First Rides: 48 Special

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Article By: J. Ken Conte

Photos By: Melissa Shoemaker

Originally Published In The August 2018 Issue Of Cycle Source Magazine

The modern Sportster drivetrain has proven to be a reliable, torquey package that has the unmistakable v-twin thump and lowend power. With the addition of aftermarket exhaust, aftermarket air cleaner and some fuel injection mapping Sportsters are an excellent option for a light, maneuverable, fast bike and the 48 Special is no exception. The unique bulldog stance of the 48 Special are set off by the beefy front end, and its robust triple trees coupled with a wider front tire and split nine-spoke wheels. Combine that with the matte black Dark Custom drivetrain treatment, miniapes, and retro paint, and you have yourself a winner.

I was able to experience several of the new Harley’s while in Daytona this year, and as with the Iron 1200, I was impressed and surprised at how much I liked the 1200 powerplant and the nimble handling of the 48 Special. Granted the slightly fatter (130×16) front tire and wider front wheel make the 48 Special not as responsive at slow speeds as a bike with a 100/90×19 front tire, it makes up for that in the curves. With a larger contact patch on the front tire, it hugs the road, which only makes sense if you look at superbikes you will see them running fairly wide tires up front, so they can roll into and out of turns with greater ease. The 48 Special also comes standard with an emulsion rear shock with a pre-load adjuster making it easily tuneable to your riding style. The 48 Special is no superbike, but it is super fun to roll into and out of turns knowing you have that additional tire contact patch.

The riding position of this is somewhat neutral with the exception of the forward controls. I’m a big fan of personal expression and comfort on motorcycles. Foot position, seat, and handlebars are the three biggest factors when it comes to these combined forces. I have my opinions about what I like and the combination depending on the bike. The 48 Special has that easy feeling of being in the bike, hands positioned comfortably just below the shoulders, feet somewhat forward and seat supporting my lower back for my 6-foot frame. What you should pay attention to is that it is specific to this bike and my overall desired riding position. The best thing you as a rider can do is sit on several bikes and see what works for you. Yes, these three factors can be changed, as a matter of fact, you could make this into a completely different bike, but as it sits stock, it is a great around town bike and could easily be set up to ride longer distances if the three criteria fit your build.

Harley-Davidson has gotten smart over the years and has reinstituted the buyback program for Sportsters and Street models, where within 12 months of purchase, you can go back to your dealer and turn it in and get your original purchase price put towards a big twin, (not available in all States check with your local dealer for details). This is a great way to get people onto smaller bikes like the Sportster and keep them as customers for life. I could see myself riding this bike if I needed an around town bike that was reliable, nimble, fun and could still head up the canyons and have fun. It is the type of bike that exudes the retro cool that most riders like and has the modern amenities expected on bikes of today. At just over $11,649 in the Wicked Red color you see here, this is an excellent Sportster to consider.

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