Harley-Davidson Sprint SX350

Tomorrow’s classics: 1971-1974 Harley-Davidson Sprint SX350.

| July/August 2013

Harley-Davidson Sprint SX350
Claimed power: 25hp @ 7,000rpm (1971)
Top speed: 90mph
Engine: 344cc air-cooled OHV horizontal single
Weight (dry): 312lb
Price then/now: $870 (1971)/$2,400-$4,500

It’s a simple and time-honored recipe. Take a street-standard motorcycle, fit trail-type tires, scrambles handlebars and a high-level exhaust system, and — hey, presto! — your road bike becomes a mud-plugging enduro or desert-dueler. Of course, most street scramblers weren’t true offroad machines — but they looked like them. And the look was hot.

All this made sense to Harley-Davidson in 1971. Their 350SS street bike was hopelessly outclassed by Japanese twins of the same capacity, so to squeeze a few more years out of the ageing Aermacchi design they moved the 350 single into a bracket where standing quarter times and racetrack handling were less important.

The first generation SX350 really was little more than a 350SS street bike dressed up for the dirt. It retained the street bike’s banana-shaped spine frame with the engine slung below. For added strength, the rear subframe and suspension bolted to a pair of forged members replacing what had been tubes: stronger, maybe, but definitely heavier. Eighteen-inch rear and 19-inch front wheels were fitted with seriously knobby offroad tires rolling under abbreviated, high-mounted fender blades. A smaller gas tank and shorter seat were fitted, and gone was the street bike’s tachometer, together with the dated binnacle it lived in. High, cross-braced handlebars and a high-level muffler with wire heat shield finished the street-to-dirt makeover.

Underneath, not a lot changed. The Harley-Davidson Sprint SX350 retained the drivetrain and major components from the SS, including the street bike’s long-stroke 74mm x 80mm pushrod 4-stroke single, which continued to drive a 4-speed transmission through a gear primary and dry multiplate clutch, with chain drive to the rear wheel. Shifting was on the right, as was the kickstand, and the kickstarter was on the left — something that took American riders some getting used to.

Cycle Guide started its April 1971 review on the SX350 by saying, “if there is a more rugged enduro-type motorcycle than the new Harley Davidson 350cc Sprint, we haven’t run across it.” But that ruggedness came at a cost in weight: At 312 pounds dry, Cycle Guide considered the SX to be “almost 100lbs heavier than its competition” with a full tank of gas. (Though they didn’t specify what that competition was, a same year Bultaco Sherpa 350 weighed a claimed 211 pounds.) They also found that if the SX was “left sitting idle several days at a time . . . it then became necessary to bump start it.” Not a sterling commendation.

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