2021 Harley-Davidson Sportster S Details Leak Ahead of Unveiling

Dennis Chung
by Dennis Chung

121 hp from the Revolution Max 1250 engine

Harley-Davidson released information on its first LiveWire-branded model today, but as important as the newly-renamed LiveWire One is, we all know it’s not the most significant model the Motor Company will announce this month.

No, that distinction belongs to the Revolution Max-powered “High Powered Custom” model which we can now confirm will be called the Sportster S. Certified as a 2021 model, the Harley-Davidson Sportster S will be powered by a modified version of the Pan America’s liquid-cooled DOHC 1252cc engine, with a claimed 121 hp.

The information comes to us via a Vehicle Identification Number deciphering guide Harley-Davidson submitted to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Association. The VIN decoder confirms the Sportster S name along with the model code RH1250S (which reflects its connection to the Pan America which has the model code RA1250).

Discuss this story more at our Pan America 1250 Forum

According to the VIN decoder, the Sportster S’ engine code is “4”, whereas the Pan America uses the “S” engine, indicating some differences between the two powerplants. At a claimed 121 hp, the Sportster S produces less power than the Pan America, which claims 150 hp. This is likely due to the Sportster S being tuned for more mid-range torque. It’s unclear if the Sportster S engine will also have variable valve timing.

Even down 29 hp from the Pan America, the Sportster S would still be the second most powerful model in Harley-Davidson’s lineup, with a sizeable gap over the 1920cc CVO Tri Glide’s 107 hp – at just under two-thirds the displacement.

The VIN document doesn’t provide any details about the chassis, but from the photos Harley-Davidson has released, we can expect a single disc front brake, a high exhaust system with two stacked mufflers on the right, and a tubular swingarm.

The Sportster S name is pretty telling, however. We previously posited that Harley-Davidson would call it the Nightster, but the actual name is an even clearer indication that it will be replacing the existing air-cooled Sportster models which we do not expect to return for 2022. The “S” in the name also implies the existence of a non-S model.

Traditionally, Harley-Davidson uses S or Special to denote a higher-power version of a model. In this case, we expect a future Harley-Davidson Sportster to either have a less powerful state of tune or, more likely, a smaller displacement. The Revolution Max was originally conceived as a modular platform, with four displacements ranging from 500cc to 1250cc. A 975cc version (the displacement originally planned for the shelved Bronx streetfighter) is a likely candidate for the next Sportster model.

We’ll have more information when Harley-Davidson officially announces the 2021 Sportster S on July 13.

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Dennis Chung
Dennis Chung

Dennis has been a part of the Motorcycle.com team since 2008, and through his tenure, has developed a firm grasp of industry trends, and a solid sense of what's to come. A bloodhound when it comes to tracking information on new motorcycles, if there's a new model on the horizon, you'll probably hear about it from him first.

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  • John John on May 27, 2023

    Yep, I still think it should be called a Charley, Chinese Harley. It sure not an American Harley in looks, engine and likely most of the parts.

  • Ayo David Ayo David on Sep 29, 2023