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Sportster History

Part 2: Evolution Sportsters

The XR-750 racing machine appeared in 1970 and was revamped in 1972. It began winning races and continued to do so for over 25 years. These were "production" machines. The AMA required that 200 machines be produced before they could be raced. Apparently, these bikes were offered through dealers but had no brakes.

There was a Cafe Racer model, the Sportster XLCR, added in 1977. Cafe racers were bikes that were raced from watering hole to watering hole at night. Harley-Davidson got in on the action but this model lasted only two years.

The Evolution Sportster was introduced in 1986. This model used aluminum heads and cylinders. It was an 883cc machine developing 43 bhp. Also announced was an 1100cc model with 53 bhp.

Erik Buell introduced his futuristic Buell RR1000 model using the Sportster engine in 1986.

The engine was completely covered as in the Honda Pacific Coast or the Vincent Black Prince.

By 1988, the Sportster Hugger package was offered that lowered the suspension to a 26 inch seat height. The Motor Company offered this model so it would be attractive to women riders. Apparently, no advertising was addressed at women in fear that men might think of the Sportster in less than manly terms. Unfortunately, many still view the Sportster as a women's bike or as an entry-level motorcycle. The fact that the Sporty is considered the "hot rod" of Harleys apparently does nothing to dispel this misconception.

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1988 was also the first year that the XLH-1200 Sportster appeared. By 1991 the belt drive was introduced on the Sportster for the XLH-1200 and the XLH-883 Deluxe.

The first year for the Sportster was 1957. Now the Sporty continues into a new century and a new millennium with no lessening in the demand for its models. According to financial data available on the Harley-Davidson Web site, the Sportster sales were 22.6 percent of all H-D sales in the year 2000. From 1994 (the same year as my Sportster) through the year 2000, Harley-Davidson sold 240,692 Sportsters.

Sportsters are destined to continue rolling off the assembly lines for years to come. The controversies about Sporties will undoubtedly continue unabated on motorcycle forums here and elsewhere on the Internet but will do little to stop the Sporty from continuing its roar down the highway into the history books.

Be sure to check out pictures of Harley-Davidson motorcycles in our 100 Years of Harley-Davidson Gallery.

Also, check out pictures of Sportsters in our 47 Years of Sportster Gallery.

Submit your own Harley or Sportster pictures to keep our galleries growing by clicking here.

=> Go back to Part 1: Early Sportsters

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