Test Ride: 2012 Harley-Davidson Sportster Seventy-Two

“Harley-Davidson’s XL1200V Sportster Seventy-Two for 2012

A step back into the past

The design and development team at Harley-Davidson have a proclivity for dipping into the Motor Company’s past heritage for inspirational motivation in coming up with new model ideas. Nostalgia is big business these days, and who doesn’t want to revisit their glory days? First came the “Forty-Eight” Sportster which was associated with its chronological period and had a flavor of its own – displaying sort of a flat-track image.

Now, there’s the “Seventy-Two” which has nothing to do with a time frame, but rather draws inspiration from, and pays homage to a stretch of Whittier Boulevard, that legendary cruising street in East Los Angeles also known as Route 72. The Seventy-Two is also a member of the Sportster family that reflects a time when kids tooled around on Sting-Ray style bikes emulating their older counterparts who rode real Choppers. The Sting-Ray’s sported banana seats and ape-grip handlebars along with and a raked-out front end. They were created in the spirit of the chopper motorcycles and encouraged individual customizing and personalization. The motorcycle versions were colorful, stripped down bikes, sprayed with metal flake paint and loaded with chrome, but reflecting the simplicity of bicycles – a custom style born in California.

Metal flake is back in a big way on the Seventy-Two with a shade called Hard Candy Big Red Flake. The finish is created by first spraying on a black base coat, and then applying a polyurethane system carrying hexagon-shaped flakes that are seven times larger than in traditional production flake paint. Each flake is coated with a thin aluminum film that is then tinted red. Four coats of clear are then applied and carefully hand sanded and polished, creating a glass-like surface. The crowning touch is a 72 logo atop the period -style 2.1-gallon peanut tank, originally created by hand and converted into a decal that covered by a final clear coat. Scallops and pinstriping details appear on both the front traditional cycle-style front fender and chopped rear fender, complemented by narrow whitewall tires (Dunlop Harley-Davidson D402F – MH90-21 54H front/ D401-150/80B16 71H rear) narrow whitewalls mounted on chrome lace spoke steel wheels (21×2.15” front / 16×3” rear).

The solo seat and left side-mounted license plate bracket allow for much of the chopped rear fender – and more of the paint – exposed on the Seventy-Two. The powertrain is sprayed in Gray powdercoat with chrome covers and a new round air cleaner with a dished cover. The 10-inch mini-ape bars on 2-inch risers and chromed shorty dual right side, slash-cut exhaust pipes represent a major contribution to the bile’s overall, nostalgic “Old-School” image. The speedometer is mounted in a handlebar-mounted chrome cup.

 The Seventy-Two’s power is generated by a 1200 cc Air-cooled Evolution pushrod-operated OHV, 4-valve V-Twin with electronic sequential port fuel injection. that grunts out 73 pound feet of peak torque at 3,500 rpm. The driving energy is geared to the rear wheel via a five-speed manual transmission through a chain primary drive and final drive belt.

Suspension consists of 39 mm front forks up front with 5.69-inches of wheel travel, and a swingarm with coil-over preload dual adjustable shocks in the rear with 2.12- inches of wheel travel. Braking chores are handled by a front single rotor, dual piston and a single piston rear rotor. The rear fender struts are chromed, as are the coil-over rear shocks.

My test bike was provided courtesy of Iron Steed Harley-Davidson of Vacaville, CA and came with the Hard candy Red Big Red Flake paint finish (other available finishes include: Black Denim, and Big Blue Pearl for $700 less). My bike’s base sticker read $11,199. Expect to add an average of $300 for dealer Prep and Handling.

SUMMARY: What’s it like to straddle the Seventy-Two? Well, the seat height is a manageable 28-inches. The 10-inch mini-apes aren’t a real stretch and the forward foot controls are comfortable. The ride quality on the other hand, while tolerable, seems to transmit the presence of every pebble on the roads surface.

In terms of the handling characteristics, the larger, skinny front wheel and tire of the Seventy-Two make for a different riding experience than say, the Forty-Eight Sportster, which seems considerably more stable. The rear wheel and tire combination don’t seem to be totally on target with the narrow theme of the bike. The bike is after all, supposed to reflect a retro flavor, which it does quite well, and this translates into the ride and handling as well. Perhaps not for everyone’s taste, and perhaps not the best choice in the Sportster lineup for the beginning rider.

Is it fun? You betcha. There’s a lot of nostalgic bang for the buck here, in a showroom custom, and you can save a few bucks more by opting for the non-metal flake paint scheme, but that’s part of what really makes the 2012 Seventy-Two Sportster totally cool.

SPECIFICATIONS: Harley-Davidson XL1200V Sportster 72-‘12

Base Price:                              $11,199.

Price as Tested:                      $11,499. * est. Dealer prep varies.

Engine Type and Size:               1200 cc Air-cooled Evolution pushrod-operated                                                               OHV, 4-valve with electronic sequential port fuel                                                                injection.

Horsepower (bhp):                           Not listed

Torque (ft./ lbs.):                           73            @ 3,500 rpm

Transmission:                         Five-speed sequential manual.

Drive Train:                                    Primary drive – chain / Final drive – belt.

Suspension:                                    Front –  39 mm front forks with5.69-inches of wheel                                                             travel.

Rear  – Swingarm with coil over preload dual                                                                         adjustable shocks with 2.12- inches of travel.

Brakes:                                    Single rotor, dual piston front / single piston rear.

Tires:                                                 Dunlop Harley-Davidson D402F – MH90-21 54H front/                                                  D401 – 150/80B16 71H rear narrow whitewalls mounted on chrome lace spoke steel wheels. (21×2.15” front / 16×3” rear).

Wheelbase:                                        60.0  inches

Length Overall:                            89.4  inches

Curb Weight dry:                            545  lbs. – 555 lbs running order.

Fuel Capacity:                        2.1            gallons

Seat height:                                        28.0  inches – unladen

0 – 60 mph:                                    Not tested.