2018 Harley-Davidson Iron 1200 and Forty-Eight Special | First Look Review

2018 Harley-Davidson Forty-Eight Special and Iron 1200 Sportsters
New for 2018, Harley-Davidson’s Forty-Eight Special (left) and Iron 1200 (right) are factory-custom Sportsters powered by the 1,200cc Evolution V-twin.

Joining the all-new Softail family, the Road Glide Special, Street Glide Special and a fresh crop of Custom Vehicle Operations models in Harley-Davidson’s new-for-2018 lineup are two special Sportsters.

Read our 2018 Harley-Davidson Softails first ride review

Built around the venerable, punchy 1,200cc Evolution V-twin, the new Iron 1200 and Forty-Eight Special are perfect examples of what the Motor Company does best—stylish, custom-looking models straight from the factory. Both have apehanger handlebars, blacked-out wheels and retro graphics on their compact gas tanks.

“Since its inception, the Sportster has offered the perfect combination of size, power and character that makes it appealing to so many different riders,” said Brad Richards, Harley-Davidson V.P. of Styling & Design. “A Sportster is a relatively easy bike to strip down and reinvent. What we’ve done to create the new Iron 1200 and Forty-Eight Special is what Sportster owners have been doing with their own bikes for generations.”

New fuel tank graphics distinguish both the Iron 1200 and the Forty-Eight Special, and combine bold color stripes with graphic elements straight out of the swingin’ ’70s.

“The art on these two fuel tanks reflect contemporary trends we are seeing on custom bikes and in design in general, a move away from more complex and intricate art to a look that’s very simple and clean,” said Richards. “It’s also important to note that these graphics respect the shape of the fuel tank and in the case of the Sportster, that tank shape is a classic design element in its own right.”

Read our 2018 Harley-Davidson Heritage Classic road test review

2018 Harley-Davidson Iron 1200 Sportster
The 2018 Harley-Davidson Iron 1200 features high bars, blacked-out components and retro graphics on its tank.

2018 Harley-Davidson Iron 1200
Compared to the 883cc Evo that powers the Iron 883, the 1,202cc Evolution V-twin in the Iron 1200 belts out 36 percent more torque (73.0 lb-ft vs. 53.8 lb-ft, claimed). More power, more punch, more street cred.

Like garage-built choppers, the Iron 1200 sports a satin-black, 1-inch-diameter Mini Ape handlebar with an 8.75-inch rise, 32-inch spread and 6.5-inch pullback for a fists-in-the-air riding posture. Other custom touches include a gloss black speed screen for attitude and a bit of wind deflection and a fast-back Café Solo Seat that holds the rider in position and flows to the rear fender.

2018 Harley-Davidson Forty-Eight Special engine
When it comes to Harley-Davidsons, black never goes out of style.

A classic 3.3-gallon Sportster fuel tank features multi-colored striped graphics that wrap around the tank profile, which contrasts with the dark engine finish. Fuel tank paint color options include Vivid Black, Twisted Cherry and Billiard White. Nearly everything is painted black, with the pushrod tubes and tappet covers providing the only brightwork. The Iron 1200 is finished with all-black nine-spoke wheels (19-inch front and 16-inch rear diameter) and a solid black belt guard and rear sprocket.

MSRP for the Iron 1200 starts at $9,999, and Harley-Davidson’s Smart Security System and ABS are available as factory-installed options.

Read our 2018 Harley-Davidson CVO Limited road test review

2018 Harley-Davidson Forty-Eight Special Sportster
The 2018 Harley-Davidson Forty-Eight Special features a muscular front end topped by a high bar, a mix of black and chrome components and retro graphics on its tank.

2018 Harley-Davidson Forty-Eight Special
Named after the year its small peanut tank was introduced, the Forty-Eight Special’s calling card is its beefy front end—a 130mm front tire framed by 49mm fork tubes gripped by massive forged aluminum triple clamps—and it is accentuated by a gloss-black, 7.25-inch high Tallboy handlebar.

“We specifically selected the Tallboy bar for its shape,” said Richards. “It offers less pullback than the Mini Ape, a look that really works with the steamroller front end and the smaller fuel tank on the Forty-Eight Special model.”

The Special’s 2.2-gallon “peanut” Sportster fuel tank features rows of bold, horizontal stripes framing a simple Harley-Davidson text logo, and the tank is available in three color options: Vivid Black, Wicked Red and Billiard White.

2018 Harley-Davidson Forty-Eight Special Sportster
Light and dark, old and new on the Harley-Davidson Forty-Eight Special.

The Evolution 1200 V-twin features a black top end and an expanse of brilliant chrome below, including chrome primary, inspection and derby covers, and solid chrome muffler and exhaust shields. Chrome lower rocker boxes, pushrod tubes and tappet covers contrast with the black cylinders to highlight the V-twin’s shape. Michelin Scorcher 31 tires are mounted on Black Split 9-Spoke Cast Aluminum wheels (16-inch diameter front and rear).

MSRP for the Forty-Eight Special starts at $11,299, and the Smart Security System and ABS are available factory-installed options.

Check out more new bikes in Rider’s guide to new/updated 2018 motorcycles



  1. When is HD going to get the big picture? There are fewer and fewer buyers that want to play dress up like a pirate and ride an over weight and under powered bike. HD comes out with “bold new graphics” and “exciting new colors” and more weird new names but no real new bikes. Just the same old same old out dated bikes that soon there will be no buyers for. If there was a nation wide ban on bikes with out mufflers HD would be out of business in 6 months. Once the baby boomers are no longer able to ride HD with be out of business or greatly reduced in size. HD made a mistake by dropping buell and the V Rod.

  2. Only Harley could think a change of graphics is a new model. HD sell only authentic antiques to the discerning “outlaw” wannabe pirate. Other motorcycle makers produce… well, motorcycles. These are relics of an era so far bygone that nobody can remember when it went out of date. If you are a fan of uncomfortable unreliable antique styling exercises, go ahead. But Bubba can make the same piece of garbage for $3,000 in his shed.

  3. Harley doesn’t produce the best performing bikes out on the road for sure. Yes! They are expensive and heavy. But, they are amazing! To saddle up on an American relic that gives you that feeling of coolness and pride harking back to it’s founding in 1903 just can’t be found on any other bike. The sound, feel and fit are all so comforting to the soul of a freedom loving motorcycle enthusiast. And the weight and heftiness saved my butt a couple of years ago when a minivan decided to blow through a stop sign and I ended up head first in the passenger window. The heavy beast sucked up most of the hit and I was able to live to talk about it. No they are not curve busting speed demons. But for those of us who just like to kick back and take it slow and easy they are perfect!

    • Right on HD Rider; you & I are on the same wavelength.Ricky Racer may not get it but if he survives to a ripe old age he’ll understand. Nothing beats a Harley for chugging down a country road & making you feel like king of the road.

  4. Wow, such negativity. I guess the nine new Softail models wouldn’t count either. I was wondering when the 1200 Iron would come out. As a big proponent of black, I like the looks of the Iron very much. Not a big fan of the fat front tire on the 48 Special, nor all of the chrome. I have a feeling the Evolution Sportster will not be around much longer. The Sportster is overdue for an update, that’s for sure. But, contrary to the negative statements above, the Sportster has been around since 1957 for a reason. I’ve owned three and loved them all. Harley dropped the Buell and the V-Rod because they didn’t sell. I’m hoping some four valve heads and some other strategic updates will give the Sporty a new lease on life. I hope it’s around for another 60 years.

    • I think you´re right about the Evo-powered Sportsters being on their way out, which is a real shame. Despite a few superficial flaws, the Evo was a great engine design, and it looks nice, too. I´m hoping the new Milwaukee Eight v-twins will do well for HD, and i like a lot of the improvements (i hope they have the oil pump issues sorted), but they just don´t look as cool as the aircooled units of yesteryear.

      Evolution v-twins have helped some well-maintained Sportsters run for 100,000miles, which is really impressive. They make good torque, and all the problems are well-known and sorted, plus the aftermarket that has built up around them makes the possibilities seem endless. I am currently on the lookout for a 1990s-2003 Sportster, b/c as you said, the Evo-Sportster is in decline, and i want to build and ride one of the pre-rubbermount examples before it´s entirely too late.

    • 1200 Sportsters, in the real world, average low- to mid-forties as far as mpgs go…. so, 90 to 100 miles seems like a fair guesstimate. The motor company suggests they get better mpg, but i´m basing this on what real 1200 riders have logged on fuelly-dot-com. As always, your mileage may vary.

  5. I understand that President Trump’s steel and aluminum tariffs are ging to injure Harley’s production. However, in that Harley’s parts all come from China, I guess that might be true. Time for American manufacturing to come back, so we are not dependent on other countries and so we put Americans nack to work!

  6. That new paint graphic on the tank looks disturbing like the old AMF logo of the dark days of Harley. 2018 has the worst paint colors and no chrome… one of the perks of buying a Harley was the great paint colors and chrome, but just one opinion.

  7. Shame on you Rider for no calling out Harley, these are nothing more than part bin models, very disappointing. What I want from Harley is a new Sportster with a new engine based on the 750cc model. Only the new bike should have 1200 – 1500cc, overhead cams (no poor chain designs), 4 valves per cyl. with auto adjusting backlash, water cooling, 6 speed tranny, ABS, alloy rims, radial tires, reasonably lean angles (the 1200T scrapes to easy.) with real suspension not the current junk, quick removable saddle bags (so it can easily be converted to a sporty bike) for touring, tool bag, removable windscreen, seating for two with a comfortable seat from the get go. Call it a sport tourer. Also needs a diet, the current 1200T is a few pounds Heavy. If there is room throw in a cruise control option. Keep the bike size down to the current Sportster. Call me when it is ready, I want to trade in my Sportster.

  8. I’ve commented here before about my issues with the “Harley culture”. A lack of acknowledgement and respect by some of the Harley faithful, towards riders of other makes , is regrettable.
    It happens with all groups of like- minded people, that some will always claim they are the better group… if only to make themselves feel better about themselves.
    I find I’m in the odd position of defending Harley-Davidson. (I don’t currently own one, but have) and “baby boomers”(of which I am “smack in the middle of”). To argue the brand isn’t any longer viable, is to say the company responsible for over 50% of all motorcycles sold, doesn’t “get it”. I’m afraid the detractors of Harley don’t”get it”! The “baby-boomer” era, with their desire for a bike like Harley, fueled the fire for other foreign and domestic manufacturers, to design, create and market, to the same hungry motorcycle buyers, by copying the exact motorcycle you want to dismiss as irrelevant !
    Funny thing is, I own two bikes that are exactly that( a 1996 Kawasaki Vulcan Classic 1500, and a 1999 Excelsior-Henderson Super X) Both of these bikes were the epitome of the”buy me.. we’re just like Harley”. These bikes have served me well, and I love the comments and controversy they create, by just not being what the next guy is riding.
    After all this(RT Rider and Martin B.)and others that share their opinion, you should be on your knees thanking the motorcycle gods that Harley and the “baby boomers” ever existed. They demanded and received what they wanted, from a company smart and resourceful enough to meet their needs. They paved the way for other motorcycle manufacturers to create the bikes that suite your particular tastes.
    Maybe….we should all defend and promote all cycle makers,… and just love the ride!
    P.S.– I don’t know why,but I personally feel “baby boomers”, are just better people than Gen X’ers, and Millenials…. self serving I know, I just wanted to feel better about myself!
    — Fast Eddie in Mn.

  9. So much hate. I’m not a pirate or wannabe badass but I love my Harley. After 50 years of riding many many brands, I’ve LIKED them all but never LOVED my Gold Wings. Never loved any of my BMWs. Nortons, Triumphs, & BSAs were all neat; I liked them. If someone would have stolen my Yamaha I wouldn’t have felt all that bad. It’d be like if someone stole my refrigerator. For some of us it’s not about speed, or technology; it’s how a Harley makes you feel chugging down a country road. Like a beautiful woman, it’s how a Harley looks. It’s the deep throb of the exhaust note. Big pistons, low RPM, lotza torque. I don’t expect BMW Boy or Ricky Racer to get it but the only other brands that comes close is Indian & MotoGuzzi but we’re all motorcyclists. So… lighten up haters, we’re all out there in the wind.

  10. The only thing that holds me from getting the Iron 1200 is that there’s only one color, they should give the option of other colors like the 883…

  11. I’ve owned Honda’s, Triumphs, Kawasaki s, but the 2018 Iron 1200 was my first ever Harley.I bought because of spine issues that were aggravated by my tall & heavy Tiger Explorer. After 4 weeks I’ve already reached my first 1000 miles. I don’t even want to stop riding it long enough to do the 1000 mile service. Not really understanding all the negativity, At 46 years old this bike has converted me completely and I will probably never buy another brand ever again. I love this machine and haven’t enjoyed riding this much since I was a kid.

    • I owned multiple brands and just put in an order on iron 1200. The only thing I am really a concern is the range that it can produce compared to other brands that can double the range.

  12. HD will not be around much longer if it keeps building outdated,uninspired , and overpriced motorcycles. Not one of their current models is a leader in its class. HD bikes used to be innovative and performance oriented. Today HD can not build anything that even measures up to their Japanese and European competition. For example the Sportster- HD should be embarrassed to sell such an archaic and crude machine in this day and age. A nice paint job and cool graphics are the only appealing thing about it. The problem is not the millennials. HD has not evolved with the times!


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