My "Girl’s Bike"

I don’t think the Sportster is a “beginner’s bike”. In fact, I don’t think any Harley is a beginner’s bike. They’re all too heavy, for one thing. Even the Sportster weighing in the neighborhood of 580 pounds is a pretty hefty bike. A beginner will certainly drop it in situations where they could hold up a Rebel.

The Sportster has the additional level of difficulty in being top-heavy. My chick can pick up a Glide off the kickstand, but she can’t budge an 883. She even finds balancing it a bit scary, because it becomes too heavy to hold up at a much narrower angle.

I think the reason behind the bigger bike/chick’s bike deal is purely because the sporty has the smallest engine in the Harley line. I think people just assume that the smaller engine means its easier to ride. I don’t think that’s true, because I think the weight distribution actually makes the big twins easier to ride and handle, especially at slow speeds, despite being significantly lighter. I don’t have any peer-reviewed evidence to support it, but I also assume that the bigger, heavier tires of the big twins also impart gyroscopic stability at a lower speed than the Sporty’s does.

I just think there are a lot of people who equate size with “manliness”–whatever that is–and see 96 cubic inches, and don’t think any further.

Author: Dale Franks

Dale Franks is the former host of The Business Day, ”a daily, four-hour business and financial news program on KMNY Radio in Los Angeles. From 2002-2004, he was a contributor on military and international affairs for Currently, he a publisher and editor of the monthly political journal The New Libertarian, as well as an editor of the popular web log, Q and O. Dale served as a military police officer in the United States Air Force from 1984 to 1993, in variety of assignments both in the United States and Europe, where he also was assigned to the staff of the Headquarters of Allied Forces Central Europe. In addition to broadcasting, writing, and speaking on various topics, Dale has also been a long-time technical training instructor on a variety of computer software and technology subjects. Dale has also long been involved with information technology as an accomplished web designer, programmer, and technologist, serving as the corporate knowledge specialist for Microsoft Outlook at SAIC, the nation's largest employee-owned corporation. Additionally, he is the author of a number of software user guides used for classroom training by one of Southern California’'s premier computer training and consulting firms. His book, SLACKERNOMICS: Basic Economics for People Who Find Economics Boring, is available from Barnes & Noble.

5 thoughts on “My "Girl’s Bike"”

  1. yep, I have trouble balancing my Sportster when doing a slow roll up to a stop light and havn’t experienced that problem on any other bike I have ridden.

    I don’t know why anyone would look down on a Sportster. Certainly they are faster out of the box than the big twins and they certainly are in my opinion reasonably priced and the big twins are way overpriced. Is it worth it to spend double the money to get a big twin? Maybe, if the ego needs that much of a boost!

  2. Anyone calling a Sportster a “girl’s bike” is merely displaying their ignorance.

    Remember, when it was introduced 50 years ago, it was the American musclebike answer to the British speed machines popular at the time. And it crushed them. It certainly wasn’t considered a “girl’s bike” then.

    One also has to ask why H-D’s racing bikes are all Sportster-engined.

    And what about Buells?

    My ’66 Ironhead Sportster chop, The Boneshaker, certainly wasn’t a girl’s bike. She was kick-start only and you had to caress the carb and whisper sweet nothings to her to get her in the mood to fire up. She was definitely female in nature, would give you a hell of a ride and demanded respect in return.

    I miss her.

  3. I read somewhere, that the Softail Deluxe is the probably the closest thing HD has in a “chick’s bike”. This was based on the total sales of Deluxes, versus the sales of Deluxes by women.

    Statistically, the ratio of men-owned Sportys to women-owned is still heavily skewed towards men. While the ratio for the Deluxe is more even.

  4. Weighing in late once again!

    Like any other Sporty owner, I cringe at the “broad’s bike” comments. You are ALL correct; in reality, the Sportster is a more difficult bike to ride. Engine size doesn’t matter. Every woman in my HOG chapter has a big twin, mostly Heritage’s and Deluxe’s. As you said, it’s all about balance and a lower center of gravity.

    Back in ’99, I rode my first Harley ever, a then-new Dyna Low Rider. I rented it down in Orlando. They had all the big twins for rent, but NO Sportsters. I thought this was odd, figuring they were cheaper and being the smallest HD’s, easier to ride. So I asked the owner about it. He told me he didn’t rent Sporty’s because they were actually HARDER to ride because of the engine’s high center of gravity, and inexperienced riders were more likely to drop one. I was shocked then, but now I know EXACTLY what he was talking about.

    I will say that the whole thing is taken a bit too far though. I have no trouble handling my bike at all, but that’s because I’m used to it. As I recall, getting used to it was no big deal, but that’s just my opinion.

  5. I bought my first Sportster (2008 Nightster) a few weeks ago. After 20+ years of riding Honda and Kawasaki street bikes, I was shocked at the power of my 1200 Nightster!! To see so many posts of the Sportster as a “beginner’s” bike is quite scary to me. A beginner has no business on a bike with this kind of power; either a man or woman. This bike demands respect.

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