2018 Harley-Davidson lifts the 1200 Sporty game: Harley-Davidson has released a pair of updated Sportsters that caught our eye. Words by Mick Withers, Images supplied by HDA

Everyone has a vision of the one bike that they’d like to own – in my case it’s more like one fleet – but a 1200 Sportster with mid-mount footpegs has long been at the forefront of my desired bikes.

Long ago in a whole other world, I built my own around a 1986 XLH1100 because that’s what you did back then. Roll the cliché forward and Harley-Davidson have announced another pair of updated models – the Forty-Eight Special, and the Iron 1200.

Harley-Davidson introduce the 2018 Iron 1200 and Forty-Eight Special

Harley-Davidson introduce the 2018 Iron 1200 and Forty-Eight Special

With an unbroken lineage dating from 1957, the Sportster has long been a favourite of customisers as well as an object of embarrassment for Big Twin owners who had their arses handed to them by Sportster riders with a heavy right hand.

More than any other brand, Harley-Davidsons are personalised by owners. It’s just the way it is. A good basic platform backed up by the most intensive Genuine Parts and Accessories offering in the industry doesn’t hurt the options selection.

“Since its inception, the Sportster has offered the perfect combination of size, power and character that makes it appealing to so many different riders,” said Brad Richards, Harley-Davidson V.P. of Styling & Design. “A Sportster is a relatively easy bike to strip down and reinvent. What we’ve done to create the new Iron 1200 and Forty-Eight Special is what Sportster owners have been doing with their own bikes for generations.”

2018 Harley-Davidson Iron 1200 and Forty-Eight

2018 Harley-Davidson Iron 1200 and Forty-Eight

Those with long memories, or parents with photo albums full of their own Harleys from the ’70s, will look at the fuel tank graphics and have flashbacks.

“The art on these two fuel tanks reflect contemporary trends we are seeing on custom bikes and in design in general, a move away from more complex and intricate art to a look that’s very simple and clean,” said Richards. “It’s also important to note that these graphics respect the shape of the fuel tank and in the case of the Sportster, that tank shape is a classic design element in its own right.”

Adam Wright, Spokesperson for Harley-Davidson ANZ commented, “We are extremely excited to welcome the new Sportsters into the Harley-Davidson fold for 2018. Evolved over 60 years, the Sportster has been crafted with the Australian and New Zealand motorcyclist in mind. Entering its seventh decade, the Sportster appeal is still strengthening.”

2018 Harley-Davidson Iron 1200

2018 Harley-Davidson Iron 1200

IRON 1200

The Iron 883 was a great bike that only lacked in the urge department. Fine for the urban loop, I always felt that it was out of its comfort zone in the darkness beyond the end of the streetlights. Seems that HD agreed and now they’ve granted my wishes and released a 1200 Sporty with mid-mount foot controls.

The Evolution 1200’s 36 per cent extra torque – 73.0ft/lb compared to 53.8ft/lb – will make me more likely to smile on the climb up the first hill on the run north out of Sydney on the M1. 

The Mini Ape handlebars are probably very comfortable and are also easily changed to suit your own personal tastes and comfort. 

Thankfully, the Iron 1200 is fitted with the larger 12.5-litre fuel tank rather than the 7.9-litre offering carried by the Forty-Eight Special.

Almost everything below the level of the fuel tank is black with added black in the brighter areas. Even the traditional 19in and 16in wheels are all black.

2018 Harley-Davidson Iron 1200

2018 Harley-Davidson Iron 1200

All Harley-Davidsons are now fitted with ABS and on the Iron 1200 also standard is the HD Smart Security System. Prices start from $16,495 ride-away in Australia and $16,995 in New Zealand.

2018 Harley-Davidson Forty-Eight Special

2018 Harley-Davidson Forty-Eight Special

FORTY-EIGHT SPECIAL

Looking back and forth between the two models, the differences are obvious and also subtle.

The Forty-Eight Special retains the long-term standard accoutrements of the line with a tiny 7.9-litre fuel tank, 16in wheels and forward controls.

2018 Harley-Davidson Forty-Eight Special

2018 Harley-Davidson Forty-Eight Special

Like the Iron, low bars are out and high bars are in, “We specifically selected the Tallboy bar for its shape,” said Richards. “It offers less pull-back than the Mini-Ape, a look that really works with the steamroller front end and the smaller fuel tank on the Forty-Eight Special model.”

Below decks, the Forty-Eight Special’s Evolution 1200 engine is endowed with chrome but offers the same performance as its Iron sibling.

Don’t frown at the 16in wheels, fitted with Michelin Scorchers they work well. If you don’t like the look, you can easily change them. Harleys are like Lego for big kids! 

Did we mention ABS and the HD Smart Security System are both standard equipment? Prices start from $18,995 ride-away in Australia and $19,750 in New Zealand.

2018 Harley-Davidson Forty-Eight Special

2018 Harley-Davidson Forty-Eight Special

 WHAT COLOURS?

Fuel tank paint colour options include Vivid Black, Twisted Cherry and Billiard White.

WHEN CAN I GET ONE?

The Iron 1200 and the Forty-Eight Harley-Davidson motorcycles will start rolling into Harley-Davidson dealerships from the end of April 2018. See the Harley-Davidson Australia website for more information.

2018 Harley-Davidson Forty-Eight Special

2018 Harley-Davidson Forty-Eight Special

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