First Look: 2016 Harley-Davidson Roadster

Newest Dark Custom Takes The Racing Line

2016 H-D Roadster
Dark Custom Sportster or dark-horse race winner? The Roadster passes for both.©Motorcyclist

Harley-Davidson is once again throwing the spotlight on the Dark Custom lineup with the addition of the Roadster, a Sportster with what H-D calls a "minimalist, fastback design inspired by classic racing motorcycles."

2016 H-D Roadster action
Fastback topline is track ready and street savvy. Just add number plates and hang on.©Motorcyclist

The beating heart of the Roadster is Harley’s evergreen 1,202cc Sportster V-twin, as in all other Sportsters it’s cradled in rubber mounts to tame the vibration without neutering the iconic V-twin vibes and fed by electronic fuel injection.

The engine is only part of what makes this particular Dark Custom shine. The Roadster comes with premium emulsion technology rear shocks with preload adjustment, while the 43mm inverted fork gets cartridge damping and a new triple-clamp design. Suspension travel has long been a sore spot with Sportsters, but this one should be better, with 4.5 inches of travel in the fork and 3.2 inches in the shocks.

2016 H-D Roadster 1200cc V-twin engine
The Roadster’s 1,200cc V-twin is a descendant of the original Sportster from 1957. With modern upgrades like FI and rubber-mounting, it’s ready for another 60-year run.©Motorcyclist

The Roadster rolls on lightweight five-spoke cast-aluminum wheels, a 19-incher up front and an 18-incher in the rear; both come shod with radial blackwall Dunlops. The wheels were inspired by laced wheels, and Harley says they’re not only the most intricate cast wheels they’ve ever made, but are also very light for their size. Dual 11.8-inch floating rotors can be teamed with ABS as a factory-installed option. A Smart Security System is also an option to help you make sure your Roadster stays your Roadster.


Standout visual details abound, like a blacked-out powertrain with a gray oval air cleaner, shorty dual exhausts with laser-cut black heat shields, and a side-mounted license-plate holder. The blacked-out theme is carried all the way to the dual mirrors and the black headlight shell with a chrome trim ring. For those riders allergic to peanuts, a 3.3-gallon “walnut” gas tank is standard.

2016 H-D Roadster seat
The office features a deep rider pocket but not much love for a passenger. Seat height is 30.9 inches, low enough for stable footing at stops.©Motorcyclist

The Roadster pays homage to the stripped-down look of race bikes, including a slotted belt guard, and muffler shields with slots that mimic the holes drilled in racers to add lightness. The rear fender is the shortest Sportster bobbed fender yet by 1.5 inches. A single 4-inch instrument is center-mounted and tucked low in front of the tipple clamp, with a sweeping analog tach and an inset digital speedo.

2016 H-D Roadster premium suspension
The Roadster has more suspension travel than any previous Sportster. Gas-charged emulsion shocks are adjustable for preload only.©Motorcyclist

The Roadster comes in Vivid Black with a charcoal denim pinstripe; Black Denim with a red pinstripe; Velocity Red Sunglo with a red pinstripe; and two-tone Billet Silver/Vivid Black with a burgundy pinstripe. Prices start at $11,199 for a single color up to $11,749 for two-tone; ABS is a $795 option.

2016 H-D Roadster wheels
The wheels are the most intricate Harley has ever made, and light, too. Dual front stoppers mean business.©Motorcyclist