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The Harley-Davidson Sportster is a line of motorcycles produced continuously since 1957 by Harley-Davidson. Sportster models are designated in Harley-Davidson's product code by beginning with "XL". In 1952, the predecessors to the Sportster, the Model K Sport and Sport Solo motorcycles, were introduced. These models K, KK, KH, and KHK of 1952 to 1956 had a sidevalve ('flat head') engine, whereas the later XL Sportster models use an overhead valve engine. The first Sportster in 1957 had many of the same features of the KH including the frame, fenders, large gas tank and front suspension.

The original Sportster line was discontinued in Europe in 2020 because the engine failed to meet the stricter Euro 5 emissions standards. An all-new model, called the Sportster S and equipped with the Revolution Max engine, was introduced in 2021. It was the first motorcycle under the Sportster nameplate to receive a new engine since 1986, and the first Sportster to have an engine not derived from the Model K.

Model K series
This is developed from the earlier 45 W model, but with the revised flat head engine and new 4-speed transmission contained in the same castings as would become the Sportster. The connecting rods would be inherited by the Sportster along with many other design elements and dimensions.
Model K and KK 1952–1953: 750 cc side-valve engines, using the 45 model bore and stroke of 2.75" x 3.8125" (69.85 x 96.85 mm)
Model KR (racing only) 1953–1969: 750 cc side-valve engines
Model KH and KHK 1954–1956: 888 cc side-valve engines, using the 45 model bore, but with the stroke increased to 4.5625" (115.89 mm). This is the only small twin with a stroke longer than 3.8125". The shorter stroke is otherwise universal to the entire 45/K/Sportster line from 1929 to the present (exception: XR750, XB9 Buell).
XL series Sportsters
XL, Ironhead, 1957–1985: 883 cc and 1,000 cc Ironhead overhead-valve engines with cast iron heads, K series frame
XLCH, Ironhead, (unofficial "Competition Hot" moniker) (unofficial"Xtra Large Charlie Horse" biker moniker)1958–1971: 883 cc, and 1,000 cc 1972 & up
XR-750 (racing with the exception of being Evel Knievel's jump bike while sponsored by Harley-Davidson between 1970 and 1977) 1970–1971: 750 cc overhead-valve engine, iron heads
XR-750 (racing only with the exception noted above) 1972–1985: 750 cc overhead-valve engine, alloy heads
XLCR 1977–1978-1979: Cafe racer 1,000 cc overhead-valve engine, iron heads, 2000 made in 77, 1200 in 78, and 9 in 1979
XR-1000 1983–1984: 1,000 cc street model using XR racing cylinder head and other XR engine parts
XLR: 883 cc overhead-valve engines, iron heads
XLS Roadster 1979-1982 1,000 cc ironhead / 4-speed, stock components—2-inch-longer forks, 2 up seat, sissy bar, highway pegs, 2.2(on 1979) gallon tank
XLS Roadster, 1983–1985, 1,000 cc ironhead, 4-gallon fuel tank with console
XL Evolution (also known as the "Evo"), since 1986: 883 cc, 1,100 cc and 1,200 cc Evolution overhead-valve engine, alloy heads.
Introduced in 2007, the XL1200N Nightster included (then) unique elements such as a bobbed rear fender, front fork gaiters, and a side mount license plate. The riding position and 25.3-inch (640 mm) seat height of the Nightster are the same as those of the XL883L Sportster Low - UK version (along with Iron 883 and Forty-Eight) has central number plate, 13.5-inch rear shocks, tapered silencers, and combined LED indicator/tail/brake lights. The bike has a measured HP of 57.2 hp (42.7 kW) (rear wheel) and 64.4 lb⋅ft (87.3 N⋅m) (rear wheel) and a top speed of 107 mph (172 km/h) and a wet weight of 564 lb (256 kg).
The Harley "Iron" was introduced in 2009 as a smaller-displacement version of the Nightster. The major differences are blacked-out engine, cast wheels instead of laced; narrower handlebars; and of course the smaller 883 cc engine displacement compared to the Nightster's 1200 cc. The Nightster was discontinued in 2012.
The Nightster name returned in 2022 with a 975cc engine. 

In the 2008 model year, Harley-Davidson released the XR1200 Sportster in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. The XR1200 had an Evolution engine tuned to produce 91 bhp (68 kW), four-piston dual front disc brakes, and an aluminum swing arm.  Motorcyclist had the XR1200 on the cover of its July 2008 issue, and was generally positive about it in their "First Ride" story, in which Harley-Davidson was repeatedly asked to sell it in the United States. One possible reason for the delayed availability in the United States was the fact that Harley-Davidson had to obtain the "XR1200" naming rights from Storz Performance, a Harley customizing shop in Ventura, California. The XR1200 was released in the United States in 2009, in a special color scheme including Mirage Orange highlighting its dirt-tracker heritage. The first 750 XR1200 models in 2009 were pre-ordered and came with a number 1 tag for the front of the bike, autographed by Kenny Coolbeth and Scott Parker and a thank you/welcome letter from Harley-Davidson, signed by Bill Davidson. The XR1200 was discontinued on the United States Market after 2012. For 2012, the XR1200X model had upgraded suspension front and rear. The bike has a measured HP of 79.26 hp (59.10 kW) (rear wheel) and 67.53 lb⋅ft (91.56 N⋅m) (rear wheel) and a top speed of 120.7 mph (194.2 km/h)and a wet weight of 580 lb (260 kg).

In the 2010 model year, Harley-Davidson introduced the XL1200X "Forty-Eight" model. It is similar to the "Dark" Nightster style but has the classic 1948 style small peanut tank, wire wheels, forward-controls, a wider front tire with a fat front end and chopped front fender, a slammed speedo with under mount mirrors, low solo single seat, and low suspension. 

In the 2012 model year, Harley-Davidson introduced the XL1200V "Seventy-Two" model, sold until 2016. It has the classic styling of the early '70s chopper/bobbers that were prevalent during this time. It has the peanut gas tank, wire wheels, white-wall tires, forward-controls, a bit of extra rake and slightly longer front forks, a chopped (bobbed) rear fender, side-mounted license plate, low solo single seat, mini-ape hanger handlebars, and low suspension. The bike has a measured HP of 54.67 hp (40.77 kW) (rear wheel) and 59.81 lb⋅ft (81.09 N⋅m) (rear wheel) and a top speed of 108 mph (174 km/h) with a wet weight of 559.5 lb (253.8 kg).

In the 2016 model year, Harley-Davidson introduced the XL1200CX "Roadster" model. This is the sporty Sportster with café bike styling and stance. With mid-position pegs and a slammed drag bar give a slight lean-forward riding position. A 43mm inverted cartridge fork and in the back preload-adjustable emulsion-type shocks help the roadster to have the greatest lean angle of any Sportster. Also standard are twin 300mm floating disc brakes and a tachometer. The bike has a measured HP of 65.4 hp (48.8 kW) (rear wheel) and 69.7 lb⋅ft (94.5 N⋅m) (rear wheel).

Sportster S
In 2021, Harley-Davidson launched the Sportster S with the new Revolution Max 1250T engine and described it as a "sports custom motorcycle". In an independent review, UK publisher Bennetts commented that: "Despite the Sportster moniker, the new bike’s specs mean it’s got more in common with the old V-Rod than its namesakes. By the end of its life, the V-Rod had a 1247cc, water-cooled, DOHC V-twin making 125hp, putting it within spitting distance of the new Sportster’s 1252cc and 121hp. But the old bike was a much heftier machine, coming in at around 300kg depending on which version you picked, where the Sportster S is a relatively lithe 228kg ready-to-ride. The result means the Sportster will be a significantly better-performing machine, both in a straight line and around corners, than the old V-Rod."

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