Motorcycle Rider Basics
15Dec/07

Mistake #2: Don’t Buy A Sportster

ouch thumb4 Mistake #2: Don’t Buy A Sportster Why not? I like the Harley Sportster. It's relatively inexpensive and it has all of the Harley good stuff. Power, hot looks and the Harley sound. Potato, Potato, Po-ta-to, I can hear it now, I love it!

Hey, I'm with you, I bought a Sportster and I loved it, for the first couple of months. But after about three or four thousand miles I started to focus in on the shortcomings.


Now, I could pick apart any motorcycle and list the shortcomings but that is true for most things. Everything has some pros and cons it's just that the Sportster cons just stay there and don't go away. You experience them each and every time you go for a ride.

For me, the ride was too high. By that I mean that the seat was just too far from the ground. I am a 5'9", 185 lb guy with no abnormal body characteristics (well, maybe a larger nose than most) and I like to have my feet flat on the ground when I am stopped at the traffic light.

2007 Model XL 1200C Sportster FXDB Dyna Street Bob FLSTC Heritage Softail
Seat Height 26.5 25.8 25.5

One inch doesn't seem like much but it makes a difference. You can always replace the seat with a lower profile seat and get right down to the Softail height. Of course you can do the same with the Softail seat and get right on down to some serious lowrider height.

foonsportster thumb1 Mistake #2: Don’t Buy A SportsterBut it is more than the physical height of the seat. The Sportster has a higher center of gravity than the Dyna or the Softail. When I ride a Sportster, I feel like I am sitting on top of the motorcycle (Well, that's because you are sitting on top of the motorcycle, idiot), not part of the motorcycle, kinda just hanging on. When I am on other motorcycles, with lower seats and lower center of gravity, I feel like I am part of the motorcycle. I feel more in control, safer somehow. I like that feeling a lot.

This high ride is also a consideration at low speed, maneuvering into a parking spot or just walking your bike from here to there. It always felt like it was ready to tip over and with my feet not really flat on the ground, I was always ready for the worst.

The other thing that I did not like about the Sportster was riding two-up with my wife Irina. Now Irina is only 105 lbs so there was not a lot two-up impact. We would have a great ride in the city on surface streets for an hour or two and everything felt great. But when we got out on the Freeway (or Highway to most of you), the ride dynamics changed. After 100 miles, we were ready to stop and flop onto the ground. It just seemed like work at the higher speeds.

The lighter weight contributed to this feeling.

2007 Model XL 1200C Sportster FXDB Dyna Street Bob FLSTC Heritage Softail
Dry Weight (lbs) 589 634 725

But the real deal was the vibration. My experience was on a new 2003 Sportster and since then Harley has added rubber and made significant vibration reduction improvements to the newer models. My 2003 vibrated so that using the rear view mirrors for anything other than looking for big stuff (cars) unusable. But that was OK. It was at around sixty mph when the vibration started causing problems. I was always keeping my hands and arms tense on the handlebars. If I got up to around eighty mph, it leveled out and ran well. However, then I was always looking in my (unusable) rearview mirrors for the CHP (California Highway Patrol). That didn't work either.

The small gas tank started out being a concern. My 2003 has a 3.3 gal fuel capacity. Which translated roughly into 100 miles. You can see that Harley has fixed this with the newer models.

2007 Model XL 1200C Sportster FXDB Dyna Street Bob FLSTC Heritage Softail
Fuel Capacity (gal) 4.5 4.8 5.0

So, my concern about only having a 100 mile range disappeared when I realized that I was eagerly awaiting the arrival of the 100 mile fuel stop so I could get off the Sportster and flop onto the ground. Whew! Thank you for the small gas tank.

Height, weight and vibration were the three biggest things that turned me off to the Sportster after I had some serious riding experience on it. But hey, that's just me. There are a ton of Sportster enthusiasts who will ride forever on their beloved Sportster (the cafe racer) forever.

As it turned out, I put 12,000 miles on my Sportster before I made a change. Before I bought the Sportster, everyone told me that I would be looking for a bigger Harley in about six months, and you know what, they were right.

Even so, if I had a good deal on a Sportster, and I could get it right now, versus saving my money for the big bike, who knows, it's always still better to be riding that to be watching.

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Comments (61) Trackbacks (0)
  1. He didn’t need a new bike he needed to grow some legs. Tippy toeing a sportster? He need a tricycle.

  2. Yeah, so, everyone knows that a Sportster is for “bar hopping”…….What kind of ignorance are we reading? WOW. I have a Sportster for solo riding, and a Heritage for the wife on back………Grow some thicker skin…..

  3. It’s easy to drop the seat height by using shorter shocks. My midget bro is about five feet tall and ran 11″ rear shocks to solve that problem. He’s had his 1200 Sporty for ~15 years and rides the phuck out of it.

    Gearing changes can put the vibration spot where it won’t matter, and the ancient trick of swatting a lead fishing sinker into each handlebar end works too.

    Sporties aren’t originally designed for two-up riding. They were scramblers after all. 1200 is ample HP-wise (remember when big twins were 74″?) but ya better be creative with the seat, bitch bar, and rear shocks if you want reasonable two-up comfort.

  4. Dude you’re an idiot! The Sportster is a great 1st bike that anyone can grow with.. It’s not that hard to add more HP or making changes that fit you the way you want it to.. Parts are cheap and in abundance. Plus if you can’t figure out how to work on it you might as well give up on owning a bike at all.. I was talking with someone that bought an 883 back in 93 or 96 (can’t remember what he said) He still rides it and still likes it.. I think you guys that poopoo Sportster’s must have small genitals and have a need for some huge under powered heavy monster that only sounds fast..

  5. I have a 05 1200 after having 950 bager by Yamaha I love the sportster.No moor jap bikes for this old man.

  6. I have rode bikes since the sixties back when a 500cc bike was big. If you can’t go fast and have fun on any bike no mater what size, stay home. It’s not how big it is it’s all about the talent that’s using it!
    2005 FXDL

  7. Guy sounds like a biotch.

  8. Sportster’s are a great bike weather it’s your first middle or last bike.baggers are for old creepy dudes with bad mustaches and wears wolf tshirts.ewwww

  9. hey….I have a mustache,old and creepy…and have a 2013 Iron 883 sportster. It don’t know I been riding it for 11,000 miles

  10. Hey he’s only being honest. I’m a lady rider and I have a 2000 XLH1200. Mine has been fully customised and looks like a heritage cross Softail standard. she has a wide glide front end on her.
    I agree with him though. High off the ground and I don’t feel like I’m in the bike but sitting on it. I’ve ridden my husbands Softail Shandard 2010 and it’s nice how you ride in the saddle. Also the small peanut tank (which I replaced with a long tank but still rather small) is annoying I have to bring a gas can in my saddle bag.
    All I’m saying is I love my bike it’s awesome! Had it for over 4yrs now but he has a point. Everything he said is what I felt but he wasn’t saying that Sportsters are shit, he’s just pointing out the cons.

  11. Get some forward controllers and buckhorn handlebars if you want to feel lower


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