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Harley-Davidson's XR1200: Worthy Tribute To Earlier Era

By Arv Voss, May 29th, 2010

The Harley-Davidson Sportster tends to represent the definitive uninhibited essence of motorcycling that was popular during the 1950s. The "Sporty" could be found on challenging dirt tracks and drag strips. Harley's 2010 Sportster XR1200 has styling unquestionably inspired by the legendary flat-track champion XR750. The XR1200 is tuned to excel in virtually all aspects of street performance when ridden by a capable, aggressive rider.

The XR1200 combines nostalgic styling cues with the flat, yet hefty torque delivery and heart-warming throaty rumble of an American V-Twin motor. Sportsters, in addition to being among the most-affordable Harley-Davidson models, also generally offer a low, comfortable seat height, smooth clutch effort, reduced weight and athletic maneuverability.

Power comes from a 1200cc air-cooled Evolution with precision oil cooling and electronic sequential port fuel injection, rubber mounted in a mild steel tubular frame formed in circular sections with cast junctions. The torque is 73.91 lb.-ft. at 1,200 rpm, and motive force is delivered to the rear wheel via a primary chain/belt final drive, with gear changes handled by a five-speed sequential manual gearbox with a multi-plate wet clutch. The exhaust is a right-side dual setup with upswept mufflers that emit a resonant but tame rumble.

The bike rides on Dunlop Qualifier high-performance tires (D209 120/70ZR18 M/C up front and D209 180/55ZR17 M/C in the rear), mounted on Black three-double-spoke alloy wheels. Suspension consists of 43mm inverted forks in the front and an aluminum cast aluminum swingarm out back, with dual coil-over preload adjustable shocks. The steering head rake is 29.3 inches, and the trail is 5.12 inches. Bringing the XR 1200 to a halt are hydraulic dual discs forward with four piston fixed calipers, and a single disc aft, with a single-piston floating caliper aft.

strong>Instrumentation includes: a handlebar-mounted tachometer, electronic speedometer with odometer, time-of-day clock on the odometer, a dual trip meter, a low-fuel warning light, low-oil pressure light and engine diagnostics readout with indicator lamps for high beam, neutral, low oil pressure, turn signals, engine diagnostics, low battery and optional security system.

My test XR1200 Sporty was sprayed Vivid Black with Red and White striped graphics. Running gear was finished in a brushed-look satin silver. Handlebars are gloss black with a flat black front fender. The rider's seat features a kick-up rear, followed by a minimal passenger pillion and hand strap. Controls are mid-mounted for a more aggressive but still comfortable riding position and the seat height is 29.2 inches. The base price was set at $10,799 for the Vivid Black version, while the price as-tested came to $11,474 after adding for the H-D factory security system and freight charges.

The great part about Harley-Davidson's XR1200 Sportster is that it doesn't look like your everyday, run-of-the-mill Sportster. The tank is not the traditional "peanut-shaped" affair found on most Sportys, but features angled character lines and seems to fit more proportionally. When riding, expect to get thumbs-up approval and favorable comments from both genders.

The lightweight (562 pounds dry) and 1200cc Evolution V-Twin combine to deliver kick-butt torque, especially in the lower gears. In first gear, it's difficult to modulate a smooth and consistent throttle input. Actually shifting gears is a positive and nearly seamless exercise.

The riding position will obviously be more comfortable for riders under 6 feet tall than for someone 6'4" such as myself, but for shorter stints aboard, even tall riders can enjoy the bike's acceleration, balance and maneuverability.

There is a fork lock for stationary security, but the gas cap is unfortunately a non-locking type. Rider pegs have sacrificial extensions for spirited riding and exaggerated, high speed tight turns. Should you be of a mind to go road racing, you'll be pleased to know that AMA Pro Racing has added an AMA Pro Vance & Hines XR1200 Spec Racing Series. The Harley-Davidson XR1200 Sportster can be a really fun bike for the right-sized rider with the necessary skills.

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