Harley-Davidson XR1200



Harley’s new XR1200 is a Sportster that lives up to its name

You can’t keep a good bike down. Harley-Davidson’s XR750R has been winning flat-track races in the US every weekend for decades, and it was high time Milwaukee unveiled a bike that paid tribute to H-D’s undefeated track champion.

Say g’day to the XR1200.

Okay, now here’s the big surprise: Harley-D introduced the bike in Europe because that’s where it was expected to sell. It was designed by the company’s Milwaukee-based product development team together with its Product Planning Europe outfit. Indeed, the original planning didn’t even include a US launch; the bike was heading for Europe and certain other selected markets (Australia among them, I was quick to discover). Harley still isn’t hitting the big sales numbers in Europe, and the XR is intended to stir the pot there and target younger, more performance-minded riders than H-D’s trad market at home — and here.

So came the XR, with its orange-and-black flat-track racing heritage in a genuine classic Harley-Davidson package.

The bike looks enough like the veteran XR750 to make the relationship clear without going over the top: you can pretend you’re Jay Springsteen if you like, but it’s not compulsory. It’s a bit like the current Triumph Bonneville in that it recalls the spirit of the original pretty well.

It helps too that nine-time AMA Grand National champion Scott Parker had a hand in the design, but so too did French endurance/GP racer Adrien Morillas.

If the XR looks tough, it also looks heavy. And so it is. At 263kg kerb weight, it’s more than 70kg weightier than the Ducati Monster 1100.

Hop on the bike and sink into the tall-looking seat. Remember that the sidestand is spring-loaded before you hop off again. Thumb the starter. No, that’s the awkwardly placed right blinker button. Look and try again. Fire up the 45-degree V-twin, listen to that lumpy rumble and you’re beginning to understand that the performance might match the looks. The XR sounds tough; tougher than most, certainly more of a bark than any other 1200 Sportster this bike takes its engine from. There’s a good reason for this — the engine is the most potent air-cooled unit the company has made. Good breathing helps. There’s well-tuned downdraught fuel injection and an “electronic active” air intake.

The XR gets down on its haunches and moves, too. There’s power all the way to the 7000rpm redline but the real meat is between 3000 and 5000 — right where you need it.

The riding position is a solid help here, positioning the rider “poised like a snake ready to strike”, according to Bryan Harley of MotorcycleUSA.com.

Straight-line stability is good, steering light and cornering clearance sufficient — though the exhaust touches down on the right.

Problems? Just the one, really. The specially developed Showa suspension is fairly soft and offers limited adjustment, with just spring preload on the rear. To make up for it, the brakes are first rate, if a little aggressive — which at least means they’re in tune with the rest of the bike.

We’ll have to wait a wee while to see how the bike fares in Europe, but it’s clearly hit a nerve with the Americans, and Harley-Davidson has decided to release the bike on its home turf.

Quite right, too.

Model: Harley-Davidson XR1200
Price: From $15,995, plus on-road costs
Warranty: Two years, unlimited distance
Power: 67kW @ 7000rpm
Torque: 100Nm @ 3700rpm
Engine: Air-cooled Evolution 45-degree vee-twin OHV four-stroke, fuel injection and digital ignition
Bore x stroke: 88.9 x 96.8mm
Displacement: 1202cc
Compression ratio: 10:1
Transmission: 5-speed, wet multi-plate clutch, belt final drive
Suspension: Front, 43mm upside-down telescopic fork, travel 125mm. Rear: Twin shocks, adjustable spring preload, 89mm travel.
Dimensions: Seat height 795mm, kerb weight 263kg; fuel capacity 13.25 litres, wheelbase 1515mm
Tyres: Front, 120/70 ZR18. Rear, 180/55 ZR 17.
Frame: Mild steel, tubular. Circular sections, cast junctions
Brakes: Front, twin 292mm discs with 4-piston calipers. Rear, 260mm disc with floating single-piston caliper.
Top speed: 200km/h
Acceleration: 0-100km/h: 4.2 sec; 60-100km/h: 4.5 sec
Fuel consumption: 5.4 litres per 100km, unleaded
Theoretical range: 245km
Colours: Vivid Black; Pewter Denim; Mirage Orange Pearl
Verdict: Style and go