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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.

Engine

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.

Equipment

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.

Value

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

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.

Specifications

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)

  • Add Stage 1

    DonaldB

    Average rating rating is 4

    Show Details

    Overall
    Ride and Handling
    Equipment
    Quality and Reliabilty
    Value
    Engine

    When I bought the XL1200C I found it comfortable and the handling good for a custom but the performance was rubbish for a 1200cc. I added Screamin Eagle pipes and a Stage 1 Thunder Slide kit to the carb, set the mixture a little rich via the adjustable needle (Trial and Error)and what a difference, goes more like a Buell than a Harley and calmed the vibration down a bit too. Well worth some time in the garage.

    09 February 2010

  • Just lie back and enjoy it

    EnglishTexan

    Average rating rating is 3.5

    Show Details

    Overall
    Ride and Handling
    Equipment
    Quality and Reliabilty
    Value
    Engine

    Covered about 2,500 miles on mine so far. Stage 1 exhausts, etc. Engine vibration took some getting used to, esp. at low revs, but secret sees to be in rider attitude - don't rush it, just cruise at around 55/60mph and you'll love it, and have lots in hand if needed. Surprisingly comfortable and easy in traffic. Dual discs mean brakes are fine. You WILL spend lots of money on customisation! 52mpg.

    29 June 2009

  • fun fun fun

    lance-jack

    Average rating rating is 3.5

    Show Details

    Overall
    Ride and Handling
    Equipment
    Quality and Reliabilty
    Value
    Engine

    Had one for five years, foolishly sold it to get a Fatboy. Stage one with open pipes, solo seat, 16" apes, forkbrace ( it did make a wee bit of difference ), etc. Rode it all year round. Front brake is pants, but if you keep on top off it, it can do the job ( add braided hoses and don't skimp on the quality pads ). Rear brake fine. Riding position was good, longest covered in one day was about 340 miles. Good gas milage on the motorway, but I had a small tank ( 2 gallons ) on mine so frequent top-ups needed. Oil consumption wasn't a problem. Parts can be expensive but the second-hand market is very good and if you punt around you can get some real cheap parts to keep you going ( buy you service items from the states with a mate or two, get 'em for half the UK, including the postage. Change your oil frequently, it does make a difference. Cover the external parts that can corrode quite quickly with Corrosion X ( used in the aircraft industry ). If you don't want to buy chrome parts you can once again get the standard parts very cheaply, as most people buy shiney bits and biff the standard finish. Loved it, would have one again any time. Don't let Harley snobbery put you off. Some think that Sportsters are not "big" or "real" Harleys. This is B.S. Think of it more as an evolution from the big old British bikes in their day. Best off all, get an older one ( post '91, with the five speed box. Trust me, it makes a difference on motorways! ) for £2500, ride it for a while, if you don't like it you will get your money back on it. Cheers!

    31 March 2007

  • Awesome custom road bike for UK summer riding.

    Motoguzzifan

    Average rating rating is 4

    Show Details

    Overall
    Ride and Handling
    Equipment
    Quality and Reliabilty
    Value
    Engine

    Get the stage one modification carried out. This takes off the draconian engine restrictions that Harley Davidson put in place (amusingly called "Harley Tax"). It rides fine before. It rides even better after the stage one modification has been carried out! Strengths: Tremendous torque of the engine. Awesome Harley Davidson V-Twin rumble. Lack of need to be travelling at 90+ mph all the time, like when you are on a sports bike. Weaknesses: Engine vibration at "real" motorway cruising speeds (you know, like 90+ mph). Lovely at 70 -80 mph. Perfectly capable of overtaking at up to 100+mph, you just wouldn't want to keep it there for any length of time!

    26 July 2006

  • 2006 1200R - bought new

    Armand_Tanzarian

    Average rating rating is 4.5

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    Overall
    Ride and Handling
    Equipment
    Quality and Reliabilty
    Value
    Engine

    Traded in a Kawasaki W650 for this. Had the Stage One done from scratch which does improve performance but makes a hell of a noise. It even began to annoy me, let alone the neigbours. Changed back to standard pipes after a 1000 miles. "Rolling thunder" has now been replaced by "Passing Flatulence". How hard can it be to achieve a happy medium (obviously too hard for HD). Now I have the quiet pipes on I'm amazed how clattery the engine is. The bike is penty fast enough (about 100mph) but is hard work on the motorway. The twin front disks are perfectly good (unlike the single disk on the custom and 883, which barely works at all). The Sportster is a bit like a 60s muscle car. Great to look at, good for a laugh, but not really that practical. Strengths: Looks great, good fun for short blasts. Weaknesses:
    A bit crude, hard work above 70MPH.

    22 May 2006

  • Forget the Sports-bike ethic and you will love it!

    dickthebuttockscruttock

    Average rating rating is 4

    Show Details

    Overall
    Ride and Handling
    Equipment
    Quality and Reliabilty
    Value
    Engine

    I have recently taken my first step into the cruiser market and bought a Harley 1200 Sportster Custom. I have always had Japanese sports bikes in the past and increasingly moved up the speed scale...Gsxr6, Fireblade, Blackbird, R1. In the end I got so fed-up with the frustration of riding a sports bike on the road I decided to take up racing instead, and vowed never to have a sports bike on the road again. Cutting a long story short - Totally forget about the speed thing before you even buy this bike.... vibes,easy torquey cruising and shop window posing is what this bike is all about. Lots of people asking you about the bike wherever you stop, and no worries/pressures about speed camera's, knee down's and wheelies. Whilst still getting my speed fix on the track, this has been a breath of fresh air on the road. Try to go for a bike with as many extras fitted as poss, as harley bits are pricey. RECOMMENDED :o) Strengths: Sound "with decent pipes and filter". Torque, Chrome, Harley street cred. Weaknesses: Suspension on Custom models a bit crude/harsh. Better on Sport models aparently. Some models lose a tiny bit of oil through the air-filter...sorted with a £25 kit. Cleaning it is a bit of a bugger!

    15 October 2005

  • My Review

    Gromit

    Average rating rating is 4

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    Overall
    Ride and Handling
    Equipment
    Quality and Reliabilty
    Value
    Engine

    Never thought I'd ever own a Harley but you know what? It's just great fun - I've escaped the sportsbike rat-race and am really enjoying biking once again. You can have a lot of fun below 80mph and this bike is proof - and when it looks and sounds this good, who cares if it doesn't have 140bhp? 1200 conversion well worth having - makes a huge difference and doesn't cost a fortune. Sportsters are all about biking in its crudest, most basic form - long may it continue!! I'm a convert.

    07 November 2002

  • My Review

    aappdd

    Average rating rating is 3.5

    Show Details

    Overall
    Ride and Handling
    Equipment
    Quality and Reliabilty
    Value
    Engine

    Bloody marvelous! Sounds fantastic, very economical, never ridden a bike thats generated so much comment and intertest, just love ridding it. Buy an 883 and convert it to a 1200 - have ridden conversion and not only v.quick (for a Harley) but you build a great 1200 for less than it costs to buy standard. If you don't believe me then check out www.sportster.org. My only piece of advice - if your a sports bike rider/fan DON'T BY A SPORTSTER or any H-D for that matter, I guarantee you won't like it.


    06 September 2002

  • My Review

    yobnhoj

    Average rating rating is 4.5

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    Ride and Handling
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    Value
    Engine

    Before I owned this bike ( h-d xl833r)and as a born again biker who had never ridden a bike biggger than a 250 in the last 33 years, I had in 4 years bought new a cbr250rr, vt250, hornet 600, ducati 750 monster, and a 20001 cbr600 f4i. Since I think knees down, stoppies and wheelies are total crap I bought a harley- davidson xl883r sportster where my feet sit directly below my knees, the handle bars allow the mirrors to see pass my shoulders , I have a belt drive, hydraulic tappets, twin disc front end, a front end that is rock solid, a great colour scheme and design and "the" badge. If this bike doesn't give you the urge check your pulse... I also still have the monster.

    16 August 2002

  • My Review

    burgs

    Average rating rating is 4

    Show Details

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    Engine

    The coolest bike on the road

    22 January 2002

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j_skearney

j_skearneysays

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

sprag

User's Badge

spragsays

sportster1200R

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

steve253

steve253says

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

badassbikerbastard

badassbikerbastardsays

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

mack6969

mack6969says

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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