Add saddlebags, a detachable windshield and a 4.5-gallon fuel tank to a Sportster and you have a mini-tourer — that happy balance between an around-town bar-hopper and a hit-the-interstate pocket-bagger. It’s been a long time — over 10 years — since Harley did away with the vibration-’o-plenty hard-mount engine. The SuperLow 1200T enjoys the benefits of the rubber-mounted Evolution engine with a smoother ride and better rider comfort for long miles in the saddle.

Departing from the traditional Sportster peanut tank, the SuperLow 1200T comes with a teardrop fuel belly and the quick release windshield lets you go bare for an around-town ride or pop it on the bike for trips up the highway.

Continue reading for my review of the Harley-Davidson SuperLow 1200T.

Design

2016 - 2017 Harley-Davidson SuperLow 1200T
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Traditionally, Sportsters are tall bikes, and used to be top-heavy. A slammed suspension drops the 1200T into Hugger range with a 26.13-inch seat height, and the rider triangle arrangement leaves the rider with plenty of leverage to manage the lowered center-of-gravity. Not only is the bike low, but it’s narrow too; a combination that makes for a straight shot to the ground. Add mid-mount controls to that equation and you have easy access for short inseams and confidence for folks new to two wheels.

I couldn’t find a definitive answer on the laden seat height. In some documentation, Harley gives it as 25.5 inches and in others, it says 26.1. I guess quibbling about a half inch is really just splitting hairs and since neither my husband nor I weigh exactly 180 pounds — separately or together — I couldn’t measure it myself. Low is low and salient point is that I can reach the ground.

One small point that always makes me smile is self-canceling turn signals. Yeah, it’s a small point, but I’m smiling. I know self-cancellers aren’t new and a lot of bikes out there have them, but there are plenty of bikes that still don’t and I think it’s worth a mention when they do, especially when the bikes isn’t a big touring model.

Harley announces proudly that this is a 1200 Sportster with a chrome air cleaner cover emblazon with those words. Also chromed for the bling factor are the headlight visor, speedometer and rear turn signal bar, not to mention the chrome accents on the black timing cover. Add these touches to Harley’s benchmark-quality paint and there’s no doubt you’re on a premium ride.

If the lockable saddlebags aren’t enough, docking points for a luggage rack and sissy bar give you options in the accessories catalog. No longer a necessity out of said catalog is the battery tender harness, which is included as standard equipment on the bike as of the 2017 model year.

Chassis

2016 - 2017 Harley-Davidson SuperLow 1200T
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Typical of Sporties, the twin downtubes form a double-cradle to support the engine/transmission assembly. Gone are the days of the old hard-mount engines, and this frame floats the engine on rubber mounts that absorb much of the hideous vibration with which we used to have to contend. The low stature — 4.2 inches of ground clearance — and steering head angle of 31.1 degrees leaves the 1200T with 5.9 inches of rake; perfect for a blend of straight-line stability and cornering behavior. You won’t be hitting the corners too awfully hard, since you only get 26 degrees of lean to the left, and 25 to the right. Nothing spectacular, but sufficient for the cruiser it is intended to be.

Cast aluminum, five-spoke wheels mount the 18-inch front, and 17-inch rear tires, and a big, 300 mm front disc with 34 mm pistons and rear caliper to match provides the bindage. Even though the factory doesn’t give up the dual front brakes, it’s a light bike, and ABS is an available option if you want to maximize braking safety.

Drivetrain

2016 - 2017 Harley-Davidson SuperLow 1200T
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Based on the original Evo Sporty engine from 1986, the beating heart of the SuperLow 1200 T has changed very little since then with the same all-in-one engine/primary drive/transmission unit and parallel pushrod geometry. As usual, the engine cranks out tractor-like torque figures with 70.8 pound-feet of grunt, and it comes on early, maxing out at 3,500 rpm. This gives you a good holeshot, for what that’s worth in the city, and if you wind it up just a little you will find that it comes alive and almost begs for more.

Air-cooled jugs displace 73.4 cubic-inches and the engine is slightly undersquare with a 3.5-inch bore and 3.811-inch stroke. It’s not a terribly long stroke relative to the bore, but long enough to influence the torque numbers and are typical of the brand.

Electronic fuel injection contributes to the 48 mpg combined mileage, and the closed-loop exhaust system keeps everything copacetic with the emissions folks. A five-speed transmission and belt final drive come geared for reasonable highway rpm.

Pricing

2016 - 2017 Harley-Davidson SuperLow 1200T
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MSRP on the 2017 SuperLow 1200T is $11,899 for basic Vivid Black — just $100 more than last year — and $12,249 for a solid color option, $12,449 for a two-tone colorway or $12,599 for a custom color. For 2017, pick from Vivid Black, Billet Silver, Mysterious Red Sunglo/Velocity Red Sunglo. New-for-2017, you can choose Custom colors in Black Hills Gold/Black Quartz or Bonneville Blue/Fathom Blue on the SuperLow 1200T. Adding the ABS option will set you back another $795 and the security options adds $395 to your bill.

Competitors

2016 - 2017 Harley-Davidson SuperLow 1200T
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2016 - 2018 Triumph Bonneville T100 - T100 Black
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Finding it tough to find a competitor as storied as the Sportster, I went with the Bonneville T100 from Triumph as a match. Triumph has a long history, and though these bikes serve the same purpose, the T100 is as British as the Sporty is American, almost like two sides of the same coin.

Both bikes retain their classic engines, with the 45-degree V-twin on Harley’s side, and the old-school Triumph “twingle” on the far side of the pond. Both engines run with air cooling, so no ugly radiator to break up the lines. The Bonny falls a little short in displacement with 865 cc against 1,200 from Harley. As you might imagine, engine output falls off a bit with only 50.1 pound-feet of grunt against 70.8 from the Evo-powered Sporty. Still, both are good-looking engines.

While the 1200T comes ready-to-roll for some light touring, the Bonny can be kitted with a quick-release windshield and saddlebags, making it more than just a bar hopper — maybe a grocery-getter or light tour bike.

Neither bike is very impressive in the passenger department. Touring on light bikes is one thing, but riding pillion for long distances can be a special kind of Hell. Oh well, there is always the aftermarket.

You can score the Bonneville T1000 for $9,599, a couple grand cheaper than the basic black Sportster 1200T, but at the end of the day it comes down to looks, I think. The ancestral ties present in both designs pose an interesting tug-of-war; to go domestic, or to go Brit, that is the question.

He Said

My husband and fellow motorcycle writer, TJ Hinton, says, “Reminds me very much of how I set up my ’85 XLX, with a windshield and bags for interstate traveling. ’Cept I didn’t have the luxury of rubber-mounted engines or even an Evo motor, it had an old ironhead. I would have almost donated a body part to have a factory-built Sporty set up like this, but I would have to insist in bigger bags, or at least soft bags that will accept a one-gallon milk jug. No use as a grocery-getter if it won’t carry a gallon of milk.”

She Said

"I like the bigger rotors — 300 mm over the old 292 mm from 2015. With only 8 mm difference, it might not seem like a lot, but when you need to stop, you need those brakes to stop you. More is better in my book and dual-front brakes would be even better. As a shorty, you know I’m all over the low seat height and narrow waist. With mid-mount controls and those awesome mini-footboards replacing the pegs, this is right up my alley."

Specifications

Drivetrain:
Engine: Air-cooled Four-cycle 45-degree V-twin, Evolution®
Displacement: 73.4 cubic inches (1,202 cc)
Bore: 3.5 inches (88.9 mm)
Stroke: 3.811 inches (96.8 mm)
Compression Ratio: 10:01
Engine Torque Testing Method: J1349
Maximum Torque: 70.8 Pound-Feet at 3,500 rpm
Fuel System: Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI)
Transmission: Five-Speed Constant mesh, foot shift
Primary Drive: Chain, 38/57 ratio
Gear Ratios (overall) : 1st: 9.315, 2nd: 6.653, 3rd: 4.948, 4th: 4.102, 5th: 3.517
Exhaust: Closed-Loop Exhaust System
Chassis:
Suspension, Rear: dial adjust emulsion shock and twin tube system
Lean Angle, Right: 25 degrees
Lean Angle, Left: 26 degrees
Brakes, Front: 300 mm, Dual 34 mm Pistons
Brakes, Rear: Dual-Piston
Wheel, Front: Black/Silver, Split Five-Spoke Cast Aluminum
Wheel, Rear: Black/Silver, Split Five-Spoke Cast Aluminum
Tire, Front: Michelin® Scorcher™ "11T" 120/70 ZR-18 59W
Tire, Rear: Michelin® Scorcher™ "11T" 150/70 ZR-17 69W
Electric:
Lights (as per country regulation), Indicator Lamps: High beam, neutral, low oil pressure, turn signals, engine diagnostics, low fuel warning, low battery, security system (optional)
Gauges: 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, gear and rpm indicator.
Dimensions:
Length: 87.6 inches
Width: 33.7 inches
Height: 51.9 inches
Seat Height, Laden: 26.13 inches (assuming 180-pound rider)
Seat Height, Unladen: 27.7 inches
Ground Clearance: 4.2 inches
Rake: 31.1 degrees
Trail: 5.7 inches
Wheelbase: 59.1 inches
Details:
Fuel Capacity: 4.5 Gallons
Fuel Reserve: 1 Gallon
Recommended Fuel: Premium Unleaded
Fuel Economy: Combined City/Hwy: 48 mpg
Oil Capacity (w/filter) : 2.8 Quarts
Dry Weight: 573 Pound
Wet Weight: 599 Pound
Maximum Payload: 403 Pound
GVWR: 1,002 Pound
GAWR: Front: 340 Pounds - Rear: 663 Pound
Colors:
2016: Vivid Black, Velocity Red Sunglo, Black Quartz, Cosmic Blue Pearl, Purple Fire/Blackberry Smoke, Billet Silver/Vivid Black, Deep Jade Pearl/Vivid Black
2017: Vivid Black, Billet Silver, Mysterious Red Sunglo/Velocity Red Sunglo, Black Hills Gold/Black Quartz, Bonneville Blue/Fathom Blue
Price:
2016: Vivid Black $11,799, Color Option $12,149, Two-Tone Option $12,349, Custom Color Option $12,499
2017: Vivid Black $11,899, Color Option $12,249, Two-Tone Option $12,449, Custom Color Option $12,599
What do you think?
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