2016 Harley-Davidson Roadster – First Look Review

The 2016 Harley-Davidson Roadster has styling inspired by vintage race bikes.
The 2016 Harley-Davidson Roadster has styling inspired by vintage race bikes. (Photos: Harley-Davidson)

Joining the Low Rider S and CVO Pro Street Breakout as mid-year additions to Harley-Davidson’s lineup is the latest bike in the Dark Custom family, a minimalist, fastback Sportster called the Roadster.

Read our 2016 Harley-Davidson Low Rider S first ride review

The Dark Custom Roadster has a fastback seat and minimalist cockpit.
The Dark Custom Roadster has a fastback seat and minimalist cockpit.

“Since its introduction in 1957, the Harley-Davidson Sportster has proved capable of constant reinvention, and the Roadster writes a new chapter in that story,” said Harley-Davidson Director of Styling Brad Richards. “We’ve watched our customers take the Sportster in so many different directions. The Roadster is a mash-up of styling genres, but the intent was to build a rider’s motorcycle, a Sportster that’s lean and powerful and connects the rider to the road.”

The Roadster combines the torquey, rubber-mounted, air-cooled 1,200cc Evolution V-twin with premium suspension components and styling inspired by vintage race bikes.


“We wanted to give the Roadster some DNA from the high-performance KHR models of the mid-’50s, and later Sportsters tuned for the drag strip,” said Richards. “Those bikes had fenders cut to the struts, the small fuel tank, and were stripped to their bare essentials to achieve a singular performance purpose.”

A new low-rise handlebar and mid-mount foot controls put the rider in an aggressive position over the 3.3-gallon “walnut” fuel tank. The 19-inch front and 18-inch rear Offset-Split 5-Spoke cast-aluminum wheels were designed specifically for the Roadster. A new 43mm inverted single-cartridge fork with triple-rate springs is held by robust triple clamps and out back is a pair of gas-charged emulsion coil-over shocks with triple-rate springs and adjustable preload. At 4.5 inches front and 3.2 inches rear, the Roadster offers more suspension travel than any other Sportster. Triple disc brakes with optional ABS should provide good stopping power on the 568-pound bike (wet, claimed).

Gas-charged emulsion shocks have triple-rate springs.
Gas-charged emulsion shocks have triple-rate springs.

The stripped-down Roadster’s rear fender has been clipped 1.5 inches shorter than previous bobbed Sportster fenders. Slots in the belt guard and muffler shields mimic holes drilled to lighten race bike components, and a single instrument tucked low in front of the triple clamp features an analog tachometer with an inset digital speedometer. Rear turn signals are mounted directly to the fender struts, the license plate is side-mounted and the upholstered, 30.9-inch seat has a fastback design.

“The seat’s profile flows into the very short rear fender,” said McGinley. “The cover features a series of pads inspired by an armored leather jacket, and the rear of the seat is designed as a passenger pillion, to give the Roadster added versatility.”

Upholstered fastback seat resembles a classic armored leather jacket.
Upholstered and perforated fastback seat resembles a classic armored leather jacket.

The 2016 Harley-Davidson Roadster will be available in four color schemes: Vivid Black with a charcoal denim pinstripe; Black Denim with a red pinstripe; Velocity Red Sunglo with a red pinstripe; and two-tone Billet Silver/Vivid Black with a burgundy pinstripe. Prices start at $11,199.







  1. “At 4.5 inches front and 3.2 inches rear, the Roadster offers more suspension travel than any other Sportster.” Wow! A chiropractor’s dream.

  2. Finally, a better suspension at least! Keep it functional with some real fenders and longer stem mirrors that one can actually see out of and H-D will have something here!

  3. The rugged individualists that somehow manage to look exactly alike probably won’t buy this bike. I’d be interested, but 3.2 inches of rear wheel travel and a 3.3 gallon tank are deal breakers. The 2009 XR1200 model had 3.5 inches of travel and a 3.5 gallon tank, so I couldn’t buy that bike either. And then…the weight! It’s an air-cooled twin with minimalist style and yet it weighs nearly 600 pounds. My ego just isn’t so fragile that I need to put up with so many shortcomings in order to be accepted into the matching vest club.

  4. As I do with another hobby of mine I only pass judgement on things when I actually own them. I’ve been a licensed motorcyclist since the mid 70s. I spent most of my time riding a 76 Triumph Bonneville. I’ve had Full on sportbikes, named sportbikes, an 883 Sportster and a 04′ Superglide. I recently purchased a 2020 XL1200 Roadster, which I consider a Sportster that’s been returned to its roots as a sportbike, not a slammed down ladies or a I can’t wait to by a big twin bike. I was considering a new Bonneville or a Monster 797 but no nearby dealers. I’m short of love this Roadster XL1200CX. It handles extremely well in twisty roads and has a character and feel that missing on modern buzzy 4 cylinder bikes. I think Harley-Davidson needs to make a better effort in spotlighting this wonderful machine, but as in the past Harley-Davidson mostly ignored the Sportster line up. Whoever is responsible for the disaster at H-D obviously speaks my language.

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