How Low can you go?
The Sportster SuperLow is just one of six 2011 Harley-Davidson models we can now tell you about. A new Road Glide Ultra also joins H-D’s OE lineup, plus a quartet of high-end CVO models we’ve already ridden. The Road Glide Ultra is new to the CVO stable, joined by returning teammates Ultra Classic Electra Glide, the popular Street Glide, and the versatile Softail Convertible.
Riding impressions of each will follow in the coming days and weeks. -Ed.
Harley-Davidson’s top-selling entry-level bike, the XL883L Low, just got better. In fact, it’s so improved that you might say that this “Shortster” has reached new heights in terms of ride comfort and stability for new and experienced riders.
“It’s really a whole-new bike for us,” says project manager Greg Falkner. The result is an entry-level bike that performs so well that SuperLow owners may want to keep their bike even after they gain more experience and confidence in the saddle.
“This bike should continue to suit them as they gain more riding experience,” touts Falkner. In short, this low-riding bike is more than just a beginner’s motorcycle, a stigma that, in the past, has haunted the 883L Low. The SuperLow is a bona fide bike that should appeal to riders of all skill levels, especially those with short inseams.
So how did Harley retain the low seat height while improving the ride? “We made more room under the rear fender for more wheel travel,” explains Falkner. Look at the specifications and you’ll see what he’s talking about. Even though the rear wheel diameter was increased from 16 to 17 inches, wrapping the new five-spoke wheel with a low-profile Michelin radial tire helped reduce overall height.
This reduced rear tire height allows for more wheel travel under the fender, so the engineers were able to develop a set of longer-travel shock absorbers (about 5/8-inch longer than the Low’s) for the SuperLow. The new shocks also have recalibrated damping rates to help smooth the ride. You’ll especially feel the difference on the compression stroke where the new shocks and springs do a much better job of soaking up the bumps.
The engineers relocated the ECM (electronic control module), too, moving it from beneath the seat to the steering head. The vacant space made way for more padding in the seat itself, in turn elevating rider comfort, but not the rider. You’ll notice the difference right away, and appreciate it even more after riding a few miles down the road.
There are some subtle improvements up front, and much of the technology was gleaned from the XR1200 model. Foremost, the wheel diameter was reduced from 19 to 18 inches, and a Michelin radial used there, too. The fork legs have slightly recalibrated settings, so the springs are less apt to bottom under normal riding conditions.
Wider triple trees spread the legs ever so slightly for the new lighter-weight wheel, in the process giving the bike a more masculine appearance plus more lock-to-lock rotation.
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