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2016 Harley-Davidson Sportster Forty-Eight®

At 113 years old, Harley-Davidson is not just a brand but a way of life. Their motorcycles have created an almost cult following all around the world, this is due to their unique and rebellious designs and engine sizes. Further to that, it is movies such as Captain America, Wild Hogs, Pulp Fiction, Machete and a whole lot more that have led to the ‘bad-ass’ and ‘cool’ culture of the Harley-Davidson.

So this month, we thought we would get completely out the box and review a motorcycle, but not just any motorcycle, it had to be a Harley, and not just any Harley. It had to be the modern yet classic 2016 Harley-Davidson Sportster Forty-Eight®.

The Sportster is a line of Harley-Davidson’s that has been in continuous production since 1957, the Sportster range took over the Model K Sport and Sport Solo motorcycles. The various K Models produced from 1952 to 1956 had a flat head engine whereas the later Sportster line (known as XL) made use of an overhead valve engine giving the motorcycle better compression leading to better engine performance and better fuel economy.

Model Year 2016 New Model Photography

The first Forty-Eight® (also known as the XL1200X) was introduced in 2010 and was based off the similar styling of the “Dark” Nightster. The telling difference between the two models is that the Forty-Eight® makes use of the classic 1948 peanut tank (which is 7,9 litres), wire wheels, forward-controls, a wider front tire with a fat front end and chopped front fender, a slammed speedo with under mount mirrors, low solo single seat, and low suspension.

Six years after the introductory model, Harley-Davidson have decided to spruce up the Forty-Eight® with some minimalistic changes that keep to the Forty-Eight® and its minimalist design. “The Forty-Eight® is really all about being stripped back and minimal but also muscular and tough. We have been sort of using the term ‘Urban Assault’. That is the one thing that we went after with the Forty-Eight® to kind of give it a little more performance edge.” says Harley-Davidson Industrial Designer, Ben McGinley.

He goes onto explain, “in this year’s model we have gone up from today’s regular Sporster forks of 39mm to these 49mm forks, so they really beefy, that, combined with the new cast wheels fits the sort of muscular image of the bike. The whole assembly is actually lighter, it not only optimising the look but also paying attention as to how we can make it more fun to ride”.



In the interview Ben goes onto explain the inspiration behind the light design touches “When we went to shows we started noting how people were really inspired by the sort of 60’s and 70’s kind of Harley-Davidson era graphics or kind of tank art. So the graphics (on the tank) sort of echo that era without being totally literal, so it’s a new twist on the theme”.

Speaking on other changes to the Forty-Eight®, Ben said “There is a lot of dripping wet gloss black and we left a little more chrome. It’s a dark bike but it’s still premium. We have taken what is really cool about a Forty-Eight® today and taken it to the next level”. Other changes to the 2016 Forty-Eight® include new adjustable rear suspension, new mag wheels, peanut tank, blacked-out powertrain, slotted exhaust shields, optional ABS (anti-lock braking system) and more torque.

The 2016 Forty-Eight® is a 1202cc Evolution® engine, which is an air-cooled 45-degree, V-Twin engine powered by a five-speed gearbox. It produces pavement-shredding 96Nm of torque from 3500rpm and can reach an estimated top speed of 177 km/h, which is not really fast but is a good top speed for such a chunky bike. The total weight of the bikes comes in at a heavy 247kg and the length at 2210mm and a low ride height of 710mm.


The Forty-Eight® sits on fat 16” Michelin® Scorcher™ ‘31’ 130 tyres on the front and rear making it a very grippy bike, giving you confidence to throw it around the corners of Durban’s urban and sub-urban roads. The ride, thanks to the adjustable rear suspension was great especially when you consider the state of some of the roads in and around the city. The only faults that we could find with the 2016 Forty-Eight® was the peanut tank, which can only essentially be used for a quick trip to the stores and a Sunday ride around the city, thanks to its 7,9 litre capacity, and the muted exhaust (thanks to European emissions standards).

Overall, the 2016 Harley-Davidson Forty-Eight® is a real rebel. It’s got a great muscular stance, awesome glossy black paint work that screams bad-ass and enough chrome to still keep it civilised and to the Harley-Davidson brand, all-in-all it’s a great weekend bike that you can go to brunch or to the local bar with and is bound to catch some attention wherever you go. It’s also great for the young generation, those who feel they do not identify with the Harley-Davidson’s of yesteryear but rather want something that’s sleek and well different, thanks to its below handle bar mirrors, which are quiet practical as impractical as they may look.



Length – 2210mm

Seat Height – 710mm

Engine – 1202cc Evolution, air-cooled V-Twin delivering 96Nm torque at 3500rpm

Dry Weight – 247kg

Price – R 152 000 to R 157 000

Verdict – 4/5

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