bob job."

Harley-Davidson Forty-Eight

Dark, custom and cool

Wf.ll awarf. of its aging customer base, Harley-Davidson has been hard at work rolling out new products aimed at attracting a younger demographic. No need to reinvent the wheel, however, as the venerable Sportster has proven to be an ideal platform to deliver hip styling and solid performance at an affordable price.

The 1200 Nightster was the first Sportster model in Harley's Dark Custom series, followed a year later by the 883-based Iron, a sim-plistically cool bobber that effectively stripped away the stigma often associated with owning an entry-level machine. Building upon the Iron's success, the new-for-2010 Forty-Eight features a hunkered-down stance, bobbed fenders, blacked-out engine and components, forward-mounted foot controls and a name paying homage to the year The Motor Company introduced its iconic "pea-nuf'-style fuel tank.

A higher level of performance is provided by the Forty-Eight's air-cooled, 1200cc V-Twin, which produces 61 horsepower and 66 foot-pounds of torque at the rear wheel; that's 15 ponies and 15 ft.-lb. more than that of the smaller-displacement Iron. Power is plentiful right off idle with a broad spread of torque carried out to its 6000-rpm rev limit. The engine's electronic sequential-port fuel injection is well-sorted, providing mindless cold starts and smooth response throughout the rev range. Gear changes climbing through the five-speed box are a light-effort snick-and-click affair.

Chugging along at low revs around town offers plenty of the pleasing V-Twin throb befitting a classic American bob job, yet vibe levels are very low at highway speeds with an ultra-smooth sweet spot centered at 75 mph.

Due to the bike's very limited suspension travel (3.6 inches front/1.6 rear), the ride proved quite harsh over even moderately rough surfaces. Heck, you might even feel a jolt through the chassis from a thickly painted crosswalk marking! An upside to the low-slung look is a 27-inch-tall seat and low c-of-g, lending to uncanny handling lightness that defies the bike's beefy front tire and 546-pound dry weight.

If not for the steel peanut tank being the centerpiece of this particular styling exercise, we would be obliged to make a stink about its paltry 2.1-gallon fuel capacity. Factoring the 42 mpg we averaged over a mix of city and highway use, one can expect to frequent the pump well shy of the 90-mile mark. Another styling element, the under-bar-mount mirrors, proved extremely functional, as the rear view is excellent. If you dislike the look or perhaps wear a leather jacket with dangling arm fringe that obstructs your rearward view, the mirrors can easily be moved atop the bar.

The Forty-Eight is available in Vivid Black for SI0,499. Brilliant Silver or Mirage Orange Pearl color options sell for S290 more. Whichever hue you choose to cruise, it's a pretty cool modern custom commemorating the past.—Don Canet

"Chugging along at low revs around town offers plenty of the pleasing V-Twin befitting a classic American bob job."

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