Harley-Davidson restarts Sportster series, with the 2022 Sportster S
It's time to meet the reborn Sportster. The longest-running model in Harley-Davidson’s lineup has taken a sharp turn towards sports performance, fuelled by a 121-hp version of the liquid-cooled Revolution Max V-Twin and a host of modern electronics.
The Sportster family has been around since 1957, long enough to spawn dozens of variants and, crucially, offer a gateway to Harley-Davidson’s world as the most affordable series of the lot. The Street 500 and 750 models took over the lower end of the company’s price range for a few years. These were recently discontinued, and the 2022 Sportster S hardly fits the bill as an affordable entry-level bike.
Harley-Davidson decided to effectively reinvent the Sportster by transforming it into a far sportier and more powerful motorcycle, starting with fresh aggressive looks. In this process, the new Sportster S became the second model to employ the services of the Revolution Max 1250T motor after the Pan America adventurer.
Turning to a liquid-cooled power unit is unavoidable for any manufacturer who seeks sporty performance, especially in the constrictive Euro-5 environment that spelled the end of the previous generation’s Evolution 883 and 1200 motors in Europe. If Harley-Davidson wants to bring back the Sport to the Sportster, a high-revving motor such as the Revolution Max with its 9,500-rpm ceiling is essential.
Compared to the Pan America application, the engine comes with several changes designed for more midrange torque. These include smaller valves and ports, a different combustion chamber shape and matching new pistons, new velocity stacks, different camshaft profiles and appropriate tuning of the Variable Valve Timing system.
According to Harley-Davidson, this adaptation produces 121 hp at 7,500 rpm. This is considerably lower than the Pan America’s 150 hp, yet is powerful enough to label the new model as the most potent Sportster ever – and is certainly more than sufficient for any naked bike.
As for the torque output, its peak value stands at 127 Nm (94 lb-ft) at just 6,000 rpm, gaining up to 10 percent between 3,000 and 6,000 rpm over Pan America’s tuning.
The Sportster S is literally built around its V-Twin, as the motor acts as the central pillar for three frame elements that are bolted on its cases – a design selected mainly for weight reduction.
Tipping the scales at 228 kg (502 lb) in running order, the new Sportster displays a considerable advantage over previous 1,200 cc models that would usually weigh around 250 kg (551 lb). In fact, the 2022 model comes up lighter despite carrying a lot more electronic equipment, the liquid cooling system, bigger brakes and a heftier front suspension.
It’s all about the sporty disposition that Harley-Davidson claims for the new Sportster S ... or, as Harley-Davidson vice president of styling and design Brad Richards puts it, "This is a wolf in wolf’s clothing."
The new engine has all the necessary power to support such claims, supported by vastly upgraded suspensions and brakes. Up front there’s a pair of Showa inverted forks and at the rear a Showa piggyback monoshock, with both kits offering full adjustability.
Brembo handles the braking part, with a single 320-mm-wide disk and a four-piston radial monoblock caliper at the front. This setup does seem a bit unexpected though, given that a 228-kg, 121-hp bike can carry enough momentum to put the front braking system under serious stress. Brembo can certainly build a caliper with enough muscle to stop just about anything, but it would probably lack the linear, progressive smoothness we’d expect from a twin disc setup.
Another first for the new Sportster S is the electronic safety equipment that it carries, stemming from the Pan America model. It includes pretty much everything a contemporary sportbike would feature, directed by an inertial measurement unit (IMU) that endows the electronics’ suite with cornering precision.
The Cornering Rider Safety Enhancement kit includes the C-ABS system, traction control (C-TCS) and drag-torque slip control system (C-DSCS); the latter supports the C-TCS in avoiding rear-wheel lock during deceleration caused by downshifts or by closing the throttle on a slippery surface.
The performance characteristics of the Sportster S can be adjusted via five ride modes, each of which tunes accordingly the engine’s power delivery and throttle response, as well as engine braking, C-TCS and C-ABS. Apart from the typical Road, Sport and Rain preset modes, the Sportster S features two Custom modes that the rider can cook up to their personal taste, save and engage at will.
The modernization process is complemented with a round TFT color screen that can somehow fit the bike’s full instrumentation and a Bluetooth infotainment system within its 4-inch diameter.
The 2022 Harley-Davidson Sportster S is expected to hit showrooms around the world this autumn (Northern Hemisphere), with pricing in the US starting at $14,999.