Like the Dyna Low Rider S, Harley-Davidson Roadster is a 1202cc Sportster designed a wider – and potentially younger – audience. The bars are low, the ‘peanut’ tank is small, and the riding position is aggressive (for a Harley) – raised slightly at the back and lowered at the front. The low bars and relatively high foot pegs put the rider in a position that encourages a far more active ride than many other bikes in the H-D line-up.
There is no front fairing, not even a fly screen, and the rear fender is so short that the only part extending beyond the rear wheel is the licence plate holder. There’s a small pillion seat and pegs, but I’m not convinced that a pillion would be happy perched there for too long. To me, this 2016 Harley-Davidson Roadster is a bike that you ride solo, and with a bit more pace.
There’s a single clock above the headlight case, with an analogue tacho and a digital display for speed, trips, odometer, clock, and strangely, revs again. With a tank capacity of 12.5 litres and a claimed 48mpg, there’s sadly no range display, but expect just over 100 miles before you need to start looking for fuel. The switchgear is the same as on the Low Rider S, minus the cruise control.
The Air-cooled 1202cc V-twin isn’t quite the beast that the Low Rider’s Screamin’ Eagle is, but the 2016 Harley-Davidson Roadster isn’t lightweight. Claimed torque is 71.5lb-ft at 4250rpm. Officially the big air-cooled engine is Euro 3 compliant, but the H-D guys at the launch confirmed that it already meets the requirements of Euro 4. The rest of the H-D engines will be compliant by the time the new requirements come into force next year. Power is transferred via a belt drive through a 5-speed gearbox that’s loud but accurate, and has a nice firm feel about it.
|The geometry and riding position are designed to offer a relatively aggressive, sporty riding experience – it’s surprisingly nimble and corners well.|
The 2016 Harley-Davidson Roadster is lighter (259kg in full running order) and shorter (1505mm wheelbase) than the Low Rider S. It has a sharper fork angle (27.4° compared to the 32°) and it’s capable of 31.1° lean on the left and 30.8° on the right. It’s not quite a David and Goliath scenario as they are both big bikes, but there is a clear difference between what they have been engineered to achieve.
The Harley-Davidson Roadster’s firmer suspension first manifested itself as a bumpier ride, but when we hit the hairpins on our way to Saint-Tropez, the bike grew on me more and more. It allows faster cornering and stays composed for longer because of the harder suspension. It’s still not a fast bike compared to Japanese or European nakeds. But for a Harley it’s nimble and agile. You can push it faster round the bends by leaning into the corner with your body, whereas this made little difference with the Low Rider S. The Roadster is 46kg lighter, and has a more agile geometry and involving riding position, so moving on the bike makes a real difference.
|Comfort will not be an issue as the small tank means filling up at regular intervals. This is not a tourer; it’s all about the fun of the ride.|
The riding position is still comfortable, but doesn’t have the Low Rider’s laid-back feel. There’s no feet-forward cruising on this bike as the pegs are pretty much in line with the front of the seat, and the low bars invite the rider to lean in and shelter from the wind. The seat is on the hard side of comfortable, but still very tolerable for long distance, but with nothing to grip with your knees other than the shiny, slippery tank. During hard braking it’s difficult not to push against the handlebars, which can reduce stability.
At £9695 the 2016 Harley-Davidson Roadster is a third cheaper than the Low Rider S, and fairly competitive against the big European and Japanese naked bikes. It’s a bike you buy as much for the aesthetics and H-D heritage as the performance, but that doesn’t mean it won’t put a big smile on your face as you open the throttle and hear that engine.
2016 Harley-Davidson Dyna Roadster Specifications and Price
Engine : 4-Stroke, V-Twin Evolution®, Air-Cooled
Bore x Stroke : 88.9 x 96.8 mm
Capacity : 1.202 cc
Compression Ratio : 10 : 1
Induction : Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI)
Transmission : 5-Speed, Chain-Drive
Torque : 97 N.m @ 4.250 RPM (claimed)
Length : 2.185 mm
Wheelbase : 1.505 mm
Seat Height : 785 mm
Ground Clearance : 150 mm
Fuel Tank Capacity : 12.5 Litres
Weight : 259 kg (wet, claimed)
Frame : Mild steel, Tubular-frame
Front Suspension : Unadjustable 43mm Upside-Down Fork
Rear Suspension : Variable rate 36 mm Gas-charged Emulsion-style Shock, Adjustable Preload
Front Brakes : Twin 300mm Discs, with 2-Piston Caliper
Rear Brakes : 260mm Discs, with 1-piston Caliper
Front Tyre : 120/70 – R19 (Dunlop Harley-Davidson Series)
Rear Tyre : 150/70 – R18 (Dunlop Harley-Davidson Series)