Home / The New 2021 Sportster S21: An Exciting Update

The Harley-Davidson 2021 Sportster S21 represents a serious update and a hot extension of Harley’s classic Sportster series. And its modern reflection of the brand’s history is easy—as in easy to love. And that’s the S21 in spades. 

It’s got many features that hardcore Sportster fans can hang their hats on, as well as some others that would have been unthinkable as recently as a few years ago. The result is a perfect blend of old-school cool, new tech, and Harley swagger, so let’s take a deeper dive to see what Harley-Davidson did with the 2021 Sportster S21 and how they did it.

Is a Sportster a Girl Bike?

To answer this question, most Harley aficionados will start their search in the same spot—the engine. The old Sportster line was famous across the United States for the classic rumble of the so-called “Milwaukee” sound, which is delivered courtesy of two engines, the Ironhead and the Evo.

But a new day has dawned when it comes to the 2021 Sportster power plant. The engine behind the Sportster 21’s power is a V-Twin that delivers 121 HP with a displacement of 1,252 cc. Although a bit less powerful than the 150-HP engine present in the old Sportster line, nothing about the 2021 Harley-Davidson Sportster’s engine is a downgrade.

The Sportster S21 is designed to provide better torque across the gear range and augment that flexibility, allowing you to ride in five different modes—Sport, Road, and Rain, plus two Custom modes.

As a general rule, choice is good. Novice and veteran Harley riders alike will have plenty of powerful options for their ride style. But to answer the main question, whether or not the Sportster is a girl bike depends on one factor that has nothing to do with the engine and everything to do with the person riding it.

The 2021 Harley-Davidson Sportster S is designed with performance in mind!

Selecting Performance

So let’s talk a little more about those modes: Sport mode is the Sportster 21’s equivalent of a performance mode, boasting a maximum output of 6000 rpm at 94 lbs/ft.

The smoothness across the midrange is what makes this bike special, but for those who want to wind it out, you can take it up to 9500 rpm before you have to start worrying about that pesky redline thing.

Road mode is where the smooth part of the ride comes in. Many riders will find the 2021 Harley-Davidson Sportster better for getting around town, although you’ll still have that acceleration burst when you need it. Either way, this engine throws off some serious heat, both beneath the seat and on the road.

A New Look: The Chassis and More

As important as the engine change is, it’s the chassis that will drop some jaws, and in a very good way at that.

It consists of three separate sections, and the front, middle, and tail trellis parts of the frame are all bolted directly to the engine, which means the S21 doesn’t look anything like its Sportster predecessors.

Remember the days of muscle cars? Think of this as a muscle bike—i.e., a stocky, thick profile, with fat tires, a minimalist tail, and a classic “bobber” look. It’s got a 59.8-inch wheelbase, a 30-degree rake, and a low center of gravity.

All together, that means better handling. The lean angle moves up from a max of 28 degrees in the old Sportsters to 34 degrees in the S21, but the steering rate and tip-in are stable and predictable despite the increase.

The next thing you’ll notice about the S21 is the tires. The 160/170 Dunlop GT503’s are fat but surprisingly aggressive, so they don’t hurt the agility and performance of this bike at all.

The single-disc front braking system might seem a little light for this kind of chassis horsepower, but the combination of the built-in gearing deceleration in the new engine and the Brembo brakes means you get both bite and performance. And while the functional stock exhaust doesn’t exactly flaunt the performance of this bike, it’s there to be had.

The S21 is relatively lightweight at just over 500 pounds, and the low, sporty stance may tempt you to pull some daredevil moves.

The Ride

So what’s the ride like? Different—in a better way—although there are some changes to get used to. The S21 is relatively lightweight at just over 500 pounds, and the low, sporty stance may tempt you to pull some daredevil moves.

The S21 does a fine job of holding a line, and there’s also the Cornering Safety Enhancements to help keep you in line if you get a little too aggressive when you’re out on a canyon ride or whatever your personal equivalent may be.

The Showa suspension features a mono-shock construction that will handle the low-speed bumps, but veteran riders may notice that it’s a rougher ride when the bumps start to come hard and fast. There’s a welded tubular steel swing arm with a braced design to further stiffen the chassis, so that’s another thing to keep in mind.

Overall, the ergonomics mix and match a low-rider approach that dictates an aggressive posture with forward foot controls, a low handlebar, and a long, single-seat saddle that does limit moving around on longer rides.

The rider aids include lean-sensitive anti-lock brakes, traction control, wheelie control, and a Drag Torque Slip Control feature to prevent rear-wheel lockup. All of these can be configured to suit your needs, so there are plenty of choices once again.

The Tech

You wouldn’t immediately associate the Harley name with tech advancements, but the company has had a sneaky way of keeping up with the Joneses when it comes to technology. The S21 is no exception; it takes Harley tech-forward in some surprising and unexpected ways.

The four-inch TFT screen handles all the instrument displays, and it also supports Bluetooth capability if you want entertainment to be part of your ride.

The LED lighting is state of the art, and it includes the Haymaker Signature LED. Cruise control and proximity-based security come standard, but there are plenty of accessory options available, but the customer is responsible for choosing those after-market additions.

This series has traditionally been "old reliable" for Harley-Davidson—the company ships 40–70-thousand units a month, and the hope is that the S21 will help open up new markets at a price point of about $15K.

How Much Does a 2021 Harley-Davidson Sportster Cost?

One of the more interesting questions about the S21 is how it fits in with existing Sportster sales. This series has traditionally been “old reliable” for Harley-Davidson—the company ships 40–70-thousand units a month, and the hope is that the S21 will help open up new markets at a price point of about $15K.

Harley VP Brad Richards, who’s in charge of Styling and Design, has referred to the S21 as “a wolf in wolf’s clothing.” And that’s a great description of a bike that pays tribute to the history and lineage of the Sportster while updating it and moving it forward into the future.

Where Classic Meets Modern at Harley-Davidson of Kingwood

Whether your style is more classic cool or modern tech, the 2021 Sportster S has something for all Harley-Davidson enthusiasts. From brand new merchandise to certified pre-owned bikes, you can find everything you need at Harley-Davidson of Kingwood. We also offer the Harley-Davidson Riding Academy for those who need a few pointers before they feel comfortable on the road. So what are you waiting for? Schedule a time to come on down to Harley-Davidson of Kingwood and test drive the new 2021 Sportster S today!


Harley Davidson of Kingwood blog author
Harley Davidson of Kingwood

Harley-Davidson of Kingwood is your #1 Texas Harley-Davidson motorcycle dealer. Our full-service facility offers new and pre-owned motorcycles, parts, maintenance, riding apparel, and everything else you need to get your Hog on the road. As a winner of the Harley-Davidson Gold Bar & Shield Circle of Excellence, we’re committed to providing top-notch customer service every day of the week. Stop by and visit the Harley-Davidson of Kingwood Showroom on Northpines Drive in Kingwood, TX!