Harley Davidson XLH 1100 Sportster Limited Liberty Edition




Make Model

Harley Davidson XLH 1100 Sportster Limited Liberty Edition




Four stroke, 45° V-Twin, OHV, 2 valves per cylinder.


1101 cc / 67.1 cu-in
Bore x Stroke 85.1 x 96.8 mm
Cooling System Air cooled
Compression Ratio 9.0:1


Single 34mm Keihin carb


 Starting Electric

Max Power

63 hp / 46.9 kW @ 6000 rpm

Max Torque

64 lb-ft / 86.7 Nm @ 4000 rpm


4 Speed
Final Drive Chain

Front Suspension

35mm Showa tubs diameter  193mm wheel travel.

Rear Suspension

Dual Showa shocks spring preload adjustable, 76mm wheel travel.

Front Brakes

Single 285mm disc

Rear Brakes

Single 285mm disc

Front Tyre

MJ 90-19

Rear Tyre

MT 90-16

Wet Weight

222 kg / 498.4 lbs

Fuel Capacity

8.5 Litres / 2.2 US gal

Consumption Average

55 mpg

Braking 60 - 0 / 100 - 0

-  /  39 m

Standing ¼ Mile  

13.5 sec  /  97.5 mph

Top Speed

104 mph

Road Test

In 1986, the Sportsters not only got the new V2 motor in their frames, but the XL buyer had a choice of two displacements. Either 883 or 1100 were seen in the latest XLH model, providing a new level of fitment for the smaller or beginning rider. Producing 53 and 63 horsepower respectively, both versions were coupled to a four-speed gearbox. The XLH-1100 sold for about $5,200 in 1986, which placed it more than $1,000 over its smaller XLH-883 sibling in the price line. A set of two instruments and buckhorn bars made the 1100 easier to differentiate from the smaller 883 variant.

A RUSSIAN PROVERB SAYS THAT if you dwell on the past you  lose an eye, but if you forget the pasi you lose both eyes.
Someone at Harley-Davidson could just as well have written those words of wisdom. As one of the oldest motorcycle manufacturers still in business, Harley has a powerful lot of history and tradition behind it-so much so that the company has been forced to choose between regularly changing its motorcycles to attract new buyers, and leaving them unchanged so as not to offend the loyalists who prefer the bikes just the way they are. That helps explain why improvements to Harley-Davidsons are gradual and slight rather than major, newsmaking events.

Considering those kinds of limitations, Harley's 1986 XLH 1100 Sportster, is almost revolutionary. Not only does it incorporate some fairly extensive changes in its 45-degree V-Twin engine, it also is the largest-displacement Sportster ever built, and one of the fastest. But beneath it all, the 1100 still is a traditional H-D through and through.

There also is little difference between the XLH 1100 and the 883 Sportster we previewed in our August, 1985, issue. The 1100 has an 8.9mm-larger bore (85.1mm, as opposed to 76.2mm on the 883) that, with the same 96.8mm stroke, yields a total of 1 lOlcc; it also has slightly larger valves that help feed its additional displacement.

Actually, the Sportster you see here is a limited-production model called the Liberty Edition XLH. It's one of 1750 specially built Electra Glide, Low Rider and 1l00cc Sportster models outfitted with graphics that feature a likeness of the Statue of Liberty on the tank and front fender. Harley has joined in the efforts to raise funds for the restoration of the Statue, and has pledged $100 to the project from the sale of each of these specials. But any differences between the standard 1100 Sportster and the Liberty Edition, besides the $300 price increase, are purely cosmetic. What the Liberty offers is spoked wheels and special graphics, along with the satisfaction of knowing you are helping to rebuild an American landmark.

Otherwise, the 883 and the 1100 are virtually identical, mechanically, at least. Both incorporate the Sportster range's first incarnation of Harley's "Evolution" top-end technology. The cylinders and cylinder heads are alloy rather than cast-iron, and the heads employ narrower valve angles and more-efficiefit port shapes that permit more power than with previous Sportster heads. And while the 1100 engine, aside from its re-styled top-end and primary cover, doesn't really look all that much different than previous Sporty motors, almost half of its components have been redesigned or improved in some way. Among the countless engine refinements are: a new three-piece crankshaft that replaces the old-style five-piece unit, pistons that are lighter despite being larger than the lOOOcc Sportster's, and hydraulic valve tappets like those used in Harley's Big Twins.

It would seem, then, that Harley-Davidson has successfully served both of its very demanding masters. The Sportster still has the traditional appearance needed to appease the loyalists, but perhaps now has sufficient modern technology to appeal to riders who previously thought Har-leys were too antiquated to own.
There's also enough performance available from the 1100 to change a few minds. The Sportster still is not the king of the dragstrips, but its 13.56-second quarter-mile acceleration does qualify it as one of the quickest Sportsters ever, behind the 12.88-second XR1000 of 1983 and the 13.08-second XLCR Cafe Racer of 1977. And technically, neither of those two faster bikes were true "Sportster" models but rather were hot-rodded spin-offs of the basic Sportster concept.

Anyway, what's more important than the quantity of power the 1100
offers is the kind of power it has. It's that brute, thumping, always-usable style of power that is so typical of big V-Twins, power that's at its best in the low- to mid-rpm ranges. When the 1100's throttle is rolled open anywhere between 2500 and 4500 rpm, the engine usually accelerates with enough force to make downshifting its four-speed gearbox seem totally redundant.

Unfortunately, any 45-degree V-Twin that has a stroke almost four inches long is going to vibrate, especially if, like the Sportster, it uses no counterbalancing devices or rubber engine mounts. And although the 1100 might be a bit smoother than previous models at low and high rpm, it seems to vibrate at least as much in the mid-range.

The vibes are at their worst between 3000 and 3500 rpm, or about 55 to 65 mph, which is the most often used cruising range. So just about any time you're out on the road aboard an 1100, you're subject to some intense vibration, the worst of which comes through the seat. There also can be enough buzzing in the footpegs to put your feet to sleep. If this vibration also is part of Harley tradition, it's one the 1100 could do without.
On the positive side of the ledger, the MOO steers, handles and stops quite competently when ridden in a spirited fashion, even though Sportsters—despite their name—are no longer considered true sporting motorcycles.

The bike's relatively light weight of 494 pounds, combined with its low center of gravity and easily accessible power, make it fun to ride on the backroads. You don't charge corners in the same banzai fashion as you might on a real sportbike, but you still can make good time in the twisties if you keep the engine humming in the mid-range and concentrate on picking the smoothest lines. Only a light touch is required to bank the Sportster over into a turn, and once it's there, it's dead-stable and sticks to the line you select as though on autopilot.
Braking the 1100 does require quite a bit of effort, even though the bike can stop much quicker than you might think. It is possible to lock up either wheel, but you have to be trying pretty hard to do so. This can be beneficial, though, in that you can apply a lot of pressure on the brake lever or pedal without worrying about the wheels locking up.

The brakes aren't the only area where the l 100 Sportster feels rather stiff. The Showa-built front fork soaks up most of the road undulations, but it is a little underdamped, and sharp bumps or holes in the road can cause it to bottom. In the rear, the Sportster has only three inches of oversprung and underdamped travel to work with, so the best it can offer on a rough road is a buckboard ride. Once again, however, Harley tradition may be partially to blame here, because to maintain the requisite Sportster look, the seat had to be kept as low as possible. When the bike's short-travel rear suspension is combined with a seat that doesn't have much padding, the obvious result is a bike that isn't meant to be very comfortable for very long. Compounding this discomfort is the Sportster's mandatory bolt-upright seating position, which puts all of a rider's upper-body weight right on his tailbone.

In addition, other elements of the ergonomics seem to have been designed for something other than rider
comfort. The handgrips and levers are scaled for people of gargantuan proportions, so it takes a decided movement to span the exceptionally long distance between grip and lever, or to reach the horn and starter buttons. What's more, the clutch bulge on the primary cover prevents the rider from tucking in the rear of his left boot, and the buddy pegs are so close to the rider's that a passenger's toes constantly make contact with the rider's heels. And in typical H-D fashion, the air-cleaner cover on the right side fouls the rider's leg just below the knee. The cover also gets quite hot because it touches the rear cylinder head, so the rider gets bruised and burned by the same part.

This is not to say that human engineering was completely ignored in the design of the 1100 Sportster. For one thing, the pushbutton turn-signals that Harley has preferred for years will now either work momentarily as long as the buttons are pushed only part way, or stay on until intentionally released when the buttons are depressed all the way. The 1100, like the 883, also shifts much more easily and quietly than previous Sportsters have shifted. In addition, even though the span between the handgrips and the control levers is quite long, the pull of the diaphragm clutch is smooth and light. And the relative absence of engine clunking, clattering and whining compared with previous Sportsters makes long stints in the saddle just that much more bearable.

Due to these sorts of improvements, and many others, the 1100 Sportster emerges as a much better bike than its 883cc or lOOOcc predecessors. Which only makes sense: It's greatly improved in some areas and no worse in the others, so the end result is a superior motorcycle-perhaps the best Sportster ever.
But it's also just as traditional as ever, a motorcycle that continues to exude the kind of classic appearance that the Japanese companies continue to strive for—and generally fail to achieve. In many ways, of course, the maintenance of this tradition has stood in the way of improving the Sportster even more; but in certain crucial areas, effecting improvements would probably detract from whatever it is that makes the bike a, well, a Sportster.
Whether or not that's a good thing depends on your point of view. But one thing is certain: Harley-Davidson must believe in Russian proverbs. Because it is counting on its future by relying on its past. E3

Source Cycle World 1986