Sportster Years To Avoid – Why Does This Bike Get All The Hate?

Sportster Years To Avoid – Why Does This Bike Get All The Hate?

Are you planning to purchase a used Harley Davidson Sportster motorcycle and you are interested in learning the Sportster years to avoid? Well, if that is the case, then you are at the right place because, in this article, there will be a lot to cover.

Doing good and thorough research before you make a purchase of something expensive as a motorcycle is always a good idea. You just don’t want to make a mistake since if you make a mistake and the bike does not suit your needs and does not feel well while you drive it, you will have to sell it and lose money.

This is why when it comes to motorcycles, doing thorough research on the size of the bike and how the bike feels while you drive it is the way to go. This way, you will get the bike that you will enjoy the most on the road.

And this is why we are here to help you out when it comes to the Sportster and clear some of the misconceptions about the bike for you. First, we are going to learn a little bit about Harley Davidson and why it has a legendary status in the US.

Then, we will dive into the Sportster model and learn some of the specs of this model. After that, we will cover the Sportster years to avoid, as well as the best Harley Sportster year and which models to get instead. So, if you want to learn more, follow along.

Who Is Harley Davidson

Now before we dive into more complex topics like the Sportster model and learn more about the specs of this motorcycle. Let’s first learn a little bit about Harley in general.

Let’s learn something more about this legendary motorcycle maker and why it is so legendary in the first place. This will be a good starting point before we cover the Sportster years to avoid.

If you didn’t know Harley Davidson is one of the most iconic American-made motorcycles. And probably one of the few ones left here in the US. There are just not a lot of motorcycle makers around since production has moved to China or motorcycles are imported from Europe.

This is a pity since the market was really big back in the good old days.

Nevertheless, the company was founded in 1903 by William S. Harley and Arthur Davidson. So, the name combines the last names of the creators of the company. What is interesting to know about Harley is that it was one of the few brands together with Indian Motorcycles to survive the Great Depression in the 1920s.

The company since then has created a lot of legendary motorcycles. But the thing that Harley is most known for is the chopper motorcycle style. The choppers as you probably know are big and bulky motorcycles that implement big V-Twin air-cooled engines with a displacement of more than 700cc.

Which in the motorcycle world is quite a lot. Their motorcycles are really simple since they are air-cooled. They don’t carry a lot of complexity when it comes to engineering. And that’s why they are really popular in the aftermarket as well as in the motorcycle communities.

But what about the Sportster years to avoid? More on that in a bit.

Harley Davidson Sportster

Now let’s discuss a little bit about the Sportster and learn more about what this motorcycle is in general before we dive into the Sportster years to avoid. So, what is the Harley Sportster?

The Sportster is a line of sport motorcycles that are mass-produced by Harley Davidson since 1957. Yes, the Sportster is that old. But this does not mean that the current Sportster models are the same as the original.

Over the years, a lot of refinements and modifications were introduced that improved the Sportster and made it to be more contemporary. Nevertheless, the Sportster implements the classic V-Twin engine. This is a four-stroke engine with two pistons that are aligned at a 45-degree angle.

But what is interesting about the Sportster is its original engine that was used when the model was invented. And this was the famous Ironhead engine. This engine was produced by Harley between 1957 and 1985. But why it was called Ironhead?

Well, on these V-Twin engines, the heads were made out of cast iron instead of aluminum. So, logically this engine was named Ironhead. And basically was the last of its kind because starting from 1986, the engine was replaced by the Evolution engine. Or Evo.

So, the Sportster engine on models produced after 1986 is known as the Sportster Evo. Nowadays, there are two models of the Sportster available in the US market right now. One of the models is the Sportster S which was launched in 2021. And there is also the Nightster.

But more about the specs of the Sportster, we are going to elaborate in a bit. Now let’s discuss the difference between the Sportster vs Dyna before we dive into the Sportster years to avoid.

Sportster vs Dyna

Now let’s discuss the Sportster vs Dyna before we dive into the Sportster years to avoid. Why do we think that this is necessary? Well, mainly because a lot of people confuse these two motorcycles and do not know the differences. So, what is the difference between the Sportster and Dyna?

Well, we noted that the Sportster is a sports bike produced by Harley. And the sports bike segment (the same occupied by the likes of the BMW 1000 RR) of Harley is limited to the Sportster model only. It’s arguably also one of the best sports bikes around.

These sports bikes are a lot smaller in comparison to the big, fast cruiser motorcycles produced by Harley. And the Dyna is a cruiser motorcycle that was produced by Harley.

So, what does this mean? Well, the Dyna is not sport-oriented like the Sportster. This model is more focused on proper cruising around the town in comfort.

And for this purpose, Harley had to install bigger engines as well as a bigger chassis. In other words, the Dyna is a lot bigger than the Sportster.

The Dyna is about 100 lbs heavier than the Sportster. And not only that, the Dyna is a lot more powerful. The engine in the Dyna produces about 20 to 30lb-ft of torque more than the engine in the Sportster. So, the power that the Sportster makes, cannot be compared to the Dyna.

And not only that, but the Dyna is also a lot bigger in comparison to the Sportster. So, if you are a shorter person, you will not enjoy driving the Dyna in our opinion. No offense to anyone. But the Dyna requires good height in order for you to enjoy the ride.

That’s why the Sportster is our favorite. Especially for the people who are new to motorcycles and are not used to riding something really heavy like the Dyna.

Harley Davidson Sportster Specs

Now before we dive into the Sportster years to avoid, let’s take a look at the specs of the current generation of the Sportster. Why do we think that this is essential?

Well, there are a lot of people out there that are not considering getting a used model but a new one. So, it might be a good idea to learn more about the specs in which the current model is offered and then see about the pricing before we learn about the Sportster years to avoid. So, if you want to learn more, follow along.

Oh, and while you’re here, we’ve written a few other handy guides on buying used bikes. This includes looking into how many miles is a lot for a motorcycle, in addition to the best place to buy a used motorcycle. We also looked at how to get a replacement key for a motorcycle, as well as discussed the merits of a motorcycle camper.

Sportster Dimensions & Size

Now let’s discuss first the dimensions and size of the Sportster before we cover the Sportster years to avoid. Dimensions matter since as we mentioned previously, a person’s height can have a great effect on how well can one ride a motorcycle. Especially these old-school models that can be rather challenging for some people.

Nevertheless, the 2022 Sportster has the following dimensions. The overall length of the bike is 89.4 inches, the seat height is 28.9 inches and the ground clearance is 3.5 inches.

The rake of the bike is at a 30-degree angle and has a trail of 5.8 inches. The wheelbase of the motorcycle is 59.8 inches.

The front suspension is a 43 mm inverted fork with compression spring preload and rebound adjustability. So, as you can see, it is quite versatile in terms of suspension. It also has aluminum fork triple clamps.

The rear suspension is linkage mounted. It implements a piggyback mono-shock with compression, preload, and rebound adjustability. This means that it has a single shock and you can adjust the preload, compression, as well as rebound.

Both front and rear wheels are made out of aluminum. In the front, there are 4 piston caliper brakes, while at the rear, there is a single-piston caliper.

The tire size for the front is 160/70/R16 77V, and the rears are 180/70/R16 77V. The fuel tank size is 3.1 gallons.

The weight as shipped is about 487 lbs. But the weight in running order can increase to 502 lbs because of the gas tank and also the oil capacity. Speaking of, be sure to check out our guide on how often to change motorcycle oil to learn more about what owning a bike entails.

But what about the Sportster years to avoid? More on that, we will cover it in a bit.

Engine & Performance

The next specs that we would like to cover before we learn more about the Sportster years to avoid are the engine and transmission used in this motorcycle.

As with every other Harley, the Sportster implements a V-Twin engine. This is the Revolution Max 1250T. This engine is rather large.

It has a bore of 4.134 inches and a stroke of 2.846 inches. The compression ratio is also high at 12.0:1. The engine implements an Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection. This means no carburetors like in old-school models and the engine is really reliable for today’s standards.

In terms of numbers, the engine produces about 121hp and 94lb-ft of torque. The maximum engine RPM is rated at 6,000. The transmission used in the model is 6-speed. Alas, this particular motorcycle doesn’t come with an automatic gearbox for easy cruising.

In terms of fuel economy, we can say that the model delivers excellent fuel economy of 49 mpg combined city and highway. On the highway, you can expect these numbers to be even better than this. But what about the Sportster years to avoid? We will get to that in a bit.

Sportster Years To Avoid

Other Specs

Other interesting specs that we would like to cover before we learn about the Sportster years to avoid are the features that this motorcycle includes.

When it comes to safety, we can say that this model includes ABS or anti-lock brakes, traction control, drag torque slip control system, tire pressure monitoring system, and wheel lift mitigation. In addition to this, there is a cornering ABS, cornering traction control, and cornering drag torque slip system.

In terms of headlights, the model has an all-LED headlamp with low and high beams. Also, in the rear, there is also an all-LED stop light and taillight.

For the driver, there is a 4-inch TFT display with USB and Bluetooth integration. There is also even USB Type-C connection.

On the display, you get all the essential information, such as the speed, RPM, tire pressure, battery voltage, ambient temperature, and more. In addition to this, there are also a lot of languages included for people who don’t understand English.

Overall, the Speedster is a pretty modern motorcycle that incorporates all the latest features. But what about the price? Let’s learn more about the price before we dive into the Sportster years to avoid.

Harley Davidson Sportster Price

Now before we dive into the Sportster years to avoid, let’s discuss a little bit about the price. How expensive it is to purchase the Sportster today?

Well, on the official website of Harley Davidson, the starting price of the model is rated at $15,499. As you can see, the model is rather expensive – one of the most expensive motorcycle models that you can get. And this is only the MSRP, with the taxes that you have to pay, you can see a bill of more than $16,500.

This is why a lot of people are into getting older models and learning more about the Sportster years to avoid. And in the following chapter, we are going to discuss precisely that and we are going to elaborate on all the problematic years and see which years you should stay away from.

And you definitely don’t want to miss that. Then we will also cover the best model years as well. So, if you want to learn more, follow along.

Sportster Years To Avoid

Now let’s dive into the Sportster years to avoid. So, what are the Sportster years to avoid? Well, we can advise that you should avoid the 1980, 1981, 2001, 2004, and 2019 models.

But why you should avoid these model years specifically? Well, in the following chapters, we are going to elaborate on all of the reasons for each of these model years. And you definitely don’t want to miss that.

Sportster Years To Avoid #1: 1980

Now let’s start with the Sportster years to avoid. More specifically the 1980 model. Why avoid this model year of the Sportster?

This was due to the model having several technical problems. These problems were caused by the solid mount of the engine. As well as the poor electrical system of the motorcycle.

The firmly installed engine caused a lot of vibrations and this model almost drove Harley into bankruptcy. Also, the front forks were prone to developing leaks as well as the frame developed cracks.

Sportster Years To Avoid #2: 1981

The next model year that you definitely want to avoid is the 1981. The problems that the 1980 model still persisted in this model year as well.

And not only that but the 1981 model was also given the award of the worst-handling motorcycle of all time. And not only that the Sportster was problematic with all the vibrations and the poor electrical system. The model also handled pretty badly.

So, you definitely want to avoid this model year as well if you don’t want to get a bad Sportster motorcycle. Now let’s move on to the next model year.

Sportster Years To Avoid #3: 2001

Sportster Years To Avoid

Now we come to the next Sportster years to avoid, and this is the 2001 model year. So, why this model year in specific?

This model specifically has issues with the gearbox. What is interesting about this problem is that it was not pattern related. Meaning that it did not happen at precise intervals in every model but it could happen now and then.

The bike could become really unfriendly to the driver after engaging the clutch. You had to shift the gearbox multiple times in order for the clutch to engage.

Sportster Years To Avoid #4: 2004

The 2004 model of the Sportster also had issues. More specifically with the twin-cam engine. The chain system caused problems with this engine. Mainly because it was poorly designed.

The plastic tensioners can break down and make the chain sloppy. This could cause the chain to jump and ruin the engine. So, be really aware of this. This was reportedly due to the fact that the engine was not rubber-mounted.

But mounted directly on the chassis, a fact that produced vibrations that affected the components inside of the engine itself.

Sportster Years To Avoid #5: 2019

The 2019 model year of the Sportster also had a fair share of problems. Specifically with the electrical system and the gearbox. And many riders criticized Harley on the forums because of these issues.

Best Harley Sportster Year

On the other hand, if you want to get something really good and bulletproof, we would recommend you one of the following models.

Namely, the 1957 Harley XL Sporster Ironhead. This is the early motorcycle with iron heads that are really durable.

Then there are the 1967 and 1969 Harley Sportster XLH. Also, two models from the 70s, the 1971 Harley Sportster and the 1978 Harley Sportster.

Also the later models, namely, the 1983 Harley Sportster XLX61, the 2005 Harley Davidson Sportster, the 2010 Harley CRD XR 1200, and the 2014 Harley XL 883N Iron 883.

Our personal favorite is the 2014 model, mainly because it is a fairly new model. This means that it has the most contemporary looks from the bunch and looks completely badass. And, if you want to personalize it, even more, our guide on motorcycle wrapping cost might come in handy.

Also, the model can be found for a really good deal as well. There are many postings of these motorcycles available to purchase for an average price of $5,300 according to So, this is a price that you definitely want not to miss out on.

Definitely a worthy contender as one of the best cheap street bikes that money can buy. Now let’s conclude this article, on the Sportster years to avoid.

Sportster Years To Avoid: In Conclusion…

In this article, we have covered quite a bit when it comes to the Sportster years to avoid. First, we learned about Harley Davidson and its history and why they are so famous across the world.

Then we covered the Sportster model and learned its specs. Starting from dimensions, size, engine, performance, and price. Then, we learned the Sportster years to avoid and the best years of the model.

Now, if you want something equally as classic and cool, perhaps you might want to check out our write-up on what is the best vintage BMW motorcycle. On top of that, we’ve also previously looked at the Harley Davidson Street, the Sportster’s smaller sibling.

Frequently Asked Questions

Sportster Years To Avoid

Now let’s answer some frequently asked questions.

How Old Is Harley

Harley Davidson was founded in 1903 by William S. Harley and Arthur Davidson. They, along with Indian Motorcycles were the two brands that survived the Great Depression and are still present on the market in the US and globally.

Are Harleys Reliable

In general, they are fairly reliable. They implement a V-Twin engine that is really durable and able to run basically forever. With the invention of fuel injection, they became even more reliable.

Do Harleys Have Alternators

Yes, Harleys have alternators and this alternator is known as the stator. This device is there to power the electrical components while the engine is running.

What Year Did Harley Start Fuel Injection

The first time that Harley included an EFI system was in 1995. They offered this as an option for the 30th-anniversary edition of the Electra glide. But it became the gold standard only in 2007 when it was started to be offered on the Sportster and other more mainstream models.

How Many Miles Do Harleys Last

What is worth noting is that motorcycle engines do not last as car engines. So, when it comes to real-world numbers, a Harley should last at least 75,000 miles. On average the models last for 100,000 miles. And it is not that unusual for a motorcycle made by Harley to last even up to 150,000 miles.

Do Harleys Hold Their Value

Yes, Harley is a reputable brand, and the motorcycles they make usually hold their value really well in comparison to some no-name brands. Or some of the low-tier brands out there.

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