Lean And Mean Dark Custom Attitude

The Forty-Eight from Harley-Davidson’s Sportster stable has that signature bulldog stance with beefy front forks and fat tires on a narrow frame. The 1,202 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.

Harley-Davidson Forty-Eight Design

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.

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.

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.

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 brought 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 was the only Sportster model offered in the anniversary edition and it really set it apart from the rest of the family.

Harley-Davidson Forty-Eight Chassis

2016 - 2019 Harley-Davidson Forty-Eight
- image 737131

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 has 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 the 115th Anniversary model on which it was standard), just bear in mind that it will lengthen your minimum braking distance; the price you pay for traction protection.

Frame: Mild steel, tubular frame; circular section, stamped junctions; MIG welded
Suspension, Front/ Travel: 49 mm fork set, free valve right hand and cartridge-style left hand/ 3.6 in.
Suspension, Rear/ Travel: Variable rate spring over 36 mm piston nitrogen gas-charged emulsion-style shock with thread-style preload adjustments/1.6 in.
Exhaust: Chrome, staggered shorty exhaust with dual slash-cut mufflers
Wheels: Black, Split Nine-Spoke Cast Aluminum w/ Machined Highlights
Wheel, Front: 16 in. x 3 in. (406 mm x 76 mm)
Wheel, Rear: 16 in. x 3 in. (406 mm x 76 mm)
Brakes, Front: 300 mm floating rotor, Dual-piston front caliper
Brakes, Rear: 260 mm uniform expansion rotor, Dual-piston rear caliper
Tire, Front: Michelin Scorcher 130/90B16 73H
Tire, Rear: Michelin Scorcher 150/80B16 77H

Harley-Davidson Forty-Eight Drivetrain

2016 - 2019 Harley-Davidson Forty-Eight
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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, 1,202 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 engine 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 x 3.811 inches (88.9 mm x 96.8 mm)
Displacement: 73.4 cubic inches (1,202 cc)
Engine Torque (J1349): 70.8 Pound-Feet at 3,500 rpm
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

Harley-Davidson Forty-Eight Price

2016 - 2019 Harley-Davidson Forty-Eight
- image 737113
MSRP carries over from last year on Vivid Black and the color options. For 2019, new custom colors and a two-tone colorway are offered.

As usual, Harley charges a bit more for the really sharp paint, but the price difference on the Forty-Eight 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 2019, get your peanut tank shot in Vivid Black for $11,299 with colors, custom colors and two-tones running up to $12,299. If you want ABS, spring for an extra $795 and the security system will run you $395 more.

Model ID: XL 1200X
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
└ 2019: Vivid Black, Wicked Red Denim, Industrial Gray, Rugged Gold Denim, Blue Max, Scorched Orange/Black 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
└ 2019: Vivid Black $11,299, Color Option $11,649, Custom Color $11,999, Two-Tone Custom Color $12,199

Harley-Davidson Forty-Eight Competitors

2016 - 2019 Indian Motorcycle Scout / Scout Sixty
- image 793789
2016 - 2019 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 for a competitor for the Forty-Eight. The Bolt from Yamaha seemed too obvious a target, so I picked the Scout from Indian Motorcycle 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 1,202 cc (73.4 cubic-inch) displacement against 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 have 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. Price is a wash with or without ABS, so if you’re on the fence, a test ride will tell you what you need to know.

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."

Harley-Davidson Forty-Eight Specifications

Engine & Drivetrain:
Engine: Air-cooled, Evolution®
Bore x Stroke: 3.5 inches x 3.811 inches (88.9 mm x 96.8 mm)
Displacement: 73.4 cubic inches (1,202 cc)
Engine Torque (J1349): 70.8 Pound-Feet at 3,500 rpm
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
Chassis:
Frame: Mild steel, tubular frame; circular section, stamped junctions; MIG welded
Suspension, Front/ Travel: 49 mm fork set, free valve right hand and cartridge-style left hand/ 3.6 in.
Suspension, Rear/ Travel: Variable rate spring over 36 mm piston nitrogen gas-charged emulsion-style shock with thread-style preload adjustments/1.6 in.
Lean Angle, Right/Left: 27.1°/ 27.1 °
Exhaust: Chrome, staggered shorty exhaust with dual slash-cut mufflers
Wheels: Black, Split Nine-Spoke Cast Aluminum w/ Machined Highlights
Wheel, Front: 16 in. x 3 in. (406 mm x 76 mm)
Wheel, Rear: 16 in. x 3 in. (406 mm x 76 mm)
Brakes, Front: 300 mm floating rotor, Dual-piston front caliper
Brakes, Rear: 260 mm uniform expansion rotor, Dual-piston rear caliper
Tire, Front: Michelin Scorcher 130/90B16 73H
Tire, Rear: Michelin Scorcher 150/80B16 77H
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
Fuel Economy: Combined City/Hwy: 48 mpg
Oil Capacity (w/filter) : 2.8 quarts
Dry Weight: 538 pounds
Curb Weight: 551 pounds
Top Speed: 110 mph (est)
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: Handlebar-mounted electronic four-inch speedometer with odometer, time-of-day clock, dual tripmeter, low fuel warning light, low oil pressure light, engine diagnostics readout, LED indicator lights
Details:
Model ID: XL 1200X
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
└ 2019: Vivid Black, Wicked Red Denim, Industrial Gray, Rugged Gold Denim, Blue Max, Scorched Orange/Black 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
└ 2019: Vivid Black $11,299, Color Option $11,649, Custom Color $11,999, Two-Tone Custom Color $12,199

Further Reading

Indian Motorcycle Scout

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

See our review of the Indian Motorcycle Scout.

Yamaha Bolt

2016 - 2019 Yamaha Bolt
- image 735073

See our review of the Yamaha Bolt.

Harley-Davidson Forty Eight Special

2018 Harley-Davidson Forty-Eight Special
- image 771499

See our review of the Harley-Davidson Forty-Eight Special.

Harley-Davidson

ALLYN IMAGES - DO NOT DELETE
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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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