Lean And Mean Dark Custom Attitude

Stripped-down Sportsters have progressed beyond the days of the “$4,995 Sporty,” into what has become a blank canvas for designers at Harley-Davidson. Each new model seems to gravitate toward a specific design edict be it historical, custom or some combination thereof. The Sportster Forty-Eight is no exception as it reaches back to the 1970s-and-beyond for inspiration. The 1200 cc Evo engine comes blacked out with chrome blings, fed by a ’peanut tank’ that appeared on Sporty’s throughout its history. Low, low seat height and Dark Custom attitude give the Forty-Eight that low-slung, lean, mean look.

Continue reading for my review of the Harley-Davidson Forty-Eight.

Design

2016 - 2018 Harley-Davidson Forty-Eight
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The slammed handlebars and forward foot controls put the rider in an aggressive, forward-leaning, windsock position ready to dip head and shoulder into a turn.

I like to see these somewhat-special bikes; they pay homage to their roots, but aren’t slaves to any specific model. So far, the special Sporties have been relevant, and it seems the designers aren’t jumping the shark quite yet so I look forward to the next concept. Meanwhile, let’s take a look at what makes the Forty-Eight so, well, forty-eightish.

The fuel tank serves as the primary design feature and lends the bike its name, sort of. Behold the “Peanut Tank.” We first saw this tank in 1947 and made its production-bike debut on the 1948 Harley S 125 “Hummer,” with appearances throughout the XL family history. In a move that was perhaps a little too authentic, the factory trimmed the tank down to a mere 2.1 gallons. Granted, it does have the right look, but I will stick to my 3.3-gallon, peanut-like tank, thank you very much.

Designers then leaped to the custom culture of the 1970s for the rest of the rolling chassis. Cut-down fenders, lowered suspension and Harley’s Dark Custom touches take this ride right back to the “Death to Disco” era. In fact, the only part of this sled that isn’t either black or chrome would be the badged, or flamed, namesake fuel tank with just a splash of color to draw the eye to the bike’s showpiece feature.

The slammed handlebars and forward foot controls put the rider in an aggressive, forward-leaning, windsock position ready to dip head and shoulder into a turn. This is actually a comfortable riding position, and it shifts your weight forward over the bike’s center-of-mass for surprisingly nimble cornering.

If you are a reader that lives in the more Northern climates where you have to store your bike for months out of the year, you’ll appreciate the battery tender harness added as standard equipment for the 2017 model-year. For 2018, the factory brings us the limited edition 115th Anniversary model with really sharp-looking Legend Blue Denim paint, blue saddle stitching to match, and a tattoo-inspired Eagle with Bar & Shield graphic draped across the top and right side of the tank. It’s a very elegant look. The Forty-Eight is the only Sportster model to get the anniversary edition and it really sets it apart from the rest of the family.

Chassis

2016 - 2018 Harley-Davidson Forty-Eight
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115th Anniversary

Slammed suspension at both ends not only lowers the overall center-of-gravity, but it also looks really 'Boss' with the fat, 16-inch wheels.

A one-piece, engine and transmission unit dictates frame design, so the factory started out with its usual tubular-steel, dual-downtube, dual-cradle skeleton. The steering head is set for 30.2 degrees of rake to give 5.3 inches of trail; perfect for the fat, 16-inch, 130/90 front tire. Robust 49 mm front forks reinforce the beefiness afforded by the front tire, and the rear shock comes with a screw-adjuster for easy preload adjustment. Suspension at both ends comes slammed to the max for a low, 26.2-inch laden seat height and 3.9 inches of ground clearance. Of course, not only does this lower the overall center-of-gravity, but it also looks really Boss with the fat, 16-inch wheels.

Disc brakes bind the hoops, but the front wheel only gets a single caliper. At 551 pounds soaking wet, it is almost heavy enough to justify going with dual front brakes. ABS is available is an option (on all but the115th Anniversary model on which it is standard), just bear in mind that it will lengthen your minimum braking distance; the price you pay for traction protection.

Wheels, Front Type: Black, Split Nine-Spoke Cast Aluminum w/ Machined Highlights
Wheels, Rear Type: Black, Split Nine-Spoke Cast Aluminum w/ Machined Highlights
Brakes, Caliper Type: Dual-piston front, Dual-piston rear
Lean Angle, Right: 27.1 degrees
Lean Angle, Left: 27.1 degrees
Tires, Front Specification: Michelin Scorcher 130/90B16 73H
Tires, Rear Specification: Michelin Scorcher 150/80B16 77H
Exhaust: Chrome, staggered shorty exhaust with dual slash-cut mufflers

Drivetrain

2016 - 2018 Harley-Davidson Forty-Eight
- image 737120
The engine comes blacked out with chrome accents but it isn't all for show. There's plenty of grunt out of the hole and brisk acceleration once you get into the powerband.

Harley used its time-tested, 1200 cc engine to power the Forty-Eight. Love it or hate it, the Evolution engine has paid its dues and shown itself to be a mill with staying power. The beating heart is based on the original Evo Sporty motor released back in 1986, just with a few added features to keep up with changing regulations and customer demands.

The engine comes blacked out with chrome accents at the rocker boxes and pushrod tubes, and the small, round air cleaner can falls under the ’70s custom category. It ain’t all for show; the air-cooled- fuel-injected, long-stroke engine cranks out 70.8 pound-feet of torque at 3,500 rpm for plenty of grunt out of the hole and brisk acceleration once you get into the powerband.

Power funneled through the five-speed, constant-mesh transmission goes to the rear wheel via a fiber-reinforced belt drive. Overall gearing leaves the rider with fairly comfortable revs on the highway, and a combined mileage of 48 mpg.

Engine: Air-cooled, Evolution®
Bore x Stroke: 3.5 inches (88.9 mm) x 3.811 inches (96.8 mm)
Displacement: 73.4 cubic inches (1,202 cc)
Engine Torque: 70.8 Pound-Feet at 3,500 rpm
Compression Ratio: 10:1
Fuel System: Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI)

Price

2016 - 2018 Harley-Davidson Forty-Eight
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MSRP carries over from last year, though the limited edition 115th Anniversary model goes for a grand more.

As usual, Harley charges a bit more for the really sharp paint, but the price difference is negligible given that the fuel tank represents the entirety of shot sheet-metal on the bike (if you don’t count all the non-optional black). For 2018, get your peanut tank shot in Vivid Black for $11,299, or upgrade to the Red Iron Denim or Twisted Cherry for a mere $350 more. Even the top-shelf, Hard Candy Shattered Flake is reasonable at just one more bill for a $11,749 sticker. The 115th Anniversary model comes shot in Legend Blue Denim for a grand more, but keep in mind that price includes ABS. For the rest of the Forty-Eights, add $795 for the ABS option.

Colors:
2016: Vivid Black, Olive Gold, Velocity Red Sunglo, Billet Silver, Hard Candy Cancun Blue Flame, Hard Candy Gold Flake
2017: Vivid Black, Billet Silver, Corona Yellow Pearl, Crushed Ice Denim, Hard Candy Black Gold Flake, Hard Candy Hot Rod Red Flake
2018: Vivid Black, Red Iron Denim, Twisted Cherry, HC Shattered Flake; 115th Anniversary: Legend Blue Denim
Price:
2016: Vivid Black $11,199, Color Option $11,549, Hard Candy Color Option $11,649
2017: Vivid Black $11,299, Color Option $11,649, Hard Candy Color Option $11,749
2018: Vivid Black $11,299, Color Option $11,649, Hard Candy Color Option $11,749, Anniversary $12,799

Competitors

2016 - 2019 Indian Motorcycle Scout / Scout Sixty
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2016 - 2018 Yamaha Bolt
- image 735144
Indian gains a slight advantage in the drivetrain with an extra gear in the transmixer for a total of six forward gears. Not as good as overdrive, but lots of close-ratio gears to take advantage of the Indian's high-strung powerband.

I wanted to stay in the American market, and the Bolt from Yamaha seemed too obvious a target, so I picked the Scout from Indian Motorcycles for my head-to-head.

Let’s get the engine stuff squared away straight off the bat. The Forty-Eight comes out on top, barely, with a 1200 cc (73.4 cubic-inch) displacement over 1,133 cc (69 cubic-inches) for the Indian. While the Indian cranks out 1.4 pound-feet more for a total of 72.2 pound-feet, you have to wind it up to 5,900 rpm to find it; quite a bit higher than the Sporty at 3,500 rpm.

Both sport fuel injection, but the Indian gains a slight advantage in the drivetrain with an extra gear in the transmixer for a total of six forward gears. Not as good as overdrive, but lots of close-ratio gears to take advantage of the Indian’s high-strung powerband.

The Indian is a bit more capable in the corners with a 31-degree, maximum lean angle, but the Sporty isn’t far behind at 27.1 degrees – not stellar, but not bad as far as Sporties go.

He Said

“I always liked Sporties, and this one is just as cute as a bug. The minimal paint leaves this ride looking primal and bare; perfect for a custom project or riding as-is. I can tell you as a rider of a lowered Sporty that the low center of gravity makes the bike just dive into the corners with enthusiasm. Keep the revs up in the powerband and you have yourself a right-lively little ride.”

She Said

My wife and fellow writer, Allyn Hinton, says, "I like the Dark Custom influence on the Forty-Eight. It’s a lean-and-mean looking cruiser with that whole ’don’t mess with me’ vibe. I really like the under-mount mirrors. That gives the handlebars a ’bare’ look that just looks meaner than having antennae sticking up in the air."

Specifications

Engine & Drivetrain:
Engine: Air-cooled, Evolution®
Bore: 3.5 inches (88.9 mm)
Stroke: 3.811 inches (96.8 mm)
Displacement: 73.4 cubic inches (1,202 cc)
Compression Ratio: 10 to 1
Fuel System: Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI)
Primary Drive: Chain, 38/57 ratio
Gear Ratios (overall) : 1st 9.315, 2nd 6.653, 3rd 4.948 4th 4.102, 5th 3.517
Performance:
Engine Torque Testing Method: J1349
Engine Torque: 70.8 Pound-Feet at 3,500 rpm
Lean Angle, Right: 27.1 degrees
Lean Angle, Left: 27.1 degrees
Fuel Economy: Combined City/Hwy: 48 mpg
Chassis:
Exhaust: Chrome, staggered shorty exhaust with dual slash-cut mufflers
Wheels, Front Type: Black, Split Nine-Spoke Cast Aluminum w/ Machined Highlights
Wheels, Rear Type: Black, Split Nine-Spoke Cast Aluminum w/ Machined Highlights
Brakes, Caliper Type: Dual-piston front, Dual-piston rear
Tires, Front Specification: Michelin Scorcher 130/90B16 73H
Tires, Rear Specification: Michelin Scorcher 150/80B16 77H
Electric:
Lights (as per country regulation), Indicator Lamps: High beam, neutral, low oil pressure, turn signals, engine diagnostics, low fuel warning, low battery, security system (optional)
Gauges: Four-inch Speedometer mounted low and integrated into handlebar clamp
Dimensions & Capacities:
Length: 85 inches
Seat Height, Laden: 26.2 inches
Seat Height, Unladen: 27.3 inches
Ground Clearance: 3.9 inches
Rake (steering head) : 30.2 degrees
Trail: 5.3 inches
Wheelbase: 59.3 inches
Fuel Capacity: 2.1 gallons
Oil Capacity (w/filter) : 2.8 quarts
Weight, As Shipped: 538 pounds
Weight, In Running Order: 551 pounds
Details:
Colors:
2016: Vivid Black, Olive Gold, Velocity Red Sunglo, Billet Silver, Hard Candy Cancun Blue Flame, Hard Candy Gold Flake
2017: Vivid Black, Billet Silver, Corona Yellow Pearl, Crushed Ice Denim, Hard Candy Black Gold Flake, Hard Candy Hot Rod Red Flake
2018: Vivid Black, Red Iron Denim, Twisted Cherry, HC Shattered Flake; 115th Anniversary: Legend Blue Denim
Price:
2016: Vivid Black $11,199, Color Option $11,549, Hard Candy Color Option $11,649
2017: Vivid Black $11,299, Color Option $11,649, Hard Candy Color Option $11,749
2018: Vivid Black $11,299, Color Option $11,649, Hard Candy Color Option $11,749, Anniversary $12,799

References

Indian Motorcycle Scout

2016 - 2019 Indian Motorcycle Scout / Scout Sixty
- image 730658

See our review of the Indian Motorcycle Scout.

Yamaha Bolt

2016 - 2018 Yamaha Bolt
- image 735073

See our review of the Yamaha Bolt.

All images featured on this website are copyrighted to their respective rightful owners. No infringement is intended. Image Source: harley-davidson.com, yamaha-motor.com, indianmotorcycle.com

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