The Harley-Davidson Sportster has become one of the top-selling cruisers, and over the years, the aftermarket for these motorcycles has grown substantially.

There are now all sorts of different options now available on the aftermarket, including a huge selection available through the Harley-Davidson dealer network that will keep your warranty intact. One can easily confuse good marketing with a good product, though, even dealer approved options can be hopelessly overpriced at times. Motorcycles need to be optimized though, unlike cars that can easily be left stock, motorcycles need to be adjusted and tailored to individual riders. To limit frustration and maximize performance, here are the best mods for your Sportster.

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8 Tank Knee Pads

Harley Davidson Sportster S 2021 bike exhaust

For the new Sportster S this might not be the first choice, with its redesigned tank, but for the other Sportsters this is an essential modification.

Harley-Davidson Tank Knee Pads

This will help you grip the bike better with your knees, giving you more confidence in corners and also protecting your tank from unwanted scuffs and scratches.

7 Windshield

via Harley Davidson

Harley-Davidson will point you towards their approved accessories catalog for this, but if the pricing doesn’t fit the budget, there is a host of aftermarket options out there.

Harley Davidson Sportster S 2021 design

One of those is made by Puig, a brand that specializes in making high quality aftermarket windshields. They do tend to err on the functional side, so if the design doesn’t fit your needs, you can always turn to the droves of Chinese alternatives that usually just entail a slightly higher degree of difficulty in terms of fitment.

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6 Mirrors


Once again, this is an area where most people look at Chinese alternatives, but for anything like this that relates directly to safety, it is always a better idea to rather opt for higher quality alternatives.

Rizoma Mirror

Rizoma is an established brand that has a tie-up with Harley-Davidson, so you can buy their mirrors directly from the dealership. They are not cheap, but they look incredible and will also improve rearward visibility.

5 Air Filter


If you are after any form of performance gains, this is the most affordable modification you can make and a necessary first step if you plan on doing more to your bike.

2007 Harley-Davidson XL1200N Sportster Nightster
via TopSpeed

K&N are pretty much the best in the business, and they too have a tie-up with Harley, making their Screamin’ Eagle range of filters. All washable filters are guaranteed to outlast the bike as long as you maintain them.

Related: This Is The Best Performance Air Filter

4 Exhaust

Harley-Davidson Sportster

This one is as subjective as they come, Harleys are already very loud bikes, so approach this one with caution if you live in a neighborhood that takes noise levels seriously.

Harley-Davidson Sportster 883 Iron, Cafe Style, modified by Chop's
via pinterest

If you are after a little more performance, then this is an essential step, there is a huge selection of high quality offerings out there but Vance & Hines tend to focus on Harley exhausts more than other brands.

3 Screamin’ Eagle Stage IV Kit

Milwaukee-Eight Screamin' Eagle 131 Engine
via RideApart

If you want to go whole “hog” with the performance modifications, then you simply have to spend the $2,000 on a Screamin’ Eagle kit.

sportster iron
via Harley-Davidson

Horsepower goes up from around 60 to almost 90, with the maximum power coming at 6,500 rpm as opposed to 5,500. Torque also goes up and flattens out across the rev range, but if the price tag is a bit much, getting a simple remap with your air filter and pipe will reap enough rewards to satisfy most.

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2 Suspension

Harley-Davidson Sportster S 2021 On The Road Rear View
via Harley-Davidson

If you are planning to go on long trips, this is something essential, the stock rear shocks have almost no travel and feel rock hard. They will leave you with a serious backache if you are in the saddle for any longer than a couple of hours.

Harley-Davidson Sportster

Harley has some over the counter options, but this is something you should consider turning to the aftermarket for. Öhlins are the best in the business and will certainly improve both comfort and cornering ability, but will set you back around $1,500!

1 Sintered Brake Pads

On a bike like the Sportster where it is more about cruising than aggressive apex hunting, braking is more often than not overlooked. Most riders will not concern themselves about this, but on a motorcycle, brakes can make a big difference.

2-Via Performance Harley-Davison Cropped
Via-Performance Harley-Davison

Quite frankly there isn’t any need for huge mods here, the stock brakes are ok, but a simple set of sintered brake pads will help slow the heavy Sportster down faster and improve safety. They improve bite and feel too, but it is important to note that the flip side of sintered brakes is that they will wear out the rotor a little faster than the standard pads.

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