The 2021 Harley-Davidson Sportster S is a brand new model for the brand but maintains the essence of all its previous machines. Luxurious Magazine’s in-house bike tester Jeremy Webb has had a very positive experience with Harley-Davidson bikes over recent years and was eager to discover if this new model would continue that trend.
Now you may think I have a glamorous job reviewing motorcycles for Luxurious Magazine, travelling the world to launches in sunny climates, being wined and dined. Well, that couldn’t be further from the truth. I conduct my reviews in natural, everyday conditions, which often means I am out in horrendous weather facing the grim conditions of the British road system, eating sandwiches and drinking tea from a flask, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
The result is that I tell the truth about the machines I ride; the tests are not conducted in staged settings, and, unlike others, I am not one to write things I think the brand’s want to hear, to “Butter them up”. Quite simply, I experience what a potential owner will face riding in this country and will honestly relay how what I test performed.
I was one of the first in the UK to ride the Harley-Davidson Sportster S, and as is common at this time of the year, the weather decided not to cooperate. When you do a review, you are given the bike for a specific time to ride and test regardless of the weather. On days like this, you sometimes think how much nicer it would be being based in the South of France!
The Harley-Davidson Sportster S is a custom motorcycle that gives the rider exhilarating performance backed by contemporary technology. It is a new venture for Harley-Davidson, but they are promising to build on the S with other models coming in the future.
The Sportster S model has the Revolution Max 1250T engine, a liquid-cooled V-Twin that produces tremendous torque at low RPM. Pulling power is impressive; as you wind the throttle back, the acceleration is rapid. The 1250 cc engine generates 121 hp, which is a lot of a custom style naked bike. It sounds incredible too, which HD owners love.
Harley-Davidson has sat the 60 degree V-Twin motor low down in the Sportser S, providing a low centre of gravity, excellent balance and handling. The ride is smooth through the gears, and the bike is fitted with a clutch slipper, allowing quick downshifting without the rear wheel jumping or slowing.
Harley-Davidson has made the Sportster S a fun machine to ride and safe. An array of technical systems support the judgement of the rider, increasing safety. Cornering Rider Safety Enhancements is a collection of technologies designed to enhance rider confidence during unexpected situations or adverse road conditions. The system matches motorcycle performance to available traction during acceleration, deceleration, braking in a straight line or while cornering.
The Sportster S model has a six-axis inertial measurement unit, or IMU, that measures and reports the lean angle as it navigates a turn. While cornering, the available grip for braking or accelerating is reduced. Cornering enhanced technology takes this into account, and for optimal performance, intervenes differently when the motorcycle is leaned compared to when the bike is upright.
The Sportster S is packed with the latest digital systems to keep the rider informed and connected. A 4″ diameter TFT screen which is in keeping with the style of the bike, clearly shows you all bike information and is your portal to your entertainment. All functions are controlled using buttons on the handlebar’s left- and right sides, which can be done while riding or static.
The primary screen display shows an arching tachometer graph surrounds a Large digital speedometer display in the centre. The Indicator lights and warning lights appear on the top edge of the display. below the speedometer, there is space for pop-ups for incoming phone calls and alerts such as “low fuel,” “side stand down,” and “low temperature.”
You can then view the status of the bike by scrolling and setting this as a feature. A smaller speedometer on the upper screen appears then the information such as engine temperature, oil pressure and tyre pressure is displayed.
Because Harley-Davidson wanted to keep the Sportster S minimal, they concentrated on the machine showing only what the rider needs to know. The rider can connect with the device via a smartphone and Bluetooth to listen to music and take phone calls, but they need to purchase headphones for this. The display will provide music and incoming phone call details, so you can choose to accept the call or scroll through your playlist using the hand controls.
I do like the Navigation system linked with a smartphone and the Harley-Davidson App. When selected, a moving map or turn-by-turn map can be displayed on the TFT screen and further supported by audio instructions if you have a Bluetooth headset inside your helmet. The speedometer, turn signals and other critical information are displayed above the moving map when it is selected.
The rider can then use the hand controls to pan or zoom in to see more details on the map. The App includes recommended rides, ride recording, ride planning, and locations of Harley-Davidson dealers to get the most out of your ride.
The Sportster S has three riding modes to assist you when riding in different conditions, something I am all too familiar with. The Ride Modes electronically control the performance characteristics of the motorcycle and the level of technology intervention. By using the Mode button on the right-hand controller, the rider can activate their desired choice on the go.
Each of the modes is denoted by a unique icon, which is displayed on the instrument display when that particular mode has been selected. The modes in more detail are:
- Road Mode is the standard selection for daily use, delivering balanced performance. Less aggressive throttle response and less mid-range engine power than Sport Mode, higher C-ABS and C-TCS intervention level.
- Sport Mode maximises the rider connection to the motorcycle for direct and enthralling performance. You get the full power of the machine with less technology working for you; thus, you have more input over your riding style.
- Rain Mode gives the rider greater confidence when riding in the rain or when traction is otherwise limited. I used this quite a lot and when I had to venture off-road attending a running event. It does help reduce wheelspin on the slippery stuff. Inputs from the throttle are more subtle than when Sport or Road are selected, and less power is put into the rear wheel.
Final thoughts on the Sportster S
The proof of the pudding is in the tasting, as they say, and the fact is Harley-Davidson has built a fantastic bike in the Sportster S. The riding experience in any weather is excellent. However, I could’ve done without the soaking from the rain.
One slight gripe for me is that the fuel tank is restrictive due to its lack of size. It is aesthetically pleasing, but I like to ride longer between fuel stops, especially when the bike is as good as the Sportster S. Besides this niggle the Sportster S is a desirable motorcycle and could be used as a daily ride, although I think most buyers will keep it for sunny days and jaunts to the coast. This would be a shame as the Harley-Davidson Sportster S can be ridden hard and put away wet, as I did during my review of it.
Harley-Davidson Sportster S – Where and How?
The price for the Harley-Davidson Sportster S starts at £13,995. There are three colour options currently available, which are Midnight Crimson, Vivid Black, and Stone Washed White Pearl. To learn more about the Harley-Davidson Sportster S model, please visit www.harley-davidson.com.
Read more motoring features, reviews and guides here.