961-H-D-sportster-xlch_1

With the new for 1957 XL model line, the “H” for touring, the “CH” as the new for 1958 high performance version, Harley-Davidson satisfied the needs of riders looking for lighter, nimbler high performance motorcycles.

Following in the tracks of the K model, which remained only in racing form after 1956 as the KR750, the XL Sportster arrived in 1957. The biggest advancement over the K was overhead valves plus eventually electric starting on the basic XLH model. But the XLH options list included saddlebags, a windshield, buddy seat and riders could even opt for two ride heights by specifying 18 inch or 19 inch wheels. Seat options varied from traditional sprung post to rigid mount in later years. Some new, some as K model carryover, a wide range of racing parts were made available by the factory. The competition-only XLR shared few engine parts, became a threat on drag strips, hillclimbs and even in AMA sanctioned TT racing. Stripped, the Sportster served well at the drag strip; men like Leo Payne and his tuner Mike Wilson were even able to tune it for assaults on the Land Speed Record at Bonneville. While it has not played a role in the military, or often as a police mount, like its predecessors the K Model and the WL model, the Sportster has been a very flexible machine.

With the high performance Buell no longer in Harley’s product mix, after over 50 years in the model line-up the Sportster lives on. Recently with big changes to bring it comfort, smoothness and overall sophistication, the Sportster is as cool as ever.

Specifications:

  • Engine – 45 Degree Overhead Valve V-Twin
  • Displacement – 54 Cubic Inches/ 883 cc’s
  • Bore & Stroke – 3.00″ x 3.81″
  • Carburetor – Linkert
  • Primary – Triplex Chain
  • Clutch – Dry, Multi-disk
  • Transmission – 4-Speed, Foot Shift
  • Ignition – Magneto
  • Horsepower – 55
  • Frame – Steel, Double Down Tube
  • Suspension – Telescopic Fork / Dual Shocks, Swingarm
  • Brakes – Drum, Internal Expanding
  • Wheelbase – 58.5″
  • Weight – 530
  • Wheels/Tires – 3.50 x 19 / 4.00 x 18
This fine 1961 Sportster is one of over 80 Harley-Davidsons, one of nearly 500 motorcycles you can see when you visit the National Motorcycle Museum
3 replies
  1. James Mooney
    James Mooney says:

    I was told I had the first Harley Davidson Sportster in Arkansas, 1957. In less than 3 years, I put just over 100K miles on it, in 3 years. I’m a 74 yo (in May) Disabled Vet and a partial Paraplegic. I currently ride a 2006, FLHTCUI with a CSC Daytona Trike kit, which I upgraded to a Stage 4 Screaming Eagle. I have less than 50K miles on it. The wife and I have rode the Trike in 28 states, and have been to 8 of the last 9 Sturgis Rallies. The Harley would have a lot more miles but, and I hate to admit it, but we ARE Trailer Trash. The Harley has another 50K miles IN The Trailer, behind the Motorhome.
    James & Sue Mooney

    Reply
    • James Mooney
      James Mooney says:

      I was told I had the first Harley Davidson Sportster in Arkansas, 1957. In less than 3 years, I put just over 100K miles on it, in 3 years. I’m a 74 yo (in May) Disabled Vet and a partial Paraplegic. I currently ride a 2006, FLHTCUI with a CSC Daytona Trike kit, which I upgraded to a Stage 4 Screaming Eagle. I have less than 50K miles on it. The wife and I have rode the Trike in 28 states, and have been to 8 of the last 9 Sturgis Rallies. The Harley would have a lot more miles but, and I hate to admit it, but we ARE Trailer Trash. The Harley has another 50K miles IN The Trailer, behind the Motorhome.
      James & Sue Mooney

      Reply
  2. Ken
    Ken says:

    Please don’t call yourselves “trailer trash.” The fact that you are a Vet, with physical issues to contend with, and your age are all inspirations to us younger folks (only by 10!) to keep on riding and enjoying the wind in our face (hair is questionable). Getting to events or destinations are the important things and looking forward to riding is what it is all about. Keep on being that beacon! I’d be honored to ride beside you guys any day of the week!

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.