Best And Worst Years For Sportster? Know Details About Sportster

Harley Davidson introduced Sportster in 1957. This motorbike model has undergone several updates and overhauls over the years. The Sportster is a versatile motorcycle used for commuting, touring, or even racing.

However, certain Harley Sportster years to avoid are there for good reasons. So, which Sportster years should you avoid? 

Many bike enthusiasts and experts have suggested not to pick the Sportster models to belong to these years: 1980, 1981, 2001, 2004, and 2019. You may choose models from other years for better performance, safety, and experience.

Sportster is known for its comfortable riding position and ability to quickly eat up miles. Again, it is an excellent choice for riders who want a bike that’s versatile and fun to ride. In this post, I discuss which Sportster years to avoid for valid reasons.

Best And Worst Years for Sportster

Which Sportster Years To Avoid For Rider’s Betterment?

Which Sportster Years To Avoid For Rider’s Betterment

Over the years, the Sportster has been available in engine sizes ranging from 883cc to 1252cc. Likewise, there have been plenty of changes and improvements in different models of Sportster introduced in versatile years. 

But the journey was not the same in every production year. A couple of them had faulty bikes that you, the users,  needed to repair or replace. 

For example, the US has witnessed poor-quality automobiles made in the 1970s. On the other hand, Japan-made motorbikes were better during that period. AMF spent around a decade improving the quality of these motorbikes when Harley Davidson was sold. 

Then, they focused on Sportster yet the 1981 model year was not satisfactory. It is said to be the worst attempt to reimagine a model at the time. As a result, riders disputed this year’s bikes, which made HD face losses. 

However, these below years are not recommended for picking your favorite Sportster motorbike:

Sportster 1980 Year:

Sportster 1980 Year

The Ironhead Sportster was a terrible edition during the 70s-80s. This model had several technical faults. These faults arose from the solid mount of the engine and the electrical system of the vehicle shoddy. In fact, many riders had complained about multiple breakdowns in the electrical system. 

Additionally, the bike’s components started loosening to the vibration coming from the firmly installed engine. Harley Davidson almost faced bankruptcy for this model of bike. Problems like the front fork were known to leak, and the frame tended to crack in 1980 Sportster. 

Kiehan carburation of 1976 was another cause of dislikes that HD replaced sooner. Besides, the standard seat of a 1980 bike felt like you are riding an HD bike sitting on a rock.

Sportster 1981 Year:

If you think of the worst-handling Sportster bike, then the 1981 model is the one. Even the Thought Co. graded this model as one of the worst-handling motorbikes ever. 

Harley Davidson had a tragic financial agreement with AMF. This company acquired HD for a short time in 1981. So, it was a bad year for HD. 

The manufacturer worked on improving better automobiles in those tough years. Sportster was the result of the anarchy. Then, it was reimagined, yet the 1981 model is not the correct year. 

Sportster 2001 Year:

2001 Sportster bikes had severe gearbox problems. It had affected many other Sportsters and their market. The problem wasn’t in any specific pattern like happening for certain reasons. But it happened to occur at certain times. 

The bike might appear unfriendly to the users after turning it on and engaging the clutch. If they wanted to run the bike for a long duration, the problem could occur evidently. Once, the rider shifted the Sportster 2001 back and forth between first and second multiple times. 

Sportster 2004 Year:

The same problem happened in the Dyna as both Sportster 2001 and Dyna used a similar Twin Cam engine

The cam chain system is mainly blamed for the issues of the Twin Cam engine. But the actual product design is shoddy. Sometimes, the shoes fall apart for the dependency on the plastic shoes to ride on the cam chains. Again, the problem still occurs with the new hydraulic tensioning system. 

The engines were not rubber-mounted before 2004. So, it was a problem on both Sportster versions before that year. 

Sportster 2004 Year:

Sportster 2004 Year

The iconic V-twin-powered models focus on a more versatile demographic than the LiveWire motorbikes. In 2019, the HD Sportster bikes had several electrical and gear shifting issues. Riders have accounts on different bike forums, and Reddit has criticized this model for those problems. 

On the other hand, LiveWire was counted as a high-quality, premium electric motorbike. It only goes around 80 miles on the interstate though it offered a city-only coverage of 146 miles. Considering this fact, the Sportster 48 is more practical than 2004 with its tiny peanut tank. Moreover, it takes one hour to charge. The price of the LiveWire is also more than expected, like $27000. When the company tried to fix the problems of this model, it took many fixing costs. 

Which Years Should You Prefer To Buy Used HD Bikes?

Which Years Should You Prefer To Buy Used HD Bikes

The Triumph Thunderbird was formulated with the perfect design and goal. It had a rear suspension and an overhead valve engine, first in any Sportster model. Plus, it had dominated Britain in the 1950s. Following that, the US market was happy with the new addition. 

Below are the years to buy used Sportster motorbikes:

Year Model Name
2014 Harley XL 883N IRON 883
2010 Harley CRD XR 1200
2005 Harley-Davidson Sportster
1983 Harley Sportster XLX61
1978 Harley Sportster
1971 Harley Sportster
1969 Harley Sportster XLH
1967 Harley Sportster XLH
1957 Harley XL Sportster Ironhead


You may ignore the problems if you are one of them who wants to ride on Harley Davidson only. But others who are not known the facts may not get interested after learning them. So, this article will assist all of you in knowing which Sportster years to avoid for better selection. It will also help to get a better model of this HD motorbike.

1 thought on “Best And Worst Years For Sportster? Know Details About Sportster”

Leave a Comment