When Harley-Davidson first released its Sportster model in 1957, they did it simply to compete with the British motorcycles that were taking the United States by storm. After a bit of tweaking here and there, they were successful, and the Sportster became a very popular bike among men and women alike all over the world. They loved its lightweight structure, easy handling, and the power that it offered them. But, as with all things, times changed. With the changing of the times came the demand for something else when it came to motorcycles. Bike enthusiasts began to long for some of the extras and conveniences that came on other bikes, and Harley was more than willing to accommodate them. This eventually led to the ’67 Sportster XLH.
The first Sportster, while destined to become a very popular model, still had a long way to go, as most things do. Sure, it had the awesome overhead valve motor on it, which was going to become nothing short of trademark for the company. It also sat lower and had a lighter, sleeker frame. The bike was also winning races, and that pleased both casual riders and racers alike. So, in what other ways could the Sportster be improved upon? Well, the arrival of 1966 began to show the company a thing or two.
Years Pass, Changes Come
Federal emission laws had begun to emerge that year, and this prompted the addition of an air cleaner referred to as the ‘ham-can’, dubbed so because of its unique oval shape. They also designed new ‘P’ cams, resulting in a power increase of approximately 15%. The same year, Harley swapped out the Sportster’s Linkert carburetor, replacing it with one that wasn’t so touchy about the tilt and lean effects of the motorcycle; the new carb was a Tillotson, and it was a good improvement. All of these things made 1966 a great year of change for the Sportster, but it wasn’t over yet.
The dawning of 1967 saw the creation and release of the Sportster XLH model. According to HowStuffWorks.com, the new XLH was considered to be something of a luxury Sportster edition, with a few newer, more pleasing amenities. As it turned out, the bike would pretty much be the public’s introduction to what a comfortable street bike could really do and be.
Exactly What Changed?
If we were to put the pre-67 Sportster models next to the ’67 XLH, aside from the changes already mentioned, there would be a few more. For instance, Sportsters made from 1966 saw changes from the previous year like a fifteen-percent increase in power and new option packages that were not previously available for the Sportster, among other things. By the time 1967 rolled around, the Sportster XLH boasted improvised shocks, a dog-legged frame, and an electric push-button starter (as opposed to the kickstart models of years prior.
1967 Harley-Davidson Sportster XLH: Features & Specifics
Since so many changes have taken place from year to year with this bike (as with all others), it makes sense to give you the specifics for this particular year. The XLH did stand out differently, as opposed to the simple changes that took place from year to year before it. It was something new and comfortable, something more potent. In a nutshell, it was a bike that made the rider feel like they owned the best bike on the road, and they didn’t even have to go all out to feel that way.
1967 XLH Specs
- Considered an ‘all-around’ motorcycle
- Chain-driven transmission
- Four-stroke V2 engine
- Overhead valves
- Carbureted fuel system
- Telescopic front suspension
- Rear suspension is coil-over-shock with swingarm
- Expanding drum brakes on both front and rear
- Black/white color options
- Seating for two
- Electric ignition
- Aluminum headlights
As you can see, not too much really changed in 1967 when it came to the Sportster, but the changes that were made were big enough that it could be said that it changed bikes, in general, forever. Small but significant was the key to the 1967 XLH.
Setting the Standard for the Future
Spec changes which have taken place over the last fifty years (until this year, to be exact) definitely vary as far as the Sportster is concerned. Many changes have taken place which have produced a variety of Sportster models, but the roots remain the same. The 1967 XLH, indeed, drew a line that dared only be crossed by those that Harley-Davidson produced after it. 2019 has seen production and release of several models of Sportster, including the ‘Forty-Eight Special’, the ‘SuperLow’, the ‘Iron 1200’, the ‘Roadster’, and several more. While each is individual in its own way, they can all be traced back to the beginning in one way or another, and that is the reason that the Harley-Davidson Sportster has made enough of a name for itself to stand out among the masses. Even while some may look down their noses at this smaller, lighter-weight bike, they are admiring it at the same time, and that says it all. It is the exact reason that the Sportster and the subsequent models that are named for it continue to see production.
A Legend, In and Before, Its Time
Whether you own one of the original ’67 XLHs, or you are simply one who admires these classic bikes from afar and dreams of ownership, you have good taste. That particular Sportster model not only captured the attention of the world, but it set specific standards which changed all bikes forever. With that, it is understandable why Sportster fans remain so loyal, and it is no surprise that new fans are born every day. The XLH’s genuine retro aesthetic, blended with technology that was state of the art in its time, put this particular Sportster model over the top and kept them coming. It’s no surprise; after all, when something is good, it’s good.
Written by Garrett Parker
Read more posts by Garrett Parker