Long-Term Harley-Davidson Roadster: Brian's New Ride

An American V-twin joins the Motorcyclist long-term fleet.

Harley-Davidson Roadster
Wrist Brian Hatano
MSRP (2017) $11,299
Miles 1,580
MPG 46.4
Mods None
Update 1
Brian Hatano

It's been more than a year and a half since we've done time on a Milwaukee-built bike, and things just haven't been the same without the familiar rumble of an American V-twin rattling the roll-up doors of the Motorcyclist garage. Well, the wait is over. Say hello to the newest addition to the long-term fleet, a 2017 Roadster with an aggressive, stripped-down stance and some key attributes that give it a more purposeful spot on the current Sportster roster.

The Harley-Davidson Sportster and I go way back. No, not my new long-term bike specifically. I'm talking about the platform in general, which has been around since 1957. I'm also a product of the late '50s, but unlike my own all-original-but-aging framework, the Sportster has seen numerous updates and styling improvements over the years.

If you’re up to date on the Roadster’s specs, you know that it shares the same engine and chassis as the other XL1200 models, and the two notable performance upgrades are the suspension (more travel from an inverted fork and gas-charged emulsion coilovers) and better brakes up front. I’ve logged a little more than 500 miles so far, mostly traveling to and from the office (my commute is 45 miles one way), and unlike the softly sprung suspension of my last long-termer (the Indian Scout), this setup is one I can live with, at least for now. The Roadster is nimble enough around town, but it doesn’t feel as flickable as the new Street Rod I rode recently.

Other features that get a thumbs-up are the dual front disc brakes (the only Sportster so equipped), the keyless ignition, LED headlight, and the bobbed fenders front and rear. They’re a perfect match for the 3.3-gallon peanut tank and really round out the retro-racer look.

Looking ahead, some of the things I’d like to find replacements for are the gauge (the digital readout is great at night but practically useless during the day), the handlebars (they’re low but not quite low enough), mid-mount foot controls (too wide and too far forward), and an engine that seems to have some power trapped in the OEM intake and exhaust systems.

A list of bolt-ons from Harley-Davidson’s new Café Custom accessories are already on my wish list and would address all but the gauge issue. More on those later, but for now, this bike is begging me to put some miles on it.