The new “New”

Harley Davidson’s “New” Sportster 48 Special and Iron 1200

Webster’s dictionary defines “New” as such:

  1. Not existing before; made, introduced, or discovered recently or now for the first time. Not previously used or owned.
  2. Already existing but seen, experienced, or acquired recently or now for the first time. 
    Unfamiliar or strange to someone. Different from a recent previous one.
  3. Just beginning or beginning anew and regarded as better than what went before.
    Reviving another or others of the same kind. Reinvigorated or restored. Superseding another or others of the same kind, and advanced in method or theory.

I love Harley Davidson, they are my motorcycle company, they can do no wrong in my eyes (almost) and they are the best at what they do, no doubt. Without question, they too have looked up the definition of “New” and has focused their 100 new bikes campaign squarely on items #2 & #3 of the definition of the word. Fine, I get it, well played Harley Davidson, well played.

As a huge fan of the Sportster line and the best engine (the Evolution) ever created, despite my simian proportions, I cannot wait to swing a leg over the “new” Sportster Forty-Eight Special and the Iron 1200. Having ridden both the “plain” Forty-Eight and Iron 883, I can tell you they are a boat load of “OMG, that was awesome fun”. I especially liked the Iron 883. It is lite, flick-able, responsive and, again, fun. That being said, with the upgrade to the 1200 Evo, I expect the Iron to be 317 cc’s more fun.

Forty Eight Special
2018 Sportster Forty-Eight Special

So now we have some features added to the Forty-Eight and Iron to give them that “new” smell. Both get taller bars (huge plus), both now have the 1200 cc Evo Engine and both get retro 1970’s graphics that brings back memories of the horrific AMF years. The Forty-Eight Special gets additional chrome and new pipes, while the Iron 1200 gets new pipes and a small fairing. The only “I wish” that I’d throw out there and slap HD on the wrist for is that the Forty-Eight Special should have been given a 3.3 gallon fuel tank versus the existing 2.1 gallon. If you’re going to go better, go big right?

2018 Sportster Iron 1200

What Harley Davidson has done with these bikes is taken out the need for the potential owner to customize them. This is not to say that additional upgrades and customization can’t be done, but it’s the usual things that the owner will most likely do that they’ve taken care of already; Pipes, bars, fairing and in extreme cases, bore up to the bigger displacement.

Many of my constituents in the podcast and motorcycle world are dead sure that the Milwaukee 8 was and is going to be shoe-horned into the Sportster lineup. I, knowing better, simply roll my eyes and shake my head. So when the announcement and the reveal was made, heads and shoulders all slumped with a huge labored sigh followed by the expected comments. Those not of the HD demographic and fan club continue to be far less surprised and yet far more critical of the release of these two “new” models.

Say what you will about these “new” Sportsters. They are badass and I love them. The Sportster is the longest running model line that Harley Davidson produces. For 61 years the Sportster has been the “go-to” motorcycle for many new to motorcycling, as well as the “Back-to” motorcycle for many more. That says something about the bike, something undeniable.

I’m a firm believer of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. I’m glad to see Harley Davidson feels the same way.



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