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2010 Harley-Davidson Forty-Eight First Impressions


by Pascal Bastien ,

Daytona, Florida. With post-war Harley looks and Sportster heritage that dates back to the 1950s, the 48 is quite a stunner, standing out from the row of new bikes when I picked it up for this test in Daytona. Based on the Sportster 1200, this bike stands out with a small orange tank, called a “Peanut” tank by Harley people and introduced in 1948 – hence the model name. Add a retro solo seat, a truncated rear fender with no taillight as well as some massive tires, and you have the look and feel of the 50s – in a modern, reliable machine. In my humble opinion, all these elements make the 48 one of the sharpest-looking Harleys out there.

Nice fat tires, a small headlight, that unique peanut tank and, a solo seat and these inverted rear view mirror mounts - all 50s stuff. It gets much better when you add a disc brake, fuel injection and today's much better tires. (Photo: Philippe Champoux/

An effective engine… with the right character

Powered by the latest evolution of the 1200 Sportster V-twin, a pure Harley engine in every sense of the word, the 48 definitely has some bite. Silent bloc insulated mounts handle the characteristic but non-intrusive engine vibrations below 2,000 rpm — as required by Harley aficionados.

Take off and you will benefit from the best that The Motor Company offers, with a strong, convincing thrust at low revs, to the point of giving off a larger-displacement feel. The clutch lever felt heavy, surprisingly so given the work by H-D engineers to lighten the effort on the lever and thus facilitate operation by less muscled riders. In typical H-D fashion, the tranny delivers quick, precise shifts, and benefits from well chosen ratios, wide enough to take advantage of the generous torque from 1500, and a flat curve from 2000 to the peak of 79 lb-ft at 4000 rpm. This means that five ratios can do the job and reduce the tap dance on the shift lever that less torquey engines require. As is the norm with most manufacturers, there is no word from H-D about peak power, which likely hovers around 66 hp at 6000 rpm.

Form over function
One-up riding only is what the beautiful American is about, stretching the rider’s legs and upper body forward in the process — maybe a bit too much for me (5’9’’). The firm yet nicely sculpted seat is great for shorter stints, and I do mean short, as the lack of comfort up to my expectations, and limited tank capacity (8 litres).

Riding in style
For Harley lovers, straddling the 48 feels almost instinctive, with an ultra-low seat and narrow handlebar making the first ride – and every one after that – always a pleasure. Of course, the easy-to-love engine helps. Despite coming from a lineage of competent models with a “Sporty” name, this bike is neither sporty nor really fast.

(Photo: Philippe Champoux/
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