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2011 Harley-Davidson First Ride Review

Monday, August 2, 2010


With a moniker like SuperLow and a targeted demographic of first time buyers, I approach my first ride on Harley’s latest Sportster with trepidation. At six-feet-tall, would the mid-mount controls and 25.5-inch seat height leave me curled up like Steve Cauthen on Affirmed? Would the 883cc Evolution engine have enough gusto for a rider who tips the scales at 215 lbs? And does all the talk about revised front-end geometry translate to real-world performance or is it all just marketing fluff?

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2011 Harley-Davidson First Ride Video
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Harley-Davidson introduces its 2011 line of motorcycles, highlighted by the addition of a new SuperLow Sportster and a new touring bike, the Road Glide Ultra. Get a peek at the new lineup in our 2011 Harley-Davidson First Ride Video.
The curve-laden roads through the Siuslaw National Forest between Newberg, Oregon and the Pacific Coast would serve as our testing grounds as we prepare for our first rides on Harley-Davidson’s 2011 motorcycles. With its low stance, hiking a leg over the SuperLow is a simple affair. The new 4.5-gallon tank stretches rearward a touch more than the old fuel cell, allowing Harley to move the seat back a fraction leaving enough room to stretch my legs without feeling cramped. The bucket-shaped solo seat also has more padding this year, a move made possible when Sportster engineers moved the bike’s Electronic Control Module from underneath the seat to the steering head, and who doesn’t appreciate a little more padding? It’s an easy reach to the reshaped handlebars as well thanks to a bit more rise with the grips sitting a tad more than shoulder-width and just below chest high.

With a low center of gravity  comfy  upright ergos  and light handling  the SuperLow is a great introductory motorcycle in the Harley-Davidson family.
With a low center of gravity, comfy, upright ergos, and light handling, the SuperLow is a great introductory motorcycle to the Harley-Davidson family.
How low can you go  For Harleys SuperLow  its 25.5 inches in a laden saddle.
Thumbing the electric start, the familiar rumblings of the rubber-mounted Evolution engine vibrate beneath the saddle as the pistons’ potato-potato-potato cadence exits out of the dual staggered shorty exhaust. The thrust of Harley’s efforts to make the bike more rider-friendly has been concentrated on the rider’s triangle and suspension while the air-cooled Evolution remains the same. Its pistons still operate in a 3-inch bore at a 3.812-inch stroke, compressing the air/fuel mixture at an 8.9:1 ratio while churning out a claimed 55 lb-ft of torque at 3500 rpm.

The first stretch of road is straight highway miles, allowing me to run through the gears of the five-speed gearbox. Shifts are solid, and though it isn’t the smoothest shifting motorcycle around, it notches reliably into each gear. Getting up to highway speed, the bike’s powerband isn’t overly wide, but keep the SuperLow’s rpm in its sweet spot between three and four grand and the engine is lively. It provides plenty of manageable power for the audience it targets.

The longer we ride the more my backside appreciates the extra seat padding. The road serves up its share of uneven pavement and bumps while the retuned coil-over shocks move up and down through its longer 2.5-inches of travel without bottoming out. Harley recalibrated the damping on the twin pre-load adjustable exposed shocks and, in tandem with the 39mm Showa fork, the ride quality is comfortable but not overly plush. Combine the bike’s 568-lb curb weight to my 215 and there’s plenty of mass to support, but except for the most heinous of bumps, the SuperLow’s suspension is up to the task of smoothing out the ride.

The closer we get to the coast, the more the road begins to wind through the mountains. The motorcycle tracks through the turns with minimal steering effort and the front end has a light feel at the bars. This is especially helpful during low-speed maneuvers, but other journalists on the TC 103-powered touring bikes are setting a fast pace so there’s nothing low-speed about our journey through the mountains. Harley has worked hard to make this an easy bike to ride. It revised the front end geometry by offsetting the triple tree to give it more lock-to-lock movement. The rake at the steering head has also been increased from 29.6 to 31 degrees. Other front end changes include an inch-
One of the best features of the 2011 SuperLow is its 1.2 gallon bigger tank. The new fuel tank holds a 4.5 gallons total compared to the 3.3 gallon tank of last years 883 Low.
One of the best features of the 2011 SuperLow is its 1.2-gallon bigger tank. The new fuel tank holds a 4.5 gallons total compared to the 3.3 gallon tank of last year's 883 Low.
smaller front wheel wrapped in a lower profile Michelin Scorcher 11 radial tire designed specifically for the bike which lopped off about five pounds, resulting in less unsprung weight and spin inertia. The Scorchers stick well to the road and riders will run out of lean angle long before they’ll run out of adhesion. Harley admitted that the increased rider-friendliness of the SuperLow came at the sacrifice of lean angle. Again, this shouldn’t be a concern to the demographic the motorcycle is intended for.

Styling-wise, the SuperLow sports attractive aesthetics. Its new colorways - Vivid Black, Cool Blue Pearl, Merlot Sunglo/Vivid Black combo, and Birch White/Sedona Orange drew plenty of compliments from the motojournalists on our ride. The new tank may not be iconic like the Peanut tank but I’ll take the added 1.2 gallons of fuel and longer range any day. Every tank is hand-finished and provides a larger palette for more of that high-quality Harley paint. The black split 5-spoke wheels with machined rims blend artfully with the black frame, battery cover and chain guard. The Evolution V-Twin is dolled up with silver powder-coated cylinders and the cylinder heads are crowned by polished rocker covers. The dual shorty exhausts and the airbox cover dress up the bike’s right side with a dose of chrome.

Performance-wise, it lives up to Harley’s billing. It’s a motorcycle that’s easy to handle, has comfortable ergonomics, and has enough performance to get the ol’ adrenal glands pumping without overwhelming a newbie
Knee on the deck and tucked in on a 580-lb standard. Who would have thought
To find out more about the 2011 Harley-Davidson line, be sure to read Steve Atlas' review of the 2011 XR1200X.
rider. The bigger tank is a marked improvement over the 3.3-gallon tank of last year’s 883 Low. At $7,999, it’s a grand more than the 2010 883 Low, but the same price as the ’10 Iron 883. And it’s fun to ride, even for seasoned riders, until you quickly reach the limits of its lean angle.

The 2011 Sportster line consists of the Iron 883, SuperLow, XR1200X, Sportster 1200 Low, Forty-Eight, 1200 Nightster. We’ve already had a chance to sample the 2011 XR1200X at Road America when Executive Editor Steve Atlas traveled to one of his favorite tracks to test the performance-oriented Sportster. The biggest improvement to the XR1200X is in the suspension department, so be sure to read our 2011 Harley-Davidson XR1200X First Ride article to find out more.

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Harley-Davidson Dealer Locator
2011 Harley-Davidson SuperLow Specs
The 2011 Harley-Davidson SuperLow Sportster has revised front end geometry to go along with its new wheels and tires.
Engine: 883cc Air-cooled Evolution
Bore/Stroke: 3 X 3.812 in.
Compression Ratio: 8.9:1
Fueling: Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection
Rake Steering Head: 31-degrees
Trail: 5.7 in.
Wheelbase: 59.3 in.
Transmission: 5-speed
Seat Height: 25.5 in.
Fuel Capacity: 4.5 gallons
Weight: 563 lbs (claimed dry weight)
Tires: 120/70 XR-18 front
            150/60 ZR-17 rear
Brakes: Dual-pisont front, single-piston rear
Colors: Vivid Black, Cool Blue Pearl, Merlot Sunglo/Vivid Black, Birch White/Sedona Orange
MSRP: $7,999; $8,289 Solids; $8,499 Two-tones

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Comments
Donny -Close,but not close" enuff" .  November 18, 2010 06:02 PM
You guys gotta scrap they 883cc engine . It is to small for the 2011 world. Your Harley Davidson sportster low in a great looking biker ,but is under powered and you charge to much for your up graded version. Not to mention your dealer gouging .... Triumph has a 865cc engine ,but there bonneville bore/stroke 90x68 mm compression ratio 9.2:1 fuel mulitipoint sequential electronic fuel injection with SAI maximum power 66bhp 7,500 RPM maximum torque 50ft lbs 5,800 RPM . The speed master has the same stat except the maximum power is 60bhp 6,800 RPM maximum power 53ft lbs 3,300 Rpm .These bikes all come with a comfortable rear seat and are book priced are around 8,200 dollars. Please wake up Harley Davidson and join the year 2011 .My dislike of your lack of vision and bad deal ships has turned into sadness . Please wake up i love American products .(PS) The freeway speed limit is seventy five miles per hour.
Ada Ada -President of the House  August 3, 2010 07:50 AM
What model is the one on the fromt page of the site?