1957 Harley-Davidson XL Sportster

Like the slower, older K-series motorcycles, the 1957 Harley-Davidson XL Sportsters had their shifters and drive chains on the right-hand side. See more motorcycle pictures.

The 1957 Harley-Davidson XL Sportster motorcycle introduced the Sportster name, and a welcome upgrade in performance, to the Harley lineup. The 1957 Harley-Davidson XL Sportster motorcycle looked very similar to the Harley-Davidson KH model, but it was somewhat quicker.

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With the K series introduced in 1952 getting a lukewarm reception -- not to mention regularly beaten by smaller British twins -- Harley-Davidson had good reason to introduce the Sportster.

With overhead valves topping a 55-cubic-inch V-twin, the Sportster lived up to its name, proving somewhat quicker than its predecessor.

Save for its overhead-valve engine, the Sportster looked similar to the final KH models -- because it was. Telescopic front forks and swingarm rear suspension carried over, as did most styling elements save the two-tone paint treatment and tank badge.

Even the engine's primary case looked familiar, the new one differing only in that it had "SPORTSTER" cast into its side.

Like the K-series bikes, Sportsters had their shifters and drive chains on the right, whereas Harley's big FLs had them on the left.

In the case of the shifters in particular, this might seem odd, as riders moving up would have to learn to shift with the other foot. But the XL was mimicking British makes, which were its intended target.

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