Harley Seventy-Two: 70s Flair With Reliability

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2012 Harley-Davidson Seventy-Two Review

The 1970s were all about radical, bobbed choppers, flake paint and minimalist, less-is-more style. And Harley-Davidson’s Seventy-Two XL1200V Sportster oozes with attitude and style from that bygone era.

While the equipment back then might not have been the most reliable, today with this new take on a Sporty, you get a state-of-the-art package plus the cool looks to go along with it.

Believe me, if I had a nickel for every time someone stopped me while I was testing this bike to tell me how cool the whitewall tires or paint job were, I would be quite pleased.

It’s no surprise because the 72’s big flake paint, round old skool-style air-cleaner cover and mini ape-hanger handlebars simply look great. When you ride one, it’s a story of opposites-you feel like you’re on a modernly equipped bike straight out of a Clint Eastwood Dirty Harry flick.

If you click here you’ll see a sort of artsy in-action video of this bike. You’ll get the feeling straight away about what this machine is all about – usable stylishness.

Something I had a love/hate feeling for was the Seventy-Two Sportster’s peanut gas tank. It looks absolutely bad-ass but it only holds 2.1 gallons. If you are using this bike as a bar-hopper and staying mostly local, that is not a real concern. But if you plan to ride the Seventy-Two any real distance, you will be stopping a lot to fill up. I prefer to ride my bikes for miles at a time and dislike having to stop to get gas. Having to do that a lot can become a drag.

Color-wise you can get the Seventy-Two in Black Denim, Big Blue Pearl or the Hard Candy Big Red Flake version that I had which goes for $11,199. The first two colors will cost you $10,499.

With a 28 inch seat height (unladen) you are nice and low and you feel it with regard to the center of gravity between the 60-inch wheelbase. The bike is actually quite flickable thanks to that low center of gravity and since I was actually teaching an MSF Experienced RiderCourse while testing this moto, I got to experience a whole host of riding exercises on it.

Swerving was easily accomplished even with the mini-apes cause they were pulled back a bit placing them in a comfortable position for this rider. If positioning them higher up is more your thing you can easily do that but it will definitely change the bike’s maneuvering characteristics.
During the cornering exercises, I found that H-D’s Seventy-Two cornered quite well, not touching the peg feelers too soon but certainly earlier than say the XR1200 Sporty.

The Air-cooled, Evolution engine has a Bore 3.5 in. Bore and a 3.812 in. Displacement is 73.3 cu in and a Compression Ratio of 9.7:1 The bike’s 1200cc engine pulls hard and solid all throughout the rpm range which was very nice. Likewise, the moto’s Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection operated smoothly and offered great throttle feel and feedback. That is something I love about the Evo engine- it has a unique, authoritative thrust.

You ride on 90mm front and 150mm rear Dunlop whitewalls that are wrapped around sweet chrome steel-laced wheels on the Seventy-Two. The front 39mm forks offer a nice 5.7 inches of travel, and the dual-piston, single disc front and single-piston, single disc rear brakes stopped the bike with affirmation. Single disc fronts always scare me given the amount of braking you need to rely on up front but these worked great during the MSF quick stop exercise. That extra piston offered a definite feeling of confidence.

The last exercise of the day was Multiple Curves and is a capstone exercise that puts much of what we did throughout the course into one experience. The Seventy-Two’s strong, low-down torque allowed me to have a perfect steady throttle throughout the multiple corners and braking was effortless when setting up my entry speeds for each of them.

After class I had to ride thirty miles home, all on a highway. I’m not a big fan of forward-mounted controls but the Seventy-Two XL1200V’s were much appreciated and quite comfortable especially at speed on the highway. At speed, the bike is very stable and gives you a smooth riding experience. Just turn the throttle lock to give your right hand a break and enjoy the ride.

The sun set during that ride and the single pod instrument panel was nicely illuminated. I do miss having a tach but the simplicity of this moto’s instrument display is more in line with its retro look. Truly, it is like you are looking back in time when your eyes take this bike in.

Essentially Harley has given you what you once paid a lot for in aftermarket styling, right out of the box. The dramatic paint, wheel package and stance alone are worth the relatively low sticker price. For a head-turning street cruiser the Harley-Davidson Seventy-Two XL1200V Sportster is certainly hard to beat.

Alan Tecchio is a freelance writer based in the NY metro area who has interviewed hundreds of celebrities. He is an avid motorcyclist and active Motorcycle Safety Foundation RiderCoach. Alan also wrote a weekly motorcycle column for twelve years in Steppin’ Out Magazine, a NY metro area entertainment publication. He is the lead singer of the rock band Autumn Hour (autumnhour.com) and sings for the heavy metal band Hades (myspace.com/hadesusa) Seven Witches and the musical project Minds Mirrors (myspace.com/mindsmirrorsproject).