Reinventing an icon is never easy, and the Sportster is about as iconic as a motorcycle can get. Introduced in 1957, the Sportster is old enough to qualify for Medicare, and it’s the longest-running model family in the 119-year history of Harley-Davidson.
When the Motor Company introduced the Sportster S for 2021, its name was the only thing it had in common with previous Sportsters. Its model designation was RH instead of XL. It was liquid-cooled instead of air-cooled. And it was lighter, more powerful, and more modern than the Forty-Eight, the only 1,200cc Evo-powered XL still in Harley’s lineup. With its upswept pipes, mash-up of colors and finishes, and Fat Bob-inspired headlight and chunky tires, the Sportster S was intended to be a radical departure from the past.
The new Nightster, on the other hand, has classic Sportster styling elements. It has an airbox cover that’s shaped like a peanut tank, a round air cleaner cover on the right side of the engine, and dual exposed rear shocks. It has a solo seat and chopped fenders like the Iron 883, a small speed screen like the Iron 1200, and a side cover over the underseat fuel tank that’s reminiscent of a Sportster oil tank. It also takes its name from the Nightster XL1200N, a blacked-out, Evo-powered Sportster built from 2007 to 2012 that was part of Harley’s Dark Custom lineup.
The Nightster’s name and styling serve as a bridge to the past. But like the Sportster S and Pan America adventure bike, it’s built on the modular Revolution Max platform that represents Harley-Davidson’s future. Its liquid-cooled, 60-degree RevMax V-Twin has DOHC with four valves per cylinder, variable valve timing, and forged aluminum pistons with machined crowns to deliver a 12:1 compression ratio. The RevMax serves as a central, structural element of the chassis, with the trellis front frame, mid frame, and tailsection bolted directly to the engine.
Harley-Davidson has long had 1,200cc and 883cc versions of XL Sportsters in its lineup. Likewise, there are two versions of the RH Sportsters, with the Sportster S displacing 1,252cc (105 x 72mm) and the Nightster displacing 975cc (97 x 66mm). Compared to the Sportster S, the Nightster’s RevMax not only has a smaller bore and a shorter stroke, it uses a single spark plug per cylinder rather than two, and variable valve timing is used only on the intake cam rather than on both the intake and exhaust cams. Claimed output on the Nightster is 90 hp at 7,500 rpm and 70 lb-ft of torque at 5,000 rpm, whereas the Sportster S makes 121 hp and 94 lb-ft.
Although the Nightster has a 60-degree vee angle between its cylinders, its two crankshaft connecting rod journals are offset by 30 degrees. This gives the RevMax a firing order and pulse feel like a 90-degree V-Twin. The engine has roller-finger valve actuation, which reduces valve noise, and hydraulic lash adjusters, which eliminate the need for valve adjustments. The variable valve timing advances or retards intake camshaft timing over 40 degrees of crankshaft rotation, which broadens the powerband, improves combustion efficiency, and reduces emissions compared to fixed cam timing.
Located between the cylinders are a pair of 50mm down-draft throttle bodies, and fuel delivery is optimized for each cylinder. Above the engine is a 6.5-liter airbox with tuned velocity stacks that pack air into the combustion chambers for more power, and the airbox has internal ribs that eliminate unwanted resonance and intake noise. The RevMax’s dual counterbalancers reduce primary and secondary vibration as well as rocking couple, but they are tuned to allow enough vibration to deliver a visceral riding experience.
The Nightster is equipped with Harley-Davidson’s Rider Safety Enhancements electronics suite, which includes ABS, traction control, and drag-torque slip control. There is no IMU or lean-angle sensors, so ABS and TC are not lean-angle-adaptive. There are three ride modes (Road, Sport, and Rain) that adjust throttle response, engine braking, ABS, and TC settings.
Take a Seat
“Form follows function, and both report to motion,” declared Harley-Davidson’s VP of Design, Brad Richards, at the Nightster’s press launch. Motorcycles are intended to be ridden, and their design should serve that purpose. But we all know that compromises are made in the name of style. And when it comes to cruisers, many buyers are more concerned with how they look than how they go.
The Nightster, however, balances the scales between curb appeal and riding appeal. The design team went to great lengths to give it a classic Sportster profile, with a 19-inch front wheel paired with a 16-incher out back. Even though it is built on a different platform, the Nightster’s rider triangle is similar to that of other Sportsters, with a low 27.8-inch seat, midmount controls, and a low-rise handlebar. (For those who prefer forward controls, they are available as a $599.95 accessory.) A nice bonus is that both hand levers are adjustable for reach.
With 3 inches of travel for the emulsion-technology shocks and 4.5 inches of travel for the 41mm Showa dual-bending-valve fork, the Nightster’s well-damped suspension provides a comfortable, responsive ride. The only adjustability is rear preload, and a spanner is included under the seat. And with 32 degrees of cornering clearance on either side, a fair amount of lean is possible before chamfering one’s boot soles. Single-disc brakes front and rear with Brembo calipers and steel-braided lines provide plenty of stopping power.
The RevMax is a rev-happy engine – redline is 9,500 rpm – and the 975cc version in the Nightster feels lively and engaging. Giving it the whip through a fast set of curves feels like the right thing to do. How else does one do justice to such a responsive engine and solid chassis? But the Nightster is still a cruiser, just as happy to chug down Main Street at a chill pace.
There’s a good reason we love air-cooled engines. They are elemental, pure, and elegant in their simplicity. Cooling fins look cool, and the lack of a radiator and associated plumbing keeps the engine bay clean and tidy. The performance and emissions advantages of a liquid-cooled engine are undeniable, but let’s face it, not many of them are pleasing to the eye.
The surfaces and finishes on the RevMax make it look muscular and solid, but also somewhat robotic. On the Nightster’s pipe side, everything on the powertrain has its proper place, but the plastic shrouds covering the radiator and oil cooler look like an afterthought. On the kickstand side, there are unsightly wires and hoses between the engine and radiator that even the discontinued Street 750 managed to avoid. Harley-Davidson is known for its attention to detail, and on its Twin-Cooled Milwaukee-Eight it went to great pains to hide the evidence of liquid cooling. As good as the RevMax engine is, aesthetic appeal is its biggest challenge.
There’s also unattractive exposed wiring around the handlebar, and the switchpods next to both grips are bulbous with cheap-looking buttons. Perhaps it is because Harley-Davidson has previously set such high benchmarks for fit and finish that these deviations stick out like sore thumbs.
Otherwise, the Nightster looks sharp. Like the original XL1200N Nightster, bright work is minimized, with the only chrome found on the fork stanchions. The seven-spoke wheels are finished in Satin Black, and the 2-in-1 exhaust is matte black. The black speed screen is both stylish and functional, and the single round instrument gauge is handsome and user-friendly. All the lighting is LED, and the rear turnsignals double as brake lights.
In its early days, the Sportster developed a reputation as a hot rod because it offered more horsepower and less weight than most of its competitors. Over the years, however, that reputation faded, and the Sportster came to be regarded as a venerable member of the old guard rather than the vanguard.
Thanks to the RevMax platform, the Sportster S and Nightster have reclaimed a reputation for performance. The Sportster S is more powerful, more radically styled, and has higher-spec components and electronics, while the Nightster is more familiar, more accessible, and has stronger links to the long history of Sportsters. Both are taking Harley-Davidson in a bold new direction.
2022 Harley-Davidson Nightster Specs
Base Price: $13,499 (Vivid Black) Price as Tested: $13,899 (Redline Red) Warranty: 2 yrs., unltd. miles Website:Harley-Davidson.com Engine Type: Liquid-cooled, transverse 60-degree V-Twin, DOHC w/ 4 valves per cyl. Displacement: 975cc Bore x Stroke: 97 x 66mm Horsepower: 90 @ 7,500 rpm (claimed, at the crank) Torque: 70 lb-ft @ 5,000 rpm (claimed, at the crank) Transmission: 6-speed Final Drive: Belt Wheelbase: 61.3 in. Rake/Trail: 30 degrees/5.4 in. Seat Height: 27.8 in. Wet Weight: 481 lb Fuel Capacity: 3.1 gals.
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Looking through a file folder named “Cars & Bikes” on my computer the other day, I noticed that in 50 years of riding, I’ve experienced nearly the entirety of motorcycle history. From 1915 Indian board-track racers to a 2022 KTM 1290 Super Duke R Evo, that’s 108 model years’ worth. And in between were tests, rides, or races on more machines from every decade. Hardly planned, this all resulted from simply loving to ride, being curious, and, most of all, saying yes at every chance. Here are some of my favorite moto memories, one apiece covering 12 decades.
1915 Harley-Davidson Model 11-F
In 1978, Cycle magazine gave me an assignment after I joined the staff: Write a feature about anything I wanted. Interested in the history of our sport, I replied that I’d like to ride a really old bike. “Call this guy,” the editor said, handing me the number of Bud Ekins, an ISDT gold medalist and the stuntman in the epic The Great Escape jump scene.
In his enormous shop, Ekins reviewed the starting drill for his 1915 Harley-Davidson Model 11-F: Flood the carb, set the timing and compression release, crack the throttle, and then swing the bicycle-style pedals hard to get the V-Twin’s big crankshaft spinning. When it lit off, working the throttle, foot clutch, and tank-mounted shifter – and steering via the long tiller handlebar – were foreign to a rider used to contemporary bikes. But coordination gradually built, and after making our way to the old Grapevine north of Los Angeles, I found the 998cc engine willing and friendly, with lots of flywheel effect and ample low-rpm torque to accelerate the machine to a satisfying cruising speed of about 45 mph. And its rider to another time and place.
On a lucky trip to New Zealand, McIntosh Racing founder Ken McIntosh let me race his special Norton Model 18 in the Pukekohe Classic Festival. Unlike the exotic Norton CS1 overhead-camshaft model that likewise debuted in 1927 – a big advancement at the time – the Model 18 TT Replica used a tuned version of the company’s existing 490cc pushrod Single engine. Its name was derived, fittingly, from the sterling Model 18 racebike’s multiple Isle of Man TT wins. As such, the production TT Replica had as much racing provenance as you could buy at the time.
I found it surprisingly capable, delivering a blend of strong power (a digital bicycle speedometer showed a top track speed of80 mph) and predictable, confident handling – despite the girder-style fork and hardtail frame. However, lacking gear stops in its selector mechanism, the 3-speed gearbox required careful indexing to catch the correct gear. But once I got the process down, the bike was steady, swift, and utterly magical, like the Millennium Falcon of Singles in its time.
When a friend handed me his 4-cylinder Nimbus, it had big problems. The engine was locked solid, and my buddy wanted to get it running and saleable. Built in Denmark, the Nimbus is unique for several reasons. One is its 746cc inline-Four engine. Rather than being mounted transversely like modern multis, it was positioned longitudinally in the frame, with power flowing rearward via shaft drive. Interestingly, the rocker-arm ends and valve stems were exposed and, when the engine was running, danced a jig like eight jolly leprechauns. The frame was equally curious, comprised of flat steel bars instead of tubing, and riveted together. With a hacksaw, hammer, and some steel, you could practically duplicate a Nimbus frame under the apple tree on a Calvin and Hobbes Lazy Sunday.
Anyway, the seized engine refused to budge – until I attempted a fabled fix by pouring boiling olive oil through the spark-plug holes to expand the cylinder walls and free up the rings. Additionally, I judiciously added heat from a propane torch to the iron block. Eventually, the engine unstuck and, with tuning, ran well. But the infusion of olive oil created a hot mist that emanated from the exposed valvetrain, covering my gear and leaving behind an olfactory wake like baking Italian bread.
1949 Vincent Black Shadow
One blissful time, years before Black Shadows cost six figures, I was lucky enough to ride one. Seemingly all engine, the Black Shadow was long and low, with its black stove-enamel cases glistening menacingly, and its sweeping exhaust headers adding a sensual element to an otherwise purely mechanical look.
Thanks to the big, heavy flywheels and twin 499cc cylinders, starting the Vincent took forethought and commitment. And once the beast was running, so did riding it. A rude surprise came as I selected 1st gear and slipped the clutch near the busy Los Angeles International Airport. Unexpectedly, the clutch grabbed hard, sending the Shadow lurching ahead. The rest of the controls seemed heavy and slow compared to the Japanese and Italian bikes I knew at the time – especially the dual front brakes. The bike was clearly fast, but glancing at the famous 150-mph speedometer, I was chagrined to find that I’d only scratched the surface of the Black Shadow’s performance at 38 mph.
1955 Matchless G80CS
Despite not being a Brit-bike fan in particular, I’ve owned five Matchlesses, including three G80CSs. Known as a “competition scrambler,” in reality the CS denotes it as a “competition” (scrambles) version of the “sprung” (rear-suspension equipped) streetbike. Power comes from a 498cc long-stroke 4-stroke pushrod Single of the approximate dimensions of a giant garden gnome. Starting a G80CS requires knowing “the drill” – retarding the ignition, pushing the big piston to top-dead-center on compression, and giving the kickstart lever a strong, smooth kick all the way through. This gets the crank turning some 540 degrees before the piston begins the compression stroke again.
Once going, the engine fires the G80CS down the road with unhurried explosions. Then at 50 mph or so, the Matchless feels delightfully relaxed; vibration is low-frequency and quite tolerable, and the note emanating from the muffler is a pleasant bark –powerful but not threatening. It is here, at speeds just right for country roads, that the G80CS feels most in its element as a friendly, agreeable companion. With such a steady countenance, it’s no wonder that G80CS engines powered tons of desert sleds. I just wouldn’t want to be stuck in a sand wash on a 100-degree day with one that required more than three kicks to start.
During Ducati’s infancy, the Italian firm concocted a249cc overhead-cam roadster named the Diana. Featuring a precision-built unit-construction engine like Japanese bikes, it offered an essential difference: being Italian. And that meant all sorts of wonderful learning, as I discovered when, as a teen, I bought a “basket-case” Diana. The term isn’t used much anymore, but it means something has been disassembled so thoroughly that its parts can be literally dumped into a basket. In the case of this poor ex-racer, literally everything that could be unscrewed or pried apart was. The engine was in pieces, the wheels were unspoked, the frame and fork were separated, and many parts were missing.
Its distress repelled my friends but inspired me. Upon acquiring it, a year of trial-and-error work included rebuilding the scattered engine, designing and welding brackets onto the frame for a centerstand and footpegs, assembling the steering, fabricating a wiring harness, and ultimately tuning and sorting. This basket-case Ducati literally taught me the fundamentals of motorcycle mechanics, by necessity. And due to the racy rear-set controls I’d crafted, the machine had no kickstarter, necessitating bump-starting everywhere, every time.
The bike was never gloriously fast, but it carried me through my first roadrace at the Ontario Motor Speedway. After selling it, I never saw it again. Rest in peace, fair Diana. And by the way, the California blue plate was 4C3670. Write if you’ve seen it!
1971 Kawasaki Mach III
Stepping from an 8-hp Honda 90 onto a friend’s Mach III, which was rated at 60 hp when new, was the biggest shock of my young motorcycling life. I knew enough to be careful, not only because of the 410-lb heft of the Kawasaki compared to the Honda’s feathery 202 lb, but because the Mach III had a reputation as a barn-burner. It was true. Turning the throttle grip induced the moaning wail from three dramatic 2-stroke cylinders, and propelled the Kawasaki ahead with a ferocity I’d never come close to feeling before.
In those first moments of augmented g-forces, I distinctly felt that the acceleration was trying to dislocate my hips. In reality, it was probably just taxing the gluteus muscles. But regardless, I remember thinking, “I’ll never be able to ride one of these.” That clearly wasn’t true, but the memory of the Mach III’s savage acceleration and whooping sound remains indelible. Additionally, the engine vibration was incessant – there was simply no escaping it – and in those pre-hydraulic disc days for Kawasaki, the drum brakes seemed heavy and reluctant, even to a big-bike novice. Glad I found out early that the Mach III’s mad-dog reputation was real.
1985 KTM 500 MXC
If Paul Bunyan designed a motorcycle, this KTM 2-stroke would be it. For its day, the 500 MXC was extraordinary at everything, such as extraordinarily hard to start; the kickstart shaft was a mile high and the lever arm even higher. At over6 feet tall in MX boots, I still needed a curb, boulder, or log handy to effectively use the left-side kickstarter. The motor had so much compression (12.0:1) that this Austrian Ditch Witch practically needed a starter engine to fire the main one. Once, I was stuck on a desert trail with the MXC’s engine reluctant to re-fire. Not so brilliantly, I attached a tow line to my friend’s Kawasaki KX250 and he pulled me to perhaps 25 mph on a nearby two-lane road. Before I could release the line and drop the clutch, my buddy slowed for unknown reasons. Instantly the rope drooped, caught on the KTM’s front knobby, and locked the wheel, slamming the bike and its idiot rider onto the asphalt. The crash should have broken my wrist, but an afternoon spent icing it in the cooler put things right.
When running, though, the MXC was spectacular. Capable of interstate speeds down sand washes and across open terrain, the liquid-cooled 485cc engine was a maniacal off-road overlord. The suspension included a WP inverted fork and linked monoshock with an insane 13.5 inches of travel out back. I bought the 500 MXC used for $500, and I had to practically give it away later. But now, I wish I had kept it, because it was fully street-plated – ideal for Grom hunting in the hills today.
1998 Yamaha YZF-R1
On a deserted, bucolic section of Pacific coastal backroads, I loosened the new Yamaha R1’s reins, kicked it in the ribs, and let it gallop. And gallop it did, at a breathtaking rate up to and beyond 130 mph. That’s not all that fast in the overall world of high performance, but on a little two-lane road edged by prickly cattle fences and thick oaks, it ignited all my senses. What had been a mild-mannered tomcat moments before turned into a marlin on meth, but it wasn’t the velocity that was alarming.
No, the point seared into my amygdala was how hard the R1 was still accelerating at 130 mph. Rocketing past this speed with a ratio or two still remaining in the 6-speed gearbox sounded every alarm bell in my head, so I backed down. Simply, the R1 rearranged my understanding of performance. But simultaneously, it made every superbike of the 1970s, including the King Kong 1973 Kawasaki Z1 – the elite on the street in its era – seem lame by comparison.
2008 Yamaha YZ250F
After 25 years away from motocross, in 2008 I bought a new YZ250F and went to the track. Oh, my word. The dream bikes of my competitive youth – Huskys, Maicos, Ossas, and their ilk – faded to complete irrelevance after one lap at Pala Raceway on the modern 4-stroke. Naturally it was light, fast, and responsive, but the party drug was its fully tunable suspension. By comparison, everything else I’d ridden in the dirt seemed like a pogo stick. Together, the awesome suspension and aluminum perimeter frame turned motocross into an entirely different sport, and I loved it anew.
In retrospect, the glorious old MX bikes were dodgy because real skill was required to keep them from bucking their riders into the ditch. But, surprisingly, I found motocross aboard this new machine still merited hazard pay, for two reasons: 1) Thanks to the bike’s excellent manners, I found myself going much faster; and 2) Tracks had evolved to include lots of jumps, sometimes big ones. Doubles, step-ups, table-tops – I later paced one off at Milestone MX and realized the YZ was soaring more than 70 feet through the air.
2017 Yamaha TW200
There’s something about flying low and slow that’s just innately fun. Just ask the Super Cub pilots, lowrider guys, or Honda Monkey owners. After a day in the Mojave, plowing through sand, sliding on dry lake beds, and dodging rocks and creosote bushes, Yamaha’s TW200 proved equally enamoring. Yes, it’s molasses-slow, inhaling hard through the airbox for enough oxygen to power it along. And it’s built to a price, with an old-school carburetor and middling suspension and brakes.
Nonetheless, its fat, high-profile tires somehow make it way more than alright, kind of like riding a marshmallow soaked in Red Bull. Curbs? Loading docks? Roots, ruts, and bumps? Scarcely matters at 16 mph when you’re laughing your head off. Top speed noted that day was a bit over 70 mph – good enough for freeway work, but just barely. So, actually, no. But throttling the TW all over the desert and on city streets reminded me just how joyous being on two wheels is.
Building from its supercharged Ninja H2 hyperbike, Kawasaki launched the naked Z H2 for 2020. Lucky to attend the press launch for the bike that year, I got to experience this 197-hp missile on a road course, freeways, backroads, and even a banked NASCAR oval. The latter was, despite its daunting concrete walls, an apropos vessel to exploit the bike’s reported power. Weighing 527 lbs wet, the Z H2 has a 2.7:1 power-to-weight ratio – nearly twice as potent as the 2023 Corvette Z06.
Supercharged engines are known for their low-end grunt, and the Z H2 motor was happy to pull at any rpm and in any gear. But it fully awakened above 8,000 rpm, as the aerospace-grade supercharger began delivering useful boost. From here on, the job description read: Hang on and steer. Free to pin it on the road course and oval, I did. And not for bravado’s sake – I really wanted to discover the payoff of having so much power. As it turns out, a supercharged liter bike dramatically shrinks time and space, making it a total blast on the track – and absolute overkill on the road. Watch where you aim this one.
Based in Southern California, John L. Stein is an internationally known automotive and motorcycle journalist. He was a charter editor of Automobile Magazine, Road Test Editor at Cycle, and served as the Editor of Corvette Quarterly. He has written for Autoweek, Car and Driver, Motor Trend, Cycle World, Motorcyclist, Outside, and other publications in the U.S. and abroad.
Harley-Davidson and its LiveWire brand introduced the S2 Del Mar today, a smaller, lighter, and less expensive electric motorcycle than the LiveWire ONE. The street-tracker is said to produce 80 hp and weigh less than 440 lbs, yielding a 0-60-mph time of just 3.5 seconds. City range is said to be 100 miles, and highway range will be significantly lower.
The S2 Del Mar was designed at LiveWire Labs in Mountain View, California, in the vicinity of Silicon Valley companies like Apple, Google, and Meta. It’s built around a new, scalable “ARROW” architecture that uses a proprietary battery, motor, charging, and control systems. The powertrain serves as the central component of the chassis and is a modular design so it can be adapted to future models.
LiveWire offered 100 serialized “Del Mar Launch Edition” models with an exclusive paint scheme and a unique wheel design for $17,699, but all were sold out in the first 18 minutes. Those who missed the opportunity can get their name on a waiting list for when regular production models ($15,000) are shipped from Troy, Pennsylvania, in the spring of 2023. The press release below includes more details.
LiveWire is set to bring advanced design, technical innovation, and engineering expertise to urban riding and beyond, with the all-electric S2 Del Mar motorcycle, the first LiveWire model to feature the new S2 ARROW architecture.
The first 100 units will be built to order and serialized as Del Mar Launch Edition models, which can be reserved now at livewire.com for expected delivery in the spring of 2023.
The 100 Del Mar Launch Edition models will feature an exclusive finish and wheel design and an MSRP of $17,699.
The production S2 Del Mar will deliver immediately after the launch edition, with a target MSRP of $15,000 USD.
The S2 Del Mar features a targeted output of 80 horsepower (59.6 kW), and less than 440 pounds of weight, delivering projected 0-to-60 mph times of 3.5 seconds or less.
Del Mar range in city riding is targeted to be 100 miles.*
“The S2 Del Mar model represents the next step in the evolution of the LiveWire brand,” said Jochen Zeitz, Chairman, President and CEO of Harley-Davidson. “The ARROW architecture underpinning the Del Mar, developed in-house at LiveWire Labs, demonstrates our ambition to lead in the EV space and establish LiveWire as the most desirable electric motorcycle brand in the world.”
Advanced LiveWire ARROW Architecture
LiveWire’s scalable ARROW architecture with proprietary battery, motor, charging, and control systems debuts on the Del Mar model and was designed at LiveWire Labs in Mountain View, California. The ARROW architecture is intended to be modular and serves as the central component of the motorcycle chassis.
Del Mar is designed to offer its rider thrilling performance with a targeted output of 80 horsepower (59.6 kW), delivering projected 0-to-60 mph times of 3.5 seconds. City range is expected to be 100 miles.* The Del Mar model weight target is 440 pounds or less.
Urban Street Tracker
Del Mar presents a street-tracker stance on 19-inch front and rear wheels equipped with custom developed LiveWire Dunlop DT1 tires equally capable on paved and dirt surfaces. The slim seat tops a short tail section. A tracker-style handlebar fronted by a thin flyscreen places the rider in an upright position for a comfortable and controlled riding experience.
Launch Edition Model
Only the 100 examples of the Del Mar Launch Edition models will be made, featuring an exclusive finish and wheel design. The graphics and paint – in a choice of Jasper Gray or Comet Indigo – are applied by hand using a process that takes 5 days to complete. The design employs an opposing-fade, representing and celebrating both the exciting and soulful experiences of riding LiveWire electric motorcycles. The intricate pattern of the 19-inch PCB cast-aluminum wheels evokes the dense patterning and framework found on printed circuit boards. The vaulted and tapered spoke design promotes lateral stiffness for enhanced handling performance, while also pushing the boundaries of casting technology.
The Del Mar Launch Edition model debuts with an MSRP of $17,699, while the production version is expected to launch with a target MSRP of $15,000. Delivery of the Launch Edition and production versions of S2 Del Mar model are set for the spring of 2023. All LiveWire S2 Del Mar motorcycles will be assembled at Harley-Davidson Vehicle Operations in York, PA.
The all-new LiveWire S2 Del Mar Launch Edition sold out its 100 reservation deposits in 18 minutes today. Customers can still add their names to a wait list for the standard S2 Del Mar motorcycle expected to begin deliveries in Spring 2023 at livewire.com.
*Range estimates are based on expected performance on a fully-charged battery and are derived from SAE J2982 Riding Range Test Procedure data on a sample motorcycle under ideal laboratory conditions. Your actual range will vary depending on your personal riding habits, road and driving conditions, ambient weather, vehicle condition and maintenance, tire pressure, vehicle configuration (parts and accessories), and vehicle loading (cargo, rider and passenger weight).
V-Twin baggers are regularly at the top of streetbike sales charts, and a perennial leader has been the Harley-DavidsonStreet Glide, with H-D’s Road Glide running close behind. The Glides are revered for the effortless way they trot along American roads accompanied by the loping cadence of their narrow-angle V-Twin motors.
However, there are many Glide owners who put a greater emphasis on performance than on touring ability. The performance-bagger market continues to gain momentum, a trend Harley says is “a new breed of speed.” The incredibly popular King Of The Baggers (KOTB) roadracing series has added more fuel to the performance fire.
To meet this market demand and to capitalize on its KOTB championship title, H-D proffers the new Glide ST brothers, available in Street and Road versions. Touring bikes for a new breed of riders, says the MoCo.
OUT COME THE BIG GUNS
If you’re gonna build a hot-rod bagger, there’s no better place to start than the engine, and so Harley plugs in the biggest gun in its arsenal. The Road and Street Glide STs are fitted with H-D’s biggest production motor, the 117ci Milwaukee-Eight, an upgrade over the 114ci V-Twin found in lesser models. This is the 117’s first appearance in a non-CVO Harley, firing out a tire-shredding 127 lb-ft of torque from its 1,923cc displacement. Harley says the 117 is a value proposition for riders who might otherwise invest in engine upgrades.
Black is the dominant theme, as brightwork is limited to the chrome pushrod tubes, tappet covers, and machined cylinder fins. Matte Dark Bronze finishes on the lower rocker box, timer cover medallion, and the medallion on the Heavy Breather intake provide subtle highlights.
SWITCHIN’ TO GLIDE
The FLHX Street Glide is perhaps the most ubiquitous motorcycle on American roads. Introduced in 2006 as an offshoot of the popular Electra Glide, they are both led by their iconic batwing fairings mounted to the handlebar.
Harley’s FLTR Road Glide was introduced in 1998 as an evolution of the FLT Tour Glide from the 1980s, both using distinctive shark-nosed fairings mounted to the chassis. Other than their fairings, the Road Glide is essentially the same bike as the Street Glide.
The Glide STs are part of Harley’s Grand American Touring lineup, so they naturally include luxury items like a Boom! Box GTS infotainment system with a color touchscreen and navigation, fairing-mounted speakers, a hidden radio antenna, cruise control, and Daymaker LED headlamps. Both Glide STs are equipped with linked Brembo brakes with ABS.
For a sportier, lighter appearance, the STs receive a low-profile tank console and a trimmed front fender, plus a new solo seat that exposes the rear fender but leaves passengers at home. Standard-length saddlebags replace the extended bags used on Special models for additional cornering clearance and to expand aftermarket exhaust options.
Prodigy cast-aluminum wheels feature a Matte Dark Bronze finish to match the bronze engine highlights, while nearly everything else aside from the tins (front end, controls, powertrain, and exhaust) feature blacked-out finishes. For a dash of retro, the Harley-Davidson logo on the 6-gallon fuel tanks is modeled from Harley’s 1912 racebikes, and on black STs, it’s outlined in a gold color that matches the bikes’ bronze finishes.
Both Glides retail for $29,999 in Vivid Black. The Gunship Gray versions are priced at $30,574. Supply shortages due to Covid have forced H-D to exact a $1,000 surcharge.
Optional on Grand American tourers is Harley’s Cornering Rider Safety Enhancements package, formerly called Reflex Defensive Rider System (RDRS). It employs a 6-axis IMU to manage cornering traction control with ride modes, cornering ABS with linked braking, drag-torque slip control, hill-hold control, and tire-pressure monitoring. It’s a $1,025 upcharge.
SWITCHIN’ TO RIDE
The Street Glide is the lighter ST, scaling in at 814 lbs in ready-to-ride form, and its less-expansive batwing fairing adds to the perception. The cockpit is roomy and accommodating, with a handlebar that rises up and sits at an angle. Four analog gauges reside just under the tinted low-profile windscreen, and they’re flanked by a pair of speakers and mirrors integrated at the fairing edges. The touchscreen TFT info/navigation panel sits just above the upper triple-clamp.
The larger fairing on the Road Glide adds visual heft to a rider’s perception, backed up by the bike’s 842-lb curb weight. Here, the vivid TFT touchscreen panel sits front and center just under the low-profile, darkly tinted windshield. The info screen is flanked by a fuel gauge and voltmeter, with a pair of speakers further outboard. A traditional analog speedometer and tachometer pairing reside just ahead of the handlebar mounts. Switchgear on both Glides is the familiar H-D array, including the dual turnsignal buttons.
The 117 fires up with a rumble and the familiar potato-potato thumping from below. The clutch engagement point is easy to ascertain, and, helped by the engine’s immense low-end grunt, you’d need to be a fool to stall the Glides when pulling away from a stop.
Pushrod valve actuation and air cooling suggest a lack of modern technology, but Harley’s M-8 functions extraordinarily well. As its name implies, the V-Twin breathes through four valves per cylinder, and they never need adjusting thanks to H-D’s hydraulic overhead valves. Power from the V-Twin is omnipresent, delivering a satisfying oomph at nearly any engine speed, eventually running out of breath near its 5,500-rpm redline. Rubber engine mounts eliminate harsh vibration from reaching a rider, and there aren’t many other powertrains that roll down the open road as smoothly and effortlessly as this one.
“A pushrod air-cooled V-Twin is our secret sauce,” said Brad Richards, H-D’s VP of design, who rode with us at the launch. “There’s something special about how it goes down the road.” And he’s right.
Suspension consists of a dual-bending-valve 49mm Showa fork paired with emulsion-technology rear shocks and single-knob hydraulic preload adjustment. Harley pursues low seat heights more fervently than any other manufacturer, but the STs buck that trend somewhat by fitting shocks from the Road King to deliver 3 inches of rear wheel travel, up from the Road Glide Special’s 2 inches. Seat height shimmies upward to a still-low 28 inches.
Both STs feel similar when bending into corners, despite the drastically different fairings, banking over easier than you might imagine for an 800-lb bagger. It’s a willing and stable platform while unwinding a twisty road, but let’s not confuse it with a sportbike. Floorboards begin to drag when leaned over to 32 degrees – enough to have fun, but nowhere near the 55-degree leans that KOTB champ Kyle Wyman can achieve on his Road Glide racebike.
Solid braking performance is provided by Brembo 4-piston calipers operating via braided lines and clamping on 11.8-inch (300mm) discs. The single rear brake has the same specs. The front tire is a 130/60-19 bias-ply, while a 180/55-18 resides out back.
There wasn’t an opportunity to fully delve into the Boom! Box GTS infotainment system, but it seems to be well sorted and includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. Audio quality via the radio is closer to adequate than exceptional.
Ergonomics are very good, but not beyond reproach. The rear brake pedal is mounted rather high, and the Heavy Breather intake intrudes on knee space when raising a boot to apply rear braking. Also, shift action of the 6-speed gearbox is rather clunky. The seat feels supportive for an hour, but it’s not up to the cushy standards of Harley’s other touring models. And while we’re nitpicking, I’d like to see a larger gear-position indicator and adjustable levers on my $30k bagger.
This has been a hotly debated topic among H-D aficionados, with no clear winner aside from subjective judgments on style. In windy conditions, I much preferred the greater stability of the Road Glide, as stubborn crosswinds on the Street Glide’s bar-mounted fairing applied marginal unwanted inputs to the steering. The Road Glide’s triple splitstream vented fairing also delivers smoother airflow around a rider.
That said, the Street Glide is slightly lighter, and its fairing attached directly to the handlebar allows a rider to wriggle his/her way through dense traffic more adeptly. And for some, its batwing fairing is irresistible.
WRAP IT UP
It’s not a surprise to have enjoyed seat time on these new Glide STs. They’re basically the same bikes that we’ve grown to appreciate for their over-the-road prowess and surprising agility but are now blessed with more power and tasteful high-end finishes. Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised when a $30,000 motorcycle delivers the goods. And the Road/Street Glide STs include a pair of hardshell saddlebags in which to carry those goods more than 220 miles between fill-ups.
2022 Harley-Davidson Road Glide ST/Street Glide ST Specs
Base Price: $29,999 (Vivid Black) Price as Tested: $31,599 (Gunship Gray, Cornering Rider Safety Enhancements) Website:harley-davidson.com Engine Type: Air-cooled, transverse 45-degree V-Twin, OHV w/ 4 valves per cyl. Displacement: 1,923cc (117ci) Bore x Stroke: 103.5 x 114.3mm Horsepower:106 hp @ 4,750 rpm (at the crank) Torque:127 lb-ft @ 3,750 rpm (at the crank) Transmission:6-speed, hydraulically actuated slip/assist wet clutch Final Drive:Belt Wheelbase:64 in. Rake/Trail:26 degrees/6.7 in. Seat Height:28.1/28.0 in. Wet Weight: 842/814 lbs. Fuel Capacity: 6 gal.
The Sportster is one of most iconic and successful Harley-Davidson motorcycles, and it’s one of the longest-running motorcycle models in history. Introduced in 1957 – the same year Wham-O introduced the Frisbee and Elvis Presley’s “All Shook Up” topped the Billboard charts – the Sportster was a response to the light, fast OHV British bikes that took the American motorcycle market by storm after WWII.
An evolution of the side-valve KHK, the XL (the Sportster’s official model designation) was powered by an air-cooled, 883cc, 45-degree “ironhead” V-Twin with pushrod-actuated overhead valves. It made 40 horsepower, weighed 495 pounds, and had a top speed around 100 mph, more than enough performance to outrun most British 650s of the day. In 1959, Harley unleashed the XLCH, a 55-horsepower, 480-pound hot rod that cemented the Sportster’s go-fast reputation.
Today, 65 years after the XL’s debut, there’s still an air-cooled 883cc Sportster in Harley-Davidson’s lineup: the Iron 883. Making 54 horsepower and weighing 564 pounds, it has a lower power-to-weight ratio than a ’59 XLCH, and by modern standards, the Sportster is no longer sporty.
YOU SAY YOU WANT A REVOLUTION
Harley-Davidson puts its air-cooled Sportsters – the Iron 883 and the 1,200cc Forty-Eight – in its Cruiser category. Last year it added a new category – Sport – that includes only one model: the Sportster S. Designated RH1250S rather than XL, the new Sportster occupies a distinct branch of the Harley family tree. It’s built around a 121-horsepower “T” version of the liquid-cooled, 1,252cc Revolution Max V-Twin found in the Pan America adventure bike, and it weighs 503 pounds ready-to-ride. Compare that to Harley’s Evo-powered Forty-Eight, which makes 66 horsepower and tips the scales at 556 pounds.
Both the Iron 883 and Forty-Eight are available as 2022 models, so air-cooled XLs aren’t going away (yet). They appeal to cruiser traditionalists: those who want familiarity and simplicity, and those for whom the look, sound, and feel of an air-cooled 45-degree V-Twin are more important than outright performance.
The Sportster S carves out another niche in the market, appealing to a different sort of buyer: those who want a light, powerful, sophisticated American-made V-Twin. That sounds a lot like the Indian FTR S, the Sportster S’ closest competitor. Both are powered by liquid-cooled, DOHC, 60-degree V-Twins that make about 120 horsepower (factory claims). Both are equipped with ride modes, cornering ABS and traction control, and other modern electronics, and their base prices are $14,999.
But the Sportster S is a low-profile, feet-forward cruiser, whereas the FTR S is a sport-standard with an upright seating position and rear-set footpegs. Not exactly apples to apples. Indian’s Scout Bobber, on the other hand, more closely matches the Harley’s cruiser layout, so we’ve included it here. It’s also powered by a liquid-cooled, DOHC, 60-degree V-Twin, but with less displacement and a lower state of tune than the FTR’s motor. Making a claimed 100 horsepower, the Bobber’s engine output is well below the others, and its only electronic riding aid is ABS (a $900 option), but its base price is $4,000 below that of the Sportster S and FTR S.
These bikes are tightly packaged machines, with bodywork kept to an absolute minimum. They all have radiators, and designers did their best to keep hoses and associated plumbing tucked away. The Scout has a tall, narrow radiator wedged between the rectangular downtubes of its cast-aluminum frame. The sportier FTR and Sportster have shorter, wider radiators with small shrouds on the sides that help them blend in.
More differences are apparent when looking at them parked side by side. With the lowest seat height (by 4 inches), longest wheelbase (by 2 inches), and stacked exhaust pipes that extend just past the trailing edge of the rear tire, the Scout is more slammed and stretched out than the others. And as the most traditionally styled of the three, it has the proportions and stance one expects from a cruiser.
The FTR is at the other end of the spectrum. With the most ground clearance, longest rear suspension travel (by 2.7 inches), and loftiest seat height (by 2.8 inches), it stands much taller than the others. Mirrors perched above the handlebar on antenna-like stalks further add to its height, while the others have bar-end mirrors. Upswept brushed-aluminum Akrapovič mufflers, an exposed rear shock with a red spring, and 17-inch wheels with matching red pinstripes give the FTR the sportiest appearance of the three.
The Sportster has a unique cut to its jib. It has a mix of glossy, matte, and brushed surfaces, and a mix of styling influences. Its high pipes and tidy tailsection are inspired by XR750 dirt trackers. Its pill-shaped LED headlight and chunky tires take a page out of the Fat Bob’s playbook, while its elongated teardrop tank is a big departure from the peanut tanks of other Sportsters. And its tubular-steel trellis frame, swingarm, and license-plate hanger hew fairly close to what’s found on the FTR.
Differences in dimensions and stance affect ergonomics. With its long-and-low profile, 25.6-inch seat height, forward-set foot controls, and minimal pullback to the handlebar, the Scout Bobber puts the rider in a classic “clamshell” seating position with a tight hip angle, even more so for those with long legs. The Scout’s solo seat is reasonably plush, but with one’s legs and arms stretched out, style trumps comfort. As the lowest bike of the bunch, it also has less cornering clearance than the others – just 29 degrees vs. 34 degrees for the Sportster and 43 degrees for the FTR. Boot heels touch pavement first, but on some right turns the bottom of the lower exhaust pipe scraped, leaving an unsightly scar of raw metal on the matte-black finish.
To accommodate its greater lean angles, the Sportster’s forward controls are positioned higher than the Scout’s (Harley offers mid-mount controls as a $660 accessory). Its solo seat is perched 29.6 inches above the pavement, which is on the tall side for a cruiser. The narrow, thinly padded saddle had us seeking relief long before the low-fuel light came on, exacerbated by the fact that the Sportster, like the Scout, locks the rider in place and has minimal rear suspension travel. Of the three, the Sportster has the most cramped cockpit, limiting its appeal among tall riders.
With a sport-standard seating position, the FTR feels altogether different than the two cruisers. The rider sits more upright, with a comfortable reach to the wide handlebar and a moderate forward lean to the upper body. Rear-set pegs put the rider’s feet directly below their hips, opening the hip angle at the expense of more knee bend. Our test riders were unanimous in declaring the FTR the most comfortable of the three, and it felt the most natural at a sporting pace. The 32.2-inch seat height may be a challenge for some, but the saddle has the thickest padding and it’s the only one here that accommodates a passenger (without digging into the accessory catalogs).
THE SOUND & THE FURY
There’s a reason nearly every motorcycle made in America has a V-Twin. The engine configuration delivers a visceral pulse that engages the rider, producing a rhythmic sound that can be both felt and heard. There’s nothing lazy about the 60-degree V-Twins that power these three. At idle, they emit a steady staccato rather than a loping beat. None of the stock exhausts are especially loud, but the Scout’s pipes play a deep rumbling tune that was sweetest to our ears.
The Harley’s Revolution Max engine is the only one here with variable valve timing, which optimizes power delivery across the rev range. Despite the Sportster’s added tech and 49cc displacement advantage over the FTR (1,252cc vs. 1,203cc), when strapped to Jett Tuning’s rear-wheel dyno, they generated nearly identical peak horsepower (116.0 vs. 115.7). Where VVT delivers the goods, however, is in the heart of the rev range – the Sportster makes 5-10 more horsepower than the FTR between 4,000 and 7,000 rpm. The Harley also doesn’t trail off as quickly after the peak as the FTR and it revs out further. In terms of torque, the Sportster clearly dominates the FTR, generating the highest peak (89.0 vs 82.7 lb-ft) and a 5-12 lb-ft advantage from 4,000-7,000 rpm.
The Scout is outgunned by the Sportster and the FTR, maxing out at 85.2 horsepower and 64.5 lb-ft of torque, but its 1,133cc mill is perfectly suited for cruiser duty. What the Scout lacks in sheer grunt it makes up for in simple enjoyment. Unlike the others, it doesn’t have throttle-by-wire or ride modes, and there’s a pleasant analog connection between the right grip and the rear wheel. The Scout is the only bike here without a slip/assist-type clutch, and squeezing its lever requires the heaviest pull. Clutch action is lightest and gear changes are easiest on the Sportster. Compared to the Harley, the FTR felt less refined, with inconsistent clutch engagement (especially when the engine is cold), uneven fueling at steady throttle, and a coarser feel at higher revs.
’ROUND THE BEND
Apart from ergonomics and engine performance, these three bikes offer distinct riding experiences. As the longest, lowest, and heaviest (by 45-50 pounds) of the three, it’s not surprising that the Scout Bobber requires the most effort to steer through a series of tight turns. It rolls on 16-inch wheels front and rear, and the semi-knobby tread on its Pirelli MT60RS dulls response and feedback. Up front, the Scout’s single 298mm disc is squeezed by a 2-piston caliper, with hydraulic fluid sent through an axial master cylinder and braided steel lines. Braking power is adequate, but the Scout’s front lever doesn’t provide the precise feedback found on the Sportster and FTR, both of which are equipped with Brembo radial master cylinders. Furthermore, since it doesn’t have an IMU like the others, the Scout’s ABS does not compensate for lean angle.
One of the Scout’s biggest limitations, which it shares with the Sportster, is a mere 2 inches of rear suspension travel. The Scout has dual shocks that are adjustable for spring preload only, while the Sportster has a single, fully adjustable piggyback reservoir shock with a linkage. Even though the Harley has more premium suspension with better damping, there’s only so much that can be done with so little travel. Few bumps pass unnoticed and big ones can be jarring, unsettling the chassis and sapping confidence, especially on the Scout.
At first glance, one would think that the fat front tire on the Sportster – a 160/70-17 that’s wider than the Scout’s 150/80-16 rear tire – would be an impediment to handling, but it has a triangular profile that helps it turn in. The Harley slices and dices confidently, with reasonably light steering and a solid, planted feel when on the edge of its tires. At higher speeds, however, the added weight of the front tire slows steering. The Sportster feels more eager than the Indians, especially in Sport mode, and it launches itself out of corners.
As part of its 2022 update, Indian sensibly shifted the FTR away from its flat-track origins and amped up its street-readiness. The 19-/18-inch wheels with quasi-knobby tires were replaced with 17-inch hoops shod with grippy Metzeler Sportec M9 RR tires, steering geometry was tightened up, and suspension travel was reduced by more than an inch. The changes made the FTR a better corner carver in every respect. Although the Sportster will quickly pull away from the Scout on a tight, twisting road thanks to its superior power-to-weight ratio, the FTR has a definite edge on the Harley in terms of cornering clearance and braking performance.
With 4.7 inches of travel front and rear, the FTR’s fully adjustable suspension has more leeway than the Sportster’s to absorb the inevitable imperfections on public roads. With more fork and shock stroke to work with, as well as the best damping among this trio, the FTR’s chassis stays more composed, allowing its rider to stay focused on the road ahead rather than avoiding bumps. The FTR also has the best brakes of the bunch, delivering impressive stopping power and feel at the lever. It’s the only bike here with dual discs up front, a pair of 320mm rotors clamped by radial 4-piston calipers. The Sportster makes do with a single 320mm front disc that’s gripped by a monoblock 4-piston caliper, and its braking performance is a close second to the FTR.
COMING OUT ON TOP
This is not your typical comparison test. These three bikes have as many differences as they do similarities, but there are some common threads. They’re made in America by companies that were fierce rivals in the past and became direct competitors again nearly a decade ago. And they have liquid-cooled, 60-degree V-Twins that depart from air-cooled tradition. Beyond that, the threads begin to unravel.
Both the Scout and Sportster carry historic nameplates originally associated with speed, but more recently have come to represent smaller, more affordable cruisers in their respective lineups. The Scout Bobber, a darker, lower variation of the standard Scout, best represents cruiser tradition. Its styling is more elemental than the Sportster or FTR, appearing old-school even though its engine architecture, cast-aluminum frame, and optional ABS are contemporary. The Bobber delivers more performance than most typical cruisers, yet its no-frills spec sheet helps keep its base price to just $10,999–$4,000 less than the others. That’s a trade-off plenty of buyers are more than happy to make.
The new Sportster S, like the Pan America with which it shares the Rev Max engine platform, represents the future of Harley-Davidson. Street Glides, Road Glides, Softails, etc. are – and will continue to be – the bread and butter of The Motor Company’s dominant on-highway market share in the U.S. But today’s motorcycle manufacturers think on a global scale, and high-tech engines and electronics that can satisfy increasingly stringent emissions and safety standards are essential.
There is, at best, a tenuous connection between the Sportster S and the iconic XL line, but H-D hopes its instantly recognizable name will help it succeed in the marketplace. Its fat tires, high pipes, bulldog stance, and mash-up of styling influences won’t appeal to everyone, but there’s no denying the performance of its engine or the capability of its chassis. The Revolution Max V-Twin is the Sportster S’ greatest attribute. Limited rear suspension travel, on the other hand, is its greatest limitation.
As a motorcycle we’d want to live with every day, the Indian FTR S is the clear winner here. Its street-tracker styling either appeals to you or it doesn’t (count us as fans), but from the standpoint of functionality and rider engagement, the FTR S checks all the right boxes. Compared to the Sportster S, the Indian’s engine is weaker in the midrange and feels rougher around the edges, but the FTR handles better, has the best brakes, is the most comfortable, and has standard passenger accommodations. Like the Sportster S, it has ride modes, modern electronic rider aids, cruise control, a USB charging port, Bluetooth connectivity, and a color TFT display, with the added convenience of a touchscreen.
With the FTR platform’s recent update, Indian has had a few years to work out the kinks, and the current iteration is a much better streetbike than the original. In addition to the FTR S tested here, there are three other variants to choose from: the base-model FTR ($12,999), the scrambler-styled FTR Rally ($13,999), and the top-of-the-line FTR R Carbon ($16,999). Harley-Davidson won’t rest on its laurels, and there will surely be updates to the Sportster S and spin-off models in the years ahead.
It’s all hands on deck at Harley-Davidson as the brand works toward its World Premiere Event on January 26, 2022. While The Motor Company prepares to debut new models and the latest Custom Vehicle Operations (CVO) entries at the affair, it’s already started rolling out returning 2022 Harley-Davidson models.
The Pan America and Sportster S signaled a paradigm shift for Harley-Davidson in 2021, and the two models are back in the new year. Despite the Pan Am’s impressive rookie year in the competitive heavyweight adventure segment, Harley didn’t rest on its laurels. In response to customer feedback, the 2022 Pan America’s TFT display features more legible information and the Hill Hold Assist system now remains active for 3-5 minutes.
The big-bore ADV keeps its 2021 colorways but also adds an exclusive Fastback Blue/White Sand option to the Pan America 1250 Special. The standard model still retails for $17,319 while the Special variant holds on to its $19,999 MSRP.
The MoCo didn’t have to take similar measures with the 2022 Sportster S, however. The new-age cruiser still boasts a 121-horsepower Revolution Max 1250 V-Twin, but the sportiest Sportster only gains new paint schemes for its second outing. In addition to the standard Vivid Black option, H-D introduces White Sand Pearl and Mineral Green Metallic. The Sportster S will remain at $14,999 in 2022.
New styling options remains the theme with the Softail range. The Heritage Classic 114 returns with a standard black finish, but customers can now opt for chrome accents instead. In black trim, the touring-ready Softail flaunts Wrinkle Black upper rocker covers, camshaft cover, primary cover, and transmission cover. Gloss black lightbars, indicators, and lower rocker covers provide a tonal contrast while the chrome muffler tips shine on the fully-dressed cruiser. The 2022 Heritage Classic 114 starts at $20,799, and Harley will offer both black and chrome edition with 9-spoke cast aluminum or laced wheels.
The Fat Bob 114 also undergoes a facelift with a new waterslide graphic on its 3.6-gallon gas tank. The two-tone color scheme may draw from Harley’s past, but a modern H-D logo retains the model’s edgy aesthetic. The Fat Bob 114 still pushes cruiser performance boundaries in 2022 and comes with a base price of $19,149.
Changes to the 2022 Fat Boy 114 go beyond a new livery though. The legendary Big Twin is known for its disc wheels but the restyled Lakestar cast-aluminum wheels now flaunt an 11-spoke turbine design. The Fat Boy badge also receives an overhaul, with a single trailing wing contemporizing the military-inspired logo. With those revisions in tow, the 2022 Fat Boy 114 now starts at $20,349.
The Street Bob 114 and Softail Standard don’t receive the same cosmetic updates, but the new Annihilator cast aluminum wheels are an upgrade over the laced wheels of past models. Rolling on new hoops, the Street Bob 114 now costs $15,349 while the Softail Standard remains the budget-friendly option at $13,949. Rounding out the Harley’s Cruiser range, the Evo-powered Sportsters return once again with the 2022 Iron 883 retailing at $10,749 and the Forty-Eight going for $11,799.
When it comes to touring, the Motor Company brings back the Electra Glide Standard (MSRP $19,429), Road King (MSRP $19,929), Street Glide (MSRP $22,249), and Road Glide (MSRP $22,249). In new color options, the base model baggers still house the firm’s 107 Milwaukee-Eight V-Twin, but Reflex linked Brembo brakes deliver more than enough slow for all that go.
Of course, the premium Road King Special (MSRP $23,429), Street Glide Special (MSRP $27,449), Road Glide Special (MSRP $27,449), Ultra Limited (MSRP $29,169), and Road Glide Limited (MSRP $28,729) feature the up-spec 114 Milwaukee Eight powerplant. However, the Special trim Road King, Street Glide, and Road Glide roll on Prodigy cast wheels while the Limited variant Ultra and Road Glide show off Harley’s Slicer II wheelset.
Harley couldn’t leave the trike category out of all the fun, and the 2022 Freewheeler gains a new V-shaped tank medallion along with a two-tone Midnight Crimson/Vivid Black paint option. Similarly, the Tri Glide Ultra gets an intricate cloisonné tank medallion, dual pinstripes, and Midnight Crimson/Vivid Black and Gauntlet Gray Metallic/Vivid Black colorways. The new Freewheeler carries a $28,499 price tag while the 2022 Tri Glide goes for $35,699.
The 2022 Harley-Davidson models are already hitting showroom floors, and we can’t wait to see what new models join the lineup at the brand’s World Premiere Event. For more information or to find a dealer near you, visit harley-davidson.com.
Our first Motorcycle of the Year was awarded to the 1990 BMW K1, and for the past 31 years we’ve limited contenders to current model-year motorcycles that are new or significantly updated. In recent years, however, production timing and model-year designations have become more fluid.
And then there’s the economic shutdown last year caused by the pandemic, which disrupted the global supply chain for everything from toilet paper to semiconductors. Some manufacturers were forced to delay the release of certain models, while others skipped the 2021 model year altogether.
We’ve posted announcements of new/updated 2022 models as early as January of this year. And so far, we’ve ridden 2022 motorcycles from BMW, Honda, Indian, Kawasaki, Suzuki, and Yamaha. To give all makes and models a fair shake during the calendar year when they are released and most relevant, eligible contenders for this year’s MOTY include any new/updated motorcycle released since last year’s award that are available for testing.
There were plenty of motorcycles to consider, and we’ve narrowed them down to 10 contenders and one winner. Without further ado…
1) BMW R 18 B/Transcontinental
BMW entered the traditional cruiser segment in 2021 with the standard R 18 and windshield-and-saddlebags-equipped R 18 Classic, built around the 1,802cc “Big Boxer.” The 2022 R 18 B “Bagger” and R 18 Transcontinental are touring-ready with a batwing-style fairing, infotainment system, hard saddlebags, and a passenger seat, and the TC adds a top trunk with a passenger backrest.
Yes, pigs – or more accurately, hogs – can fly. The Motor Company shook up the hyper-competitive ADV segment when it introduced the 2021 Pan America 1250/Special. Powered by a 150-horsepower V-Twin and fully equipped with all the latest bells and whistles, it proved itself to be highly capable on- and off-road, and the optional Adaptive Ride Height is its killer app.
Honda’s GL1800 won Rider’s MOTY when it debuted in 2001 and again when it was thoroughly overhauled in 2018. Updates for 2021 may seem minor, but they make all the difference when it comes to the two-up touring the Wing was designed for. The larger trunk holds more stuff, the improved passenger accommodations are appreciated, and the audio and styling updates add refinement.
The all-new Rebel 1100 is the sort of cruiser only Honda could make. It has styling like its smaller Rebel 300/500 siblings, a powerful engine adapted from the Africa Twin CRF1100L (including an optional 6-speed automatic Dual Clutch Transmission), ride modes and other electronics, well-damped suspension, good cornering clearance, modest weight, and a base price of just $9,299 (add $700 for DCT).
The KLR is dead, long live the KLR! After a two-year absence, Kawasaki’s legendary dual-sport returns for 2022 with fuel injection (at last!), optional ABS, and other updates aimed at improving reliability, comfort, stability, load capacity, and user-friendliness. It remains one of the best deals on two wheels with a base price of $6,699.
KTM’s street-oriented 790 Adventure and off-road-ready 790 Adventure R shared Rider’s 2019 MOTY. Just two years later, the folks in Mattighofen kicked it up a notch with a larger, more powerful engine from the 890 Duke R, chassis updates, and tweaks to the suspension, brakes, and electronics, all of which contribute to the 890 Adventure R’s all-terrain capability.
To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the original Chief, Indian revamped its entire Chief lineup, with six models that strike a balance between old-school style and new-school technology. Powered by the Thunderstroke 116 V-Twin, the all-new Super Chief Limited has a quick-release windscreen, saddlebags, a two-up seat, ABS, and a Ride Command-equipped display.
Yes, the Meteor 350’s air-/oil-cooled Single makes just 18 horsepower and 18 lb-ft of torque. But rarely have we encountered a motorcycle that offers so much substance for so little money. In top-spec Supernova trim, the Meteor comes with ABS, turn-by-turn navigation, a two-up seat with a passenger backrest, a windshield, and a two-tone paint scheme for just $4,599.
The former winner of the late-’90s top-speed wars got its first major update since 2008. Thanks to more grunt in the midrange, the Hayabusa’s updated 187-horsepower 1,340cc inline-Four helps it accelerate faster than ever before. Refined and reworked from nose to tail, the ’Busa has more aerodynamic bodywork, a full suite of IMU-enabled electronics, and much more.
Designed to be equally capable on- and off-road, Yamaha’s middleweight adventure bike is powered by a liquid-cooled, 689cc CP2 parallel-Twin and has a durable tubular-steel frame, adjustable long-travel suspension, switchable ABS, and spoked wheels in 21-inch front/18-inch rear sizes. Contributor Arden Kysely liked the T7 so much, he bought our test bike from Yamaha.
For the better part of the past decade, the adventure bike segment has been the darling of the motorcycle industry, growing while other segments have been flat or declining and siphoning off R&D resources. With some adventure bikes making 150 horsepower or more, traditional sport-tourers have been all but neglected. Stalwarts such as the Honda ST1300, Kawasaki Concours 14, and Yamaha FJR1300 haven’t been updated in years.
That’s what makes the Yamaha Tracer 9 GT such a breath of fresh air. At less than 500 pounds fully fueled, it’s much easier to handle than the 600-plus-pound S-T bikes on the market. And with a claimed 115 horsepower on tap, there are few motorcycles that will leave it behind.
We first tested the bike that would evolve into the Tracer 9 GT when Yamaha introduced the FJ-09 for 2015. At its heart was the liquid-cooled 847cc CP3 Triple from the FZ-09 – an absolute ripper of a motor. It had an ADV-ish upright seating position and wind-blocking handguards but rolled on 17-inch wheels with sport-touring rubber, while its windscreen, centerstand, and optional 22-liter saddlebags added touring capability. The FJ-09 was light and fun to ride, but it was held back by fueling issues, poorly damped suspension, and weak brakes.
Yamaha did its homework and gave its middleweight sport-tourer an overhaul for 2019, renaming it the Tracer 900 GT in the process. Updates included better throttle response, a longer swingarm for more stability, higher-quality suspension, a new TFT color display, and a larger, one-hand-adjustable windscreen. The saddlebags were made standard as were other features, such as cruise control, heated grips, and a quickshifter.
Two years later, Yamaha went even further. For 2021, the new Tracer 9 GT gets the larger 890cc CP3 Triple from the MT-09, which is lighter, more fuel efficient, and more powerful. An all-new lightweight aluminum frame is made using a controlled-fill diecast process that reduces mass and increases rigidity. A new aluminum swingarm is longer and stronger, and a new steel subframe increases load capacity to 425 pounds and allows an accessory top trunk to be mounted along with the larger 30-liter saddlebags. New spinforged wheels reduce unsprung weight, and they’re shod with grippy Bridgestone Battlax T32 GT sport-touring tires.
In addition to updated throttle response modes and all-new KYB semi-active suspension, the Tracer 9 GT now has a 6-axis IMU that enables a suite of electronic rider aids adapted from the YZF-R1, including lean-angle-sensitive traction control, ABS, slide control, and lift control. It also has full LED lighting (including cornering lights) and a new dual-screen TFT display. The rider/passenger seats have been upgraded, and the rider’s ergonomics are adjustable.
We had an opportunity to test the Tracer 9 GT just before the MOTY polls closed, and it swept the field. Thanks to steady evolution and improvement over three generations, Yamaha has demonstrated just how good a modern sport-tourer can be, especially for riders who value agility over couch-like luxury. Performance, sophistication, comfort, versatility, load/luggage capacity – the Tracer checks all the right boxes and leaves nothing on the table.
Congratulations to Yamaha for the Tracer 9 GT, Rider’s 2021 Motorcycle of the Year!
After being roundly criticized for keeping faithful to its roots at the expense of modernization for too long, Harley-Davidson strikes back with the Sportster S, powered by a version of the liquid-cooled 1,252cc V-Twin in the thoroughly modern and warmly received Pan America adventure bike.
It’s a bold new era for the Sportster, and this all-new S version signals the demise for air-cooled Sportys. Bold, too, is this new bike’s chunky styling, with an ultra-fat front tire leading the way. The high-mount shotgun exhaust is another bold styling element, capped by a tailsection inspired by Harley’s XR750 dirt-trackers.
The key element of the Sportster S is its Revolution Max 1250T motor, which is used as a structural element rather than a lump to be placed in an external frame. A steel-trellis steering head section combines with an aluminum mid-frame, which helps enable the new bike to weigh about 60 pounds less than the Sportster Forty-Eight. H-D says the S scales in at 502 pounds with its 3.1-gallon tank filled.
Gone is the beloved Harley potato-potato exhaust note from a 45-degree V-Twin, replaced by a steadier thrum from the new 60-degree V-Twin. Misgivings about the engine sound are forgotten once the 121-horsepower RevMax is unleashed. This is undoubtedly the fastest Sportster ever.
We were initially disappointed the new Sporty doesn’t come with the 150-horse motor from the Pan America, but there’s more than enough power here to vault near the apex of muscle cruisers. The mill’s variable valve timing ensures there’s plenty of steam on tap no matter the rpm, hitting harder than the Pan Am down low. Hydraulic valve-lash adjustment reduces maintenance costs.
The seat height, at 29.6 inches, is tall for a Harley but still quite low. Footpegs are set moderately forward to yield adequate legroom. Mid-mount foot controls are available, but they’ll set you back another $659 on top of the bike’s $14,999 base price. They’re a smart option for shorter-legged riders who are unaccustomed to cruiser-style peg placements.
The low and muscular stance of this new Sportster forces a few dynamic compromises. H-D has spec’d premium Showa suspension that’s fully adjustable at both ends, but wheel travel is meager, particularly at the rear where bumps larger than 2 inches have nowhere else to go but to the chassis and rider. The 43mm inverted fork has 3.6 inches of travel to work with, which is enough to perform competently.
The front end of the S has sparked controversy. Surely that wildly fat 160/70-17 tire would make the bike steer like a truck, right? Not really. The triangular-ish profile allows it to lean over in a surprisingly neutral manner, even if steering effort is higher than it would be with skinnier rubber. The wide handlebar provides meaningful leverage on the way to skimming pegs at 34 degrees of lean angle. Some riders will find that insufficient, but let’s put it into context: H-D’s Sportster Forty-Eight touches its pegs at just 27 degrees.
The Sporty can actually rail pretty nicely around mountain roads, as it has a solid and confidence-inspiring chassis, but its limited suspension travel keeps a rider wary of encountering mid-corner bumps that would be swallowed up with longer suspension.
Sportbike riders turn up their noses at single-disc front brakes, but the Brembo package on the S provides good feel and plenty of power. A solid two-finger squeeze can get the fat front tire chirping, while IMU-informed ABS keeps the tires from locking even when leaned over. The IMU also corresponds with traction control linked to the customizable ride modes. A 4-inch color TFT screen provides instrumentation, including tire-pressure monitoring. Cruise control is also standard.
The high-mount exhaust system looks like a leg roaster, but heat from the pipes is remarkably subdued. The main source of heat reaching a rider comes from the engine’s rear cylinder, which can get quite toasty when sitting in traffic, despite a rear-cylinder deactivation system when idling. Not a deal breaker unless you insist on riding in short pants.
While the Sportster falls a little flat when ridden like a sportbike, that’s because it’s not designed to be one. It’s a cruiser that can really hustle. For further context, consider that Indian’s affable Scout Bobber has the same amount of rear suspension travel, weighs 50 pounds more, and has 20 fewer horsepower. The Sportster, however, costs $4,000 extra.
Other variants of this exciting new platform are in the pipeline and still to be announced. The Sportster S is so good that we’re salivating over what might come next.
2021 Harley-Davidson Sportster S Specs
Base Price: $14,999 Website:harley-davidson.com Engine Type: Liquid-cooled, transverse 60-degree V-Twin, DOHC w/ 4 valves per cyl. Displacement: 1,252cc Bore x Stroke: 105 x 72mm Horsepower: 121 @ 7,500 rpm (claimed, at the crank) Torque: 94 lb-ft @ 6,000 rpm (claimed, at the crank) Transmission: 6-speed Final Drive: Belt Wheelbase: 59.8 in. Rake/Trail: 30 degrees/5.8 in. Seat Height: 29.6 in. Wet Weight: 503 lbs. Fuel Capacity: 3.1 gals.
This 2021 motorcycle buyers guide includes new or significantly updated street-legal models available in the U.S. It includes bikes in many categories, including adventure, cafe racer, cruiser, sport, sport-touring, retro, touring, and others.
Organized in alphabetical order by manufacturer, it includes photos and links to details or, when available, first rides and road test reviews of each motorcycle. Due to the pandemic and supply chain disruptions, some manufacturers skipped the 2021 model year. Stay tuned for our 2022 Motorcycle Buyers Guide.
Aprilia‘s RS 660 is the first of three models — the RS 660 sportbike, the Tuono 660 naked bike (below), and the not-yet-released Tuareg 660 adventure bike — built on a new engine platform, a liquid-cooled 659cc parallel-Twin with a 270-degree firing order that makes a claimed 100 horsepower at 10,500 rpm and 49.4 lb-ft of torque at 8,500 rpm. The RS 660 is equipped with the IMU-enabled APRC (Aprilia Performance Ride Control) electronics package with five ride modes, 3-level cornering ABS, 3-level traction control, wheelie control, cruise control, and engine braking management. Pricing starts at $11,299.
Aprilia is an Italian brand known for performance, and the RSV4 and RSV4 Factory are at the pointy end of the company’s go-fast spear. Both are powered by a 1,099cc, 65-degree V-4 that Aprilia says cranks out an eye-watering 217 horsepower at 13,000 rpm and 92 lb-ft of torque at 10,500 rpm, even while meeting strict Euro 5 emissions regulations. And both are equipped with a 6-axis IMU and the APRC (Aprilia Performance Ride Control) suite of rider aids. Whereas the standard RSV4 features fully adjustable Sachs suspension, the RSV4 Factory is equipped with Öhlins Smart EC 2.0 semi-active suspension, with a 43mm NIX upside-down fork, a TTX rear shock, and an electronic steering damper. The RSV4 has cast wheels and the RSV4 Factory has lighter and stronger forged wheels. MSRP for the RSV4 is $18,999 and MSRP for the RSV4 Factory is $25,999.
The Tuono name has always been associated with top-of-the-line street performance, and the Aprilia Tuono V4 and Tuono V4 Factory carry the cred with a 1,077cc V-4 that produces 175 horsepower and 89 lb-ft of torque at the crank (claimed). The Tuono V4 is the more street-focused of the two, with a taller windscreen, a higher handlebar, and optional saddlebags (as shown above), and it is equipped with fully adjustable Sachs suspension. The Tuono V4 Factory is equipped with Öhlins Smart EC 2.0 semi-active suspension. Both models feature a six-axis IMU that supports the APRC electronics suite. MSRP for the Tuono V4 is $15,999 and MSRP for the Tuono V4 Factory is $19,499.
The Benelli Leoncino (“little lion”) is an Italian-designed, Chinese-manufactured roadster powered by a liquid-cooled 500cc parallel-Twin also found in the TRK502X adventure bike (below). In the U.S., the Leoncino is part of a two-bike lineup, which includes the standard street-biased roadster model (shown above) and the Leoncino Trail, a scrambler variant with more suspension travel and spoked wheels with a 19-inch front and 90/10 adventure tires. The Leoncino comes with standard ABS and is priced at $6,199, while the Leoncino Trail is $7,199.
Like the Leoncino above, the Benelli TRK502X is an Italian-designed, Chinese-manufactured adventure bike powered by a liquid-cooled 500cc parallel-Twin. It has a comfortable and upright seating position, a good windscreen, 90/10 adventure tires with a 19-inch front, spoked wheels, ABS, hand and engine guards, and enough luggage capacity to go the distance (aluminum panniers and top box are standard). MSRP is $7,398.
The BMW R 18 is a cruiser powered by a massive 1,802cc OHV air/oil-cooled 4-valve opposed Twin that’s the largest “boxer” engine the German company has ever produced. Part of BMW’s Heritage line, the R 18 has styling inspired by the 1930s-era R 5. Despite its classic looks, the long, low cruiser is equipped with fully modern electronics, brakes, suspension, and other features. Base price is $17,495. BMW recently announced two touring versions for the 2022 model year, the R 18 B and R 18 Transcontinental, both with a fairing, hard saddlebags, and an infotainment system; the Transcontinental adds a trunk with an integrated passenger backrest.
The Ducati Monster is one of the Italian manufacturer’s most iconic and best-selling models. Gone is the trademark tubular-steel trellis frame, replaced with a front-frame design that uses the engine as a structural member of the chassis, as on the Panigale and Streetfighter V4 models. Compared to the previous Monster 821, the new model weighs 40 pounds less and is equipped with a more powerful 937cc Testastretta 11-degree L-Twin engine and top-shelf electronics. New styling and more make this an all-new Monster. Pricing starts at $11,895 for the Monster and $12,195 for the Monster+, which adds a flyscreen and passenger seat cover.
Another top-selling Ducati is the Multistrada adventure bike. For 2021, it is now the Multistrada V4 and it is powered by the 1,158cc 90-degree V4 Grandturismo engine that makes 170 horsepower at 10,500 rpm and stomping 92 lb-ft torque at 8,750 rpm (claimed). Ducati Skyhook semi-active suspension and a full suite of IMU-supported electronics are standard, and S models are equipped with a radar system that enables Adaptive Cruise Control and Blind Spot Detection. New for 2021 is a 19-inch front wheel. Pricing starts at $19,995 for the Multistrada V4 and $24,095 for the Multistrada V4 S.
Updates to the Ducati SuperSport 950 include new styling inspired by the Panigale V4, an IMU-enabled electronics package, and improved comfort. The seat is flatter and has more padding, the handlebar is higher, and the footpegs are lower. The SuperSport 950 is powered by a 937cc Testastretta L-Twin that makes 110 horsepower at 9,000 rpm and 68.6 lb-ft of torque at 6,500 rpm (claimed, at the crank). The SuperSport 950 is available in Ducati Red for $13,995. The SuperSport 950 S, which is equipped with fully adjustable Öhlins suspension and a passenger seat cover, is available in Ducati Red and Arctic White Silk starting at $16,195.
2021 Harley-Davidson Electra Glide Revival
Earlier this year Harley-Davidson announced its new Icons Collection. The first model in the collection is the stunning Electra Glide Revival, which is inspired by the 1969 Electra Glide, the first Harley-Davidson motorcycle available with an accessory “batwing” fairing. Though retro in style, the Electra Glide Revival is powered by a Milwaukee Eight 114 V-twin and is equipped with RDRS Safety Enhancements and a Boom! Box infotainment system. Global production of the Electra Glide Revival is limited to a one-time build of 1,500 serialized examples, with an MSRP of $29,199.
With its iconic solid aluminum 18-inch Lakester wheels, for 2021 Harley-Davidson gave the Fat Boy 114 a new look with lots of chrome and bright work. Powering the Fat Boy is none other than the torquey Milwaukee-Eight 114 V-twin engine, equipped with a 6-speed gearbox and putting down a claimed 119 ft-lb of torque at just 3,000 rpm. Pricing starts at $19,999.
2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America 1250 / Pan America 1250 Special
A competitive, state-of-the-art, 150-horsepower adventure bike built by Harley-Davidson? Yea, right, when pigs fly! Well, the Motor Company came out swinging with its Pan America 1250 and Pan America 1250 Special. Powered by the all-new Revolution Max 1250, a liquid-cooled, 1,252cc, 60-degree V-Twin with DOHC, 4 valves per cylinder, and variable valve timing. The killer app is the optional Adaptive Ride Height, which lowers the higher-spec Pan America 1250 Special (which is equipped with semi-active Showa suspension) by 1 to 2 inches when the bike comes to a stop. Pricing starts at $17,319 for the Pan America 1250 and $19,999 for the Pan America 1250 Special.
For Harley-Davidson Touring models like the Road Glide, Road King, and Street Glide, there are Special models that offer a slammed look and 119 lb-ft of torque from the Milwaukee-Eight 114 V-Twin. The 2021 Harley-Davidson Road Glide Special is available with new two-tone paint options, and with a choice of a blacked-out or bright chrome styling treatments. All Special models are now equipped with the high-performance Ventilator air cleaner with a washable filter element, and a new low-profile engine guard. Pricing starts at $26,699.
2021 Harley-Davidson Sportster S
The (air-cooled) Sportster is dead, long live the (liquid-cooled) Sportster! Visually similar to the 1250 Custom teased several years ago, the 2021 Harley-Davidson Sportster S represents a new era for the legendary Sportster line. Since the introduction of the XL model family in 1957, Sportsters have always been stripped-down motorcycles powered by air-cooled V-Twins. Harley calls the new Sportster S a “sport custom motorcycle,” and at the heart of the machine is a 121-horsepower Revolution Max 1250T V-Twin, a lightweight chassis, and premium suspension. Pricing starts at $14,999.
The Street Bob, with its mini-ape handlebar, mid-mount controls, and bobber-style fenders, has become a fan favorite among those looking for a minimalist American V-twin to customize. The 2021 Harley-Davidson Street Bob 114 packs more punch, thanks to the larger, torque-rich Milwaukee-Eight 114 engine. Pricing starts at $14,999.
With a slammed look and 119 lb-ft of torque from the Milwaukee-Eight 114 V-Twin, the 2021 Harley-Davidson Street Glide Special is available with new two-tone paint options, and with a choice of a blacked-out or bright chrome styling treatments. All Special models are now equipped with the high-performance Ventilator air cleaner with a washable filter element, and a new low-profile engine guard. Pricing starts at $27,099.
The 2021 Honda ADV150 is an ADV-styled scooter, essentially a Honda PCX150 with longer travel Showa suspension (5.1/4.7 inches front/rear) and a larger ABS-equipped 240mm disc brake at the bow and a drum brake without ABS in the stern. Its powered by a liquid-cooled 149cc Single and has an automatic V-matic transmission. Pricing starts at $4,199.
Well-mannered motorcycles seldom make racing history, and the 2021 Honda CBR1000RR-R Fireblade SP was developed with one uncompromising goal — win superbike races at all costs. It’s powered by an inline-Four that we dyno tested at 175 horsepower at the rear wheel, and it’s equipped with Öhlins semi-active suspension, IMU-enabled electronics, and top-shelf braking hardware. And it’s street legal and available for purchase from your local Honda dealer. MSRP is $28,500.
The 2021 Honda CRF300L (above) and CRF300L Rally (below) dual-sports share the same powerplant, a liquid-cooled 286cc Single which boasts 15% more displacement, power, and torque than its 250cc predecessor. They have a new slip/assist clutch, revised steering geometry, less weight, and a new LCD meter. The CRF300L has a base price of $5,249 (add $300 for ABS), weighs 309 pounds, has a 2.1-gallon tank, and has a 34.7-inch seat height.
The 2021 Honda CRF300L and CRF300L Rally (above) dual-sports share the same powerplant, a liquid-cooled 286cc Single which boasts 15% more displacement, power, and torque than its 250cc predecessor. They have a new slip/assist clutch, revised steering geometry, less weight, and a new LCD meter. The CRF300L Rally, which has a windscreen, handlebar weights, rubber footpeg inserts, a larger front brake rotor, more seat padding, and a larger fuel tank (3.4 gallons vs. 2.1) than the CRF300L, has a base price of $5,999 (add $300 for ABS), weighs 333 pounds, and has a 35.2-inch seat height.
The Honda CRF450L debuted for 2019, bringing CRF450R motocross performance to a street-legal dual-sport. Its lightweight, compact, liquid-cooled 449cc single has a 12:1 compression ratio and a Unicam SOHC valve train with titanium valves. For 2021, Honda added an “R” to the model name (CRF450RL), lowered the price to $9,999 (from $10,399), revised the ECU and fuel-injection settings for better throttle response, and added new hand guards and fresh graphics.
The Gold Wing has been Honda‘s flagship touring model for more than 40 years. It entered its sixth generation for the 2018 model year, with a complete overhaul to the GL1800 platform that made it lighter, sportier, and more technologically advanced. The standard Gold Wing (above) and trunk-equipped Gold Wing Tour (below) won Rider‘s 2018 Motorcycle of the Year award. Gold Wing updates for 2021 include a suede-like seat cover, colored seat piping, audio improvements, and red rear turnsignals. Pricing starts at $23,800 for the Gold Wing and $25,100 for the Gold Wing DCT (with 7-speed automatic Dual Clutch Transmission).
Updates for the Honda Gold Wing Tour include the same ones listed above for the standard Gold Wing: a suede-like seat cover, colored seat piping, audio improvements, and red rear turnsignals. But the Tour also got a larger top trunk (61 liters, up from 50) that now easily accepts two full-face helmets; total storage capacity is now 121 liters. The passenger seat’s backrest features a more relaxed angle, thicker foam, and a taller profile. Pricing starts at $23,800 for the Gold Wing and $25,100 for the Gold Wing DCT (with 7-speed automatic Dual Clutch Transmission).
Joining the Rebel 300 and Rebel 500 in Honda‘s cruiser lineup for 2021 is the all-new Rebel 1100, which is powered by powered by a version of the liquid-cooled 1,084cc parallel-twin used in the 2020 Africa Twin, which uses a Unicam SOHC valve train and is available with either a 6-speed manual gearbox or a 6-speed automatic Dual Clutch Transmission. Standard equipment includes four ride modes (Standard, Sport, Rain and User, which is customizable), Honda Selectable Torque Control (aka traction control, which has integrated wheelie control), engine brake control, and cruise control. Pricing starts at $9,299 for the Rebel 1100 and $9,999 for the Rebel 1100 DCT.
The latest addition to Honda‘s miniMOTO lineup is the Trail 125 ABS, which is powered by the same air-cooled 125cc Single found in the Grom, Monkey, and Super Cub C125. Like the Monkey and Super Cub, the Trail plays the retro card, pulling at heartstrings for a bike beloved by many decades ago. Just like its forefathers, the 2021 Honda Trail 125 proudly carries on the tradition of being a quaint and understated dual-sport, with a steel backbone frame, upright handlebar, square turnsignals, upswept exhaust, high-mount snorkel, and luggage rack. MSRP is $3,899.
For 2021, the Indian Roadmaster Limited gets the larger 116ci Thunder Stroke V-Twin versus the original 111, and it has a modern streamlined fairing, open front fender, and slammed saddlebags. As a premium touring model, the Roadmaster Limited also gets Indian’s heated and cooled ClimaCommand seats and other upgrades. Pricing starts at $30,749.
Like the Honda CRF300L above, Kawasaki‘s entry-level dual-sport got a displacement boost, which warranted a name change from KLX250 to KLX300. The 2021 KLX300 makes more thanks to a larger 292cc Single, which is liquid-cooled, fuel-injected, and has DOHC with four valves. It also uses more aggressive cam profiles, making it livelier than its predecessor. All of that is paired to a 6-speed gearbox and 14/40 final drive. Pricing starts at $5,599. And joining the KLX300 is a supermoto version, the KLX300SM (below).
Joining the KLX300 dual-sport (above) in Kawasaki‘s 2021 lineup is an all-new supermoto version, the KLX300SM. It has street-oriented 17-inch wire-spoke wheels and IRC Road Winner RX-01 rubber, and the suspension is stiffer with slightly abbreviated travel. The KLX300SM also has taller final-drive gearing and a larger front brake rotor. Pricing starts at $5,599.
Speaking of supermoto, KTM‘s track-only, race-ready 450 SMR is back for 2021. Using the 450 SX-F motocross racer as its foundation, the SMR shares its 63-horsepower 450cc single-cylinder SOHC engine, lightweight steel frame, and cast-aluminum swingarm. To suit its supermoto purpose, wider triple clamps with a 16mm offset accommodate tubeless Alpina wheels (16.5-inch front and 17-inch rear) fitted with ultra-sticky Bridgestone Battlax Supermoto slicks. The WP Xact suspension is updated, reducing suspension travel to an ample 11.2 inches in the front and 10.5 inches in the rear, lowering the bike’s center of gravity and improving handling. A radially mounted Brembo M50 front caliper squeezes a 310mm Galfer floating rotor to deliver all the braking power you’ll ever need on a bike that weighs just 232 pounds wet. MSRP is $11,299.
We selected the KTM 790 Adventure and 790 Adventure R as Rider‘s 2019 Motorcycle of the Year. Just two years later, KTM has updated the platform. Adapted from the 890 Duke R, the engine now has more displacement, a higher compression ratio, and other improvements. And like the 890 Duke R, the Adventure R has better throttle-by-wire response, a beefed-up clutch and a shortened shift lever stroke and lighter shift-detent spring for faster shifting. Chassis updates include an aluminum head tube, a lighter swingarm, revised suspension settings, and refinements to the braking system. Pricing starts at $14,199.
The limited-edition KTM 890 Adventure R Rally received the same updates as the 890 Adventure R (above), but is loaded with race-spec inspired components. Its development utilized feedback from Red Bull KTM Factory Racing team riders, Toby Price, and Sam Sunderland. Only 700 units of the 890 Adventure R Rally will be produced worldwide, with 200 slated for the North American market. Pricing starKTM 8ts at $19,999.
Powering the 2021 KTM 890 Duke is the same punchy, rip-roaring 889cc parallel-Twin producing a claimed 115 horsepower and 67.9 lb-ft of torque that’s also found in the 890 Duke R and 890 Adventure (above). Shared amongst the middleweight Duke family is a chromoly-steel frame, lightweight one-piece aluminum subframe and cast aluminum swingarm. By using the 889cc engine as a stressed member, the 890 Duke flaunts a mere 372-pound dry weight. We recently completed a comparison test of the 2021 KTM Duke lineup (200, 390, 890, and 1290), which will be posted soon.
On March 15, 2021, Moto Guzzi celebrated its 100th anniversary of continuous production at its headquarters in Mandello del Lario, Italy. One of Moto Guzzi’s most iconic models, the V7, was updated for 2021, and is available in more modern V7 Stone and classic V7 Special versions. Both have a larger 853cc V-Twin derived from engine, variations of which are found in the V9 and V85 TT. They also get reduced effort from the single-disc dry clutch, a stiffer frame, a bigger swingarm with a new bevel gear for the cardan shaft drive, revised damping and a longer stroke for the preload-adjustable rear shocks, an updated ABS module, a wider rear tire, vibration-damping footpegs, and a thicker passenger seat. MSRP for the V7 Stone is $8,990, or $9,190 for the Centenario edition (shown above).
The 2021 Moto Guzzi V7 Special gets the same updates as the V7 Stone above. Whereas the V7 Stone has matte finishes, a single all-digital gauge, black exhausts, cast wheels, and an eagle-shaped LED set into the headlight, the V7 Special is classically styled, with spoked wheels, chrome finishes, dual analog gauges, and a traditional headlight. MSRP is $9,490.
For 2021, the Moto Guzzi V85 TT gets some updates to its air-cooled 853cc 90-degree V-Twin. The revised powerplant offers more torque at low to midrange rpm thanks to optimized lift of the pushrod-and-rockers timing cams and tweaks to the engine control electronics. New spoked rims now mount tubeless tires, reducing unsprung weight by 3.3 pounds for better handling and facilitating plug-and-go flat repairs. Two new riding modes—Sport and Custom—join the existing three (Street, Rain, Off-road) to provide more flexibility in managing throttle response, traction control and ABS to suit rider preferences. Cruise control and the color TFT instrument panel also come standard. The 2021 V85 TT Adventure ($12,990) has standard saddlebags. The 2021 V85 TT Travel ($13,390) includes a Touring windscreen, side panniers from the Urban series, auxiliary LED lights, heated hand grips, and the Moto Guzzi MIA multimedia platform.
For 2021, the Royal Enfield Himalayan adventure bike, which is powered by an air-cooled 411cc Single, get several updates, including switchable ABS to help riders when riding off-road, a revised rear brake that is said to improve braking performance, a redesigned sidestand, and a new hazard light switch. MSRP is $4,999.
For 2021, the Royal Enfield family gets a new addition — the Meteor 350, a light, affordable cruiser powered by an all-new air-cooled 349cc single with SOHC actuating two valves. Available in three budget-friendly trim packages, variants include the base-model Fireball ($4,399) with a black exhaust system; the Stellar ($4,499), with a chrome exhaust and a passenger backrest; and the Supernova ($4,599), which adds a windshield and a two-tone paint scheme.
Triumph‘s Speed Triple is one of the original hooligan bikes. It has evolved over the years since its introduction in 1994, and for 2021 the Speed Triple 1200 RS is the lightest, most powerful, highest-spec version yet. Its all-new 1,160cc Triple (up from 1,050cc) makes 165 horsepower at the rear wheel, and the RS is equipped with state-of-the-art electronics, fully adjustable Öhlins suspension, Brembo Stylema front calipers, and much more. Pricing starts at $18,300.
The 2021 Triumph Tiger 850 Sport, a street-focused adventure bike powered by the same liquid-cooled 888cc in-line triple as the Tiger 900 models, but it has been detuned to 82 horsepower at 8,400 rpm and 58 lb-ft of torque at 6,700 rpm at the rear wheel, as measured on Jett Tuning‘s dyno, which is about 10 horsepower lower. To keep the price down, Triumph also reduced the number of ride modes to two (Road and Rain) and limited suspension adjustability to rear preload. But this is no bargain-bin special. It has Marzocchi suspension front and rear, and it has Brembo brakes, with Stylema front calipers and a radial front master cylinder. ABS is standard but not switchable, and traction control is also standard but is switchable.
The 2021 Triumph Trident 660 is a triple-cylinder-powered roadster in the the twin-cylinder-dominated middleweight class. It’s powered by a liquid-cooled, DOHC, 660cc inline-Triple making a claimed 79.9 horsepower at 10,250 rpm and 47 lb-ft of torque at 6,250 rpm, and it is equipped with ABS, switchable traction control, and selectable ride modes. MSRP is $7,995.
Updates for 2021 to the Yamaha MT-07, its best-selling middleweight naked sportbike, include revisions to the 689cc liquid-cooled CP2 (Cross Plane 2-cylinder) parallel-Twin engine to meet Euro 5 regulations and to improve low-rpm throttle response. The MT-07 has a new 2-into-1 exhaust, revisions to the 6-speed gearbox to improve shifting feel, LED lighting all around, new instrumentation, revised ergonomics, and new styling that brings it closer in appearance to the larger MT-09 (below). Base price is $7,699, and three color choices are available: Storm Fluo, Matte Raven Black, and Team Yamaha Blue.
Now in its third generation, fully 90% of the Yamaha MT-09 naked sportbike is new for 2021. Its has an entirely new 890cc CP3 (Cross Plane 3-cylinder) inline-Triple engine, a thoroughly updated and significantly stiffer chassis, state-of-the-art electronics, and a fresh look that results in the most refined MT-09 yet. The base price increased by $400 to $9,399, but the four extra Benjamins are worth it. The MT-09 is available in Storm Fluo (shown above), Matte Raven Black, and Team Yamaha Blue. There’s also an MT-09 SP ($10,999) with exclusive special-edition coloring, premium KYB and Öhlins suspension, and cruise control.
After being teased for several years, Yamaha‘s highly anticipated Ténéré 700 adventure bike made its U.S. debut in the summer of 2021, bringing some excitement during a challenging pandemic year. It’s powered by the versatile 689cc liquid-cooled CP2 (Cross Plane 2-cylinder) parallel-Twin engine from the MT-07 (above), modified for adventure duty with a new airbox with a higher snorkel, a revised cooling system, an upswept exhaust, and a final gear ratio of 46/15 vs. 43/16. The rest of the bike is all-new, including the narrow double-cradle tubular-steel frame, triangulated (welded-on) subframe, double braced steering head and aluminum swingarm, adjustable long-travel suspension, switchable ABS, and more. Base price is $9,999 and its available in Ceramic Ice, Intensity White (shown above), and Matte Black.
Now in its third generation, Yamaha’s middleweight sport-tourer — now called the Tracer 9 GT — is new from the ground up for 2021. It has a larger, more powerful engine, a new frame, and a state-of-the-art electronics package that includes semi-active suspension. With these updates comes a higher price, and MSRP is now $14,899. It’s available in Liquid Metal (shown above) and Redline.
New for 2021, Zero has taken the existing frame from the FX and added a redesigned body. The starkly modern, supermoto styling is very similar in appearance to the FXS – tall, slim and sporting a raised front mudguard. However, the FXE is capable of a claimed 100-mile range on a full battery charge and costs $11,795, which can be bought down to around $10,000 depending upon available EV rebates and credits.
Compared to many of its heavier, more expensive competitors the FXE is a lightweight and thrilling runabout, and what it gives up in range it makes up for in accessibility and potential for fun. The FXE makes for a credible commuter bike, capable of taking to the highway but ideal to zip around town on.
Harley-Davidson is producing a limited run of 2021 Street Glide Specials featuring the handcrafted Arctic Blast Limited Edition paint set. The motorcycle was revealed today at the 81st Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. Availability will be limited to 500 examples worldwide, each serialized on the fuel tank.
The Arctic Blast Limited Edition paint will be offered in a single colorway – metallic deep blue with bright blue strokes over a pearlescent white base. Each of the Street Glide Specials receiving the new custom scheme is hand-painted by the artisans at Gunslinger Custom Paint in Golden, Colorado. Gunslinger is home to a renowned group of painters, designers and, artists with decades of experience supplying custom-painted components for Harley-Davidson’s Custom Vehicle Operations team and limited-edition motorcycles.
“With the Arctic Blast Limited Edition paint offering for the Street Glide Special, at Harley-Davidson, we continue to build on our reputation and lead by example, as the best in exclusive custom motorcycles and design,” said Jochen Zeitz, Chairman, President and CEO Harley-Davidson.
The Street Glide Special model is a Harley-Davidson hot-rod bagger that combines long-haul touring comfort and custom style powered by the Milwaukee-Eight 114 V-Twin engine. Key features include the iconic Harley-Davidson batwing fairing, stretched locking saddlebags, a Daymaker LED headlamp, low-profile engine guard, and Prodigy custom wheels.
“The Arctic Blast paint is executed in strokes of high-contrast color intended to communicate the appearance of motion,” said Brad Richards, Harley-Davidson Vice President of Styling and Design. “The design looks bold from a distance but offers interesting details that can only be seen up close, including a blue pearl effect over the white base, and a ghosted hexagon pattern on the fairing.”
The Arctic Blast Limited Edition Street Glide Special MSRP is $38,899. A Chopped Tour-Pak luggage carrier with matching paint will also be offered through Harley-Davidson Genuine Motor Parts & Accessories (MSRP: $1,699.95).