In 1957, Elvis Presley exit the hit song "All Shook Up", the very first Frisbee was produced, and the Harley-Davidson Sportster model motorcycle was introduced. This is the begin of the good Harley-Davidson Sportster history. Well-known as the XL series, and with many of the same attributes as it"s K design ancestor, such as the frame, fenders, gas tank and also front fork. The Sportster is tho being created today, and also it maintain its standing of being one of the world"s most popular motorcycles.

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Harley Davidson K Model

The Sportster is a straight descendant of Harley"s legendary yet sometimes-overlooked design K series.

The middleweight K model was presented in 1952, through a 45 cubic inch flathead engine, and also a unit building four-speed transmission that was included inside the engine cases. Later on models of the K collection Harleys were equipped v 55 cubic-inch engines.


Harley-Davidson 1952 K Model.

The K design Harleys were the an initial models to sports a hand-clutch and a foot-gear shifter. The style was opposite that of the Harley-Davidson Big-Twin models, through the foot-brake lever on the left side of the bike, and also the gear-shifter on the right side.

One the the mechanical advances offered top top the K models was the consists of hydraulic suspension equipment on both wheels. The K models were the an initial civilian cycles made by Harley-Davidson the featured hydraulic front forks, and also a swing-arm in the rear that contained two shock absorbers.

When the Sportster debuted, it carefully resembled the K models in appearance, but the K model"s 45 cubic-inch engine was replaced with a much more powerful 54 cubic-inch, overhead-valve powerplant that was well-known as the ironhead motor since of the steel cylinder heads that were used. Ironhead motors were supplied to power Sportsters indigenous 1957 through 1985.

In 1986 the ironhead engines were replaced with the new Harley Davidson development engine. The "Evo" motors were available in 883 cc and also 1,100 cc sizes.


The Harley-Davidson 1957 XL Sportster.

Harley-Davidson XL collection Sportsters

What walk XL median on a Sportster? The ax XL top top a Sportster method Experimental Lightweight or Extra Light.

XL, Ironhead, 1957-1985

The dynamic new Sportster stood for the start of a brand-new era in American motorcycling. The model was developed in part to provide some actual competition to the finest British Triumphs, BSAs and also Nortons the were ending up being increasingly well-known with American riders. The price that a brand new XL Sportster in 1957 was around $1,100.

With the fresh and also dynamic appearance, the Sportster became appealing come motorcycle consumers practically immediately. Not just was this cycle as sleek and exciting together the british imports, however it was much more powerful, and also it to be a Harley-Davidson!

By the time the 1958 XLCH models come out, the Harley-Davidson Sportster engines featured greater compression, with bigger valves and also domed pistons. The iconic peanut fuel tank additionally made the entrance the year.

Sportsters make from 1957 through 1990 to be outfitted through four-speed transmissions, while models made since 1991 have actually five-speed gearboxes. The previously models that had actually the gear-shift bar on the right side were inspired by Harley-Davidson"s impressive level track gyeongju history.


With minimal parts, gift a many smaller and also less load then huge twins, Ironheads made an excellent choppers. Photo labeled Jul - 68.

XLCH, Ironhead ("Competition Hot" moniker) 1958-1971

By the mid-1960s, Sportsters had become very popular v the motorcycling public, and were frequently being customized. The Sportster"s fairly lightweight and clean lines made it perfect cycle come transform right into a chopper or bobber.

The straightforward image of motorcycling in those days to be sometimes depicted in a an adverse light, during the history of Harley-Davidson sportster, they repeatedly presented the Sportster in a clean and positive manner.


A complete color, multi-panel publish advertisement for the 1967 Sportster shows a healthy looking pair riding one XLH with the countryside, and a conservative-looking gentleman riding an XLCH v picturesque countryside areas.

Harley-Davidson has been making consistent cameos, and from 1969 come 1970, a major network TV display named "Then came Bronson" to be on the air. The regimen starred Michael Parks as a previous newspaper reporter who traveled roughly on a 1969 XLH Sportster. The present can still be watched in reruns, and also is obtainable on DVD.

While the various Sportster models have generally been really well-received by the public through the years, a tiny percentage of human being have claimed that they space too little and lightweight come be taken into consideration "real" Harleys. Somewhere along the way, somebody determined to contact Sportsters "girl"s" or "beginners" bikes.


1968 Ironhead sportster developed by Terminal speed - Marcus Ellis

Although the origin of Sportsters being referred to as "girl"s" or "beginners" bikes is unknown, the is periodically attributed to disgruntled Big-Twin owners who were actually jealous that the faster, smaller sized bikes. One more theory is that the term to be devised by one envious sidewalk commando/biker-poser. No matter where the man term originated, the Sportster suffers native no inadequacy issues, and the hatchet is rarely offered today.

XR-750 1971-1985

AMF-era Harleys

During the years the the AMF corporation owned Harley-Davidson, native 1969 come 1981, the firm produced a respectable lineup the Sportster models. There to be detractors, however, who declared that the all at once quality that the AMF-era Harleys was less-than satisfactory.

-Paul Smith produced this poster to celebrate the four starting fathers of Harley-Davidson because that the 1976 U.S. Bicentennial.Some motorcycle enthusiasts and also collectors think the the Sportsters developed under AMF"s property were the many attractive of all Sportster models. Come this day, the gas tanks in particular from AMF-era Sportsters are very sought after collector"s items.

Among the AMF-era Sportster models the were developed were the Bicentennial edition in 1976, and also the Confederate model from 1977. Designed to honor America"s 200th birthday, the Bicentennial execution bikes to be basically continuous Sportsters that had actually special patriotic decals affixed come the gas and oil tanks.

The Confederate execution Sportster was made up of XLH, XLCH, and also XLT models that featured metallic gray repaint with decals that consisted of the Confederate flag. Less than 400 of these mainly unknown Sportster models to be produced.

This 1972 Ironhead was developed by The Gasbox

In 1972, the typical 900 cc engine was changed with a 1,000 cc overhead-valve motor. 1975 brought about the government-mandated gear-shifter switch to the left side, and 1979 was the critical year that the kickstart-only XLCH model was produced. Native 1977 to 1979, Harley developed the 1,000 cc XLCR coffee shop Racer, and from 1979-1982 they made the XLS Roadster, v its 2" fork extension, sissy bar and also highway pegs.

Evel Knievel on his XR-750.

Harley-Davidson XR-750

During the 1970s, stunt driver Evel Knievel thrilled audiences approximately the human being with his remarkable aerial motorcycle jumps over various objects. The form of bike the Mr. Knievel supplied for numerous years was the Harley-Davidson XR-750. Stunt riders Bubba Blackwell and Doug risk have additionally utilized the XR-750 in their motorcycle jumps.

Is the XR-750 a Sportster? A nearby cousin to the Sportster, the XR-750 has actually been produced due to the fact that 1970, and has won much more races than any kind of other motorcycle in AMA gyeongju history. Due to consumer demand, Harley-Davidson presented a street-legal Sportster variation of the XR-750 dubbed the XR-1000 in 1983.

In enhancement to the big impact the Sportster has had on the world of recreational motorcycling, this legend American bicycle has likewise made fairly an affect on the world of motorcycle racing.

Leo Payne came to be the very first person come reach end 200 mph with a non-streamliner in 1969 ~ above his 1957 Ironhead dubbed the "Turnip Eater".

XL, Evolution, since 1986

How quick are Harley-Davidson motorcycles?

A 265.492mph speed record was collection on a Harley-Davidson Sportster in 1970. One of the most renowned motorcycle racers of all time was Leo Payne. In 1969, when riding his custom-built Sportster, Mr. Payne was the an initial person to reach a rate of end 200 mph top top a non-streamliner motorcycle in ~ the Bonneville Salt Flats.

Cal Rayborn hit a land speed document of 265.492 mph in this solitary Ironhead motor powered streamliner at Bonneville in 1970. Harley-Davidson hosted that document over 5 years.

In 1970, a racer named Cal Rayborn damaged the human being land speed record for a motorcycle, in ~ the Bonneville salt flats in Utah. The streamliner motorcycle that Mr. Rayborn utilized attained speeds end 260 mph, and was it is provided by a solitary Harley-Davidson Sportster engine.

Kickstarters were changed with electric starters on all Sportsters in 1980, and also the stripped-down XLX61 version was introduced in 1983.

"Don"t let the special low price confused you, this is no foreign imitation." - Harley-Davidson ad for the release of the 1983 XLX-61.

In short: XLH constantly has an electrical starter if XLCH might not, there to be no differences in between XLH and also XLCH in 1973 up at all. This applies for engines too.

XLH Harley-Sportster

The XLH constantly has an electrical starter indigenous 1967, the very first year it was introduced. In 1967 only, the XLH had actually both a kickstart and also electric starter, though in 1968 onward XLH models were electrical start only, no kickstarter.

To accommodate the bigger battery and also electric starter, the framework of electric start XLH models was "kicked back" just over the swingarm pivot. The XLH swingarm was then lengthened accordingly. The oil tank on these models was side placed on the left side, enabling the room because that the battery and starter, together opposed to the center-mounted oil tank.

Seat short article tubes were collection 1.5" towards the rear, therefore the upper shock mounts and fender rail mount all were moved rearward. Because that 1967-1969 there were 2 frames and also engine instances depending top top if the bike had electric start (The kickstart-only XLCH continued using the initial frame and engine situations during this time. In 1970, the at an early stage frames and also cases to be discontinued. All Sportster models, including the XLCH, shared the frame and also engine instances from the XLH electric start models).

XLH models 1971 and earlier had actually a 4 gallon gas tank. In 1972-73 the customer had the selection of one of two people a 2.2 or 4 gallon gas tank.

XLCH Harley Sportster - What’s the difference between XLH and XLCH engine?

XLCH models deserve to be can be kick-only or electrical start depending on the year. Prior to 1972 all XLCH models to be kickstart only. There were no engine distinctions for XLH vs XLCH in 1973 up at all. The only way to tell an XLH engine native an XLCH engine is come look at the engine number. The XLH engine number is walking to begin with a "3A" designation. The XLCH engine number will start with a "4A" designation.1971 and earlier had a 2.2 gallon gas tank. In 1972-73 customers had the an option of either a 2.2 or 4 gallon gas tank, making that harder to differentiate the models.

Rumors persist that the CH in XLCH stands for "Competition Hot" or "California Hot", though Harley-Davidson never specified what the designation was standing for.

Right-Hand change Harley Sportster Years

All XLH and also XLCH models to be right-hand transition (just prefer the Triumph, Norton and other british motorcycles castle were competing with in ~ the time) up until 1974, despite "Big Twin" Harleys were constantly left-hand shift. The 1975 and 1976 models to be converted come the "standard" left-hand shift using a crossover linkage. In 1977 the left hand shift became a permanent adjust with the shifter obelisk coming v the primary.

Harley Davidson released the Sportster 883 in 1988

The Sportster Hugger come on the step in 1988, and also its smaller dimension was design to attract beginner, and also female riders. This design was essentially an XLH 883 through a lowered behind suspension, different seat, handlebars, and also shocks. The Hugger models are actually very similar to the contemporary "Low" models. Additionally in 1988, the 1,100 cc Sportster motor was changed with a 1200 cc engine.

Chain pushed custom Sportster.

What are Significant changes to Harley Davidson Sportster by version Year?

Belt journey Made conventional on every Sportsters - 1993

In 1993, the chain journey on Sportsters was replaced with a belt drive, and the complying with year the electric systems ~ above the Sportster line to be upgraded. The XL 1200C Custom model Sportster landed on the scene in 1996.

All-New structure Including Rubber-Mounted Engine for lessened Vibration - 2004

This fairly stock 2005 Sportster is still a carbureted bike however it"s engine is in a rubber-mounted frame.

Changes to the Sportster in 2004 had an enclosed battery, the remove of the transmission access door, and a new frame that featured rubber engine mounts.

Fuel Injection replace instead replace Carburetor on all Models - 2007

In the year 2007, every Sportster models began using fuel injection instead of a carburetor.

Production and also Notable Sportster Models of recent Years

XR1200 Sportster - 2008

2008 Harley-Davidson come out through the XR1200. It only lasted a 3 year insignificant on the market.

In 2008, Harley-Davidson gotten in the modern-day sportbike market with the debut the the XR1200 Sportster. Somewhat influenced by the XR-750, this design was phased-out in 2011.

XL1200V "Seventy-Two" version Sportster - 2015

In current years, Harley-Davidson has produced an assortment of factory model "custom"-style Sportsters. Because that example, the XL1200V "Seventy-Two" model Sportster is a factory model custom that is motivated by 1970s chopper and also bobber-style customs. Introduced in 2012, this stripped-down model features whitewall tires, a peanut fuel tank, pin-striping, high handlebars and metal flake paint.

Other manufacturing facility model custom-style Sportsters made by Harley-Davidson incorporate the 883 cc and 1200 cc SuperLow, the XL 1200X Forty-Eight, the stole 883, and the blackened-out Nightster.

Harley-Davidson 2015 XL1200V "Seventy-Two" version Sportster.

Harley-Davidson Sportster: Tracing the trip of 60 Years

As the Sportster has evolved through the years, Harley-Davidson has actually added technical improvements, but the vibrant and also exciting bike that debuted in 1957 has stayed true to its roots.

It"s tough to believe that the Sportster is currently 60 year old. Through the variety of advances that the model has experienced, the Sportster has come to be a ic American an equipment that calls for very tiny maintenance.

This is a prime instance of structure whatever you deserve to imagine utilizing a Sportster frame and motor, meticulously make by the one and only Jeremy Cupp. Photograph by: David Carlo.

Now one iconic component of American culture, the lean and also mean Harley-Davidson Sportster is as appropriate as it ever was. The version has worked out comfortably right into the 2000s, and continues come attract new generations that enthusiasts.

Over the previous 10 years, Sportsters have actually experienced another surge in popularity with riders of every ages. Being a fast, attractive, and inexpensive cycle that likewise happens to be a Harley-Davidson provides the Sportster a very appealing vehicle.

Lowbrow custom-mades Sportster developed by The Gasbox. Tons of Lowbrow parts including our Shotgun Pipes, Tsunami fender, and 39mm Fork Shrouds

Even despite the miscellaneous models are simply fine in their organic stock form, Sportsters are good bikes to customize.

Lots that Sportster owners favor to individualize their bikes by adding custom gas tanks, exhausts, fenders, handlebars and other Harley-Davidson Sportster parts. Whether it be a bobber, chopper, cafe racer, tracker, or roadster-style custom, the Sportster always looks good.

With an ext than a half-century of manufacturing under that belt now, the Harley-Davidson Sportster is still one of the world"s most popular motorcycles. It will certainly be interesting to check out which direction this ic American motorcycle absorbs the future.

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Jay Cagney"s "78 Ironhead chopper on our cross country trip in 2016. It did end 3600 miles and also rand choose a champ.

Tyler Malinky is the CEO that Lowbrow Customs, which the founded back in 2004. An avid vintage motorcyclist, Tyler builds and also races 1950"s Triumph motorcycles at the Bonneville Salt Flats, in addition to building and riding both stock and also custom Harley-Davidson"s ~ above the street.His an individual motorcycles incorporate a 1950 Triumph land rate bike (and existing record holder at Bonneville Salt Flats), 1959 Harley Panhead chopper, share 1965 Triumph Bonneville, share 1969 Harley FLH, and also a 1975 Shovelhead chopper. The is also currently building a dual-engine 1950 Triumph land speed race bike because that the 2021 race season.