out of the traffic.
Its new engine is the Revolution Max 1250T that is also found on the Pan America.
This engine worked well in low gears which is perfect for any city riding.
The torque and the gearbox complement each other well without any lag in power even at low rpm range.
The minute the Sportster S hits the highway, you can feel your wrist wanting to twist the throttle more.
Power delivery is linear and smooth with the engine sweet spot hovering between 3,600 and 7,000rpm. Every time I upshift or downshift, the gearing of the bike is smooth and fast to engage working in unison with the soft hand clutch.
The front brake comes with a single 320mm rotor and a four-piston caliper while the rear is fitted with a 260mm rear rotor and a single-piston caliper.
The bite of the front brake could be made better since the Sportster S is a heavy bike.
In my opinion, a double disc type would have been ideal.
The rear brake seems to be good enough.
This RM99,900 Sportster S has improved in design, safety and performance and is the benchmark for the future Sportster generation.
Engine: 1,252cc, Revolution Max 1250T, DOHC, four valves per cylinder
Maximum power: 121hp at 7,500rpm
Maximum torque: 127Nm at 6,000rpm
Transmission: Six-speed
Suspension: Front 43mm inverted fork with compression, rebound and spring preload adjustability; rear linkage-mounted, piggyback monoshock with compression, rebound and hydraulic spring preload adjustability, 52mm travel
Braking system: Front 320mm radially mounted, monoblock, 4-piston single, caliper, ABS; rear 260mm floating, single piston caliper, ABS
Features: Three riding modes, traction control, cornering ABS, lean-sensitive traction control, audio system, phone connectivity, turn-by-turn navigation map
Fuel capacity: 11.81 litres
Wet weight: 228kg
Price: RM99,900 (without registration, road tax and insurance)
Autos Harley Davidson
CarSifu's Rating: 6.4