As a company, Harley-Davidson has one wheel in 1909—when its tradition of building V-twin motorcycles began—and the other wheel in 2018, where progress, market forces, shareholders, profits, sales numbers, customer tastes, and all that other fun stuff demand the company goes next. Well, the Sportster Forty-Eight is likewise part tradition and part modern. Its mission starts with the model name “Forty-Eight,” which comes from the year 1948, when H-D’s now iconic 2.1-gallon “peanut” gas tank first graced a bike.
But there’s more to the Forty-Eight than just a tank. Mounted on wide cast-aluminum wheels, the huge 130/90B-16 front tire—literally the size of a rear tire on some machines—and 150/80B-16 rear tire give the bike a stout, burly look. An inviting combo of a solo seat, black-finished wheels, engine cases, cylinders, and cut-down fenders, contrasting with bright cylinder heads and exhausts, gives the Forty-Eight an interesting blend of toughness and sophistication. You know, like a bouncer who reads you some F. Scott Fitzgerald right after giving you a black eye.