2014 Harley-Davidson SuperLow 1200T Touring Sportster Test
Consider this – in 2012 Harley-Davidson held an impressive 45.6-percent of the US market share for young men and women (ages 18-34), and an even more impressive 62.1-percent for women (ages 35+).
With these stats in mind, there’s now wonder why Harley-Davidson designed its newest Sportster – the SuperLow 1200T.
The concept was simple – take the low-slung and easy-to-handle chassis of the SuperLow 883, add the power of the Evolution 1200 V-Twin engine that produces 70.8 ft.-lb. of torque, and throw in some touring features, including a detachable windshield and lockable saddle bags.
Now tweak the ergonomics to cater to riders 5’1″ to 5’7″, and offer the SuperLow at a friendly entry-level price of around $12,000. The outcome? The Motor Company has just created a machine to garner an even stronger stranglehold on the demographic above.
At 599 lb. in running order, the 1200T is 118 lb. lighter than Harley’s lightest Big Twin motorcycle that arrives with similar touring capabilities – the Switchback.
The SuperLow 1200T may have been modeled off of the Switchback regarding detachable saddlebags and windscreen.But the 1200T has a few over the Switchback, including ease of preload adjustment via an easy-to-grab knob behind the left saddlebag, and a better fuel range.
So the freshness is there, but how does the 2014 Harley SuperLow 1200T actually ride in the real world? We were at the SuperLow 1200T’s launch held during Daytona Bike Week, and besides a few things that needed adjusting, and simply being a bit too tall, we didn’t find many complaints.
Yep, too tall. At just over 5’11”, the bike was a bit small me. As stated previously, Harley calibrated the SuperLow 1200T’s ergonomics for riders 5’1″ to 5’7″, allowing for shorter riders to easily reach the handlebars and foot controls.
The “Reduced Reach” seat with 4″ of padding also aids in pushing the rider further forward, which again caused some issues for me. And with a 26.1″ seat height, flat footing goes without saying.
After a few hours of testing the other bike launched at Daytona, the Low Rider, I immediately felt cramped when I climbed aboard the 1200T. This was expected, considering the bike’s chassis is based on Harley’s SuperLow 883, but has a foot position that’s moved farther forward 3″.
Luckily the designers incorporated something new to the Sportster lineup – mini footboards. Don’t think heel-and-toe shifter footboards, but rather wider rubber-covered footpegs. While cruising, these allowed a wide range of foot positions when my right leg – the one with a titanium rod in the femur – began cramping excessively. Also, on a longer section of over 30 miles, I was able to stand directly up on the mini boards while maintaining a rideable grip on the controls, allowing me to further stretch.
A quick adjustment on the SuperLow 1200T’s handlebars offers a bit of more room, and luckily for some riders with longer arms the turn signals were relocated to the lower triples. This allows for further adjustment of the bars over other Sportsters that have the signals attached to the actual handlebars.
Like the handlebars, the shifter also needed further adjustment considering I had to lift my entire foot off the left peg to shift. But again, an easy fix with simple tools.
Once set up for the most comfort possible for my too-tall-for-SuperLow body, handling was typical of any modern-age Sportster, with agility in the forefront. Even the smallest and lightest rider can easily toss the SuperLow 1200T throughout urban situations. And when the road turns long for touring, the 39mm unmarked Showa and rear shocks provide a smooth ride.
While in Florida, we ventured down a few bumpy roads, and the Sporty held its own, though more room to move around the seat would have been appreciated.
On these bumpier roads, I experimented with the rear-suspension’s adjustable preload. The right side features a standard twin-tube shock, but the left side has an Emulsion with a dial adjust that can offer up to 32 clicks of preload.
Harley started us off with only two clicks of preload, but I found ultimate comfort around 7. With a passenger and gear, I can easily see using up to 25 clicks of preload, contingent on total weight. The SuperLow 1200T’s manual also has a guide for settings based on load.
By the time I rode the Sportster, conditions were dry, though still a bit cold. But the Michelin Scorcher 11T touring tires – wrapped around the stylish split-five spoke aluminum wheels – provided plenty of grip. The tires also provided minimal flex while testing the 1200T on one of the few corners in Florida, allowing me to read the chassis better.
The 1200’s V-twin produces just enough power to have some fun on the twisties, but lacks the upper grunt needed for serious long-distance touring at highway speed. And with only five speeds, we were always looking for that next gear.
But regardless of shifting woes, the 1200cc delivers 48 mpg, and should be good for around 216 miles out of the 4.5-gallon fuel tank.
The single 300mm front disc/260mm rear disc combo squeezed by twin-piston calipers provided optimal stopping power, though it takes some energy to get an initial bite under heavy braking. The SuperLow 1200T is also available with optional ABS for an extra $795 over the following base prices – $11,799 for Vivid Black, $12,114 for Candy Orange, or $12,334 for two-tone Birch White/Midnight.
The saddlebags are quickly detachable via a key (separate from the ignition key). At almost 40 liters of total capacity, the bags will keep a jacket, gloves and some other items stored securely away while at a stop. The bags open easily, and are covered with a black-vinyl that matches the 1200T’s seat. Also, the docking hardware allows riders to easily accessorize the Sporty with an optional luggage rack and sissy bar with back rest.
The 14″ polycarbonate windshield detaches within seconds, and can be adjusted at the fork for various heights. But even at its highest setting, it caused much buffeting for my close to six-foot frame.
Chrome is also found everywhere, from the exhaust through the engine through the instrument housing, and a badge on the saddlebags that tastefully accents the flow of black from the seat to bags. The SuperLow 1200T also features a glass-filled chrome cloisonne badging that highlights the tear-drop fuel tank.
Harley says just like its Project RUSHMORE lineup, customer-led product development was key when designing the new SuperLow 1200T. This will likely create success, considering the bike was built to cater to the young adult and female riders listed in the market-share demographics mentioned earlier.
As for looks, the 1200T is by far the coolest thing Harley did with its Sportster since the Forty-Eight. But whereas the Forty-Eight targets those seeking ballsy styling and around-town cruising, the SuperLow 1200T targets those seeking bagger styling and practicality. And based on the current economy, practicality may reign supreme.
But if aggressive styling is needed on the 1200T, one can simply remove the bags and windscreen, crank the throttle, and enjoy the ride. That’s if they are not too tall. But again, that’s not the size rider Harley has targeted.
- Helmet: Bell Custom 500
- Jacket: Roland Sands Design Ronin
- Jeans: Drayko Drift
- Boots: Icon Superduty 4
- Gloves: Harley-Davidson Lone Star Full Finger Gloves
Photography by Riles & Nelson