Harley-Davidson 72 Sportster

AH, THE seventies! It was an era of innocence – of choppers and ape-hangers; of Stone, On Any Sunday and Easy Rider (yes okay, that was 1969 but the force was still strong in this one!)

Harley-Davidson’s Lowrider inspired 72 evokes the chopper attitude of those innocent early seventies where ape-hangers and six-over front ends were de rigeur.

Yes, I’m not ashamed to admit it but the British machine I rode back then (yes, I’m that old!) had a set of Mustang pushbike handlebars. There, I’ve said it. I feel strangely cleansed somehow. But Harley has learned a lot of lessons since those heady, psychedelic years.


For a start the mini-ape hangers on the 72 carry internally routed wiring, that give a very neat, clean touch. White walled tyres and laced wheels! A bike after my own heart. The 21 inch front wheel combined with the 16inch rear give the bike a nice stance.

And then there’s the 8-inch mirror chrome retro air cleaner cover. Well, if that isn’t enough for you there’s also the chopped rear fender and side-mounted number plate – like a Dave Mann print straight out of the pages of Easyriders.

Top it off with a Peanut tank a la 1948 style that holds 7.9litres (2.1 gallon) just to expose more of that lovely vee twin donk.

And if you miss the psychedelia of that colourful era then wrap your retinas around the colour options that Harley has available such as the range of Hard Candy Custom paint large metalflake finishes – available in Hard Candy Chrome Flake, Hard Candy Volcanic Orange Flake or Hard Candy Voodoo Purple Flake. (I feel peckish!)


The paint job starts with several passes of 200micron flake over a black base, then a clear coat, then graphics are hand laid down and then many layers of clear coat lets that flake shine out. It’s a painstaking process but it offers a premium finish.

Okay, time to calm down and get my bearings. Now, where was I? Oh yes, 2014, now I remember. So why is it called the 72? Well, it’s actually named after Highway 72 – that cruising icon of a road also known as Whittier Boulevard in Southern California.

So what we have here is an air-cooled 1200cc Evolution engine with aluminium heads and cylinders to help keep things lighter and cooler. And the whole powerplant is rubber mounted to keep it feeling silky smooth. Made all the more smoother by the finesse of the belt drive. And of course it wouldn’t be modern unless it had Harley’s tried and tested electronic fuel injection.Harley-Davidson-72-2014-4b

All the Sportsters got an overhaul on their brake systems for 2014. Brake rotors are up from 292mm to 300mm with a more powerful and stylised front caliper with 34mm pistons with matching rear – both ends sport dual piston calipers.

There’s also an improved all-aluminium integrated rear master cylinder with reservoir and a new all-aluminium front master cylinder with reduced friction, therefore more efficiency, and stainless steel braided lines.

ABS now comes standard on all Sporter models. More ergonomic hand controls, better placement of switches so it is all at hand exactly where you need it.

I enjoyed riding this machine. I’ve got fairly short legs but I found the pegs weren’t too far forward for my stature. And the mini-apes are not too much of a reach either.

Harley has got the proportions and dynamics of this bike just right for those folks who enjoy this style of machine.
With a seat height of 710mm most people will find this a nice, low comfortable fit while ground clearance comes in at 120mm.


The modern brakes are fabulous compared to the rose-tinted glasses that my memory uses for hindsight.

Even the electrics have had a bit of an overhaul with a new body controller with updated routing for a cleaner look, reduced number of wiring harnesses, switches, relays and fuses.
Also a new voltage regulator has modified fins and integrated connectors to improve heat dissipation.

The closed loop exhaust system still delivers that familiar Harley throb but also features new durable mufflers with exhaust shields, a catalyst and mini heated oxygen sensors all designed to meet future worldwide emissions standards.

There’s a factory installed next-generation security system featuring a hands-free fob that automatically arms and disarms the vehicle electronic security functions as you approach or walk away from your bike. Now back in the seventies you would only have heard of that in an episode of Dr Who.

The 4-inch speedo is mounted on the handlebar clamp and features electronic speedo, odometer, clock, dual trip meter as well as RPM/gear display, ABS as well as blinkers, diagnostics, fuel warning and all the regulars you’d expect.


For $18,495 plus on-roads and with two year unlimited kilometre warranty this bike will take you back to a better time, but move you forward in a better way.

The only thing missing is a kick-starter. And look, I didn’t even have to mention AMF even once. Well once, but I think I got away with it.


  1. I remember the ’70s too. Why anybody then (or now) would want to ride a bike that has them sitting up like a wind-sock beats me.

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