2012 Harley Seventy-Two | Test

  • 2012-harley-davidson-sportster-xl1200v-seventy-two-test 2
  • 2012-harley-davidson-sportster-xl1200v-seventy-two-test 3
  • 2012-harley-davidson-sportster-xl1200v-seventy-two-test 4
  • 2012-harley-davidson-sportster-xl1200v-seventy-two-test 5
  • 2012-harley-davidson-sportster-xl1200v-seventy-two-test 1

2012 Harley Seventy-Two Review

Having never ridden a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, let alone anything in the Sportster class, I was invited to a test ride the Harley-Davidson Seventy-Two. Ultimate MotorCycling editor Don Williams selected the Sportster Seventy-Two for my maiden Harley-Davidson ride, as it is a personal favorite of his (see June/July 2012 issue).

Don had so much fun riding it, that he wanted to see how a non-Harley rider would react the this new retro-cruiser from The Motor Company. My own riding experience has been dirt bikes and the dual-sport Kawasaki KLR650, so the Seventy-Two is quite a change.

From a visual perspective, the Seventy-Two is an eye-catcher, due to its 1970s era styling with a nod to the classic Schwinn Sting-Ray bicycle-a chopper look with mini-ape handlebars, a narrow 21″ wire spoke front wheel, white wall tires, single saddle seat, pinstripes on the fender (spend the extra bucks for the Hard Candy Big Red Flake paint job) and low-slung dual pipes going down the rider’s right side. Even though the style is 1970s, the technology is not. Examples are a fuel-injected engine and disk brakes, which are more than adequate for stopping, and belt final drive instead of a traditional chain drive.

Because the Harley 72 has a fuel-injected system, I was confounded when I looked for the petcock and choke when starting it for the first time. Just push the button, hear the unmistakable sound of combustion, and go. The rubber-mounted air-cooled, 1200cc Evolution engine shakes quite a bit at a stop, but smoothes out once you get going.

However, what surprised me the most is how well the Seventy-Two’s 555 pounds (claimed “running order” weight) is distributed, and how that translates to a solid balanced feel and fairly easy handling in different riding conditions. Coming from a dirt bike background, the 28-inch seat height seemed low to me, though it is fairly high for a cruiser.

Part of the test ride’s course for the H-D Seventy-Two was through various turns and uphill and downhill roads on the Palo Verdes Peninsula, southwest of Los Angeles. On these types of roads, the Harley-Davidson handled pretty well, with smooth, controlled acceleration and braking, and handled corners without feeling like the steering was heavy and awkward.

My one criticism of the 72’s cornering ability is that the light feeling of the narrow Dunlop front did not inspire confidence to accelerate out of a turn’s midpoint as I normally would. This light feeling on the front is also due in part to the seat position that places the rider’s weight towards the bike’s 150mm, 16-inch rear Dunlop, which delivers plenty of traction.

The five-speed transmission shifts surely and deliberately, and you can always find the right gear for any situation. The engine’s low-end torque design-maximum torque of 73 ft/lbs comes in at 3500 rpm- severely limits the rider’s ability to lug or stall the engine out. There is also plenty of power for the motorcycle to be ridden on open highways as well as back roads.

Keep in mind that the bike’s small classic Peanut Tank (2.1 gallons, with reserve) does constrain the rider’s one-shot riding range to less than 100 miles, and the low-fuel light comes on after consuming just 1.5 gallons of a full tank.

That may not be a bad characteristic due to the fact that the seat’s design starts making the rider feel uncomfortable-stiffness in the legs in spite of forward foot pegs, lower back feeling a bit stiff-after about an hour-and-half of continuous riding. However, being over six feet tall, I may be a bit bigger than the Seventy-Two’s intended audience.

On some of the rougher Palos Verdes roads-lots of earth movement there-the old-school short twin-shock suspension travel in the back, just over two inches, becomes apparent. While the forks do fine (they have 5.7 inches of travel), the back definitely gets bounced around. It’s not too bad, really-it kinda feels like the old hardtail Sting-Rays!

The 72’s instrumentation is pretty basic-canister speedometer and no tach (which isn’t missed). This layout is in keeping with its 1970s era styling and is elegant in the simplicity.

The handlebar design is comfortable and allows a fairly easy reach to the throttle. The horn and high-beam switches, in the typical location above the left grip, are large and easy to feel without having to look to see which button you are trying to operate.

I do have one major annoyance with the right turn indicator control, which is on the right handlebar, per Harley-Davidson tradition. When pushing this switch to indicate a lane change or moving right turn, the action also ends up causing me to inadvertently to start twisting the throttle, which can catch the rider off guard. The only technique I cold come up with was to loosen my grip on the throttle to prevent my hand from rolling the throttle open when I went to use this turn indicator.

Overall, the Harley-Davidson Sportster Seventy-Two motorcycle is fun to ride and a good model for those who have not previously ridden a Harley-Davidson cruiser. The fun factor is that this bike allows you to ride in a lightened up mode like you did as a kid when riding your bicycle with friends through the neighborhood.


Helmet: Icon Alliance Headtrip
Jacket: Tour Master Raven
Gloves: Tour Master Cruiser Gel
Pants: Tour Master Flex
Boots: Tour Master Vintage 2.0

2012 Harley-Davidson XL 1200V Sportster Seventy-Two Specs:


  • Length (in./mm): 894/2270
  • Seat Height (laden) (in./mm): 26.6/675
  • Wheelbase (in./mm): 60/1524
  • Tire Front: Dunlop Harley-Davidson Series narrow whitewall / D402F MH90-2154H
  • Tire Rear: Dunlop Harley-Davidson Series narrow whitewall / D401 150/80B1671H
  • Wheel Front: Chrome Steel Laced 21 in. x 2.15 in. (533 mm. x 76 mm.)
  • Wheel Rear: Chrome Steel Laced 16 in. x 3 in. (406.4 mm x 76.2 mm)
  • Fuel Capacity (U.S. gals/liters): 2.1/7.9
  • Weight as Shipped (lbs./kg): 545/247.2


  • Air-cooled, Evolution
  • Displacement (in./cc): 73.3/1200
  • Valves: Pushrod-operated, overhead valves with hydraulic, self-adjusting lifters; two valves per cylinder
  • Bore x Stroke: 3.5 in. x 3.812 in. (88.9 mm x 96.8 mm)
  • Fuel System: Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI)
  • Transmission: 5-speed
  • Miles Per Gallon: 48 MPG combined City/Hwy
  • Horsepower: 73 ft. lbs. torque @ 3500 rpm

2012 Harley-Davidson Seventy-Two Color Options/MSRP:

  • Hard Candy Big Red Flake with period pinstripe details on fenders and fuel tank / $11,199
  • Black Denim / $10,499
  • Big Blue Pearl / $10,499

Action Photography by Don Williams