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The 1957 Ironhead Harley Davidson XL Sportster
The Harley-Davidson Motorcycle Company had been in business for fifty-four years when they designed, manufactured, and released a model bike that would forever change the face of riding. The new model looked like the other models on offer, but this one was a little faster and countless people would prefer it for years to come. We're talking about the 1957 Sportster XL Ironhead, which was the very first Sportster, its grandfather you could say. In fact, we've ranked it one of the best Sportsters in Harley Davidson history.
The XL Sportster, as it was originally called, seemed like the answer motorcycle enthusiasts were looking for. With a forty-horsepower four-stroke V-2 engine, many couldn't wait to retire, and the brand new retail price wasn't all that bad at $ 1,100. Well, not many people knew that Harley had brought into the world a bike that was not only meant for future use, but was supposed to give freedom to anyone who wanted to ride; The legend had unconsciously given us another.
Origin of the Sportster
Although Harley-Davidson had been in business technically since 1903, the recreational motorcycle market only got too popular when the British made it "cool" in the early 1952s. Back then, Harley made bicycles that were a little too heavy for the road. Knowing that they had to be competitive in the bicycle market, they developed the Model K, which was in production from 1956 to 1957. Sales of the bike were sufficient, but XNUMX they decided to attach their new OHV engine to K-Modell and the Sportster was born, although there is a bit more differences between the two than that alone.
Do the Sportster alone
So what specific things make the Sportster stand out from any other bike around at the time? Well, the bodywork itself looked a lot like the K-Line, with the same large gas tank, fenders, frame, and even the same suspension system. K-series motorcycles and Sportsters had their drivetrains and shifters on the right, in contrast to Harley's FLs, which they had on the left. It took some getting used to for those used to left hand models, but since UK competition showed them on the right, Harley did the same.
The K-Line models used a side valve engine (also known as a "flat head"), but the Sportsters had OHV engines that were a bit quieter, ran smoother, and had more power than the side valves. . This proved more effective overall, with the Sportster taking off in a flash and even winning the tough Jack Pine Enduro race before its first year was over. After good reviews, Harley moved on to custom building and the Sportster became a huge hit thanks to its lightweight body, surprising performance and efficient engine.
Sporthead XL Ironhead 1957 specifications
The following is a list of specifications for the Ironhead '57 Sportster XL '. As a sports bike, it was designed to be lighter and more powerful, which explains its success in these departments. The motorcycle could reach a top speed of 152 km / h.
- Carburized fuel system
- Chain drive
- Air cooling system
- 4-speed gearbox
- Expandable drum brakes (front and rear)
- Front suspension with telescopic hydraulic fork
- Two hydraulic shock absorbers on the rear suspension
- Single tube steel frame
- The wheels were spokes
- 4.39 gallons of fuel capacity
- 0.18 liter oil capacity
- 57 ”wheelbase
- Power-to-weight ratio: 0.1781 hp / kg
- The weight of the bike was 224.5 kg.
- Ignition kick start
- 12 volt electrical system
These are the basic functions of the original 1957 Sportster XL. More detailed information and references to compare these specifications with similar motorcycles on Bikez.com.
The Sportster First Impressions from 1957
With the birth of the Sportster, brought about by the British invasion, the British bicycle had a significant impact on the original Sportster and how it looked. Harley had no more competition for the United States as the Indian motorcycle company had closed its doors by then. HD understood the importance of being competitive across the motorcycle. But would the public really accept the Sportster or were the British destined to keep the market under control? The story speaks for itself, of course, but let's examine it for ourselves.
In 1957, the company took its iron-headed Sportster and everyone else to various regional shows for attention as they had no dealer introductions to help them get their jobs done. They found that most of the men who rode the masculine sidelines of the larger, heavier motorcycles and the Sportster, a midsize bike, just didn't cut the mustard in this department. Some even called the bike "ugly" and gave advice on changing. That same summer, the Sportster caught attention and got people talking at a rally in Milwaukee promoting the Duo-Glide. Dealers thought they were going to see an improved bike, and after impressing Walter Davidson enough, he decided to build exactly 100 bikes the way they wanted. But if they didn't sell, they wouldn't produce any more.
The result was the release of XLCH and XLH in '58. This version featured sharp fenders, no lights, straight pipes, and a few other differences as requested by dealers. Ultimately, the bikers of the sport loved the changes and the new versions were a success, pushing HD to invest a little more in this emerging line.
And the rest is history
Over the years the Sportster has seen many minor (and sometimes major) changes. Today's version is much simpler and appeals to everyone including the racer who finds larger bikes difficult to handle. But it's hard to forget the humble beginnings of this lightweight dynamo that has stood the test of time. Regardless of technology, aerodynamics or load, it is always the originals that make the hearts of real Sportster enthusiasts all over the world beat faster. Easy handling, high performance and low weight make the Sportster one of the most popular motorcycles for men and women.
But as always, nothing looks like the original ...
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