Every now and then, Harley-Davidson looks back at their most successful history times and at the motorcycles representing those times just so that they get inspired and create new interesting models that would determine the growth of their lineups without drifting away from the original American style. Back in 2008, they’ve come up with the XR1200, which is no more or less than a bigger, street legal version of the notorious XR750 raced at AMA Flat Track championships and rode by daredevil Evel Knievel, but the new bike was only destined for Europe. It seems that the demand for such a model there was higher, but now the Harley-Davidson XR1200 is available in the US too as a 2009 model year so we’re fresh off this new American ride and ready to share our experience with you.
All new models come with something special in comparison with their sources of inspiration and the XR1200, as its model name reflects, has a much bigger engine, a 1200 cc V-twin unit featuring a high 10.0:1 compression ratio and developing 90 horsepower at 7,000 rpm and 73.91 ft-lbs of torque at just 4,000 rpm. In order to achieve that, Harley appeals to a range of technical innovations such as performance cams, downdraft fuel injection, precision-cooled cylinder heads and large capacity oil cooler while the motor is rubber mounted to the sporty frame in a successful attempt to reduce vibrations.
With Nissin front brakes featuring four-piston calipers working on two 292mm discs and a 43 mm inverted Showa fork, this is the sportiest Harley-Davidson motorcycle yet and, as strange as the word sporty would sound in the same phrase with the American maker’s name, the bike is a strong branch of the Sportster family although it comes with its own idea of a sports V-twin powered two-wheeler.
Harley-Davidson originally created the XR750 so that it would be raced on the dirt track and to bring them a few trophies from time to time. Little did the company anticipate that they’ll be announcing a road ready version at the 2006 Intermot show in Koln, Germany.
We recently got our hands on the 2009 KTM 990 Super Duke R too and after getting face to face with the XR1200 we find that the two bikes, although implementing different styles, address to the same crowd. In the case of the Austrian bike, riding excitement is ensured by the presence of a 999 cc, twin cylinder, four-stroke, V75-degree engine producing 130 hp and 102 Nm as it enjoys being revved much higher than the Harley does. KTM’s seat is high mounted, but adjustable (from 34.06" to 33.46") and the riding position is similar to the one found on the XR.
One’s a streetfighter and the other one a racing bike with headlight and mirrors, but do satisfy the same riding demands and that’s what brings them closer together in any future buyer’s ignited brain.
Looks will most likely make the difference as those in search of a real roadster motorcycle will always go for the XR1200 and rebel riders with stunting in mind for the Super Duke. As known, race bikes are stripped down to the bare minimum and the bike inspiring the XR1200 makes no exception so looking aggressive comes natural for the orange painted Harley.
The bodywork is pretty much composed from the 3.5 gallons fuel tank and the seats so the road legal version doesn’t drift that much away from its racing sibling. You get an angry and mysterious looking front end characterized by a small headlight, 120 mm wide tire wrapped around an 18-inch wheel and a black fender to match the forks and handlebars.
The V-twin motor is this bike’s centerpiece and is marvelous especially because it manages to look small, just like on the original XR and helps the bike stay proportional. Another nice feature is the rider seat, which is positioned 29.2 inches from the ground at its lowest point, while the passenger’s one is perfectly integrated into the bike’s tail almost as it wasn’t even there. Also, it’s hard not to notice and appreciate the 2-1-2 straight shot exhaust and twin rear shock absorbers.
Available in Vivid Black, Pewter Denim or Mirage Orange Pearl, this is one Harley that will turn heads everywhere it’s ridden.
It’s almost too hard to believe that any bike that looks that good can perform accordingly to the unique style it stands for without compromising performance, but Harley-Davidson breaks that mental barrier with the XR1200 model, the closest thing to a sportsbike that the American Company will most likely ever make. And that’s also how we’re ridden the thing, like an uncompromising sporty motorcycle claimed to be able to keep the pace with most Japanese and European models out there with much more sportive credentials than the XR.
The first thing that strikes you is the engine. Because of the V-twin configuration and 73.40 inches cylinder capacity, Harley manages to offer unique power and torque curves that, interdependently, provide an impressive and constant rush all through the rev range. It provides a healthy ‘get up and go’ feel and the rhythm is sustained in all of the five gears.
Thanks to a proper ergonomic triangle, the rider is accommodated in a fairly natural riding position and feels well in control over the bike mostly thanks to the wide handlebars. It’s impressively easy to lean the 580 lbs heavy XR from side to side as you enter a tight corner, but the best about it is how it performs during the cornering process. Grip, stability and the comfort of knowing that you’ll get down alive from a bike manufactured by a maker which you never thought capable or, better said, interested to deliver a corner carver all blend together inside the helmet and determine the rider to go faster around the next corner. And that’s absolutely no problem thanks to the awesome suspensions and extremely grippy tires.
As much as the engine is revved, it won’t deliver more than a comfortable level of vibrations through the handlebars and pegs. That’s expected because all V-twin engines vibrate, including this rubber mounted one. Also, like on any roadster, wind protection shouldn’t be an important demand because the XR exposes its rider totally. But because it hits a top speed of 120 mph, wind protection isn’t a seriously worrying factor.
Easy to be maneuvered, enough versatile and very lively, the XR is ideal for urban use too although it will never match the performance of a streetfighter in that environment. Still, it will get you fast at work thanks to an almost natural ability to filter traffic.
The Nissin brakes are highly effective and work very well in emergency situations. Also, the bike is very well balanced so it won’t go wondering from one lane to another not even if the rider is less experienced than recommended for this specific model.
Overall, the XR1200 is a great thing to have as it works beautifully both as a commuter and a trip bike, not to mention that it feels like a modern piece of history on wheels.
The 2009 Harley-Davidson XR1200 starts at $10,799 if the simple Black color scheme is what the rider chooses and at $11,079 for the other two special colors that we’ve mentioned at the exterior rubric.
Apart from being an impressive combination of performance and American style, the XR1200 is also the riding proof that we can expect at anything from everyone. It is the bike that refreshes the global Harley-Davidson look around the world and which finally manages to ride along veritable sportsbikes made an all continents.
Engine and Transmission
Engine Type: Air-cooled, Evolution®
Displacement: 73.40 in.
Bore x Stroke: Bore x Stroke
Engine Torque: 73.91 ft lbs @ 4,000 rpm
Fuel System: Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI)
Compression Ratio: 10.0:1
Miles per Gallon: 53 hwy / 38 city
Primary Drive: Chain, 57/34 ratio (57/38 JPN only)
Gear Ratio (overall)
1st - 10.78
2nd - 7.702
3rd - 5.728
4th - 4.748
5th - 4.071
6th - N/A
Chassis and Dimensions
Brakes: Dual 4-Piston, fixed front, single-piston floating rear
Parking Brake: N/A
Lean Angle (per SAEJ1168): 40° / 39°
Exhaust System: Brushed, straight-shot exhaust w/ dual mufflers; black end caps and shield
Front Wheel: Black, 3-Spoke Cast Aluminum
Rear Wheel: Black, 3-Spoke Cast Aluminum
Wheel Option: N/A
Front Tire: 120/70ZR 18 M/C
Rear Tire: 180/55ZR 17 M/C
Length: 85.4 in.
Seat Height: 29.2 in.(laden)/30.5 in.(unladen)
Ground Clearance: 5.80 in.
Rake Steering Head/Trail: 29.3° / 5.11 in.
Wheelbase: 59.8 in.
Track Width: N/A
Fuel Capacity: 3.5 gal.
Oil Capacity: 2.8 qt.
Dry Weight: 562.0 lbs.
Running Order: 580.0 lbs.
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, tachometer
Indicator Lamps: High beam, neutral, low oil pressure, turn signals, engine diagnostics, low fuel warnings, low battery, security system (optional)
Reverse Function: N/A
Features and Highlights