Harley-Davidson XR1200X | Test

2011 Sportster 1200

While Harley-Davidson has had factory race teams from 1914 to the present, the number of truly sporting Harley-Davidson motorcycles has been very limited in recent decades. Buell Motorcycle tried to leverage the Harley-Davidson sporting heritage, but the innovative sport bikes never grabbed the public’s imagination the way Harley-Davidson might have envisioned.

Enter the 2011 Harley-Davidson Sportster XR1200X, an up-rated XR1200 that now features adjustable suspension, along with a blacked-out powertrain and exhaust, revised tank graphics, and black wheels with an orange rim pinstripe. With Buell gone, Harley has turned to the XR1200X to fill the gap, and promotes the nine-round AMA Pro Racing Vance & Hines XR1200 Series with a $45,000 contingency fund.

However, don’t get the idea that the Sportster XR1200X is a modern upright sportbike. It straddles the old and the new, with wide flattrack-style bars and a 1200cc pushrod air-cooled Evolution motor to match Showa Big Piston Forks and downdraft Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI), making the XR1200X undeniably an anachronism.

Having said that, the 2011 XR 1200 X is certainly an enjoyable motorcycle, if you’re willing to live and ride within its means. Creaking the scales at a claimed 573 pounds wet (about 150 pounds more than an Aprilia Tuono, another V-twin upright naked sport bike), the XR1200X is a big, heavy motorcycle.

Rake is out at a leisurely 29 degrees (four degrees more than a Tuono) and the wheelbase is 4.5 inches longer than said Tuono. All of this is to remind you that you aren’t getting a serious V-twin sport bike – you’re getting a Harley-Davidson sport bike.

That’s certainly not necessarily a bad thing. Around town, a hardcore sport bike can be more trouble than it’s worth. The XR1200X makes for a great in-town bike. The big Evolution motor pulls strongly right off idle and moves effortlessly between stoplights, with the torque peaking at 4000 rpm. The powerband runs confidently from stall to redline, and the five-speed transmission’s ratios give you plenty of choices.

You won’t really feel the need to rev the Sportster XR1200X’s motor. Of course, you will spin it up much higher than a big-inch cruising Harley, but 6000 rpm is found fairly frequently on the giant tachometer – the only clock on the bike. The clutch isn’t what you’d call light and the big thick lever is pure Harley, but it gets the job done as you’re dodging SUVs and kids in hopped up Civics.

The ergonomics are a bit strange on the XR1200X. The wide bars are just that – wide. The pegs are high for good cornering clearance, but certainly not rear set. This gives the XR1200X mixed ergos – your bottom half feels cramped, but it’s wide-open spaces for your top half.

After a full day of exploring Los Angeles surface streets, you might feel it in the knees, but you won’t feel it in your back. The rubber-mounted motor sends plenty of vibes your way, but they aren’t at a fatiguing frequency.

Given the weight and dimensions of the XR1200X, you won’t be doing a lot of darting around town. The sporty Sportster prefers deliberate action. The 120mm front Harley-specific Dunlop D209 sits fairly fat on the 18-inch hoop, so steering doesn’t even pretend to be quick. Add in the bike’s length and you get the picture. You’re better off bullying your way through traffic, using the bike’s size and muscle.

On the freeway, the 2011 Harley-Davidson XR1200X lets you know how fast you’re going. Sure, there’s the petite digital speed readout to the lower left of the big tach, but there’s also no effort to isolate you from the windblast. Run it up to 75 mph and the wide bars make sure you feel every bit of the breeze. The XR1200 will run up to triple-digits, and the stepped seat gives you a confident perch for those sorts of activities, but you do need to make sure you have a good grasp on the grips.

I never came to grips with the XR1200X as a canyon bike. The wide bars seem awkward and the raked-out front-end has a feeling of disconnection from the rest of the bike. Add to that the mushy feel of the fat front tire and "sporty" becomes a relative term.

At 292mm, the XR1200X’s front discs aren’t particularly large, though four-piston calipers grab them. With 573 pounds of bike (plus rider) hurling down a road, you are glad to have that fat front tire. The rear disc is a substantial 260mm in diameter, and you will find yourself making use of the rear disc, as the front end doesn’t dive much during braking.

Cornering clearance is good, but it’s hard to feel confident to use it with the ergonomics being what they are. The Dunlops acquit themselves nicely, so it’s all up to your comfort zone. You have to decide how much envelope-pushing do you consider wise on a bike this big and heavy, and don’t forget that the rubber mounted engine does not add to a feeling of confidence.

Riders who decide that they want to go at a comfortable pace will find a lot to like about the Harley-Davidson sport bike. It is comfortable. Shifting is optional. The brakes have a decent feel. The bike doesn’t know the meaning of the word "twitchy." To get the most out of the Sportster XR1200X, you must work with it, not against it – like any bike.

Approach the 2011 Harley-Davidson Sportster XR1200X with the right mindset and in the right environment, and you’ll be generously rewarded. There are a few glitches here and there in the handling and ergonomics, but that torquey motor is a pure joy. The slow handling can work in your favor if you ride it correctly. And, finally, you get that Harley-Davidson charisma, something no other sport bike can deliver.

2011 Harley-Davidson Sportster XR1200X | Motorcycle Specs

Length…87.6 in. (2225 mm)
Overall Width…36.6 in. (930 mm)
Overall Height…45.7 in. (1161 mm)
Seat Height:
• Laden…29.2 in. (742 mm)
• Unladen…31.3 in. (795 mm)
Ground Clearance
5.9 in. (150 mm)
Rake (steering head)…29°
Fork Angle…27.5°
Trail…5.2 in. (132 mm)
Wheelbase…60.0 in. (1524 mm)
Tires (Dunlop Qualifier D209 front and rear):
• Front…120/70ZR18
• Rear…180/55ZR17
Fuel Capacity…3.5 gal. (13.2 L)
Oil Capacity (w/filter)…2.8 qts. (2.6 L)
Transmission Capacity…1.0 qts.
• As Shipped…551 lbs. (249.9 kg)
• In Running Order…573 lbs. (259.9 kg)
• Gross Vehicle Weight Rating…1000 lbs. (453.6 kg)
• Gross Axle Weight Rating
• Front…340 lbs. (154.2 kg)
• Rear…660 lbs. (299.4 kg)
Engine…Air-cooled, Evolution with oil cooled heads
Valves…Pushrod-operated, overhead valves with hydraulic, self-adjusting lifters; two valves per cylinder
Bore x Stroke…3.50 in. x 3.812 in. (88.9 mm x 96.8 mm)
Displacement…73.3 cu. in. (1200 cc)
Compression Ratio…10.0:1
Fuel System…Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI)
Air Cleaner…Paper cartridge type
Lubrication System…Dry-sump
Primary Drive…Chain, 57/34 ratio
Final Drive…Belt, 68/28 ratio
Clutch…Multi-plate, wet
Frame…Mild steel tubular frame, circular sections; cast junctions
Swingarm…Aluminum Cast
Front Forks…43 mm Inverted Showa
Rear Shocks…Fully-adjustable
Black, 3-spoke Cast Aluminum
• Front…18 in. x 3.5 in. (457 mm x 89 mm)
• Rear…17 in. x 5.5 in. (432 mm x 140 mm)
• Caliper Type…Dual 4-Piston, fixed front, single-piston floating rear
• Rotor Type (diameter x width)…Patented, uniform expansion rotors
• Front (dual)…11.5 in. x .20 in. (292 mm x 5 mm)
• Rear…10.24 in. x .28 in. (260 mm x 7 mm)
Suspension Travel:
• Front Wheel…4.92 in. (125 mm)
• Rear Wheel…3.5 in. (89 mm)
Torque…73.9 ft/lbs @ 4000 rpm (100 Nm @ 4000 rpm)
Lean Angle:
• Right…39°
• Left…40°
Fuel Economy (EPA urban/highway test)…38/53 mpg (6.19/4.44 L/100 km)
Battery (per Battery Council International Rating)…Sealed, maintenance-free, 12V, 12-amp/hour
Charging…Single-phase, 30-amp system (357W @ 13.5V, 2000 rpm, 405W max power @ 13.5V)
Starting…1.2 kW electric with solenoid shift starter motor engagement
Lights (as per country regulation):
• Headlamp (quartz halogen)…55-watt low beam, 60-watt high beam
• Tail/Stop Lights…8W/28W (5W/21W)
• Turn Signal Lights…28W (21W) self-canceling
• Indicator Lamps…High beam, neutral, low oil pressure, turn signals, engine diagnostics, low fuel warnings, low battery, security system (optional)
Warranty…24 months (unlimited mileage)
Service Interval…First 1,000 miles (1,600 km), every 5,000 miles (8,000 km) thereafter

Motorcycle Riding Apparel

  • Helmet: Fulmer V2
  • Eyewear: 7EYE Bali
  • Jacket: Tour Master Magnum Leather Jacket
  • Gloves: Tour Master Custom Midweight Glove
  • Pants: Cortech Mod Denim
  • Boots: Harley-Davidson Walter




Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.