Motorcycle Types Cruiser 2016 Harley-Davidson Forty-Eight Review | Updated Sportster

2016 Harley-Davidson Forty-Eight Review | Updated Sportster

2016 Harley-Davidson Forty-Eight Review

2016 Harley-Davidson Forty-Eight Review | Updated Sportster left
2016 Harley-Davidson Sportster Forty-Eight

Harley-Davidson has updated the Forty-Eight for 2016, and the result is a bike with improved handling to match the easy-going Sportster 1202cc Evolution motor.

The most important changes for the 2016 Harley-Davidson Forty-Eight are right up front; the Sportster 48 gets beefy new 49mm forks (up 10mm from last year, and now with cartridge damping) with stronger triple clamps and a fork brace, improving the handling of the bike.

Riding the Forty-Eight, the new front end it immediately apparent when putting it into a turn. The previous edition of the bike wasn’t bad, but this is a much more substantial feel, which improves confidence in the handling. The same excellent Michelin Scorcher 31 is used, with a fat 130mm width on a new 16-inch 9-spoke cast aluminum wheel (it replaces a traditional laced wheel).

With the increased stiffness in the front of the bike, Harley-Davidson was able to tuck in the fork angle by 1.3 degrees, giving the 551-pound bike (claimed wet) more of an agile feeling, both in-town and on backroads.

The back-end of the 2016 Harley-Davidson Sportster Forty-Eight also got some help. The rear shock still has a scant 1.6 inches of travel, but now the shock has a nitrogen-charged emulsion-style design, plus a variable rate spring and threaded preload adjustment. Without riding them back-to-back, it’s difficult to tell a huge difference, given the short travel, but it handled irregularities in the road well enough.

Lean angle has changed a bit for 2016, with the touch-down point at a uniform 27.1 degrees. That increases the left side by a full degree, while taking away 0.7 degrees from the right side. Being a low-slung Sportster with a seat height of 28-inches, the peg feelers still hit the tarmac with some regularity if you’re even a slightly aggressive rider.

2016 Harley-Davidson Forty-Eight Review | Updated SportsterEncouraging sporty riding is the strong Evolution motor that puts out a tidy 71 ft/lbs of torque at 3500 rpm. This is real world power that is as useful when the light turns green as it is when the road turns twisting.

Speaking of the set, the 2016 Harley-Davidson Sportster Forty-Eight gets a new solo seat. It’s comfortable, with nice support, even as the foot- and hands-forward ergonomics tend to give this bobber more than a bit of a café feel (the under-bar rear view mirrors add to this).

Overall, the 48 could certainly be more inviting from a comfort standpoint, but with a 2.1-gallon tank that needs frequent refilling, H-D isn’t expecting you to go for long stints between off-bike breaks.

The appearance has been changed thanks to new AMF-inspired retro graphics (except on the Hard Candy Custom versions), along with chrome exhaust shields with some old-school bobber-style cutouts (saving weight, naturally) and “1200” on the engine cases (replacing “5”). Plus, the air filter is now round and black. There’s also more black on the Forty-Eight than before, solidifying it as one of Harley-Davidson’s Dark Custom series.

Overall, the changes to the 2016 Harley-Davidson Sportster Forty-Eight are not revolutionary, but they are significant enough to make it a better motorcycle for bombing through town late at night, as well as taking a fast stroll to the local tavern in the canyons.

Photography by Riles & Nelson

Riding Style:


2016 Harley-Davidson Sportster Forty-Eight Specs


  • Engine: Air-cooled pushrod, Evolution
  • Bore x stroke: 3.5 x 3.811 inches
  • Displacement: 73.4 cubic inches
  • Compression ratio: 10:01
  • Exhaust: Chrome, staggered shorty exhaust with dual slash-cut mufflers
  • Fuel System: Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI)
  • Engine torque: 70.8 ft-lb @ 3500 rpm
  • Fuel economy: Combined City/Hwy, 48 mpg



  • Length: 85 inches
  • Seat Height, Laden: 26.2 inches
  • Seat Height, Unladen: 27.3 inches
  • Ground Clearance: 3.9 inches
  • Rake: 30.2 degrees
  • Fork angles: 28.7 degrees
  • Trail: 5.3 inches
  • Wheelbase: 59.3 inches
  • Tires: Michelin Scorcher 31
  • Front tire: 130/90B16 73H
  • Rear tire: 150/80B16 77H
  • Fuel Capacity: 2.1 gallons
  • Engine oil capacity (w/filter): 2.8 quarts
  • Curb weight: 551 pounds



  • Front suspension: 49mm forks, 3.6 inches of travel
  • Rear suspension: Variable rate spring over nitrogen-charged emulsion-style shock with threaded preload; 1.6 inches of travel
  • Wheels: Black, Split 9-Spoke Cast Aluminum w/ Machined Highlights
  • Brakes f&r: Dual-piston calipers (ABS optional)
  • Lean angle r&l: 27.1 degrees
  • Gauges: 4-inch Speedometer mounted low and integrated into handlebar clamp

2016 Harley-Davidson Sportster Forty-Eight MSRP:

  • Vivid Black: $11,199
  • Color Option: $11,549
  • Hard Candy Color Option: $11,649
  • Security Option: $395
  • ABS Option: $795


2016 Harley-Davidson Forty-Eight Review – Photo Gallery

Don Williams
Don Williams
With 45 years of riding experience, Don Williams is a fan of all kinds of motorcycles. He enjoys sport bikes, cruisers, dirt bikes, touring bikes, adventure bikes, dual sport bikes, and rideable customs. Ask Don what his favorite bike is and he will tell you, "Whatever bike I'm on."

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