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First Look: 2022 Harley-Davidson Sportster S

The Sportser blends tonnes of new tech and a modern V-twin into a classic-looking machine

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There’s a new Sportster prowling Harley-Davidson dealers and it’s powered by the same revolution Max engine that so wowed us in the Pan America 1250 we recently tested.

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For those that don’t remember the details of The Motor Company’s new Revolution, it’s a 60-degree V-twin with double overhead cams, four valves in each cylinder, and variable valve timing. In other words, it’s a thoroughly modern motorcycle engine.

For Sportster use, it’s been tweaked for more low-end torque with narrower, higher-velocity inlet tracts, as well as a revised combustion chamber and pistons. Officially, Milwaukee says it’s good for 121 horsepower — about 30 hp down on the Pan America — and 94 pound-feet of torque, but it should have even better throttle response than the adventure tourer since the variable valve timing has been tuned for grunt between 3,000 and 6,000 rpm. Considering that the Revolutionized Sportster weighs but 227 kilograms with its 11.8-litre gas tank full, performance should be more than ample.

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The engine is also a stressed member of the Sportster S’s chassis, with front, mid-, and rear frame elements bolting directly to the engine. And unlike Sportsters of yore, the S’s suspension is thoroughly modern, with a single shock in the rear and inverted forks up front, both adjustable. The way-trick welded tubular steel trellis swing arm features a braced design as well as a stamped X-member to stiffen the chassis and, as befits its premium position, the rear shock’s preload is hydraulically adjustable.

The new Sportster, unlike the old, is enhanced by all manner of high-tech trickery. As befits such a modern motorcycle, there are three riding modes — Sport, Road and Rain — that electronically control the performance characteristics like the throttle response, traction control, etc. As well, an inertia measurement unit allows varying degrees of anti-lock braking intrusion, as well as different levels of traction control according to lean angle.

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  1. First Ride: 2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America 1250

    First Ride: 2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America 1250

The Sportster even benefits from Harley’s new Cornering Enhanced Drag-Torque Slip Control System, which prevents wheel hop from over-aggressive downshifting. Throw in a neat four-inch circular TFT screen that doubles as both speedometer and high-tech information/diagnostics centre while looking like the minimalist Sportster gauges of old and you have the perfect balance of retro and modernity. There’s even a turn-by-turn navigation system that operates through an app available for iOS and Android phones.

As for styling, the Sportser S very much mimics the “Custom” show bike that was making the motorcycle show circuit last year. Harley makes much of the XR750-inspired rear seat unit and the large “48”-type front wheel. But it is most assuredly the high-mounted two-into-one-into-two dirt track-style exhaust that will garner the most attention.

The new Sportster S will start at $17,999 in Canada and will be sold alongside the current Sportster for the foreseeable future.