Test Ride: 2010 Harley-Davidson XR 1200 Sportster

A Worthy tribute to an earlier era?

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 not only challenging dirt tracks but drag strips as well. In true fashion, most were modified to suit the rider, but also for the purpose for which the bike was intended.

Many place the Sportster in the role of the ideal beginner bike, probably because it is the most reasonably priced bike in Harley?s model lineup. In my opinion, this is not necessarily a good call ? at least not in my case. My first Harley tester was a Sportster. It was certainly manageable and fun to ride, but a level of skill somewhere above the level of novice or beginner is a worthwhile attribute to have under one?s belt before throwing a leg over one of today?s more powerful and capable Sportsters. As I moved up progressively through the various Harley-Davidson groups and individual models, I soon realized that many Harley bikes, though considerably larger and heavier than the iconic Sportster were indeed easier to ride and a lot more comfortable ? especially for those large of build and longer in the tooth. I ultimately wound up with a modestly modified Police Road King and a Softtail Springer Classic done up in ?Old School? fashion as my personal rides of choice.

Okay, enough about my earlier Sportster experience, let?s get on with evaluating one of Harley?s (there are now seven different models available) 2010 Sportsters ? the XR 1200, whose styling was unquestionably inspired by the legendary flat-track champion XR750. The XR 1200 is tuned to excel in virtually all aspects of street performance when ridden by a capable, aggressive rider. Combining 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.?

Essentially, the XR1200 Sportster falls into the category of a standard motorcycle, executed in a sort of classic retro styling, but featuring modern technology, conveniences and dependability. It is somewhat suggestive of an old school dirt track bike, with a Caf? racer influence. 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 pound feet 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.?

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 fuel warnings, low battery and optional security system.?

My test XR 1200 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. Add another $290 for optional colors (Brilliant Silver Denim or Mirage Orange Pearl).?

SUMMARY:? The great part about the 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. If you?re good enough, you might be able to pay for the bike with your winnings.?

All-in-all, the Harley-Davidson XR1200 Sportster can be a really fun bike for the right-sized rider with the necessary skills.

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