Harley-Davidson bikes are as American as one can get. The brand’s bikes are the perfect steeds to conquer the country’s never ending long and curvy roads. And when such a brand comes to India, there are more admirers of the brand in customers than the enthusiasts. That’s not to say India hasn’t got good long roads but it is argumentative. Harley-Davidson Roadster is the company’s take to combine the urban customer to the cruiser aficionado; to reach higher and longer. Did they?
The Roadster can be called the spiritual successor of Harley-Davidson XR1200X and there cannot be a more accurate or a better comparison. The XR1200X has been one of the brand’s most performance oriented models a few years ago and fans still swear by it. The Roadster is the next in the Harley-Davidson’s Sportster series and is the sportiest of them all. It may look like a mix of the Iron 883 and the Forty-Eight but still looks unique enough for its own identity.
Things like the small headlamp, peanut tank, shortened front fender and chopped rear fender not only bear flag to the Sportster series but also to the old Harleys. The bike gets Harley-Davidson’s Dark Custom theme with the engine, exhaust shields, mirrors, belt guard and headlamp are finished in black. The lack of other additional frills lend justice to the bikes Sportster legacy. Though the Roadster shares the same headlamp with the Forty-Eight, it gets a bigger 12.5-litre tank when compared to the latter’s puny 7.9-litre unit.
The single-pod instrument cluster gets an analogue tachometer with a small digital display showing off the speedometer, clock, dual trip meter and gear indicator. While the Roadster sits in style on lightweight, split 5-spoke wheels, you sit on a stepped single seat.
Powering the Roadster is the iconic 1202cc Evolution engine, which has turned 30. The engine is torque-rich as it always has been and we do like it but for the opposing idealisms of the body and the heart. While the engine is torque-y enough to get a good start, a lot of foot work is necessary as the gearbox needs to be working overtime to keep the bike responsive enough. And you will certainly not like the heavy clutch, especially in the company of heavy traffic and the scorching summer heat. Like a typical HD unit, the Evolution engine vibrates heavily than you would like but smoothens out its pistons once you get going.
To set it apart from the other Harleys of the house, Roadster also gets a performance package that includes 43mm inverted front forks, dual disc brakes and adjustable rear suspension. The suspension is pretty stiff, which only aids in great handling and smooth roads but get ready feel the smallest of any irregularities of the tarmac. The seat is, as evident from the photos, comfortable for the rider but bringing along a pillion could make things uncomfortable.
The Roadster feels planted around the corners and inspires confidence to push it more. The slammed handlebars offer a more aggressive riding position but work them hard and the bike changes direction swiftly. The 43mm inverted forks in the front and a new steering geometry work in sync to handle things easier. The twin-discs to the front offer great bite and control to the bike, offering more control to bring down the power.
With the Roadster, Harley-Davidson is certainly going down the right path. There are still some nibbles—the engine has to be sportier in character, clutch needs to be lighter etc. But these are just that—nibbles. The Roadster is a perfect successor to the XR1200X and makes sense as the bike that has got the right mix of retro style and sporty characteristics. But what makes it more special is that this could be the modern day Harley that we need.