2014 Harley-Davidson Sportster 1200 Custom H-D1 | Review

2014 Harley-Davidson Sportster 1200 Custom H-D1 | Cruiser Motorcycle Test

Harley-Davidson knows how to turn out a great custom cruising motorcycle, and the 2014 Sportster 1200 Custom is no exception. We tested a 1200 Custom decked out with H-D1 accessory mini apes, a solo seat, and one sweet paisley red paint job. There is lots to love here.

Slip a leg over the invitingly low 28-inch saddle and plant both feet solidly on the ground. Although the Sportster tips the scales at 584 pounds (claimed curb weight), like all Harleys, the Sportster carries its weight nice and low, which makes handling surprisingly non-intimidating.

Tip it off the kickstand, thumb the starter button, and listen to the iconic H-D motor rumble from the cool dual staggered exhausts. Yes, this Sportster is a 1200cc bike with the muscle and grunt to get your attention, but really, piloting the beast is easy. Shhh!

There is a satisfyingly muscular thunk when you shift into 1st gear, and the undersquare 73.4 cubic inch Evolution engine eases away from the curb with the unhurried confidence of 71 ft/lbs of force behind you.

With plenty of torque on tap, you can cruise along just as laid back, or as aggressive as you like. Second gear down the boulevard is a satisfying ride, catching glances from passers by, envious of your relaxed, unfettered vibe. As traffic ebbs and flows, you roll on or off the throttle, never shifting a gear nor missing a beat.

Or kick it up a notch into 3rd, carving through the dawdlers and making time. With fists forward and high with the optional mini apes, and your boots firmly planted on the semi-forward footpegs, the Sportster 1200 paints a don’t-mess-with-me stance.

Looking cool frequently comes at the expense of comfort, but the ergonomics on the Sportster 1200 are well designed. Even with the taller bars, the riding position isn’t a shoulder-numbing or backache-producing experience on all-day rides, and H-D found the perfect mid-point between outstretched and bent legs.

At freeway speeds, about the only time you’ll find yourself shifting up to 5th gear, the Sportster 1200 Custom continues to be a smooth, easy ride. The rubber-mounted motor keeps vibration to a minimum (except where you want it, at idle), making this a mount you can comfortably take for a long ride without becoming weary. With high handlebars, an upright seating position, and no fairing, I expected to collect a lot of wind blast at freeway speeds. Surprisingly, there is little buffeting up to 70 mph.

Cruising through the hills on the Sportster 1200 can be as lazy or pulse rousing as you please. The bike moves through turns easily with enough cornering clearance for a lively ride. The 16-inch front Scorcher’s fat footprint tracks securely, the beefy rubber giving plenty of confidence, especially when water or debris crosses your path. Despite the wide front tire, steering is not heavy. With 30 degrees of rake, the chassis sits in a nice spot between pure sporting and cruising.

The nicely effective rear rotor can handle most of your deceleration needs. If you plan ahead, you’ll rarely touch the right lever on your handlebar. When immediate braking action is required, the Sportster’s new, larger 300mm disc up front uses the wide rubber to good effect. Also, at both ends, Harley has given the 1200 Custom braided steel brake lines and more-rigid calipers. The optional ABS went into action when I pressed the foot pedal a bit too hard; Harley’s ABS works, thought it is not remotely transparent.

Suspension on the Sportster 1200 Custom is hobbled by the meager just-over-two inches of travel at the rear wheel (there are twice as many up front). It’s a fine ride on smooth roads, but over patchwork pavement and the lumps and bumps of under-maintained urban streets, the preload-adjustable dual shocks don’t take enough of the edge off to be comfortable. The high-profile tires add some cushion, but it’s still inadequate. The faster the pace, the worse the ride. Stick to decently maintained roads and you will be just fine.

Controls on the bike are mostly spot on, with good feel and action at the hand and foot levers. Finding neutral at a stop, or even while rolling up to a stop, isn’t as easy as I’d like, though.

I am not a fan of H-D’s individual left and right turn signals. H-D says they are right where you want them to be, but the thumb-activated buttons get a thumbs-down from me. I do not have small hands—I wear women’s large gloves—yet I have to readjust my throttle hand for my thumb to reach the button. The saving grace is that they are self-cancelling.

As an around-town bike, the Sportster 1200 Custom is hard to beat. The power is easily managed, yet there when you need it. Getting up to freeway speeds only requires a strong twist of the throttle. In rural hill country, you’ll be satisfied with the handling of the Custom, with many thanks going to the confidence inspiring fat Michelin Scorcher tires. And, with a 4.5-gallon fuel tank, stops for gas are infrequent no matter where you’re riding.

The big-inch Harley-Davidsons certainly have their place, yet a maneuverable and agile bike like the 2014 Harley-Davidson Sportster 1200 Custom is always going to be an enjoyable ride for urban dwellers. Harley’s H-D1 customization options allow you to “own” the Custom to whatever level you choose. Harley promotes the 1200 Custom as a fat custom, and it lives up to the billing.

Photography by Don Williams

Riding Style
Helmet: Arai RX-Q Vibe
Jacket: Harley-Davidson Women’s Moxie 3-in-1 Leather
Gloves: Harley-Davidson Women’s Dual-Source Heated Gloves
Pants: Ugly Bros Aegis-K
Boots: Harley-Davidson Footwear Rosa

2014 Harley-Davidson Sportster 1200 Custom Specifications

Engine…Air-cooled, Evolution
Valves…Pushrod-operated overhead valves with hydraulic, self-adjusting lifters; two valves per cylinder
Bore x Stroke…3.5 inches x 3.811 inches
Displacement…73.4 cubic inches
Compression Ratio…10:1
Fuel System…Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI)
Air Cleaner…Paper cartridge type
Lubrication System…Dry-sump

Primary Drive…Chain, 38/57 ratio
Final Drive…Belt, 29/68 ratio
Clutch…Multiplate, wet
Gear Ratios (overall):

Torque…70.8 ft/lbs @ 3500 RPM
Lean Angle:
Right…26.2 degrees
Left… 28.3 degrees
Fuel Economy
EPA urban/highway test…48 mpg (4.9 L/100 km)

Battery (per Battery Council International Rating)…Sealed, maintenance-free, 12V, 12 amp/hour, 200 cca
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
Turn Signal Lights
Indicator Lamps…8W/28W per lamp
28W self-canceling
High beam, neutral, low oil pressure, turn signals, engine diagnostics, low fuel warning, low battery, security system (optional)

Frame…Mild steel, tubular frame; circular sections; cast junctions
Swingarm…Mild steel, rectangular tube section, stamped junctions; MIG welded
Front Forks…39 mm
Rear Shocks…Coil-over; preload dual-adjustable
Wheels…Chrome 5-Spoke Cast Aluminum
Front..16 inches x 3 inches
Rear…16 inches x 3 inches
Tires (Michelin Scorcher “31” front and rear):
Front…130/90B16 72H
Rear…150/80B16 77H
Optional Anti-lock Braking System…Dual-piston front, dual-piston rear
Solid, uniform expansion rotors
Rotor Type (diameter x width):
Front…11.8 inches x .2 inches
Rear…10.24 inches x .28 inches
Suspension Travel:
Front Wheel…4.12 inches
Rear Wheel…2.12 inches

Length …87.6 inches
Overall Width…33.1 inches
Overall Height…44.9 inches Seat Height:
Laden…26.6 inches
Unladen…28 inches
Ground Clearance…4.3 inches)
Rake (steering head)…30í
Fork Angle…30í
Trail…4.2 inches
Wheelbase…59.8 inches
Fuel Capacity…4.5 gal. (warning light at approximately 1.0 gal.)
Oil Capacity (w/ filter)…2.8 quarts
Transmission Capacity…1 quart
As Shipped…562 lbs.
In Running Order…584 lbs.
Gross Vehicle Weight Rating…1000 lbs.
Gross Axle Weight Rating
Front…335 lbs.
Rear…665 lbs.

24 months (unlimited mileage)
Service Interval…First 1000 miles, every
5000 miles thereafter

2014 Harley-Davidson Sportster 1200 Custom Colors and Prices
Vivid Black…$10,649
Solids…Big Blue Pearl, Candy Orange…$10,964
Two-Tones…Charcoal Pearl/Vivid Black…$11,184