ThunderPress East

EAST APRIL 2018

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12 April 2018 www.thunderpress.net THUNDER PRESS by Bryan Harley Merging onto Southern California's 405 freeway aboard the 2018 Harley-Davidson Roadster, light trails streak ahead of me as I enter the grid with the aplomb of Kevin Flynn on a Light Cycle. Navigating the 405 on two wheels leaves about the same margin for error—one mistake and game over. In two quick shifts I'm up to freeway speed and into third as I weave into the traffi c matrix. Beneath me the Roadster feels much slimmer than other Sportsters, a good thing when I'm fi ltering in the nar- row space between cars. Thanks to its 29.5-inch seat height, mid-controls and bar placement, at six feet tall I feel like a big jockey on a little horse as my body hovers over the tank. The forward tilt of the riding position does have me hypervigilant—a good thing when you're on the grid doing your best not to be derezzed by dis- tracted drivers. Harley-Davidson sought to add more "sport" to the Sportster equa- tion when it launched the Roadster a couple years back. This included beefi ng up the suspension, swapping out the conventional fork for a 43mm inverted unit with cartridge damping and a healthy 4.5 inches of travel. A thick set of triple clamps maintain order on the front end and the steer- ing head has been pulled back a bit to 28.9 degrees. On the rear they added a set of gas-charged emulsion shocks featuring preload adjustabil- ity (spanner required) and 3.2 inches of travel. Harley also doubled down in the braking department, running dual 11.8-inch fl oating rotors on the front with dual-piston calipers. The Roadster we tested was equipped with ABS, a $795 option. Teamed to the stronger front binders is a 19-inch, fi ve-spoke cast aluminum wheel with an offset-split design that gives the illusion of a traditional laced wheel when it's in motion. One thing that hasn't changed is the engine. The over square air-cooled Evolution engine features aluminum heads and cylinders, its 3.5-inch pis- tons drumming at a 3.8-inch stroke, combustion mediated by a moderate 10:01 compression ratio. It's listed as having three more pounds of torque than the other two 1200 Sportsters, with maximum output said to be 76 ft/lbs at 3750 rpm. In typical Harley fashion, there's plenty of torque on tap as soon as the throttle is twisted in fi rst gear so it's quick off the line. I can wring out fi rst to 50 mph before it hits redline and taps out. Second gear will propel me up to 70 mph and will hover at redline instead of sign- ing off altogether like fi rst does. The powerband is linear for the most part, with a little extra meat on the bone in the midrange around 4000 rpm. At 65 mph it's exerting only 3000 rpm of stress on the engine in fi fth gear leav- ing plenty of roll-on to tap into. While the Roadster's engine delivers reli- able, manageable power, considering Harley-Davidson upped the perfor- mance of the suspension and brakes makes me long for a little something extra out of the engine as well. The fi ve-speed gearbox of the Roadster is also standard Harley fare. Engagement in the fi rst three gears is solid and deliberate at slower speeds, but it slides into the top two gears when the engine's revving higher with a bit less fuss. The gearbox can be a stubborn mule at times trying to fi nd neutral at a stop. There's a little play in the clutch pull before it engages and the shifter throw is long result- ing in a slight lag in third and fourth gears on a few occasions. The major- ity of the time, though, the transmis- sion rows through gears reliably. While the tried-and-true Evolution engine and fi ve-speed gear- box are status quo, the upgraded sus- pension arrangement pays dividends. The raised riding position and bar placement allow for good leveraging on the inside bar in turns. Thanks to a tad tighter rake angle and lightweight aluminum wheels the Roadster turns in with nominal effort. The front fork is fairly stiff and there's not much dive under heavy braking. While the fork kept the front wheel fi rmly in line carving up the curvy stuff, the front end did get a little bouncy on choppy roads at high speeds. Even though the center of gravity is higher With its chopped fenders, fastback saddle, shorty dual exhaust and 5-spoke cast aluminum wheels, the 2018 Harley Roadster has an unde- niably racy stance The 43mm inverted fork and gas-charged emulsion shocks of the Roadster pay dividends when it's time to hustle through the bends The Roadster's 1200cc Evolution engine is force-fed heaping doses of O 2 thanks to a forward-facing scoop at the bottom of its air cleaner 2018 HARLEY-DAVIDSON ROADSTER Tearing up the twisties

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