Harley’s latest Sportster is touted as both sporty and special. But, is that just marketing-speak or is the Forty-Eight Special really… ahem… special?
To most of us, Harley-Davidson has always been synonymous with big-burly cruisers and laid-back touring motorcycles. But you know what, they also happen to make some ‘sporty’ motorcycles. In fact, they’ve got a whole ‘Sportster’ range that’s dedicated to this segment, wherein speed and performance take precedence over leisure riding. And it’s not that they’re new to this business. In fact, Harley’s Sportster series – popularly known as the XL range – first came out in 1957, and it has since expanded to include some very exciting motorcycles.
As of today, the Sportster range has five motorcycles, namely – the Iron 883, Forty-Eight, 1200 Custom, Roadster and Forty-Eight Special. Now the last one is the latest of the lot, and it’s just gone on sale in India. As the name suggests, it’s based on the regular Forty-Eight, however, it does get some ‘Special’ treatment. But, is the new Harley as sporty or special as we’ve been told?
How is it special?
The Forty-Eight Special isn’t an all-new motorcycle, which means that it’s almost identical to the original Forty-Eight that was launched in 2010. However, it does stand out because of its unique design and paint job. While the signature peanut-shaped fuel tank, single-seat design, and chunky profile rubber are all the same as the original Forty-Eight, the Special features a throwback special paint-scheme and chrome casing – reminiscent of the 70s – for the V-Twin engine.
The most important functional change, however, is the tall-boy handlebar, which replaces the regular model’s flat bar. This means that the Special has an upright riding position, which makes it more practical and comfortable to ride. The cruiser like stance will also allow you to take it for occasional long rides. That said, with its 7.9-litre peanut-shaped tank, you get a range of only around a 100-kilometres – meaning frequent refueling stops.
Back to (old) school
The powertrain here is a classic air-cooled V-Twin motor, and it springs to life with a signature Harley thrum. The engine develops 97Nm of torque and all of that flows in at 4,250rpm. It’s a really slow revving engine, but you don’t need to rev it like crazy because it offers more than enough grunt in the low end of the rev range. As a result, it never feels gutless and it doesn’t run out of steam. In fact, the acceleration is quite brisk – especially when you consider that the Special weighs 252 kilogrammes. Since it’s an old school motor, it transfers quite a lot of vibration to the rider through the handlebar and foot-pegs once you cross 3,500rpm.
The gearbox is a 5-speed unit, but it’s not the slickest transmission around. Gearshifts are crude and clunky, and the cable clutch is quite hard to operate. Also, getting stuck in traffic might become a bit tiring. Plus, the heat from the air-cooled engine can make things potentially unbearable in a jam. While all of this isn’t really enjoyable, they do make it feel very mechanical and old school, which, to be honest, will appeal to a lot of riders.
In terms of handling, the Forty-Eight Special is actually a pretty interesting motorcycle to ride around in town. The suspension is set up on the firmer side, and, as a result, it feels quite stable and sure-footed around corners. It’s not an outright corner carver for sure, but it definitely has a sporty and playful side. The cornering clearance, however, is limited and you end up grinding the foot pegs quite easily when leaned over. Because of its sporty underpinnings, the ride is quite firm, and on uneven roads, you feel the impact directly in your spine.
Special enough to buy?
Now that we’ve ridden the motorcycle, it’s time to get down to the facts. And I’m afraid there are some hard ones! Let’s start with the pricing first – the Forty-Eight Special has been launched at `10.98 lakh in India – before options, that is. That’s a lot of money because, if you think about it logically, you don’t really get that much in return. For example, there are no electronic aids, no modern gadgets, and the V-Twin engine isn’t the most powerful or sporty motor out there.
However, look at this way, the Forty-Eight Special is more of a niche and back-to-basics sort of motorcycle. It has retro looks, it’s powered by an iconic and old-school V-Twin engine and it has no frills or complications. So, if you’re the sort of rider who likes your motorcycles pure and unadulterated, the Forty-Eight Special is definitely going to tickle your fancy.
- Harley-Davidson Forty-Eight Special
Engine: 1,202cc / V-Twin / Air-cooled
Torque: 97Nm @ 4,250rpm
Price: ₹ 10.98 Lakh (Ex-Showroom, Delhi)
X-Factor: Analogue, crude, mechanical and a hoot-to-ride – the Forty-Eight Special is full of old-world charm