2011 Harley-Davidson XR1200X: MD First Ride …

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Harley-Davidson XR 1200 Concept

2011 Harley-Davidson XR1200X: MD Ride

Due to the somewhat volatile of the comments posted in response to the

of the 2011 Harley-Davidson XR1200X, I particularly  challenged writing review.

Challenged, in part, this is a performance model H-D that is not strictly about H-D bikes never are, but enthusiasts can’t accept fact.  Challenged, also, I had fun riding the XR1200X. on a race no less!  Conveying the reasons for to some readers may be impossible.


Let’s first at the history of this bike. The project was revealed to the public at the Cologne INTERMOT motorcycle with the goal of boosting in the more sport-oriented European The bike went on sale—only in 2008, much to the dismay of riders craving a sport-oriented

They just had to hold out for a while, though: the XR1200 available as a USA model for 2009 reviewed it here ). It wasn’t a success, but H-D told me it sells XRs than Ducati sells sportbikes, which is a vague way of something like 2000-5000 a year. Not bad.

To build the H-D’s engineers started the frame and motor combo the existing 1200 Sportster—itself in 2003 with an isolation-mounted and heavier, stiffer chassis—and souped it up. The old pushrod 1200cc received lots of changes—downdraft hotter cams, higher and a 2-1-2 exhaust to name a in a loss of a few foot-pounds of torque, but a in claimed horsepower to 90 (most tests put rear-wheel power 75-80 hp). Not quite levels of force, but not bad for a half-century-old design, either.

To control that new-found the chassis got reworked as well. are the spindly-looking forks and swingarm. A swingarm holds a cast and inverted Showa forks the front 18-inch wheel.

Qualifier radials grip the and when it’s time to four-piston calipers and 292mm offer modern braking

Styling is slick and modern—or depending on your inclinations. are the chrome accents, old-fashioned tank, sissy bars, fender supports and all the other styling cues that the XR’s brother Sportsters. The is now sleek plastic, designed to the XR750 flat-track racer.

are rearset, the seat is higher most H-Ds, and there’s a digital speedometer. What’s not is the XR’s porcine ready-to-ride wet of 573 pounds and lengthy 60-inch

For 2011, the re-designated XR1200X even more upgrades. The is now the “Big Piston” Showa, the new thing on superbikes and the “best money can buy,” according to H-D Matt Weber. The new design is and easier to tune for high and compression, plus it’s adjustable with an Allen and small screwdriver.

The new reservoir-equipped rear shocks are fully adjustable, and the 292mm brake rotors are now full-floaters to fade. The engine and exhaust are now out, and the wheels get a cool red rim to go with their black The suspension upgrades alone are through H-D’s accessory but the price of the X only goes up to $11,799.

It’s the sportiest in H-D’s stable, so no better to introduce it than the twisty and Road America racetrack, an hour’s drive from in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. admit to you that I’m a timid guy on a and most racetrack intros me up nights, worried about highsides and 5-figure invoices to exotic machinery. No pre-ride in my tum-tum this time, I’ve ridden the XR1200, and I it’s a pussycat, despite its weight and physical size.

not to say it doesn’t feel like a big because it does. Out on track, the takes effort to turn, the wide bars. But the bike’s low (29.2 inches) and narrow make it easy to handle and easier to get a knee down.

The brakes also require effort than your sportbike. Sure, you can use two fingers, the bike doesn’t really go fast anyway, but those will start getting But they don’t fade (although my fingers did) and do get the bike slowed, with (and modern) feel.

it’s mysterious why the  didn’t order radial-mount which are all the rage with the these days. After they can’t cost too more than the old-style and those Showa BPFs are with them. I guess don’t want to blow mind.

The motor is … for a but just adequate for a track especially with so much to hustle around. Still, entertaining and easy to use, a flat powerband and sorted The five-speed gearbox is clunky, but enough for clutchless upshifts.

Get a drive off a corner, and Road long back section enough pavement to see 121 mph on the digital just inches from my when I’m tucked into a racing crouch to squeeze out last mile per hour.

slow compared to the latest machinery (okay, any supersport but you can still have a good at a trackday (or in the five-race Vance and XR1200 AMA Pro Racing series). The just for the XR, says Harley—gave of good grip at racetrack with no warm-up time The new suspension is really good, confirmed that by hopping on a XR for a half session.

Harley-Davidson XR 1200 Concept

There is no wallowing, even hard-a-port in one of the ancient track’s turns, and the ride is compliant, and not harsh. The adjustability is also a bonus, as I heard few complaints the other riders, ranging that little skinny guy Motorcyclist to A Very Large Man another publication (H-D’s had the bikes set up for a variety of rider

Nobody was babying their That meant footpeg worn down to molten as cornering clearance is the XR’s heel. Forty degrees  of angle sounds like a especially compared to the 30-ish of H-D’s other offerings, but the peg touch down surprisingly Luckily, the good suspenders the bike from bottoming on bumps and possibly highsiding.

At the end of the going around and around a roadcourse like Road on a slower machine is still a time.

After several on the big track, we also got a few sessions in on the Briggs and Stratton Motorplex track. There, the big XR is a handful, but as long as the speeds are kept Still, it’s probably not the choice for super-technical goat-trail-like

Ironically, it nicely fills the role of the classic ’70s Twin, happiest in long, sweepers.

Track testing a few of us headed back to Milwaukee on our taking two-lane roads to see the On the backroads of Wisconsin, roaring the gentle curves, riding green hills, past red barns and grazing cattle, the makes a lot more sense. ample power to pass the RVs and trucks (and to get you in trouble the law, ya, you betcha) and the steering and clearance are more than to keep up a rapid pace.

protection is negligible, but the rearsets and seat put you into a slight lean, cheating the wind so 70 or 80 mph cruising is reasonably comfortable a full-face helmet and earplugs. Get the Interstate, and the big mirrors and upright give you plenty of awareness of surroundings and a commanding presence. The (if quiet) bark from the pipes sounds good: cans sound even

The 3.5-gallon tank should you at least 150 miles at a steady and there’s even soft available for the bike in the H-D catalog: no fringes, conchos or hand-tooled It even has a tolerable seat. town, the XR is as civilized as any other with an easy clutch and light controls. the only I had was lots of heat coming the tuned motor.

So is the XR a good sportbike? Or just a good Harley-Davidson? I’ll describe it as a good motorcycle, for the rider.

It’s a unique the kind a lot of H-D fans—flamboyant or secret—have wanted. You don’t have to excuses for it, don’t have to your decision to buy it, don’t to worry what your will say, you can just it and have a good time. Let’s more models like are in H-D’s future.

Photos by and Nelson

Gabe Ets-Hokin CityBike magazine, a print distributed around the San Francisco Bay He doesn’t want any trouble, but you can get information about CityBike by info@citybike.com .

Harley-Davidson XR 1200 Concept
Harley-Davidson XR 1200 Concept
Harley-Davidson XR 1200 Concept

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