Harley-Davidson is an iconic American manufacturer of motorcycles, and within the Harley family are two lines of classic bikes: the Sportster and Softail. Each line has a lot to choose from, so generalizations won’t do. From sleek racers fit for zipping up and down curvy highways, to big-framed baggers that eat urban streets for breakfast, the Sportster and Softail lines will have something for you.
Here at Hellbender Harley-Davidson®, we’re more than just a dealer — we’re riders too. So we know it’s important to check out potential purchases from multiple angles and compare specs to find the right bike. In that spirit, we’ve put together this short guide to these two classic Harley families. Read on for more information, or if you’re ready to get your hands on one of these great bikes head into our showroom in Marietta, Georgia, near Woodstock, Macon, Sand Springs, Columbus, and serving the great Atlanta area.
The Harley Sportster was developed as a response to increasing pressure from bikes imported to the United States. While Harley had dominated the local market for decades, smaller, more agile bikes were entering the market and challenging some of Harley’s larger, air-cooled cruisers. Hot rod culture was big at the time, and younger riders were looking for fast, lightweight bikes that were good for racing. The Sportster shot back with a medium-sized frame that was light and agile beyond belief. Local customizers and modifiers quickly took to the Sportster design (then called the XL) with a new zeal, modifying the bike for dirt track racing, cruising, drag racing, and just about anything else you could think of. Today, the Sportster line is still Harley’s standard bearer for quick, fun-to-ride motorcycles.
In the 1970s, mechanical engineer Bill Davis took the cutting torch to his beloved Harley Super Glide® to see if he could solve a problem that had been plaguing his riding. The Super Glide was part of an older generation of Harley-Davidson hardtail motorcycles that lacked rear suspension, making the riding experience a bumpy headache. Davis added a hidden rear spring suspension system. Once he completed the design, he brought it to Harley-Davidson. While the company didn’t jump at the first chance, they eventually purchased the design, modified it to their own demanding specifications, and released the Softail FXST in 1983.
Design Head to Head
Many Softail models feature more of a nostalgic bent in their overall design scheme, and the Softail Deluxe and Softail Slim are good examples of this. On the other hand, the Breakout® is a recent addition to the Softail family that takes on a seductive modern look with huge rims and an eye-popping color palette. The Sportster line uses many modern, updated designs such as the Iron 883™, which looks as good cutting up the city streets as it does roaring down a highway. If you’re looking for something more classic, the 1200 Custom™ has the leather jacket appeal you expect from an old school Harley roadster with chromed out coil over springs and wire spoke wheels. The designs run the gamut in terms of modern to classic appeal, and you’ll likely be able to find the perfect bike for your personal aesthetic.
Performance & Power Face Off
Between the two families of bikes, one clearly takes the lead in terms of power: the Softail. Using the High Output Twin Cam 103B engine, the Softail line delivers some serious power and torque with 103 cubic inches of cylinder displacement. If you upgrade to one of the S models including the Softail Slim S or Fat Boy® S, you’ll get an engine upgrade to the Screamin’ Eagle® Air-Cooled Twin Cam 110B, adding, even more, power and torque. When you consider power-to-weight ratio, the Sportster isn’t exactly a slacker. The 1200cc Evolution® engine delivers incredible power. For bikes like the Iron 883, an 883cc engine provides zippy speed in an agile frame. No matter which direction you go, you’ll have plenty of power when you need it.
Both the Harley Sportster and Softail are fantastic motorcycles with plenty of ways to entice potential buyers with promises of thrills and American-built power. While Sportsters stand out in terms of performance and speed, the Softail has an unbeatable style and heritage of garage-inspired customization. Whatever you’re after, Hellbender Harley-Davidson® has the best new and used motorcycles around, so head in to our showroom in Marietta, Georgia, near Woodstock, Macon, Sand Springs, Columbus, and the greater Atlanta area. Come in today and talk with our staff of knowledgeable and courteous professionals waiting to answer all your questions and help you find the Harley motorcycle of your dreams.