Ten years ago I sold my Harley-Davidson Sportster, and I still don’t miss it. I thought it would be my dream motorcycle, but boy was I wrong!
If you read my previous article, 10 Things I Miss About My Harley-Davidson Sportster, you know that at 22 years old I was on top of the world. My father had been off of chemotherapy for almost year and life was great.
After endless months of research, I carefully selected a Harley-Davidson motorcycle to celebrate all that was good in life. It turns out, I could only put up with that motorcycle for a year before getting rid of it.
Sure, there were a lot of things I do miss about my Sportster, but here are ten things I don’t miss.
This isn’t a Harley-Davidson Sportster review, but if you’re thinking about buying a Sportster, you might want to know about these ten Sportster shortcomings before you buy.
- It leaked
- It got hot
- Weak suspension
- Too many aftermarket options
- BMW riders being insecure
- So much chrome
- Always waking up the neighbors
- Being harassed weekly
- Strangers always ask…
- Bonus: Repair costs
1) It leaked
It’s not just a rumor, many Harley-Davidson motorcycles do leak. My 2007 Sportster, even though it was only a few years old, was no exception. Don’t be too put off if you find a Harley-Davidson you want to buy that leaks oil, just figure out where the leak is coming from, so you can figure out (or ask a dealer) how much fixing the least might cost you.
Don’t let a small leak turn you off of buying a Sportster. On the contrary, don’t run away from the deal unless a seller says “It used to leak oil, but then it stopped.”
2) It got hot
The Harley-Davidson Sportster is an air cooled motorcycle. If you aren’t sure, here’s a list of the pros and cons of air cooled and liquid cooled motorcycle engines, but to sum it up, air cooled engines run hotter.
If you’re cruising along, even in the desert, this isn’t a problem, provided you have air passing through the engine’s cooling fins. The problem was that I was stuck in bumper to bumper traffic in a densely populated city. That made the Sportster get dangerously hot.
3) Weak suspension
The Harley-Davidson Sportster is an excellent base model motorcycle, one that needs to be customized to the rider’s needs and taste. One of the areas I suggest customizing immediately is the rear suspension.
The rear suspension on the Sportster is pretty weak. If you do a lot of two up riding, like I was, you’ll find your Sportster’s rear suspension bottoming out frequently. I can’t say I miss that feeling.
4) Too many aftermarket options
In 10 Things I Miss About My Harley-Davidson Sportster, I wrote that I miss how many different things were made specifically for the Sportster that you could buy and bolt-on yourself to customize your motorcycle. Now I’m saying there’s too much. Is man never satisfied?
The problem with having options, is they can take up a lot of your time, and a lot of your budget. Before you know it you can spend all of your weekends customizing your machine, and forget to actually go out and ride it.
5) BMW riders being insecure (?)
Truthfully, I don’t understand this phenomenon. Many BMW riders seem to completely ignore you on your Sportster. I’m not sure why. I talk more about it in 10 Things I Miss About My Harley-Davidson Sportster.
If you know what’s up with the BMW riders disliking the Sportster, please leave me a comment and let me know what you think.
6) So much chrome
I’m not the type to keep my motorcycles meticulously clean. I ride rain or shine, so my bikes get dirty. There’s also a ten year long construction project happening on my street. In short, my motorcycles are usually dirty.
But Sporsters get next level dirty because there is so much chrome. All of the chrome really shows how dirty the bike is, and it takes much longer to clean it than it does to clean a painted surface, and I don’t miss that at all.
7) Always waking up the neighbors
Sometimes the girls living above your basement apartment bring guys home at 4 am and wake you up with their late night romps. When that happens, having the option to wake them up at 7:30 am with your loud exhaust pipes is nice.
Sometimes the girls upstairs were really cool, and I was the one coming home late and waking everyone up. I don’t miss how obnoxiously LOUD my Sportster’s open pipes were.
8) Being harassed weekly
I got more harassment in catcalls the year I rode a Harley-Davidson Sportster than in any of my other 13 years of motorcycle riding. It was usually either over-tanned, dried and wrinkled looking women hitting on me. Or else it was gay men shouting “Hey biker boy!” because my university campus was two blocks away from Toronto’s gay village.
Actually, in hindsight, I’m kind of disappointed I don’t get cat-called as much as I used to. What the heck? Forget it. I do miss this! Nothing wrong with funny little ego boosts.
9) Strangers always ask…
When you own a Sportster, you’ll get stopped a lot, in shop parking lots, at the gas station, wherever, “Hey, is that a Harley?” It will happen to you weekly.
The interruptions to your day aren’t bad. It’s that people with children will ask if they can put their kids on your motorcycle for a picture, so then you need to take time to explain that they can’t because the exhaust pipes and the motor are very hot and there’s a good chance the kid could get burned. I don’t miss all of those conversations with strangers.
The Sportster itself isn’t the most comfortable cruiser. If you’re 5’11 or taller you will probably find it cramped, especially if your Sportster has mid controls instead of forward controls.
Luckily, you can get Sportster forward controls for as little as $120 if your bike comes with mid controls, but the seats will still be uncomfortable on long rides.
Bonus: Repair quotes
I spent a lot of time in my garage working on my Sportster. That’s because everything seemed to cost $700 Canadian (about $550 USD).
Luckily, I was able to find my own parts (sometimes second hand), or get a few cheap seals from the dealership, and do the work myself for about $25 and a six pack of beer.
Did you find this interesting? Let me know what you think/thought of your Harley, or of Sportsters in general, in the comments section down below.
Harley-Davidson has been making the Sportster since 1957, tweaking and improving it all along the way. I don’t think the Sportster is a bad motorcycle. I think it’s an excellent building platform. With the Sportster, you have an excellent foundation to swap in the parts you want and build an excellent motorcycle, but that means it doesn’t come perfect right from factory.
I enjoyed my year on my Sportster, but I’m glad her 10 shortcomings are someone else’s problem now.
If you found this interesting, let me know what you think/thought of your Harley in the comments, and go ahead and take a look at 10 Things I Miss About My Harley – it wasn’t all bad!