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Article in issue 401 of Back Streert heroes


There can be few bike manufacturers who have manufactured a specific bike for so long as the Harley Davidson Sportster which this year celebrates 60 Years. The Honda Cub reaches 60 next year but is now no longer in the UK range and the Triumph Bonneville like Dr Who has regenerated and had a pause along the way since 1958 although the Royal Enfield Bullet will surpass them all in 2018 with 70 years.

To celebrate this landmark event there was a gathering at the British Motor Museum in June with displays of early sportsters, lecture talks and a mass ride in by sportster sickness.

Despite unjustly often being classified as a girl’s bike as many riders like them as they are lower and a bit lighter they have always ranged around the 883 to 1000cc capacity moving to 1200 in 1986. At the same time a Big British bike was considered at 750cc. and many riders use them for epic journeys and can tweak the power outlet to incredible levels.

With a unit construction engine it has always been a neat and tidy bike, though they did have err shall we say a few engine issues on the iron head engines, the iconic peanut tank shape  with twin side pipes evolving in the late 60’s to 70’s.

Rocking up early on the Saturday it was already busy, with some campers, but a surprising amount of day visitors. I was presented with my wristband and a rather swanky programme of events which included a potted history of the sportster. It was great to bump into Wade from Sickboys Customs and many other folk from Custom Chrome and the Harley Riders Club GB.

This was definitely a three part event with the outside events in the parking area including a Motorcycle Gymkhana, which to me begged the question “how do you lean a Roadking that far over without falling off?”  This was also the area the non-sportster bikes parked in and that did include some interesting vehicles including V8 bikes and chopper from Poland I am sure I spotted a few other foreign plates too.

Then the camping and stage area for those staying overnight, I thought it a shame there was no band or music during the day as it looked a bit lost just a big open trailer maybe a few choice sportsters on display could have otherwise gone on there.

Finally there was the inside museum/lecture/conference area, with a display of older and newer sportsters and customs and also talks and films. I have to admit I did not stop for any films or talks

However the inner area was hidden away a bit and you had to wander around a selection of old British cars to find them and venture upstairs. But Warrs had brought along some first year bikes and a selection of other sportsters from across the years, also a model K which the sportster evolved from. Sycamore Harley had a few customs as well and cool bikes were being corralled into the area me it seemed that the hippy style of decoration was the way to go. There were also a couple of neat dirt track bikes too. However the draw of moving bikes always gets to me in fact the ride in by Sportster Sickness, a huge and growing internet owners club was a highlight so I headed out to the light.

Led in by a Jaguar police car the ride in was a mass of smiles, and noise especially following the burn out and rev up in the carpark. It has always amazed me how sportsters can make so much noise but then a lot of these bikes have been seriously tuned and they have a fondness for open pipes  I have no ideas on numbers but would think around 150 to 200 bikes which was cool.

I did look and found some reasonable coffee but for a birthday party found no cake, this is sadly becoming the norm this year, have people given up on cake nowadays?

I have always had a soft spot for a Sportster and would happily have one at home, so which bike would I choose from those this weekend was a yellow and black iron head which sat unassuming in the carpark which just looked so much fun.

A great way to celebrate a birthday and a very happy birthday Sportster.


4 albums of photos and a video





Sportster Sickness Riding in
General Ride in