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Also classic: the Harley-Davidson Evolution Sportsters

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ER Classics Desktop 2022

After seven years of development work, Harley-Davidson came to 1984 with the successors of the Shovelhead blocks, the Evolution V twins. Those machines provided the umpteenth rescue for the brand. Because the Shovelheads were now extremely dated and too American for the global market. According to European standards, they did not steer, they did not brake, and moreover, they failed very much if they had to drive at the speeds that were common in a then unlimited Europe, but impossible in the States.

The Evolution blocks

The Evo blocks (later with the nickname 'Blockheads') were stronger, lighter, maintenance-friendly and considerably better resistant to European driving behavior. Of course that was all within the standards of the concept. Because of course the new Harleys were not 'Ducati beaters'.


The Ironhead Sportsters also received new blocks from 1986 and with the introduction of the Evolution XLH Sportster 883, Harley had a model of less than 1.000 cc for the first time in ten years. The 883 was intended as an entry-level model within the large Harley family and was soon nicknamed 'Wijvenfiets' among ferociously bearded and tattooed hard core Harley riders. In 1986, such an XL cost 17.999 guilders. Harley's top model, the 1.340 cc FLTC Tour Glide Classic, cost exactly 20.000 guilders more.

The rest stayed with the old

The frame and suspension of the Evolution Sportsters remained directly from the 70 years, with a steel cradle frame, stiff, short suspension travel. The footrests were well in front of the nose of the seat. And with moderate brakes. The evolution of the 'Evo' models was all in the engine, but the appearance of it was deliberately kept as close as possible to the original. Harley drivers are genetically averse to changes. Such a fresh Sporty had a starter motor, hydraulic tappets, electronic ignition. The only thing the owner had to do was change the oil occasionally and ensure that a handful of cables and hinges remained nice and greasy. While Shovels and Ironheads had a somewhat bad reputation for reliability, the Evolution engines proved to be capable of seriously high, trouble-free mileage. We have a copy of which the counter is now above the 120.000 km. And that without serious problems. And that those kilometers were made with a lot of fuel stops? Well, you can claim a Sportster at every fuel stop.

Such an Evo Sportster was a modern bicycle, but it was made like an old one. Fasteners are large, castings are glossy, steel pipes are thick-walled and brackets are forged instead of folded. Everything is rude, decent and macho. And so it is with a Harley.

These Sportsters are far removed from the Bonneville beaters they were once supposed to be. They are extremely relaxed strollers who feel most at ease on secondary roads.

They are now classics

The Evo Sportsters are now very nice classics. Many of them have low mileage because they have just been used as 'toys'. Preferably opt for such an original, but in any case not encrypted model. Really unchanged copies are rarer than honesty in politics. The ones that have been wildly rebuilt or look super cool? I'd leave them alone. There is enough to offer. Note the maintenance history and check if all other papers are correct. There are rather Harley's overrated in circulation.

Not original, but impressive

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