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Review: The New Harley-Davidson Roadster

First Ride: The Definitive Review of the new Harley-Davidson Roadster.
There’s enough rumble from the big V to tick the American muscle box, but no discernible vibes through the bars or pegs.

But what really caught me by surprise is how much of a difference the revised stance and ergonomics make. I’ve spent limited time on the Iron 883 and Forty-Eight, and neither turn as quick as the Roadster.

It’s partly due to the aggressive posture created by the raised rear end. But it’s also down to the relationship between the bars, pegs and seat (or the ‘rider triangle,’ if you want to get technical).

First Ride: The Definitive Review of the new Harley-Davidson Roadster.

My wrists hated the low-slung bars while filtering through Marseille’s traffic—but as soon as I left the city they began to shine. They put your body weight perfectly over the bike’s central mass, giving a more connected ride feel and making it easier to throw the hefty Sportster into corners.

And, once you’ve hit the apex, rolling on the throttle to pull the Roadster out of the corner is strangely satisfying (in a “don’t tell anyone I just had fun on a Harley” sort of way).

First Ride: The Definitive Review of the new Harley-Davidson Roadster.
I wasn’t nuts about the mid-placed pegs though. They’re in a really awkward place when your feet are on the ground, and even though they worked OK when riding, they do create a slightly cramped pose.

I also would have liked the gear shifter a bit closer to the boot—it became a bit of a chore to reach after a while.

First Ride: The Definitive Review of the new Harley-Davidson Roadster.
The seat worked like a charm though, with a nice bum stop to lock into while at pace. I didn’t throw a passenger on the back, but judging by the size of the pillion pad, only petite friends need apply.

As for the padding itself, it’s less comfortable over a long day than, say, a Softail’s seat…obviously.

First Ride: The Definitive Review of the new Harley-Davidson Roadster.
Customizing it

Harley-Davidson knows that many custom Sportsters end up as either café racers or street trackers. And if that’s your intention, the Roadster’s a solid place to start.

Ben McGinley was quick to point out that the most expensive mods are done out-the-box: namely bigger wheels and improved suspension. That leaves the user free to contemplate smaller mods, like handlebars, running lights and whether or not to chop those struts.

First Ride: The Definitive Review of the new Harley-Davidson Roadster.
As for the rest, all the usual Sportster spacings and mounting points are in play. (Even the shorter Roadster seat has an extended bracket on the end, to enable it to bolt to the stock seat mounting point.)

So any Sportster part will fit—whether it comes from Harley-Davidson’s own catalogue, or an aftermarket parts supplier like Speed Merchant, Lowbrow Customs or Biltwell Inc.

First Ride: The Definitive Review of the new Harley-Davidson Roadster.
Should I buy a Roadster?

So who exactly is the Roadster for? It’s pretty simple: anyone who’s always wanted a Harley, but doesn’t want a Harley.

If outright performance is your thing, you’re barking up the wrong tree: there are bikes out there that handle better, go quicker and weigh less.

First Ride: The Definitive Review of the new Harley-Davidson Roadster.
But if you want a slice of Americana with stump-pulling torque, decent handling and a sharp, tracker-tinged aesthetic, this is the Sportster you’ve been waiting for.

Harley-Davidson Europe | Instagram

Wes wears an Aether Skyline jacket, Saint Tough Denims, Stylmartin Red Rock boots, Velomacchi Speedway gloves and a Biltwell helmet.

First Ride: The Definitive Review of the new Harley-Davidson Roadster.

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