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.
- 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