2019 Harley-Davidson Forty-Eight Special Review: An American Beauty with Brains?

Overall rating: 3.5

Harley-Davidson Forty-Eight Special is one of those motorcycles that make you look good, no matter what! In this review, we find out what all the 'Special' suffix brings to the table and should you really spend your money on this one, especially when there are multiple other options that are much faster and better-equipped too!

By: | Updated: May 29, 2019 12:30 PM


Motorcycles are indeed special, isn’t it! While there are some that are just meant to take you from point A to point B while sipping the least amount of fuel, there are others that are made to cover that distance as fast as possible. And then there are some that, well, are meant to make you understand the true emotion behind motorcycling. These two-wheeled machines indeed offer you a sense of freedom and liberty, something which just cannot be felt inside the closed cabin of a car and Harley-Davidson happens to be one of the global brands that specialises in delivering this emotion. Well, the intent of starting this review with all this ‘gyaan’ is because the motorcycle in question here is a bit different and special, that is why perhaps it has ‘special’ in its name too!

The cruisers by the famed American motorcycle company represent more of a lifestyle and the huge fan following across the globe is one big proof for that. The Sportster family has remained an important one for the company for years and accessible pricing is a key reason behind. A couple of months back, Harley-Davidson India added the Forty-Eight Special to the said line up and the new model has its existence alongside the standard Forty-Eight. So, should you spend your money on this one and most importantly why? Read on to find out!

How is it to the eyes!

Harley Davidson Forty-Eight Special has some significant changes on the design front compared to the standard model. We bet the first thing that will catch your attention upon having a glance at the motorcycle is the white fuel tank with those 1970s themed multi-coloured stripes. Another big change is the inclusion of the short ape styled handlebar that will make you extend your arms higher for a different feel.

Like other Harleys, this one is also a striking motorcycle to look at no matter what angle you choose. The peanut-shaped fuel tank, the single saddle, the twin exhaust pipes extending out of the engine one following the other and the chunky tyres. All these combine together to present an indispensable motorcycle in terms of aesthetics. That said, the instrument cluster on this bike is a quite basic unit and feels a bit outdated with a small screen showing only the bare minimum information.

The minimalistic approach at the rear works well and you will find Harley’s traditional idea of tail lamps integrated into turning blinkers on this one too. Overall, the bike looks fantastic and one look at it might certainly leave you imagining yourself as a celebrity with leather jacket and boots on!

What’s in the heart?

The new Harley-Davidson Forty-Eight Special shares its 1,202cc, Evolution V-twin engine with the standard Forty-Eight. In typical Harley fashion, the power output remains a mystery, while the peak torque output is rated at 97 Nm. Before I jump on to the performance part, let me remind you that Harleys are not meant to offer outright performance, what many of us Indians expect in this price range. But hey, this does not mean that the Forty-Eight Special is a boring machine to live with!

The big fat torque low down in the rev range pulls the bike ahead with a lot of enthusiasm right from the word Go! This is not a free-revving engine and hence, is not meant to deliver outright acceleration. The gearbox on this one is a five-speed unit that works precisely and has a clunky feel for that old-school sentiment. Moreover, the V-twin rumble from the dual exhaust set up adds to the riding experience and makes your presence noticed from a distance. The bike cruises easily at speeds of 100-110 kmph after which the vibrations start becoming apparent. We clocked a top speed of 155 kmph during our test runs with still some juice left in the engine.

Now, here is the sad part. The V-twin, air-cooled motor heats up quickly, especially in bumper to bumper traffic. This along with the heavy clutch might actually make you question your choice for this motorcycle every time you get stuck in traffic. The heat from the engine starts to roast your legs and in my case, while I was stuck on the Gurgaon Delhi Expressway, a couple of bystanders felt the warmth from the engine too while I noticed their sympathetic glances. And not to forget, the ruthless Indian summers made things even worse.

Another downer is the fuel tank capacity. The 7.9-litre appetite makes you rethink to go over long distances and if you are willing to do so, be ready to stop at fuel stations at every 100 kms or so. During our test runs, the bike delivered us a fuel efficiency of 16 kmpl that constituted a major part of city riding along with a fair portion of highway run.

Handle with Care. Like literally!

The reason why I say that is that the Harley Davidson Forty-Eight Special has limited cornering clearance and you really need to be careful during corners as the footpegs do not hesitate in scraping the tarmac quite early. Also, with low ground clearance, the bike tends to brush through some tall speed breakers and you need to watch out before passing through them. Otherwise, the Forty-Eight Special is a sweet handler and you won't find it difficult to change directions, despite its kerb weight of 247 kg.

The combination of the tallboy handlebar and the forward set footpegs offer a slightly sporty yet comfortable riding position and spending a significant amount of time on the well-padded saddle won't be an issue for sure. The chunky Michelin Scorcher tyres offer a fantastic grip and these along with the stiff suspension work in favour of the handling. However, the suspension can’t soak up the impact of larger potholes and taking the bike off-road is an outright bad idea. The Forty-Eight Special gets a 292mm disc up front along with a 260mm disc at the rear. While at the front, there is enough feedback and bite, it is the rear that lacks the required feel.

Should you buy one?

At a starting price of Rs 10.98 lakh (ex-showroom), the Harley Davidson Forty-Eight Special is indeed an expensive motorcycle to own. If you are looking for a proper value for money proposition, then sorry, you have landed yourself on the wrong webpage as there are much better options in the market that you should be looking at. At this price, you do not get any fancy electronics and a standard dual-channel ABS (Anti-Lock Braking System) is all that’s on offer.

However, if you are a Harley fan or simply someone for whom looks do matter a lot, the Forty-Eight Special starts making sense for you. The bike has its own personality and an unmistakable road presence that helps you arrive in style. All said and done, for the sake of looking cool, the Harley Davidson Forty-Eight Special will certainly not disappoint you and repeated head turns on the road will keep reminding you of a good investment in that case!

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