HARLEY-DAVIDSON XR1200 (2008-2012) Review

Published: 16 May 2008

"Performs and handles better than any Harley before"

Harley-Davidson XR1200R action

"Performs and handles better than any Harley before"

  • At a glance
  • 1202cc  -  90 bhp
  • 45 mpg  -  120 miles range
  • Medium seat height (775mm)

Overall Rating 3 out of 5

Basically, perhaps very basically, the Harley-Davidson XR1200R is a good bike. Dynamically the XR1200R performs and handles better than any Harley before. It’s brisk (if not exactly fast), fun to throw around and looks good, too. The main disappointment is that it’s finish and spec is pretty crude and the XR1200R looks like its engineering came out of a Polish shipyard. That said, for Harley it’s a massive, hugely welcome and very significant accomplishment. Whatever it’s fault, because of the XR1200R, the motorcycling world is suddenly a better place.

 

Watch the Harley-Davidson XR1200R take on the Ducati GT1000 and the Moto Guzzi Griso

 

Ride Quality & Brakes 4 out of 5

The Harley-Davidson XR1200R’s riding position is upright but comfortably neutral and the steering is sweet and true (helped by decent Dunlops and the fact that all that weight is carried low). The suspension is set firm and the ride is purposeful rather than classy (the forks and shock may be sporting but they’re by no means sophisticated).

Engine 4 out of 5

The Harley-Davidson XR1200R’s engine is a familiar pushrod V-twin based on that of XL1200 Sportster but with high compression 10.0:1 pistons a raised rev ceiling of 7000rpm, an all-new downdraught electronic sequential port fuel injection system and an upswept, high volume 2:1:2 exhausts. The result is 90bhp and 74ftlbs, compared to the Sportster’s 60-odd, and although suffering slightly from a slack throttle at low revs, it is, in the midrange up to the 7000rpm redline, brisk enough for an old school V-twin with a certain hunger to be thrashed.

Build Quality & Reliability 2 out of 5

For a Harley-Davidson, the XR1200R has simply horrid build quality and detailing. With a Ducati Sport Classic you can lose yourself for hours in the garage just gazing and admiring the detailing and quality. With the XR1200 the opposite is true. There’s little to admire and the more you look the more you find that offends. It’s as if it was designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel. The pegs, sidestand and exhaust bracket look like offcuts from a shipyard. The cable and wiring routing is, to be blunt, appalling and only Harley could make a new, lightweight aluminium swing arm or wheels look so heavy. Should be reliable, though.

Value & Running Costs 4 out of 5

For £7600-odd, the Harley-Davidson XR1200R is pretty much on the money to compete with logical rivals from Ducati (GT1000, £6995), Guzzi (Griso £7499) and BMW (R1200R £8295). The poor quality is a disappointment, but overall the XR1200R is a Harley, and a pretty good one at that, which makes it fair value. Find a Harley-Davidson XR1200 for sale.

Insurance group: 14 of 17 – compare motorcycle insurance quotes now.

Equipment 2 out of 5

As it’s inspired by a racing bike, the XR750 flat tracker, it’s no real surprise that Harley-Davidson’s XR1200R road version is pretty basic, too. Clocks are a slightly disappointing standard Harley fare tacho with a fairly tacky LCD speedo tacked on the side. Switchgear is Harley’s usual, bulky cruiser stuff, complete with oddball separate-switch-on each-bar indicators. The mirrors are crude and barely passable, there’s a grab strap but no rail for pillions and the much trumpeted aircraft fuel filler was probably from a Sopwith Camel rather than a stealth fighter. Otherwise, that’s yer lot.

 

 

Owners' Reviews

9 owners have reviewed their HARLEY-DAVIDSON XR1200 (2008-2012) and rated it in a number of areas. Read what they have to say and what they like and dislike about the bike below.

We’re currently improving the way this section works, which means we’ve had to suspend the submission of new owners’ reviews for a short period. Please check back soon.

Summary of Owners' Reviews
Overall Rating 3.4 out of 5
Ride Quality & Brakes 3.4 out of 5
Engine 3.9 out of 5
Build Quality & Reliability 2.9 out of 5
Value & Running Costs 3.2 out of 5
Equipment 3 out of 5
4 out of 5

just what i ordered

25 April 2011 by BREE

Having changed bikes so many times in the last four years I decided to look at a Harley (never owned one before ) I'm not into all the chrome etc so went straight for the XR1200 what a revelation Looks great, sounds better, and it has two types of... Read more riding style cozy and laid back typical Harley, or fun and fast ( for our roads ) round the twistys. Yes it is a Harley so do not expect the exotic looks of an Italian bike etc, But it is practical the engine is bullet proof the gearbox works AND it attracts Looks like a top model ( because it is different ) at last i have found the bike that i really love just getting out of the garage to ride cause its such fun, and that's what bikes are about........

Overall Rating 4 out of 5
Ride Quality & Brakes 4 out of 5
Engine 4 out of 5
Build Quality & Reliability 4 out of 5
Value & Running Costs 4 out of 5
Equipment 3 out of 5
4 out of 5

A Giant Step for Harley

13 February 2010 by BillyRR

This is a real fun bike. It's a bit basic for the money, but that seems to be what you get with a Harley. You could pick a lot of faults that Jap manufacturers have refined over time on their bikes, but this bike has an engine of character, capable... Read more handling and is as much fun as anything I've ever ridden.

Overall Rating 4 out of 5
Ride Quality & Brakes 4 out of 5
Engine 4 out of 5
Build Quality & Reliability 3 out of 5
Value & Running Costs 3 out of 5
Equipment 3 out of 5
5 out of 5

A great sport bike

15 August 2009 by cjgarvin

I bought a Black XR1200 and love it! I had it modified for racing at the dealership even before taking delivery. The stock XR1200 is a good bike, but I wanted a great bike and installed a Dynojet Power Commander V that's for closed circuit racing. I... Read more replaced the heavy, inefficient exhaust with a SuperTrapp race exhaust system that's 20 pounds lighter. This increased my engine horsepower by 20% and 20% at the rear wheel. My buddy who is a Ducati rider liked the bike even though he's not a fan of Harley. With my mods, he gave is a 9.5 out of ten, which shocked me. It's a "Naked Bike" with a retro look. If you're into oldschool and want a little American rumble and speed--buy one and modify it for race.

Overall Rating 5 out of 5
Ride Quality & Brakes 5 out of 5
Engine 4 out of 5
Build Quality & Reliability 5 out of 5
Value & Running Costs 5 out of 5
Equipment 5 out of 5
4 out of 5

Ideal sunday bike!

14 April 2009 by cooperman_66

Test rode one today for an hour, found it initially wobbly and awkward, gears stiff, engine reluctant and indicators a pain!! Headed out of town and it all comes together better, less gear changes needed as I was using the torque instead, easy... Read more handling that belies it's weight and a pleasant ride. The handling is OK, no sports bike as others have stated and I didn't expect one! The clocks are OK, I quite liked the layout although the idiot lights are small. The other controls are not ideal, the levers are too close to the bars for me as are the mirrors but I got used to it. As for the experience, well, things are harder to enjoy. I found it took thought at times, the indicators, the way it doesn't really stop and creeps forwards when you pull the clutch in, the way the stand is about 6' long and difficult to get out it all led me to enjoy riding it but not consider buying one.

Overall Rating 4 out of 5
Ride Quality & Brakes 3 out of 5
Engine 3 out of 5
Build Quality & Reliability 2 out of 5
Value & Running Costs 2 out of 5
Equipment 2 out of 5
2 out of 5

HD Build Quality

17 February 2009 by badassbikerbastard

I have a Sportster. The build quality is absolutely apauling. Here goes: 1. The front wheel has huge rust spots that are not just cosmetic. 2. The rear wheel has lost ALL its chrome plate. Fell off like tin foil! 3. The belt guard is rusty. 4.... Read more Paint has fallen of in chunks from the rear mudguard. 5. The side panel does not stay on. I ordered new fixings and was told they were a new design (wonder why) and guess what...they don't work. Back to cable ties then. 6. Oil comes out of the air filter! 7. The mirrors have 100's tiny bubbles of corosion. 8. The black finish on the engine cases is falling off. 9. The horn is useless. 10. The exhaust grounds out on the mildest of right hand bends and roundabouts are no go areas. 11. It wont pull top gear bellow 50mph! 12. The carburation is shite 13. The seat was awful 14. The laquer on the fork sliders has gone and the alloy is corroding nicely. I could go on but I wont. If you buy a Harley Sportster expect to replace everything for a better item including: seat, starter motors, horns, exhausts, air filter, etc etc etc. Shite, shite, shite, shite, shite, shite oh and more shite.

Overall Rating 2 out of 5
Ride Quality & Brakes 3 out of 5
Engine 4 out of 5
Build Quality & Reliability 1 out of 5
Value & Running Costs 1 out of 5
Equipment 2 out of 5
2 out of 5

Beauty Is Sadly Skin Deep......

02 November 2008 by toe_down_sv_racing

Fact Number 1 :- I adore flat trackers and the new trend in biking (IMO will be sizable in 5 years) - The Street Tracker. there are a few around already and are very cute indeed! Fact Number 2 :- Street trackers are Light, Single or Double cyl and... Read more Vibey to buggery! Fact Number 3 :- the best ones look half-finished. My problem with the bike itself stemmed from a harley-rehash to what is quite unfairly forgotten or dismissed, the most sucessful racing vehicle in history!!!! the XR750 generations have pertty much dominated the oval since they came out in the late 60's!!! So with racing lineage such as this, and a future customer base, it would of been obvious that a bike as Americana as a Chopper, would make a european entrance. Sadly however, despite my actually wanting for a HD (which takes a lot, i hate nearly all of them), I was left feeling quite unenchanted after a 4 hour demo lease ride. I got out on a nice warm day, and I havnt seen any of the rust problems a lot of people mention, and the off-colour of the pipes is a high nickle composite alloy plating, if you need to know!! I come from my beloved SV650s, basic, but brilliant if ridden with no brain, and i was sort of expecting the same. Never riding a HD before, the first thing that shocked me was the weight of the thing, it feels more than 250kg i can tell you, add the tank weight and the rest, it'l prolly push 275kg. I wanted to know about the so-called twisty-road-fun, as a knee/toe/peg-down SV nutter i wasnt expecting the world, but the riding position makes life shocking if you like to move your body around on a bike. I didnt mind the weight, it was just how to hadle the bike round (although i took the chicken strips back a full 2 inches on the rear 180 section hahahah), it just couldnt gel. The actual load-out was, IMO, good. HD have used a lot of features, with a euro-twist to make an inspired attempt, the duck-tail XR racing seat unit is excelent and the suspensions are good enough for peg-down if you really want to. My only gripe with equipment is those frigging gay-ass lights HD think look cool... A Bandit gives off more light!!!! Not cool. The best bit was the engine! It was fairly smooth and the clutch (after slacking it a bit) made short work of the vast torque which lay throbbing away, and oh boy, does that bike made vibrations!!! In the end, i feel like HD tried to make a fairly cheap version of a bike they should of made into a 150kg single for £5000, they would of sold more than you could beleive and really made street trackers super cool, but its the opposite, the XR trundles off to its normal boring 55 y/o semi-retired male traditional market and try to put a bit of cool into something that really, is just a "tries-too-hard" bike. However, if you want one, its a market of its own, so maybe it is just what your looking for ..... Oh, and who keeps original cans on a bike... come off it :-P

Overall Rating 2 out of 5
Ride Quality & Brakes 1 out of 5
Engine 4 out of 5
Build Quality & Reliability 2 out of 5
Value & Running Costs 3 out of 5
Equipment 3 out of 5
4 out of 5

After three weeks

22 July 2008 by scotty61

I've owned the XR for three weeks, and loved every minute of it. This bike is in my opinion aimed at anyone who wants a Harley they can get out and have some fun on. (and by that, i don't mean sitting in the local HD dealers car park on a Sunday... Read more afternoon comparing bling) Before i bought the bike i took a dealers test bike up into Derbyshire for about three hours, thats the sort of roads this thing was meant to be ridden on. And if you are gonna test ride this bike plan a route that takes you out onto some decent roads, it aint no good ridding this thing around town/city, you wont get a proper feel for it. And once i got my head round it (which didnt take long) i pretty much fell in love with it, it was in its element on the winding Derbyshire roads (Castleton, Edale, Snake Pass and such). I've been ridding Harley's for twenty two years or so and i like to ride quick and as you will possibly know Harley's aint the best handling bikes on the planet, that's where the XR comes into its own. Most road tests are done buy guys who usually ride sport bikes and they are always gonna come down a little hard on Harley's, thats the way they are, but this bike is fun by the bucket load if you like Harley's, but if you are into "the look at me shinny bits syndrome" this aint gonna do it for ya. I can sort of put it in a nutshell, i smoke and every time i pull up for a cig i smoke it in three drags cos i cant waight to get my arse back on it and have more fun. It goes well (for a Harley0 it stops well (for a Harley and it handles amazingly (for a Harley) just dont go there looking for a Jap sports bike, cos it aint......I love this thing! But i would strongly advise anyone considering buying any bike to test ride it first.. Your Honor, i rest my case!

Overall Rating 4 out of 5
Ride Quality & Brakes 4 out of 5
Engine 4 out of 5
Build Quality & Reliability 4 out of 5
Value & Running Costs 4 out of 5
Equipment 4 out of 5
2 out of 5

Test Drive

13 July 2008 by Stravtech

I had a couple of hours on one of these new XR1200 machines from Harley yesterday (12/July/2008). The first thing that caught my eye was the rust on the exhaust exit covers. Less than 500 miles on the clock and rusting already? Not a good indication... Read more of how it will look in 2 years time methinks? I have ridden a Buell in the past and that was a fun experience but this is the first time I have ever ridden a Harley so I did not expect the almost agricultural vibrations at tick over. My old dad had a Massey Ferguson 35 tractor on the farm that vibrated less than this! After a while they did get a bit aggravating and would keep the revs slightly higher to avoid them and relieve the pain in my butt and hips that they caused through the strangely shaped seat. Oh yes and those damned foot pegs they need to be sprung loaded they nothing less than a bloody liability!! The throttle response seemed to have a slight delay - possibly because the bike was not fully run in - I would need another test drive after it had done 5000 miles to see. I do like the style of this bike, I have often though about owning a flat tracker and this is the only Harley that I have ever actually been interested in. However riding it was just an OK experience quite a let down in fact. Somehow I did not feel connected to the bike the way that I had expected to. The handling was quite good, the brakes were good and the engine seemed to do everything that I asked of it - but - the link between rider and bike just seemed a bit woolly. Perhaps it was because the bars were a bit too wide and they had to be moved too far to get the desired effect or it might have been the fact that the throttle response had that irritating lag or that my butt and hips were getting sore after only 70 miles or it was these scabby footpegs. I just cannot put my finger on the reason but suffice to say the connection was not there for me. Before I rode it I was ready to open my wallet and put the deposit down on a new one. It is really unfortunate because I really wanted to like the bike and be full of enthusiasm for it but I'm sorry to say this but my bell was not rung and I am really glad I had a test ride before I parted with any cash!!!

Overall Rating 2 out of 5
Ride Quality & Brakes 2 out of 5
Engine 3 out of 5
Build Quality & Reliability 1 out of 5
Value & Running Costs 3 out of 5
Equipment 2 out of 5
4 out of 5

XR1200

29 June 2008 by Trikedu

Orderd my XR in March picked it up yesterday, I have coverd 238 miles so far and my only complaint is the riders footpegs which tend to catch on the riders leg as you lift your feet to move of they stay up as there not spring loaded, the... Read more build/finish on mine is good and the instuments are clear and minimal the handling is great it goes round bends well with no problem and feels very light for such a heavy bike. I had not seen an XR in the flesh before yesterday so was a bit worried I might have bought the wrong bike for me, well after having done some miles I can honestly say I am not disappointed, hope to have the first service soon then I can have some real fun.

Overall Rating 4 out of 5
Ride Quality & Brakes 5 out of 5
Engine 5 out of 5
Build Quality & Reliability 4 out of 5
Value & Running Costs 4 out of 5
Equipment 3 out of 5
Read all 9 owners' reviews in full

Facts & Figures

Model info
Year introduced 2008
Year discontinued 2012
Original price £7,655
Warranty term (when new) Two year unlimited mileage
Running costs
Insurance group 14 of 17
Annual road tax £80
Annual service cost -
Performance
Max power 90 bhp
Max torque 74 ft-lb
Top speed 125 mph
1/4-mile acceleration 12.42 secs
Average fuel consumption 45 mpg
Tank range 120 miles
Specification
Engine size 1202cc
Engine type Air-cooled pushrod, 2v V-twin. Fuel injected, five gears
Frame type Tubular steel double cradle
Fuel capacity 13.3 litres
Seat height 775mm
Bike weight 250kg
Front suspension 43mm Showa, USD forks, no adjust
Rear suspension Twin rear shocks, adjustable for preload only
Front brake 2 x 292mm front discs with Nissin four-piston calipers
Rear brake 260mm rear disc with single piston caliper
Front tyre size 120/70 ZR18
Rear tyre size 180/55 ZR17

History & Versions

Model history

2008: Harley-Davidson XR1200R launched.

Other versions

None.

Photo Gallery

  • Harley-Davidson XR1200R action
  • Harley-Davidson XR1200R static
  • Harley-Davidson XR1200R detail
  • Harley-Davidson XR1200R review static
  • Harley-Davidson XR1200R static
  • Harley-Davidson XR1200R static
  • Harley-Davidson XR1200R action
  • Harley-Davidson XR1200R action
  • Harley-Davidson XR1200R action
  • Harley-Davidson XR1200R detail
  • HARLEY-DAVIDSON XR1200  (2008-2012)
  • Harley-Davidson XR1200R action
  • Harley-Davidson XR1200R action
  • Harley-Davidson XR1200R static
  • Harley-Davidson XR1200R detail
  • Harley-Davidson XR1200R review static
  • Harley-Davidson XR1200R static
  • Harley-Davidson XR1200R static
  • Harley-Davidson XR1200R action
  • Harley-Davidson XR1200R action
  • Harley-Davidson XR1200R action
  • Harley-Davidson XR1200R detail
  • Harley-Davidson XR1200R action
All related reviews