5 Things I Love and Hate About the Sportster Forty-Eight

One man's struggle with the beautifully flawed Sportster brawler

2016 Harley-Davidson Sportster Forty-Eight
2016 Harley-Davidson Sportster Forty-EightHarley-Davidson

From a purely aesthetic standpoint, the Forty-Eight is one of the best looking cruiser motorcycles on the market. The lines are reminiscent of old school bobbers and let’s be honest, even parked it looks like it’s ready to kick some ass. I remember the first time I saw one parked outside the super hip Standard Hotel in LA and sat there admiring it for a good 20 minutes. For a while, I really wanted one. But there are a few flaws with this model that were made obvious once hitting the road.

2016 H-D Sportster Forty-Eight
2016 Sportster Forty-Eight with low handlebars and forward controlsHarley-Davidson

Forward Controls and Low Handlebars

Let me preface this section by saying that I am 6'4" and this bike is guaranteed to fit smaller riders better than it fits me. Of course I know that forwards are a staple in the cruiser market, and on some bikes, I love them! Other bikes, like the Forty-Eight however, are set up with low bars and forward controls that make you feel like a folded omelet or a kid in gym class trying to touch his toes. Both the bars and the foot controls contribute to the low slung, aggressive look of the bike that we love, but the fit makes any sort of aggressive riding a challenge.

2016 Harley-Davidson Sportster Forty-Eight
2016 Harley-Davidson Sportster Forty-Eight dropped mirrorsHarley-Davidson

The Dropped Mirrors

The low mirrors do wonders for the look of the bike at the handlebars. Tucked underneath the bars, they keep that area in front of you looking nice and neat. SO nice and neat, because it’s basically like you don’t have mirrors at all. I can only see my hands and the grips without having to duck around them to catch a glance at the mirror. More than once I found myself trying to make a quick lane change or see what was happening behind me and was caught off guard by the ineffectively positioned mirrors.

2016 Harley-Davidson Sportster Forty-Eight
2016 Harley-Davidson Sportster Forty-Eight with 16" wheelsHarley-Davidson

16" Wheels

These might be the single biggest style factor on the bike. The 16” front and rear wheels give this bike the sort of vintage military/ raw brawler feel that has made it so popular, and they look absolutely killer. The large front tire does a little to soften the ride, but this falls into line with many of the other aspects of the bike. They LOOK killer, but they are in no way the best handling or performing option for this bike. The wide front tire makes the steering a little twitchy in the turns, which is an area that this bike needs a little attention anyway.

2016 Harley-Davidson Sportster Forty-Eight
2016 Harley-Davidson Sportster Forty-Eight rear suspensionStaff

Suspension Upgrades

Sportsters in the past have always needed a little love in the suspension department, so I may have been the single happiest dude to hear the news that the 48 this year would be receiving new cartridge shocks in the rear and upgraded 49mm forks up front. “Oh my god, it’ll actually turn this year!” I thought. I still get wiggles when changing lanes on the freeway on this bike. Sure, it has a little to do with that front wheel/ tire, but the big jump in performance in this system turned out to be much smaller than I had originally thought it would be.

WATCH: Custom Sportster Forty-Eight: Walkaround

The Seat

The solo seat on this bike is another awesome style piece. It's low, minimal, and keeps that insane visual line that the Forty-Eight is known for. But it's one piece that drops out quickly, leaving your butt completely numb after about 15 minutes of riding. This is largely because with the forwards, all your weight rests on your butt and the stock seat is hard and thin. Sure does look good, but if you plan on doing some longer rides, this will need an upgrade.

2016 Harley-Davidson Sportster Forty-Eight
2016 Harley-Davidson Sportster Forty-Eight seatHarley-Davidson

As much as we criticize this model, we will still rubberneck 100% of the time one rides by. With a few modifications you could have yourself an incredible riding and DAMN fine looking motorcycle. Check out more Harley-Davidsons for more information on this and their other killer 2016 models.