By Koz Mraz. Photos by Michael Cupp
Donning a “Skratch” signature Bell helmet, Ray-Bans, sleeveless flannel and cuffed denims over my MotoBailey motorcycle shoes, I stripped 25 years off my age as I mounted the Sportster Forty-Eight Special– named after the year Harley-Davidson introduced the small peanut tank. The Forty-Eight’s 2.1 gallon fuel tank combines bold color stripes with a formal typeface, color and graphic elements originally popular in the 1970s. To me, the Forty-Eight Special’s real signature style is its beefy front end—a 130mm front tire framed by 49mm fork tubes gripped by massive forged aluminum triple clamps, it screams vintage bobber.
While Tallboy handlebars may not be considered drag race worthy, they look great on the Forty-Eight. The Tallboy bars have good leverage, and work perfectly with the beefy 49mm fork and fat 130mm Michelin Scorcher 31. The massive 16-inch tires provide some serious grip in all weather conditions. For 2019, Harley ditched the gloss black, 7.25-inch high Tallboy handlebars for low drag bars. Not my personal favorites because that clamshell riding position gets uncomfortable. But hey, since it only takes about sixty miles to see the low-fuel light come on and you have to get off to refuel every couple of hours, it may not be so bad. The Forty-Eight Special is a fun ride in the twisties, though at a 27 degree lean angle, grinding metal is fairly regular occurrence.
The Evolution 1200 45 degree V-twin features a black top end and an expanse of brilliant chrome below, including chrome primary, inspection and derby covers, and solid chrome muffler and exhaust shields. Chrome lower rocker boxes, pushrod tubes and tappet covers contrast with the black cylinders to highlight the V-twin’s shape. With 73 ft-lbs at just 3,500 rpm pushing a 564-pound cruiser, acceleration is good. You can quickly sprint away from city traffic when the light turns green, and pull strongly out of corners. It is not the fastest revving engine, so your acceleration is limited more by its willingness to rev than its power. That means you get predictable and controllable power, so you can make the most of the Forty-Eight Special’s chassis. With rubber mounting, vibration isn’t a problem.
The suspension combo of shocks, forks, tires, and seat do well for the rider. The forks are a cartridge design, and make the most of the limited travel, as do the emulsion shocks. The high profile tires do their job of taking the edge off the sharper potholes around town. The seat is fairly thin, as Harley-Davidson wanted to keep the seat height below 28 inches. Passengers? I don’t think so, even if you attached one of those stick on passenger seats the lowed rear end would be a pretty harsh ride.
Truthfully, I love the look of the Forty-Eight and starting at $11,299, it’s instantly cool; of all the Sportster line-up, this would be my choice. And even more truthfully, it’s a bit smallish for this six-footer.
It’s a tough time for motorcycle manufacturers right now because they are all vying for the same audience, millennials, and they just aren’t buying. Why? Several factors seem to be contributing. Lower discretionary income, decrease in dirt bike riding as the “gateway” to motorcycling, to fewer mass media role models. One of the factors often touted is that millennials prefer ‘experiences’ over ‘things.’ To me, as a child of the sixties, that’s the exact reason you would ride a motorcycle. There is no greater way to experience life than on a motorcycle, just as any rider would tell you.
ENGINE Air-cooled, Evolution®
BORE 3.5 in.
STROKE 3.8 in.
DISPLACEMENT 1,202 cc (73.4 cu in)
COMPRESSION RATIO 10:01
FUEL SYSTEM Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI)
EXHAUST Black, staggered exhaust with slash-cut mufflers
LENGTH 85.2 in.
SEAT HEIGHT, LADEN 26.2 in.
SEAT HEIGHT, UNLADEN 27.8 in.
GROUND CLEARANCE 4.3 in.
RAKE (STEERING HEAD) (DEG) 30.2
TRAIL 5.3 in.
WHEELBASE 58.9 in.
TIRES, FRONT SPECIFICATION 130/90B16 73H
TIRES, REAR SPECIFICATION 150/80B16 77H
FUEL CAPACITY 2.1 gal.
OIL CAPACITY (W/FILTER) 2.8 qt.
WEIGHT, AS SHIPPED 547 lb.
WEIGHT, IN RUNNING ORDER 564 lb.
ENGINE TORQUE TESTING
ENGINE TORQUE 73 ft-lb
ENGINE TORQUE (RPM) 3,500
LEAN ANGLE, RIGHT (DEG.) 27.1
LEAN ANGLE, LEFT (DEG.) 27.1
ESTIMATED CITY/HWY 48 mpg
WHEELS, FRONT TYPE Black, Split 9-Spoke Cast Aluminum
WHEELS, REAR TYPE Black, Split 9-Spoke Cast Aluminum
BRAKES, CALIPER TYPE Dual-piston front, Dual-piston rear
HELMET: Bell 500 signature “Skratch” helmet
UNDERWEAR: Mack Weldon
VIVID BLACK $11,299
ABS OPTION $795
SECURITY SYSTEM OPTION $395