Text & Pictures – Nitin Gupta

Harley-Davidson Forty-Eight Test Ride Review
The Harley-Davidson Forty-Eight belongs to the company’s Sportster range of motorcycles

Harley-Davidson Forty-Eight Review

Bike Tested: Harley-Davidson Forty-Eight

Price OTR Mumbai: Rs. 10,25,109/-

The HD Forty-Eight is a motorcycle which isn’t practical but still extremely desirable

Harley-Davidson is one such brand that is familiar for exotic and big bike look and feel in every country. My parents are almost against me riding bikes, but then I was amazed to know that when they saw me bring this home, they immediately said “Harley” at just one glance, I must admit, H-D is one powerful brand, if my mom could recognise a bike with name, now she knows three – H-D, KTM and Bullet by Royal Enfield. The Sportster “Forty-Eight” is one of Harley’s newest additions and addictions for many. The “Forty-Eight” refers to the year that the 2.1 gallon “Peanut Tank” was first used on a Harley. The Forty-Eight offers hot looks, attitude and build quality. If we talk about a perfect world of biking, there are two types of people – One ‘The Harley Guys’ and Two ‘Everyone Else’, the Charisma of an Harley has always made people want to ride one but is there more than what meets the eye?

Big with an attitude, the styling hits the right chords with almost everyone

Just as I was picking up the bike I wanted to familiarise myself with the bike, something just caught my eyes like the Peanut tank, the clean lines, powder coated engine, twin chrome exhausts, flat big front tyre and the big air-cooled Evolution engine. The spoked 16-inch wheels which are deep and fitted with balloon tyres add to the overall big bike look of the Harley-Davidson #48. Round lights, lot of chrome and hefty detailing really make this motorcycle stand out on Indian roads. It’s about the looks and the lifestyle, and it delivers in dollops in that respect.

Small console it maybe but the display carries quite a lot of information

The Sportster Forty Eight draws one’s attention back to the old school customised bikes of the 1970s, styled with the dragster-style handle bars, small console which tells almost everything (from trip A/B, odo, RPM, gear, oil, fuel and even crank issues if any). Thankfully Harley has changed the position of the rearview mirror from under the handle to above the handle. Things like indicator auto turn-off, position of the indicator switches and engine kill switch adds to the premium detailing in every respect when compared to other bikes in the same segment.

The riding position is very different while the tank is too small at 7.9-litres

The Harley-Davidson Forty-Eight’s riding position is far from perfect. For someone my height (average Indian height), the handle bar was far off and even the foot pegs were placed too forward, though it gives you an upright seating position but I found it not very comfortable because of which I also found that it almost felt like the bike will move faster than you can hold it, there’s hardly any wind protection, so when you crank open the throttle, the massive torque kicks in and the pull blows you away, the #48 really takes off.

The ride quality of the Forty-Eight isn’t compliant, ground clearance is inadequate

I am not a big fan of the suspension on the Forty-Eight, it felt as if it was fitted with straight rods instead of shock-absorbers. Every small bump, every small stone that came under the tyres could be felt at the spine. If you are cruising at a good speed and you come across a bump, you may feel lifted up in the air because of the upright seating position. The riding position does grow on you with time but isn’t very accommodating for someone fresh on the saddle, more so because the seat has thin padding. I was also unimpressed with the fact that it only comes as a single seater and the pillion seat with a backrest costs around Rs. 13,000/- which coupled with the pillion foot-pegs (another Rs. 7000/-), adds Rs. 20,000/- to the price of the bike.

The 1.2-litre V-Twin motor packs in a lot of punch, produces 96 Nm of torque

Just like every Harley, the Forty-Eight too impresses with the torque rush it gives in the mid-range

The Forty Eight is propelled forward by a 1202cc, V-Twin, fuel-injected and air-cooled Evolution engine which generates 96 Nm of peak torque at 3750 RPM (Harley doesn’t disclose the power figure but we estimate it to be around 80 BHP). The motor has a nice torque feel but gearshifts feel a bit heavy. One can accelerate the motorcycle with urgency as it immediately whizzes past 100 km/hr, taking little effort to reach 150 km/hr. The Forty-Eight will pull to higher speeds without feeling bogged down one bit. One nice thing about the engine is the sound it makes, coming out of the dual chrome slash cut mufflers. The engine heats up quickly throwing warm air at your feet if you come to a standstill position but when you are on the move, you don’t really feel anything. Riding a motorcycle should be a pleasant activity. I had to take at least three fuel stops to have the petrol tank filled (due to the small 7.9-litre tank), an annoyance to my riding gratification. The rumble and vibrations are enough to reassure you that “you my friend are on-board a real deal”.

Harley-Davidson Forty-Eight Review
The 255 kg weight gives the Forty-Eight very good stability at speed, handling is good too

The bike handles well for a cruiser but I recall scraping the foot-pegs when cornering aggressively. I definitely had an issue with the low ground clearance, “99 mm” and about “85 mm” once you sit on this American cruiser. If you weigh more than 80 kgs, especially in a country like India where people make bone-breakers in the name of speed-breakers and rains cause Indian roads to disappear then you have a bit of an issue. I was utmost scared when the bike went on a speed-breaker and was almost stuck on it from the middle, I almost felt like being on a weighing scale centrally mounted, the Forty-Eight didn’t go forward, nor could I take it back with ease. So one needs to be extremely careful over those speed-breakers which are small mountains in disguise.

The Michelin tyres on the 48 are very good, brakes perform brilliantly

The Michelin Scorcher tyres offer exceptional grip as I had to ride the Forty-Eight in the rain a couple of times. To stop such a massive and heavy bike (tips the scales at 255 kgs), you need a real deal of a braking system. I was glad to have hit the brakes nicely when needed and boy I was surprised how smoothly and efficiently they stop this big bike. The increased size of the brake rotors (from 292 mm to 300 mm) with new 34 mm pistons and callipers did a fantastic job to bring the bike to a standstill. The mileage on our test was 21 km/l which is acceptable for a motorcycle with this performance and weight.

The Forty-Eight isn’t a bike for everyone but still has massive appeal

The Harley-Davidson Forty-Eight doesn’t come across as a perfect bike, it’s not supposed to as it’s not intended to be a bike for everyday duties. It sure has many flaws which hampers the practicality quotient significantly but then, you buy a Harley for the experience, not for efficient commuting. This isn’t a city bike, neither it’s a bike which will keep you comfortable on a long tour. The Forty-Eight is thus a motorcycle for a short spin on the weekends, it’s sure to delight you with the performance it offers and the brute styling is bound to invite lots of stares, that’s reason enough to consider the top offering from Harley’s Sportster range.

Like most Harley-Davidson bikes, the Forty-Eight too isn’t a city slicker but neither is it a long distance tourer due to the riding position and super small fuel tank. This motorcycle is thus a niche offering for those who ride occasionally but want performance and style.

A nice sounding engine, good performance and gorgeous styling are the highlights here

What’s Cool

* Look and Feel
* Torquey Engine
* Exhaust Sound

What’s Not So Cool

* Seating Position
* Ride Quality