The Roadster from Harley-Davidson is an addition to the Sportster family of motorcycles from the American motorcycle giant and intends to take its touring legacy forward in one of the world’s fastest growing two-wheeler markets. Being part of the 2017 line up of motorcycles in India, Harley-Davidson intends to offer a sporty retreat for new and existing customers with the new Roadster, who prefer the Harley-Davidson moniker, but want their set of wheels to do more than just cruise.
This first step towards this end is the riding position. The rider has to lean a bit forward to reach the bike’s low-set handlebars and the footpegs are positioned higher than the 1200 Custom. Its takes getting used to, but once astride, the bike is easy to ride at all speeds. The Roadster gets a shortened front fender and the engine is done up in an all-black theme, which provides visual mass viewed from any angle. The company says that this has to do with the minimalist fastback design concept adopted for the Roadster, which will appeal to both youngsters and veteran riders alike.
While the rider seat is quite comfortable for long and short hauls, the pillion seat is best suited for short spins, being a narrow unit without much support. The instrument console gets a part-digital speedometer that has readings for speed, odometer, trip meters and a clock, with the tachometer being an analogue unit. The 12.5 litre peanut-shaped fuel tank is slim and provides enough room for the rider to tuck his knees in comfortably. Switchgear layout is kept simple, with the exception of the horn switch, which is not positioned very well and is hard to reach and operate.
ENGINE, TRANSMISSION & HANDLING
The Roadster’s 1202 cc air-cooled, Evolution V-twin engine, which features lightweight aluminium heads and cylinders for improved air-cooling efficiency, produces a maximum torque of 96 Nm at 4250 rpm, using a 5-speed gearbox to transmit power to the rear wheel. The Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI) system ensures a smooth ride at the lower ends of the rev range. However, as revs increase, vibrations begin to filter through to the handlebars and the footpegs, which discourages the rider to open up the throttle.
This is a pity, since the Roadster’s engine has been tuned for riding at higher speeds and the eager nature of the V-twin is evident across engine speeds. If you can live with the vibrations, cruising at speeds of 80-100 km/h brings the best out of this mill. A seat height of 785 mm should work for most people, and moving this 259 kg motorcycle around does not pose a problem even during heavy traffic conditions. The bike feels planted at all speeds and with a decent ground clearance of 150 mm, chances of bottoming out across undulated tarmac are minimised.
One thing that we’ll point out here, which hinders the otherwise effortless mile munching capabilities of the Roadster, is the hard-to-operate clutch, which gets tiring after a while. A smoother unit would have made riding this bike much more fun.
SUSPENSION & BRAKING
The Roadster uses a new 43mm upside-down fork up front with triple-rated springs. The fork has a rake of 28.9 degrees, which makes for reasonably quick steering and ensuring that taking slow-speed U-turns is not a chore. The rear suspension comprises of twin shocks, adjustable for preload. The bike also has the most suspension travel of any of the Sportster range, boasting 4.5 inches up front and 3.2 inches at the rear.
The twin 300 mm discs at the front are gripped by 2-piston callipers and the bike features dual-channel ABS. Braking capabilities are good and the bike can be hauled down from high speeds with excessive wallowing of the suspension, which helps rider confidence. The Roadster uses Harley-Davidson-specific radial black-wall Dunlop tyres, which provide adequate grip in most conditions.
Priced at Rs 9.7 lakh, ex-showroom Mumbai, the H-D Roadster is a comfortable cruiser that provides adequately sporty performance. The engine feels quite capable and the presence of ABS as standard is a step in the right direction. Harley has ensured that quality issues prevalent with a few of its entry-level offerings have been addressed and are not present on the Roadster – what you get here is a potent motorcycle, which provides a mature riding and ownership experience.
TEXT AND PHOTO: Anwesh Koley