Yankee from Europe
By Blake Conner
ut away your fringed chaps, beanie helmet, fingerless
gloves and leather vest because you don’t have to be a member
of that club to ride this Harley-Davidson. This bike is a rider’s
bike, all about go and less about show. It was built to be ridden,
not parked amongst the posers on a hot patch of blacktop, kickstand slowly
piercing the tar.
Meet the XR1200, The Motor Company’s sportiest Sportster ever. First
unveiled at the 2006 Intermot show in Germany, the bike has just gone into
production in Milwaukee…“Er, excuse me, did I miss something?” you ask.
“How come I haven’t heard anything about this bike?”
Well, that’s easy. If you live in North America, this bike wasn’t made for
you! Yes, we’re sorry to inform you that at least for the time being the XR is,
in an unprecedented move, a European-only release from the clan on Juneau CYCLE WORLD TEST
Ave. Never mind that it looks like it got lost on the way to the San Jose Mile.
PhOTOS bY bRiAn bLADES
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Details pay tribute to Sportster’s
past. Inside, hot cams, huge throttle
body and higher compression mean
more power and torque. Engineers
made the most of space, using every
inch available for under-tank airbox
capacity; flapper optimizes velocity.
Horsepower equals heat and with 18
more ponies than an XL1200R, the XR
needed an additional oil circuit and
cooler to quench heads.
We can already hear the keys clacking as droves of percent sales blip over the last three years as the once-mighty with large 292mm discs, lightweight cast-alloy wheels shod comfortable with its home-field advantage.
Americans put fingers to keyboard expressing their dismay dollar swirls down the drain overseas. Still, the market is with very sporty Dunlop Qualifier rubber, and geometry Harley’s handling course features a couple of fast fourth-
at Harley for snubbing its nose at them. Well, sorry, bub, very different. A larger percentage of riders use their bikes optimized for getting through apexes quickly while remaining gear sweepers connected by tighter third-gear bends; the
the fact of the matter is that a lot of consumers on this side for transportation during the week and then take them on super stable. Stuff a highly refined and performance-oriented truth is that the firm but smooth-shifting tranny could be left
of The Pond talk the talk, asking for standard-style road- twisty mountain jaunts when the weekend rolls around. With 1202cc Evolution engine that’s been caught shoplifting over at in fourth for the entire lap and not really affect acceleration
sters, but then fail to materialize at dealerships with cash in Euro sales quickly growing, it was the perfect time to build a Erik Buell’s parts bin, and you begin to get the whole picture. due to a nice plateau of torque.
hand when said model goes on sale. Just ask the Japanese. bike catering specifically to that rider. Cycle World had exclusive access to the Florida test facil- On track the XR impressed with its predictable, stable
They’ve made several attempts at bringing in standards So, think of the XR1200 as an American tourist in ity, not only getting a glimpse behind doors that no other handling and surprisingly quick steering. On paper, the
or nakeds that are top sellers in Europe only to have them Europe, just not the kind wearing dark socks with sandals, journalist’s eyes had peered through before, but also riding numbers don’t do the 1200 justice. Turn-in is linear and pre-
become dust collectors on showroom floors stateside. Bermuda shorts and bright Hawaiian shirt. This visitor is the XR on the very handling course where it was developed. dictable all the way to metal-dragging full-lean. Key to this
On the flipside, the Euros have been begging H-D to build a little more refined, polished and blends right in with the After being given the same press materials and presentation according to Weber was to fine-tune the front end to make
something like the XR for years. One of the most popular- old continent’s vibe. that Euro-journos had received just weeks earlier, we took an the bike feel smaller than it really is, to make it low-effort
selling models over there has been the XL883R Sportster What differentiates a Harley-Davidson developed for extensive tour of the compound. The place was rather quiet; so that any level of rider is comfortable. A lot of different
883 Roadster, partly because of cost but also for its decent Europe from models typically built for us? First and fore- future models had been hidden to keep the nosy scribe and geometry options were tried. Different rake angles, triple-
handling. The new XR is a lot more sporting while retaining most, it can go around corners; we mean really go around the photographer’s lens from seeing into Harley-D’s future. clamp offsets and tires were experimented with. Weber’s
its black-and-orange heritage by embracing the XR750 dirt- corners! This bike is the product of extensive testing at Shortly thereafter, we headed out onto the road course team settled on 29.3 degrees of rake and 5.1 inches of trail.
tracker’s image. Europeans weren’t afraid to put their money Harley’s secret 530-acre Florida Evaluation Center near the behind lead vehicle dynamics engineer and club roadracer At parking lot speeds, tight, feet-up U-turns are a snap.
where their mouths were, either. As soon as production of Everglades. It consists of a 1.2-mile handling course, 2-mile- (GSX-R750!) Matt Weber for hot laps. It only took a few to Engineers chose a 120/70ZR18 Dunlop Qualifier front
the 4000 to 6000 XRs planned for this year was confirmed, long high-speed straight and more bumps, potholes and bad realize that the XR1200 is without a doubt the best-handling tire. The reason that an 18-incher was selected was that it
dealers were bombarded with more than 600 preorders. pavement than a Sicilian autostrada. production Harley to date. A few cautious laps were spent provided the best compromise between grip, turn-in and
Europe has been a hard nut to crack for Harley and yet it Result is a motorcycle with a stiff chassis, inverted 43mm making sure the bike didn’t jump off the rails or do anything retaining the look of a big-wheel flat-tracker. Numerous laps
sold some 40,000 motorcycles there in 2007, part of a 58 Showa cartridge fork, twin Nissin four-piston front brakes funny, but it quickly became apparent that the XR was quite around the test track completely torched the 180/55ZR17
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Don’t tell anyone, (79.2 hp) than the XL1200R Sportster we tested earlier in
but the XR1200 the year. Torque output is similar at 70 foot-pounds, but
is a Harley! Here, where did they find all that performance?
Ride & Handling No single item stands out as a major contributor to the
Lead Engineer newfound juice; instead it’s a long list of details that make
Matt Weber gets to this Evo sing a different–if slightly noisy–mechanical tune.
chase the fruit of A higher 10.0:1 compression ratio, combined with per-
his labor on H-D’s formance cams (Buell XB items), performance exhaust
secret handling and a new EFI throttle body have created more power–and
track. That’s CW’s necessitated better top-end cooling. Cylinder heads are now
Conner in the plumbed with external oil lines that pass through a five-row
lead. cooler to keep temps down. Visually, the heads are a throw-
back to those of the ironhead Sportsters, which had exterior
feeds pumping oil to the rockerboxes on the original ’57 XL
rear tire, largely due to the abrasive nature of the surface right through the first Evo in ’86.
and also because the XR carries about 60 percent of its 568 According to Powertrain Leader Dan Grein, the single
pounds (dry weight) aft of center. most difficult aspect of designing the XR1200’s engine
Hard braking wasn’t really required on track, but a street was fitting the 50mm downdraft throttle body into the Vee
ride through the Everglades later in the day proved that the between the cylinders and then creating enough airbox vol-
Nissin setup not only provides excellent feel but impressive ume inside the confines–dictated by styling–of the fuel tank.
power. Best Harley brakes ever? There’s a real strong argu- The single-butterfly, sequential-port fuel-injection system
ment in favor of that assumption, as CW’s resident Sportster features an ECU-controlled flapper in the airbox to enhance
expert Allan Girdler stated after riding our XR1200 testbike intake efficiency. Exhaust is handled by a stainless-steel, 2-
back in California: “Brakes work, reliable to a fault, com- 1-2 system with 6.8 liters of volume for improved breathing
pletely debugged…I mean it’s been 50 years, eh?” and top-end performance. A catalyzer is fitted in the junc-
Another area that Weber’s team concentrated on was sus- tion between the headers and mufflers; and with help from
pension compliance. They wanted as much travel as possible info sent to the ECU via twin oxygen sensors, the 1200
(4.9 inches front, 3.5 rear) to allow a firm but smooth ride. meets Euro 3 emissions requirements.
On the handling course, the non-adjustable fork provided Not only do all of these modifications allow the XR to
good damping and never let the bike wallow or seesaw crush the performance figures of the XL1200 with a sec-
back-and-forth transitioning between braking and throttle. ond-quicker 0-60 time (4 seconds flat) and quarter-mile
The same can be said for the twin preload-adjustable shocks sprint (12.42 seconds at 106.41 mph), but the engine is
attached to a beefy cast-aluminum swingarm, providing a incredibly refined.
firm ride at a sporting pace. On the street, the fork delivered “The 1200’s fat middle-rpm torque curve, considerable
a nice ride while the limited rear travel would occasionally engine braking, easy flickability, generous cornering clear-
transfer a jolt to the rider over rough pavement–but it’s still ance and stable chassis combined to let me develop an easy
miles better than the usual Sportster behavior. but surprisingly fast flow through SoCal’s Ortega Highway’s
But does the motor–its architecture laid down in the best twisty sections,” Senior Editor Paul Dean commented.
1950s–live up to the XR’s handling prowess? “I was able to carve through the corners in nice, graceful arcs
After taking delivery of our test unit in Newport Beach, with only the occasional need to shift or feather the brakes. So
Road Test Editor Don Canet put it through our usual bat- instead of my backroad run feeling like a Superpole qualify-
tery of performance tests. The biggest surprise was that the ing lap, it was just pure fun, plain and simple.”
XR1200 engine makes a whopping 18 more horsepower Fuel-injection response is dead-smooth both on the street Å
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and track and never comes close to unsettling the chassis, protection with no noticeable buffeting.
even when picking up the throttle from a closed position in a Styling manager Frank Savage cites the raw, simple XR750
tight bend. Fifth-gear roll-on performance feels very strong, racebike as the primary inspiration for the 1200. The slogan
meaning a downshift for passing is rarely required. The rub- “Inspired by the racing line” graces all of the XR’s press
ber-mounted motor hums along smoothly at 3800 rpm in top materials. When it comes to racing, dirt-track is obviously
gear at an indicated 70 mph, with very little vibration felt where Harley-Davidson has had its greatest success. Since
through the pegs or bars. It’s only at idle that the 45-degree 1970, XR750 dirt-trackers have dominated the Grand National
Twin exhibits its ants-in-the-pants dance routine as the motor Championship series with 26 titles and thousands of wins in
moves about on its links and rubber biscuits. On the freeway, the hands of riders like nine-time champ Scott Parker, who
the mirrors have moments of clarity, but don’t expect a clear was instrumental in testing and development of the XR1200.
view at every rpm. The 1200’s proportions and features, such as the slender
Almost everyone who rode the XR complimented the fuel tank and rear fender, were mandatory to keep XR simi-
bike’s ergos. The seating position is upright and neutral larities intact. A small stylish headlight sits between the bold
with a relaxed reach to the blacked-out dirt-track-bend bars. aluminum triple-clamps, giving the bike a purposeful look;
Smaller-diameter grips than on its cruiser cousins are wel- twin upswept exhausts mimic the racer’s; and details like the
come for improved feedback and a feeling of control when word “Sportster” cast into the right engine case pay homage to
riding hard. Although neither brake nor clutch levers are the ’57 model, which had the same logo on its primary cover.
adjustable, they have a nice shape that should fit a variety So how is it that a bike packed with so much heritage,
of hand sizes. Clutch effort is firm without feeling heavy, style and influence from the most American form of motor-
allowing clean getaways from stops. Footpeg placement is cycle racing isn’t available in the U.S.?
sporty without being sportbike-like and is positioned to give Put simply, European H-D dealers demanded this bike.
the XR a 39-degree angle of lean. The 31.4-inch-high seat Dealers in the States will have to prove to The Motor
is comfortable and offers wiggle room for moving around Company that they want the XR1200 and can
on long rides or to accommodate riders of different heights. sell it. For the first time in Harley’s history,
The instrument cluster doesn’t exactly offer a plethora of American customers are going to have to wait
info but it tells you all you really and see if what is rightfully theirs will be
need to know and, as a bonus, available in the near future. In our opinion,
offers a decent amount of wind it’s not a matter of if but when. This motor-
cycle is simply too good to be left out of
Harley gets what Euros want: Harley-Davidson’s largest market. •
XR1200 ready to rip up the
Alps. European price is €9495
For more on the XR1200, go
($14,676); if it comes to the
U.S. expect it to be cheaper.
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i’ve been on a lot of harley-davidson HaRLEY xR1200
press launches over the years, but our SPECIFICATIONS
exclusive test in Florida marked the GENERAL SUSPENSION/TIRES
first time I honestly didn’t know what
gear to pack. Okay, that sounds kind List price € 9495 Front suspension:
Manufacturer: Manufacturer Showa
of…well, like I’m light in the loafers or harley-Davidson Motor Co, inc. Tube diameter 43mm
something my wife would say. 3700 W. Juneau Ave. Claimed wheel travel 4.9 in.
Anyway, the solution to my problem Milwaukee, Wi 53201 Adjustments none
was just a few mouse clicks away. I www.harley-davidson.com Rear suspension:
logged onto H-D U.K.’s website and Customer service Manufacturer h-D
watched video of stunt rider Craig Jones doing 12 o’clock phone 414/343-4680 Type dual coil-over
wheelies on the XR1200, and another of nine-time Grand Warranty 24 mo./unlimited mi. Claimed wheel travel 3.5 in.
National champ Scott Parker ripping around Harley’s test Adjustments spring preload
track. So, I packed up my two-piece leathers with knee slid- Tires:
ers, dilemma solved! The XR looked like the real deal. Engine air-and-oil-cooled,
Front Dunlop Qualifier
It may not be super fast or carve like a scalpel but it’s a four-stroke V-Twin
very enjoyable bike with capabilities way beyond anything Bore x Stroke 88.9 x 96.8mm Rear Dunlop Qualifier
else in orange and black. Riding the XR1200, I don’t feel Displacement 1202cc D209 180/55ZR17
like a geriatric weekend warrior searching for the fountain Compression ratio 10.0:1 PERFORMANCE
of youth; I just feel like a motorcyclist enjoying a really 1/4 mi. 12.42 sec.
Valve train ohv, two valves
good bike. –Blake Conner, Associate Editor @ 106.41 mph
per cylinder, hydraulic adjusters
0-30 mph 1.4 sec.
it is utterly inconceivable to me that 0-60 mph 4.0 sec.
intervals not required
0-90 mph 8.9 sec.
Harley-Davidson would hesitate, even Carburetion fuel-injection 0-100 mph 11.6 sec.
for a nanosecond, to sell the XR1200 in Top gear time to speed:
Oil capacity 3.0 qt.
the U.S. I understand that it’s a concept 40-60 mph 3.9 sec.
developed in and for Europe (which Electrical power 405w
60-80 mph 4.0 sec.
prompts a whole lot of other questions), Battery 12v, 12ah
Measured top speed 122 mph
but the entire genesis and spirit of the CHASSIS
Engine speed at
bike is purely American–the company, Weight: 60 mph 3378 rpm
the Sportster, the XR750, flat-track rac- Tank empty 568 lb.
ing in the heartland. I don’t get it. FUEL MILEAGE
Tank full 590 lb.
But I do get the XR1200. It isn’t just the best Sportster High/low/avg. 43/35/39 mpg
Fuel capacity 3.5 gal.
ever, it’s perhaps the best Harley ever. It has the best chas- Avg. range inc.
Wheelbase 60.0 in.
sis, suspension, brakes, cornering clearance, backroad han- reserve 136 mi.
dling and overall performance of any street-going H-D, with Rake/trail 29.3°/5.1 in.
wonderful styling cues from the XR750 racebike and the Seat height 31.4 in.
from 30 mph 30 ft.
original XLs of the late Fifties. Ground clearance 6.9 in.
from 60 mph 132 ft.
Whether just bopping along the freeways or bombing GVWR 1000 lb.
down twisty backroads, I had more fun on the XR than I SPEEDOMETER ERROR
Load capacity(tank full) 410 lb.
ever imagined a Sportster could allow. Thumbs-up to H-D 30 mph indicated 30 mph
for building it; thumbs-down for not yet making it avail- HORSEPOWER/TORQUE
60 mph indicated 59 mph
able here. –Paul Dean, Senior Editor
i am happy and pissed at the same
time. Harley finally builds a sporty
standard I can dig and then gives it to
the Euros first?! But I guess I should
be thanking those selfish Continentals
for getting H-D into the sporty-bike
Main Event by convincing them to
build the XR1200.
The recent rubber-mounted Sportys
like the 1200 Roadster we tested in
the Legends Revisited comparison (CW, January) are way
cool. I really enjoyed that bike because of its flawless fuel-
ing, excellent torque and the sort of sense of machinery it 40
imparted as it beat rhythmically down the road. Except that 35
it was a bit too laid back and a bit too small for me. 30
The XR1200 retains those pleasurable operational quali-
ties but adds the things–ergonomic space for my apelike 25
body, real horsepower and an entertaining degree of corner- 20
ing clearance–not previously present for me in the Sportster 15
Willie G., please don’t make me move to France!
–Mark Hoyer, Executive Editor 5
0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40 45 50 55 60 65 70 75 80 95
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