So, most of the time when someone mentions Harley-Davidson, a few things spring to mind. Chrome, loud exhausts, black leather, big handlebars, you see where I’m going here. And, if I’m honest, for many years that’s kinda what sprung to my mind too. What a lot of people don’t expect, is a right up to date, vintage-look motorcycle that quite frankly just oozes cool. So, first things first, the science bits. At the heart of the Forty-Eight is the latest incarnation of Harley’s 1200 v-twin (the Evolution engine), which is rubber mounted to the frame. Holding up the back is a traditional twin spring setup, and it must be said they do soak up a lot despite their basic look.
If I’m honest, I think one of the biggest draws for people with this bike, will be its style. Its just right. No matter what way I look at it, it just looks great. Physically, its a small enough bike, not huge, long or heavy like some of its bigger brothers in the range – and very easy to move around the garage. Sitting onto it, you instantly feel like you’re going back in time in a bizarre way. Foot rests are forward, but not too forward, and there’s a bit of a stretch to the bars, but again, not by much. The bike I’m on has the standard exhaust fitted, which at idle is loud enough (not the usual Harley loud) and in this case, is ideally matched to the bike.
One of the features I liked most about the Forty-Eight is the big chunky front tyre – its really helps complete that old-school image the bike sets out to achieve. I wasn’t quite sure how it would perform in the handling department, but once rolling, you don’t really notice the tyre feeling or behaving any differently to pretty much anything else. Pottering through Dublin city centre, the bike filters around traffic like a cinch. All of its 257 kg (wet) weight is located very low down, under hip level, so its quite easy to throw about the place. Moving out of town and onto the bigger roads shows how easily this Evo engine can pull from low revs. I constantly find myself having an extra gear in hand, such is the torque – a nice thing to have. On the motorways, despite being totally naked, the bike feels really very planted. I was expecting to be buffetted and blown about much more than I was. Granted, this bike is much more of a town bike than a motorway cruiser, its still nice to know it can hold its own out there.
The only real drawback I found with it, and its a big/small one, is the fuel tank. Its rather small. So much so, that you can see the backbone of the bike exposed in a gap between where the tank ends and the seat starts. But even so, this deliberate styling makes the bike what it is. An interesting chat with a very knowledgable Harley man, who was at the original US launch, explained to me that the tank was left as small as it was after Harley surveyed a section of their riders and found that most only made very short trips to local coffee shops on the weekends, so a bigger fuel tank wasn’t deemed necessary. For daily bikers, it will be a nice opportunity for you to get to know your local service station staff that bit better, but for me, it was the only real downside to the bike.
All things said, the Forty-Eight is the bike for you if you enjoy going out for a nice cruise on a nice day and not wanting to be in any great rush about it. And its not that the 1200 motor isn’t fast – it is, but what I mean is that this bike really does help you just chill out and enjoy the ride. For me, this bike is the best modern retro style bike out there at the moment. Yes, Triumph’s Scrambler and Bonneville are (almost) exact replicas, but I nearly feel like they’re trying too hard. Whereas Harley-Davidson, with the Forty-Eight, have hit the nail on the head and ticked all the right boxes.
If Steve McQueen were about these days, I think he’d be on the Hog.