Because the Sportster family wouldn’t be the same without the 1200cc models, Harley-Davidson caries on producing the Custom, Low and Nightster models with small tweaks and calls them 2009 model years. Similar and yet differently styled, the bikes are out to get each one of those who have long planned to buy a Harley and finally decided on what family to start with.
The Low model is a comfy, agile and classy Sportster, the Nightster is a veritable bad boy machine and the Custom comes as the right combination between the first two models.
It’s long been said that it’s the little things that make a bike special and Sportster riders couldn’t know that best as they faced the choice when buying their bikes. A rider would really have to know what he wants from his Sportster before electing the bike as all three of them are being powered by the same XL Evolution 1200cc engine. Pretty much a torque factory, the fuel-injected V-twin motor needs to be rubber-mounted to the frame in order for the vibrations to be absorbed properly rather than making the rider shake like a Chihuahua.
The Sportster 1200 Custom, apart from delivering great engine performance and featuring plenty of torque for a custom model, stands out thanks to a new lighter-weight chrome Slotted Disc Cast Aluminum rear wheel, chrome Laced Steel 21-inch front wheel with new fender, chrome engine highlights, chrome handlebar and headlight, and a polished fuel tank console. The cruiser-like riding position ensured by forward controls and a pull-back handlebar riser contributes at making this Sportster almost too comfortable for its name.
The Sportster 1200 Low also features a pull-back handlebar, a low 26.3-inch seat height, and a 4.5-gallon fuel tank, but what the 2009 model year brings new on the scene is the recalibrated suspension and the front fender which is designed around the tire.
A combination between Harley’s Dark Custom series and rat-rod styling, the 2009 Sportster 1200 Nightster features black finishing for the cover wheel rims and hubs, forks and handlebar, hand and foot controls. Built in the old school style, the bike features old school fork gaiters and a bullet-hole belt guard while the suspensions are the lowest among the three Sportsters (only 25.3 inches from the ground). The black laced steel wheels enhance the Dark Custom look and so is the gas tank which in this case will only eat 3.3 gallons of gas.
1952 - The K model is introduced, a 750cc side-valve, V-Twin driven model. The K model is the direct ancestor of the XL Sportster.
1957 - The XL Sportster replaces the K model. This 55 cubic-inch, overhead valve bike improves upon the power and handling of the K model. The engine and transmission were all new.
1958 - The Sportster CH (XLCH) is introduced. The CH stands for "Competition Hot," and is a more stripped-down version of the original XL. The new motorcycle also introduces the trademark "Peanut" gas tank and staggered dual exhaust.
1959 - Introduction of the Sportster H (XLH).
1967 - The XLH Sportster receives electric start.
1970 - The XR-750 racing motorcycle is introduced. The XR-750 is driven by what is essentially a de-stroked Sportster engine.
1976 - The XLCR or Cafe Racer is introduced and is one of the most unique of all Sportster platform bikes. The black sport motorcycle combines the classic European cafe racer with American styling and power.
1979 - The XLS Roadster is introduced, a more customized version of the traditional Sportster platform.
1982 - The 25th Anniversary Sportster, complete with the more classic "Sportster" gas tank logo, is introduced.
1983 - The XLX-61 is introduced, a more stripped down, yet customized Sportster.
1986 - The Sportster family receives the Sportster Evolution engine in 883 and 1100cc displacements.
1987 - The 30th Anniversary Sportster is introduced.
1988 - Introduction of the first of the Sportster Hugger Motorcycles, which offered a lower seat height.
1996 - The first 1200S "Sport" and 1200C "Custom" bikes are introduced. The Sport offers race styling and power, and the Custom offers unique chrome appointments and other custom features unique to the bike.
1998 - Sportster production moves to Harley-Davidson’s factory in Kansas City, MO.
2002 - Patterned after the race model of the same name, the new Sportster 883R street motorcycle, incorporates racing styling going back to 1970.
2003 - Harley-Davidson’s 2003 model year line-up included Sportsters with 100th Anniversary accoutrements.
2004 - Completely redesigned XL Sportster family is introduced with a redesigned, rubber-mounted Sportster XL Evolution powertrain, a stiffer frame, and a lower seat height.
2005 - XL Sportster 883 Low is introduced with ergonomics designed specifically to fit smaller riders, and that make it easier to lift off its sidestand. A seat height of just 26 inches makes the 883 Low the lowest Sportster ever.
No other manufacturer manages to offer this much variety, but the Japanese manufacturers do offer a custom correspondent to each of their classic and touring ones so there’s plenty to work with.
If that’s the case, it is well worth mentioning the 2009 Honda VTX1300C as it is powered by a 1312cc, liquid-cooled, 52-degree V-twin, SOHC; three valves per cylinder engine. The only disadvantage is that fuel-injection hasn’t yet started to make a dramatic change in this case and the motor still works with a single 38mm constant-velocity carburetor. Shaft drive is of the essence, just like the 17.5 inches high seat and the 4.8 gallons tank are. Honda’s idea of a street rod starts at $10,190.
Once again, the Star V Star 1100 Custom manages to stand out as a veritable Japanese custom bike and a proper model to be considered the alternative for each one of the three Sportsters 1200 as Star also offers a Midnight Custom version. The air-cooled, 75-degree V-twin; SOHC, two valves per cylinder displaces 1063ccs and is also carbureted. Just like on the Honda, you get a shaft final drive, big tank (4.5 gallons) and low seat height (27.2 inches). The Candy Red painted V Star 1100 Custom starts at $9,190 while the Raven one starts at $9,290.
Style is what makes the difference between the Custom, Low and Nightster models even though all three feature the same engine and frame. It’s all a matter of taste and selling pretty much the same product to a larger crowd.
The Sportster 1200 Custom is an overall compact and beautiful representative of its family as it distinguishes thanks to a fairly aggressive look achieved with that 21-inch front wheel, chrome bullet headlight, wide handlebars with pullback risers as well as with the 4.5 gallons fuel tank. In this case, the seat is positioned at 26.5 inches and the rear fender hugs the Chrome Slotted Disc Cast Aluminum 16-inch rear wheel and so enhancing the custom look of this bike. The centerpiece is that powder-coated engine with chrome covers and while we’re at it, it’s impossible to miss the stylish dual exhaust. Color options are numerous and suit every taste: Vivid Black; Dark Blue Pearl; Red Hot Sunglo (New); Two-Tone Flame Blue Pearl/Pewter Pearl (New); Two-Tone Red Hot Sunglo/Smokey Gold (New); Two-Tone Vivid Black/Mirage Orange Pearl; Two-Tone Black Ice/Blue Ice (Custom Color Available October through December 2008); Two-Tone Light Candy Root Beer/Dark Candy Root Beer (Custom Color Available January through March 2
009); Two-Tone Big Purple Flake/Brilliant Silver (Custom Color Available April through May 2009).
Unlike its custom sibling featuring a multi-spoke front wheel, the Sportster 1200 Low model comes with 13-spoke cast aluminum wheels, a redesigned front fender and taller classic seat (26.3 inches). It also features the powder-coated engine with chrome covers, pullback handlebar and a 4.5 gallons tank, but with mid-mount foot controls, the riding position will be much friendlier. It gets even more color options than the Custom, but most of them are found on both bikes: Vivid Black; Dark Blue Pearl; Flame Blue Pearl (New); Red Hot Sunglo (New); Two-Tone White Gold Pearl/Pewter Pearl; Two-Tone Black Ice/Blue Ice (Custom Color Available October through December 2008); Two-Tone Light Candy Root Beer/Dark Candy Root Beer (Custom Color Available January through March 2009); Two-Tone Big Purple Flake/Brilliant Silver (Custom Color Available April through May 2009)Vivid Black; Dark Blue Pearl; Flame Blue Pearl (New); Red Hot Sunglo (New); Two-Tone White Gold Pearl/Pewter Pearl; Two-Tone Black Ice/Blue Ice (Custom Col
or Available October through December 2008); Two-Tone Light Candy Root Beer/Dark Candy Root Beer (Custom Color Available January through March 2009); Two-Tone Big Purple Flake/Brilliant Silver (Custom Color Available April through May 2009).
The easiest to fall for is the 2009 Sportster 1200 Nightster as this is a veritable old school piece of motoring with the engine being powder-coated in Gray and featuring polished covers. The fork gaiters also correspond with the bike’s style and so does the bullet-hole belt guard. Cover wheel rims and hubs, forks and handlebar as well as hand and foot controls are all black painted, but the exhaust pipes are still chromed. There is a solo seat, a side license plate holder and - bad news - the eye-catching classic gas tank can only store 3.3 gallons of fuel so no long rides without stops for the old school kind of rider. The Vivid Black; Two-Tone Brilliant Silver Denim/Black Denim; Two-Tone Mirage Orange Pearl/Vivid Black color schemes available further enhance the old school look of this model.
Each model’s starting price varies depending on the elected paintjob so the Custom one will start at $9,999 for Black, $10,279 for any of the other simple colors, $10,489 for a two-tone paintjob and $10,659 for the custom color. That’s also the case of the Low model which starts at $9,799 for Black, $10,079 for the simple colors, $10,289 for the two-tone colors and $10,459 for the custom color. The Nightster starts either at $9,899 for Black or at $10,389 for the two-tone paintjobs.
The large displacement Sportsters miss no chance to show off and 2009 is one of their best supposed years as people turn to lighter, economic and still powerful Harleys. And the three different models available are sure to satisfy all tastes as these things look just as they would have if custom bike builders manufactured them, not Harley-Davidson. That says a thing or two about the quality build and finishing touches. Simply awesome!
Engine and Transmission
Engine: Air-cooled, Evolution®
Displacement: 73.40 cu. in.
Bore x Stroke: 3.50 in. x 3.81 in.
Engine Torque: 79.00 ft lbs @ 4000 rpm
Fuel System: Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI)
Compression Ratio: 9.7:1
Miles per Gallon: 57 hwy / 42 city
Primary Drive: Chain, 57/38 ratio
Gear Ratio (overall):
Chassis and Dimensions
Brakes: Dual-piston front, single-piston rear
Lean Angle (per SAEJ1168): 31° / 29° / 30° / 29° - Nightster
Exhaust System: Chrome, staggered shorty exhaust w/ dual mufflers / Chrome, slash-cut exhaust with dual mufflers - Nightster
Front Wheel: Chrome, Laced Steel / Black, 13-Spoke Cast Aluminum - Low / Black, Laced Steel - Nightster
Rear Wheel: Chrome, Slotted Disc Cast Aluminum / Black, 13-Spoke Cast Aluminum - Low / Black, Laced Steel - Nightster
Wheel Option: Chrome, Profile Laced Aluminum / Chrome, Laced Steel - Low
Front Tire: MH90-21 54H / 100/90-19 57H - Low and Nightster
Rear Tire: 150/80B16 71H
Length: 90.3 in. / 89.1 in. - Low / 85.8 in. - Nightster
Seat Height: 26.5 in. (laden) / 28.0 in. (unladen) / 26.3 (laden) - Low / 25.3 in.(laden) / 26.3 in. (unladen) - Nightster
Ground Clearance: 4.40 in. / 3.90 in. - Nightster
Rake Steering Head/Trail: 30.1° / 4.70 in. / 29.6° / 4.70 in. - Low / 29.6° / 4.60 in.- Nightster
Wheelbase: 60.4 in. / 59.7 in. - Low / 60.0 in. - Nightster
Track Width: N/A
Fuel Capacity: 4.5 gal. / 3.3 gal. - Nightster
Oil Capacity: 2.8 qt.
Dry Weight: 562.0 lbs. / 557.0 lbs. - Low / 545.0 lbs. - Nightster
Running Order: 589.0 lbs. / 581.0 lbs. - Low / 562.0 lbs. - Nightster
Instruments: Handlebar-mounted electronic speedometer with odometer, time-of-day clock on odometer, dual tripmeter, low fuel warning light, low oil pressure light, engine diagnostics readout, LED indicator lights
Indicator Lamps: High beam, neutral, low oil pressure, turn signals, engine diagnostics, low fuel warning, low battery, security system6 (optional)