Based on the design of the winning XR-750 flat track race bike that experienced its heyday back in the 1970′s, the 2010 Harley-Davidson XR1200 motorcycle is an extremely capable street bike that breaks from your typical Harley-Davidson design on a number of levels.
Firstly, this bike corners extremely well. Most H-D motorcycles I have ridden in the past could not dream of acquiring much lean angle, the XR1200 does it with aplomb (Lean angle is rated at 39 degrees to the right and 40 to the left). The Harley XR1200 is fairly light, coming in at a dry weight of 562 lbs. This allows for a very good amount of “flick-ability.” That is certainly not a word I would associate with a typical Harley, but it’s true on the XR.
Overall rider positioning was much like your standard motorcycle-not too sporty, not too laid back. The low seat positions you right in between those two postures in an upright and comfortable spot. Part of that agility is due in no small measure to the high-performance Dunlop Qualifier radial tires that get nice and sticky when hot and allow you to track well through turns while leaned over.
You might think the fact that the 2010 Harley-Davidson XR1200 has an Evolution engine makes it part of the manufacturer’s usual air-cooled stable but this baby has precision-cooled cylinder heads and a large capacity oil cooler. The cooler seems a bit vulnerable sticking out of the left front side of the bike but I found it did a good job of keeping things in order temperature-wise. The technology here is pretty amazing and I believe Harley-Davidson will adopt this in other future models.
Where the Harley XR1200 does feels like a classic Harley-Davidson in its power delivery, which is a throaty, torque-filled explosion (thanks to its Straight-Shot High performance exhaust) in the lower rpm range. Not as much top-end as some other sport bikes but down low, it is a mighty threatening beast. The motorcycle’s lower rpm strength was thrilling each and every time I got on the gas.
Once up to speed, the engine really loved to simply cruise. This truly opened up my eyes to what a lot of Harley owners I have spoken with over the years have tried to impart on me; the beauty of simply cruising. This motorcycle may crank through the corners like a sport bike but it still has the heart and soul of a cruiser within the 45-degree V-twin.
The 2010 Harley-Davidson XR1200 shares the same wide-style clutch and front brake hand levers as many other modern Harley models. These were an absolute pleasure to use, offering a confident feel for both controls. Speaking of confidence… the XR’s brakes were extremely confidence inspiring stopping you in an instant on demand. This saved me quite often in many a chaotic commuting traffic scenario.
The XR1200 also has fantastic engine braking, which allows you to save a great deal in the brake wear department. That is consistent with the big V-twins of most Harleys but the lighter weight of the XR makes the feel of the throttle roll-off more dramatic than you might expect.
Regarding the side stand, if you are on even a slight downward incline there is a very good chance the bike can fall over if you do not find a better, level area to park on. I found myself constantly pulling back on the bars when parked just to make sure it would not fold into the upright position leaving this gorgeous bike smashed on the ground. Of course putting the bike into first gear is one way to make sure it does not roll forward when parked but even then, one must make sure there is no gear lag whatsoever because it could still be enough to allow the side stand to fold up.
This bike has wide flat-track inspired handlebars that are comfortable to grab. The position of the mirrors could have been wider but worked well nonetheless compared with other sport bikes. The XR also has self-canceling signals that will certainly assist those riders who often forget to turn off their signals after executing a turn. The instrument illumination is superb. Night or day I had no issues reading the digital speedometer or the analog tachometer.
I could also read the small amber reserve light well but still ended up running out of gas once anyway. That was due to the very low amount of actual reserve the bike offers and a shortage of gas stations on the highway I was traversing. I’ve heard plenty of stories from Sportster owners about running out of gas (especially with only 0.5 gallons of reserve) so that was something I should have kept in the back of my mind when setting out on that particular journey.
Another aspect of this motorcycle that reminds you that you are astride an American V-twin is that it rumbles and shakes a lot when you are at idle. Once you get going though the engine smoothes out unbelievably. This sporty just loves to cruise all day long.
Just recently, Harley-Davidson released a Performance Suspension Kit specifically designed for the XR1200. Though I did not get to experience its application on the XR, I am sure it ups the ante with Showa’s new big piston front forks and 36mm rear setup, both of which are fully adjustable. However, the stock setup I had still boasted Showa inverted forks that gave great feedback and absorbed bumps with ease while the Showa rear suspension did a fine job of sweetening my ride.
Some other accessories that are available for the H-D XR1200 include: a luggage rack, removable tail bag, an alarm system, a slick contoured tank bag, detachable sport saddlebags, (though these will not fit if you bought the performance suspension kit), a passenger backrest and bungee bars that allow you to mount your soft luggage or spare helmet to the passenger pillion. You can also add things like braided steel brake lines and other tweaks to suit your specific needs. One thing a commuter should add is either the quick-release detachable super sport windshield or the detachable sport windscreen.
The 2010 Harley XR1200 is available in three colors: Vivid Black, Brilliant Silver Denim and Mirage Orange Pearl. If you prefer your coffee and motorcycles all black though, the X version also comes stock with the previously mentioned high-performance Showa suspension. Everything from the exhaust pipes to the engine is blacked out and menacing looking. Too bad you will have to move overseas to get the fully blacked-out version of this bike-the XR1200X.