Celebrating 60 years of Harley-Davidson Sportsters


By the late-1950s, demand had grown in the American market for a middleweight motorcycle with outstanding capability and versatility. With British bikes surging in popularity, Harley-Davidson countered. For 1957 it offered the XL Sportster, which many consider the first superbike and finest street motorcycle ever built. In fact, the Sportster has been in constant production for 60 years, with six models in Harley’s current lineup.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.hagerty.com/articles-videos/articles/2017/08/31/60-years-of-harley-davidson-sportsters


The picture shown for the caption “1986 brought the new Evolution V-Twin engine to the Sportster lineup” is not a Sportser, but a Heritage Softtail Springer. It does illustrate the Evolution V-Twin engine but not on a Sportster.


Thanks for pointing that out! We got the photos from Harley-Davidson, who also seem to have mixed up the two bikes (https://www.h-dmedia.com/hd_mediasite/history/hd_timeline/1980.asp).
We’ve updated this to the correct photo.


Superbike? A Harley Sportster is hardly a superbike. One has to spend another 10 to 20k just to get these over rated things up to match the performance of any of the performance Italian or Japanese or British bikes. Tout the Indian as a great American legacy and an icon, not the Harley. I cringe at the sight of every fat, middle aged twit cracking the throttle with their loud, obnoxious un baffled pipes attempting to emulate Easy Rider.


It’s clearly apparent you’ve never owned a Harley Davidson. But I would agree, I don’t consider it a SuperBike" either. I’ve owned Hondas’ and Suzukis’ and I consider the HD Sportster the easiest to work on bike I’ve had in 50 years. My concept of a superbike is the typical monster crotch rocket and sorry, I don’t bend that way.
For 25 years I’d wanted a Sportster, I bought a 10 year old low mileage 883 XLL and I’ve had great fun. Converted to 1200 cc, cams, tunable ignition, performance carb, re-geared and all for a fraction of the 20 K you referred to.
To each his own Sir.