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Harley Davidson SPORTSTER 1200 Custom Motorbike Review

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Harley-Davidson XL1200 Sportster motorcycle review - Riding
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MCN overall verdict rating is 4

The mid-sized Harley-Davidson XL1200 Sportster makes a lot of sense. It’s got a bit more presence, punch and space than the smaller 883cc family but without the weight and unwieldy feel of the 1340/1450cc big end motorcycles. It’s classic, air cooled Harley – if you want one you’ll probably not consider anything else. Full name is the Harley-Davidson XL1200 Sportster Custom.


MCN rating rating is 3
Owners' rating rating is 3.5

The Harley-Davidson XL1200 Sportster's engine is undeniably crude – but is that a fault or a virtue on a motorcycle like this? No Japanese engine can touch it for character. It’s not that different to the OHV lump that powered Harley’s 1957 Sportster. Historic, torquey, vibey it is but sporty it certainly ain’t. But Harleys are about taking it easy and being seen, not rushing about - and the Harley-Davidson XL1200 Sportster is no exception. Gearbox is equally agricultural yet lovable.

Ride and Handling

MCN rating rating is 2
Owners' rating rating is 3.5

Whisper it – modern Harleys handle ok – nicely even. Sports bike jockeys who’ve never tried one may scoff but the Harley-Davidson XL1200 Sportster manages to be less wallowy than most Japanese cruisers. Unfortunately short travel suspension on the rear means bumps ruin the ride, especially if you’re heavy or carrying a passenger. Unfortunately this Harley-Davidson XL1200C Sportster model only gets a single front disc, which is inadequate – other 1200s got two.


MCN rating rating is 4
Owners' rating rating is 3.5

Standard equipment on the Harley-Davidson XL1200 Sportster is not lavish but belt drive is low maintenance. 90% of Harley-Davidson XL1200 Sportsters get customised, most commonly from Harley-Davidson’s own brand of aftermarket parts, Screamin’ Eagle. Exhausts are common as are jet kits to improve low speed running and prevent stalling. There’s a telephone book of accessories to choose from and some even add to the Harley-Davidson XL1200 Sportster's used value.

Harley-Davidson XL1200 Sportster (1995-current)

Detail Value
New price £6,995
Used price range View Harley Davidson SPORTSTER 1200 bikes for sale to see current asking prices
Engine size 1200 cc
Power 64 bhp
Top speed 110 mph
Insurance group 13 of 17
  MCN ratings Owners' ratings
Overall rating is 4 rating is 4
Engine rating is 3 rating is 3.5
Ride & Handling rating is 2 rating is 3.5
Equipment rating is 4 rating is 3.5
Quality & Reliability rating is 4 rating is 3.5
Value rating is 4 rating is 4.5

Quality and Reliability

MCN rating rating is 4
Owners' rating rating is 3.5

The latest Harleys, Harley-Davidson XL1200 Sportster included, are well built. The American company’s really improved things since the 70s and 80s and even the 90s. The finish is quite durable but remember the Harley-Davidson XL1200 Sportster is a motorcycle made for posing – any corrosion is a disaster so avoid winter use or clean religiously. Some Harley-Davidson XL1200 Sportsters lose a little oil through the air filter so keep an eye on levels.


MCN rating rating is 4
Owners' rating rating is 4.5

The Harley-Davidson XL1200 Sportster isn't particularly cheap to buy but like all Harleys, depreciation is extremely low. The Harley-Davidson XL1200 Sportster's fuel consumption is impressive and insurance isn’t OTT – but not cheap for the performance – thieves like Harleys. Maintenance costs are pretty low. The engine’s simple (and the valves don’t need adjusting on later Harley-Davidson XL1200 Sportsters). Find a Harley-Davidson Sportster for sale.


Insurance group: 13 of 17

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Model History

1995: Harley-Davidson XL1200 Sportster introduced, replacing the XLH1200.
1997: New sealed battery.
1998: Harley-Davidson XL1200 Sportster gets new diagnostic port for oil pump.
2000: Uprated disc brakes and seat.

Other Versions

Harley-Davidson XL1200S Sportster: ‘Sportier’ member of the 1200 family. Cast wheels 19” front, 16” rear, twin front discs, flat track handlebars, more sophisticated suspension with cartridge forks. 1985-2003.
Harley-Davidson XL1200R Sportster: Uprated brakes, rubber engine mounts, 19” front, 16” rear wheels. 2003-2005.


Top speed 110 mph
1/4-mile acceleration 13.8 secs
Max power 64 bhp
Max torque 69 ft-lb
Weight 255 kg
Seat height 710 mm
Fuel capacity 17 litres
Average fuel consumption 48 mpg
Tank range 175 miles
Annual road tax
Insurance group 13 of 17
Engine size 1200 cc
Engine specification 4v V-twin, 5 gears
Frame Steel spine
Front suspension adjustment None
Rear suspension adjustment Preload
Front brakes 292mm disc
Rear brake 292mm disc
Front tyre size 90/90 x 21
Rear tyre size 150/80 x 16

Owners' Overall Rating rating is 3.5(12 reviews)

  • My Review


    Average rating rating is 2

    Show Details

    Ride and Handling
    Quality and Reliabilty

    This shite is noisy, unreliable and uncomfortable., I chopped in a perfectly good thundercat for this lump of crap, what a mistake that was.It nearly vibrates itself to pieces, it overheats and handles like a pig.Oh, and it breaks down and cant get fuel into the engine. I'd not even give one of these to someone I strongly disliked. Its for sale now-someone please buy this and end my nightmare.Grin Factor? Only when people come up to me and say how wonderful it must be to own a Hog!!

    21 January 2002

  • My Review


    Average rating rating is 3.5

    Show Details

    Ride and Handling
    Quality and Reliabilty

    It's a basic Harley, so all the usual stuff applies: It looks great (if you like Harleys) You get laughed at (by people who don't like Harleys) It sounds great (at least it does now, after the Stage 1) It accelerates well enough around town. It is slow everywhere else. Stock brakes were crap - but the 4-pot PM brakes are more than enough. It vibrates. After an hour you lose all feeling in your hands. You don't want to go above 70 with the screen fitted. I always wanted a Harley, and was not dissapointed with this one. I have just traded it in for a Heritage Classic, but I miss my old Sportster!

    04 January 2002


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Touring XL1200R

I just did a five day tour to the west coast if Ireland, ring of Kerry etc. I have the XL1200R with sundowner seat, Harley lugage system and no screen. I did 520 miles on the first day (13 hours in the saddle) and had no aches or pain at all!!! The engine didn't miss a stroke and it was a joy to ride. Just cleaned he muck off and it looks as good as new again. One set back was when I melted my waterproof trousers on the exhaust, ah well. This is a great bike and I can't wait to ue it when I move to Cyprus in Sept, won't need the waterproofs either.

03 August 2008 13:15


User's Badge



bought it new in 2006 and loved it but later that year I  had a test ride on a Dyna Street Bob with the 6 speed box and 96cu inches in its barrels....... oh dear. lol

05 April 2008 10:09



harley 1200 Roadster

After going through most of what the japanese had to offer over the last nine years I decided to settle for america's finest.I bought a 2006 1200R last june and have not regretted it.Although I won't be taking it out on salty roads again.It's taken a full tin of  aircraft grade anti corrosion stuff to get it back to somewhere near what it was. I usually do my riding in and around Snowdonia and these days I'm quite happy for Mr Brunstrom's men to chase after the youngsters who seem to treat North Wales as a big race track. Still,while they are chasing them they are leaving me alone!


23 March 2008 13:24



Harley build quality

Utter shite build quality. My Sportster is a 2004 Custom with 2700 miles on it and its kept garaged. All the chrome has fallen off my rear wheel, like tin foil, the chrome has bubbled in numerous other places such as front wheel and mirrors. The laquer on the fork bottoms has failed and the alloy has corrosion. I could see right through holes in the sceaming eagle filter after 2700 miles. The side panels are held on by the crapiest plastic fixings I've ever seen. The suspension cannot handle two up at all. The ground clearance is apauling on right handers with the exhaust decking out on every roundabout. Harley don't do a locking fuel cap as standard. I mean a £700 chinese bike has one but not a Harley! No rev counter and this thing needs one badly. I could continue but I think you will have got the picture. This next bit will come as a surprise.... I love my Harley its great to ride despite all of the above.

24 August 2007 00:06



harley sportster

After my crash on the a406 2 years ago on my ZZR1100 going under a stolen car driven bye a uninsured little girl who thought it cool to go down the motorway the WRONG way i needed a new set of wheels so got a pan euro which cant fault then tryed a bmw 1150rt looked good just dident feel right so went with my son and ended up with a fireblade being 6foot 2 bit cramped and so thought i would slow down cos getting a old cogger now got me self a sportster it had lots of goodies on it but dident sound right so stuck some drag pipes on it and now i just love it nice to go for a ride and see the country side in stead of a blurr ha ha

30 July 2007 12:54

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