2012 Harley Seventy-Two | Review

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2012 Harley-Davidson XL1200V Seventy-Two – Pure 72 Glam Rock

Nineteen seventy-two was the year of Glam Rock, Vietnam, and Watergate, and NASA still sent men to the Moon. The Godfather was released and women had hairy arm pits.

Just like that begone era, our Harley-Davidson Seventy-Two test bike was also remeniscent of the 70s, glammed-up with its Hard Candy Big Red Flake paint-job.

The XL1200V ’72 is the Harley-Davidson Sportster follow up to the 48, and once again The Motor Company has launched a motorcycle for individuals that like to stand out from the crowd.

And we were able to put some miles on Harley’s newest Sportster in Southern Spain last month. On a very pleasant day in February, I take a seat on the slinky new Sportster 72.

I’m in the sun drenched south of Spain while the rest of Europe is back in the ice age. I fire up the Sporty and grab the mini ape hanger handlebar and let the 1202cc V-twin breath freely while the wind and the sun gently stroke my face.

The sound is unmistakably Sportster and the Evolution engine lives on. The 1202cc Sportsters produce approximately 70 horsepower, but Harley-Davidson only put an emphasis on the torque figure which is 70 ft. lbs.

There’s a definitive clunk each time I shift up the five-speed gearbox, and this is typical Harley-Davidson. You’re never left wondering whether you have hit a false gear or such and you’re left with a solid feel rather than smooth. I tend to keep the Sportsters in the gears longer than the Big Twin models before I shift up than the Big Twin models.

It’s in the name really and even the custom styled 72 tackles the corners with eagerness and light handling. The skinny white walled tires roll effortlessly through the corners. The 21-inch front wheel and the 16-inch rear are graced by retro steel laces.

The 72 is pretty much as narrow as motorcycles come and the rear wheel is fitted with a 150mm tire. Harley-Davidson’s Seventy-Two weighs 556 lbs. ready to ride and for the Motor Company this is light weight.

The seat height is a low 27.9-inch, and the reach to the mini ape hangers for me is pretty much a relaxed arms straight forward affair. I’m 6 foot nothing)and somebody shorter may look even cooler on this bike as you then may have to stretch your arms a little bit upwards. The handlebar for me is placed just below shoulder height when sat in the seat.

Nobody should fear this riding position even if it looks a bit peculiar to those not used to custom bikes. Traditionally ape hangers was only something riders had fitted at their local custom shop, but Harley-Davidson have launched products in the past few years such as the Cross Bones and now the 72, so there’s a slow growing trend for this type of handlebar.

Attitude is the key word here and you’ll definitely separate yourself from the crowd with the 72. You’re $11,199 away from looking like something born very wild but not quite as wild as Peter Fonda in Easy Rider (in real life, he rode a Honda and not a H-D by the way…). You’ll save $600 if you choose the black denim or blue pearl paint options rather than the extravagant Big Red Flake as seen in this test.

Between my legs sits a small but stylish Peanut fuel tank which holds only three times the amount of fuel to oil. The 2.1-gallon capacity might not take you far but at least in style. As is the case with many Harley-Davidson models the 72 comes as standard only with a solo seat and a two-up seat must be purchased as an accessory.

Through the many corners I’m never really pushing because this is a Harley-Davidson and extreme handling isn’t the name of the game. The ground clearance isn’t the best and the foot rests scrape their way through most corners.

I find this quite a charming feature but I also make sure that I’m not carrying too much speed into the corners as it’s better to be safe than sorry. I try to accelerate as soon as possible out of the corners though and use all that torque to my benefit.

Acceleration is also awarded with a rich soundtrack from the V-twin engine. The seat position feels quite free as I can push my upper body forwards easily if I want a little more weight up front and lean right back if I want to cruise along in fifth gear.

The 72 accelerates fast enough and I really like the brakes when it’s time to brush off some of that speed. Only a single brake disc sits on the front wheel but it’s still sufficient when using both the front and rear brake at the same time.

On the last Sportster I tested, the 48, I found that it was a little too easy to bottom out the front fork but this was never an issue on the 72. The suspension is quite hard and not built for outright comfort but it doesn’t really matter much because as you ride into the sunset you also have to keep a petrol station in mind so plenty of breaks should you fancy a longer journey.

2012 Harley-Davidson Seventy-Two Final Thoughts

I am definitely one of those people that like an individual looking vehicle and the 72 is definitely something special in the styling department. I’m fairly confident it is a love/hate thing in this area. The Sportster engine never disappoints and I love the Harley-Davidson soundtrack. It’s off course the mini ape-hangers that will split people’s opinion of this motorcycle but I like it because it has attitude.

2012 Harley-Davidson Seventy-Two Positives/Negatives

+ Postitives

  • Plenty of attitude and sized for a big range of people
  • The 1202cc Evolution V-twin is always a plus
  • Easy handling

_ Negatives

  • Not brilliant ground clearance
  • Tiny fuel tank and styling over functionality isn’t everybody’s cup of tea and hence the 72 is fairly niche

Photography: Stefano Gadda