2011 Harley-Davidson Sportster XR1200X Review

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2011 Harley-Davidson Sportster XR1200X Review

Post by ganahsokmo on Fri Jul 09, 2010 11:12 am

Ask and ye shall receive.
The squeaky wheel gets the grease.
Good things come to those who wait.
Patience is a virtue…
Those cliché adages sum up perfectly the American motorcycle
market’s experience with a specific Harley-Davidson model: the XR1200.

When Harley announced in late ’07 the XR1200 as a 2008 European-only
model, the decision seemed confounding to Americans who couldn’t buy the
Americana-infused XR.

Here’s the
XR1200 that we didn’t get first.

First and foremost because it is, after all, a Harley-Davidson;
secondly because its styling is directly inspired by the iconic XR750,
Harley’s famous, purpose-built flat-track dominator.

It seemed crazy the States wouldn’t see this “all-American” machine.
However, sensible marketing logic was behind excluding the XR1200 from
the U.S. market.

As we’ve noted in numerous reviews, the European sport-standard
segment is remarkably stronger than is the same segment in the U.S. For
reasons not very well understood, we just don’t seem to have an appetite
for the nakeds and standards.

Despite this reality of poor sales for sport-standards in the U.S.,
Harley said it heard enough requests for the XR from its home market,
and so by the end of 2008 the Milwaukee-based company introduced the
XR1200 for America as a 2009 model.

Now we,
too, get the new XR1200X that was first released in Europe. For 2011 the
X model will come in White Hot Denim or Black Denim colors and will
replace the XR1200.

As something of a cautious homage to the original XR750, the XR1200
saw an initial limited run of only 750 units. Hurray for us anyway!
However, only one year later we were back in that “Europe first”

For 2010 the European market received the XR1200X: an XR with uprated
suspension and some additional touchups. American XR owners could have
the same suspension package, but only as an optional kit on the order of
$1500. Dang.

Welcome home! Round two
Finally, we, too, will now have the XR1200X. It’s the first release
of Harley’s 2011 models and it’s slated to hit dealers by this August.
The X model trades the XR1200’s 43mm non-adjustable inverted fork for
Showa’s fully adjustable 43mm Big Piston Fork, first seen in wide
release on the ’09
. Also swapped out are the fairly basic twin coil-over shocks
in favor of fully adjustable 36mm Showa shocks.

The front
half of the XR’s suspension consists of Showa’s Big Piston Fork.

The new Showa shocks retain
ramp-style preload adjustment, but the simple compression damping
adjustment dial atop the piggyback reservoir(s) is handy.

Also easy to access is the rebound damping adjustment screw found at
the bottom of the shock. One caveat: the exhaust impedes access to the
right-side shock’s rebound adjuster, so it’s not as easily reached as
the left side.

Although the XR-X still employs the same powerful dual, four-piston
Nissin calipers from the previous XR model, the 292mm rotors are now of
the floating variety.

The spirited 1200cc Sportster engine in the X model gets the
black-out treatment, as does the dual upswept exhaust system that’s
reminiscent of the XR750’s high pipes. The XR1200’s engine and exhaust
were finished in a silvery color.

Orange pinstripes for the three-spoke cast aluminum wheels round out
the cosmetic updates.
But perhaps best of all is the X’s MSRP of $11,799, a $1000 increase
over the XR1200 model. Recall that the same suspension that’s now on the
X model was last year offered as a $1500 upgrade for the standard XR.

The X
model’s engine and exhaust are all black, creating a more cohesive
appearance, especially on the Black Denim color scheme.

Also worth noting, the XR1200X model will replace the XR1200 in 2011.

An American track for an American

Harley-Davidson chose a street-only setting for the December 2008
press launch of the XR1200; but for the X’s launch it was wheels up on a
famous American racetrack!

New fully
adjustable Showa coil-over shocks offer easy access to compression
damping via the simple dial atop the piggyback nitrogen reservoir.
Rebound adjuster is at the shocks’ mount point.
rotors are now floating type. The XR-X retains the dual four-piston
caliper set from the XR1200.
Road America, located in the lush countryside of Elkhart Lake, Wis., –
about an hour north of Harley’s Milwaukee home – was the venue where
American motopress would sample the X. This track was also the first
stop in a five-race schedule for the AMA
Vance & Hines XR1200 Series
We ran an abbreviated version of the 14-turn, 4-mile-long circuit, as
there was little point in subjecting the XR and its 7K-rpm redline to
Road America’s long front straight.

As it was, while in top gear (5th) with the throttle twisted to the
stop, the rev limiter routinely cut in to limit my top speed to around
122 mph on the shorter straight between turns 11 and 12. The thing to
take away from my rev-limiter-bouncing is that although the XR’s gearing
is a wee bit short for track use, this means it has close to ideal
gearing for street riding.

While on the subject of redline, the XR-X wasn’t too keen on high-rpm
clutch-less upshifts.
The gearbox often resisted such shifting shenanigans, and generally
it felt sticky. But on this issue I’m giving it a pass, as the big
flywheel in the Twin means lots of engine momentum, which in turn can
contribute to lunky shifting. But this isn’t news for a Harley.

Also, most of the bikes we rode displayed low three-digit figures on
the odometer. Additional miles might see the trans loosen up.

Best shifting practice was to shift as infrequently as possible.
Instead I let the Sportster’s copious low-end torque and large flywheel
action dig me out of slower turns.
In 2008 I was impressed by the strong initial bite from the
Harley-branded Nissin brakes.
The powerful binders are more than sufficient for street duty, but
hauling down the X’s claimed running-order weight of 573 pounds (as well
as extra weight from the rider!) from racetrack speeds proved taxing
for the brakes.

The closing laps of a 20-min session usually meant some brake fade,
and a four-finger grab on the lever in order get the XR-X slowed enough
at the end of the aforementioned back straight.
If you plan to take your X model to the track (or XR for that
matter), a simple swap to race-compound pads should serve well to
improve feel and power. If you’ll only ever ride the streets and
canyons, then the XR-X has all the brake you could desire.

Something else Road America revealed about the XR was the bike’s
limited lean angles. Of course, this wasn’t a big surprise, as even
assertive street riding will result in the long-ish footpeg feelers
Nevertheless, feeling and hearing the lower exhaust heat shield touch
down during the long right-hander (Turn 10), known as the Carousel, was
a disquieting experience.

the XR1200X is reasonably eager to turn and provides good handling, in
stock form shallow lean angles are the limiting factor to white-hot lap
times. Note the minimum clearance between the lower exhaust heat shield
and the track surface. Scrape!

In the time between the first XR’s appearance over two years ago and
now, surely Harley would’ve heard enough bellyaching from riders and
reviewers about limited ground clearance. It’s a wonder then why The
Motor Company didn’t capitalize on the opportunity to increase clearance
on the X model, especially in light of its improved performance
parameters thanks to the new suspension.

Despite good grip and feedback from the Dunlop Qualifier D209 tires, I
wasn’t in a hurry to lever them off the ground by way of grinding the
exhaust header into the track surface. These lean-angle annoyances
aside, we must remember the XR-X is a streetbike, not a race-prepped

With that in mind, I must give due credit to how easily the X bike
set into turns considering its ready-to-ride weight mentioned above
along with its un-sportbike-like 60.0-inch wheelbase. Transitioning from
left to right required deliberate action, but leverage offered from the
XR’s wide handlebar helped reduce steering input effort.

On the subject of the new suspension, I was content with its
Damping qualities and spring rates seemed perfectly suited for my
weight (geared up, roughly 170 lbs) and abilities. Stability was
sufficient, as was front-end feedback. However, I can say – again
considering weight and skill level – the XR1200 was also up to the task
of track duty.

I seized the opportunity to ride an XR1200 back-to-back with the new X
model. Although the new BPF front-end and improved shocks provided a
moderately firmer feel, the standard suspension on the XR12 wasn’t far
off pace in terms of stability and damping quality.
the reality that the XR1200X isn’t ideally suited for racetrack duties,
caning a street bike powered by a big Harley Sportster engine around
Road America provided endless entertainment.

Although the previous model’s suspension performed well enough for me
on the track, it’s likely a heavier or much more aggressive rider would
give a different report and thereby see big benefits from the X model’s
adjustable springy parts.
I also took the opportunity to do a 75-mile or so street ride aboard
the 2011 XR1200X.

Suspension action was forgiving without sacrificing feel, and it
generally provided a decent ride over even the crummiest sections of
pavement. All this performance without ever having tweaked suspension
settings speaks highly of the upgrades on the new XR1200X.

Small price to pay
The new XR1200X brings the ability to fine-tune suspension
adjustments, and as such most riders will find they can resolve most
individual handling issues they might encounter on this sportiest of the
Sportsters. For this reason alone I cannot conjure a good reason to
lament the X’s added cost.

With this latest update to the modern XR series, we can once more
thank our motorcycle-loving European brethren (sisters, too, I suppose).

Back on
home soil: the 2011 Harley-Davidson XR1200X.

Though it seemed a little odd we were runner-up for an American
motorcycle with such an iconic American appearance, I guess, as the
saying goes, it was worth the wait, even the second time.

Related Reading
Harley-Davidson Sportster XR1200 Review

Vance & Hines XR1200 Series

XR1200: Road America results

Monster 1100 vs. Harley-Davidson Sportster XR1200

Harley-Davidson Sportster Forty-Eight Review

Harley-Davidson Sportster 883 Low Review

Things Harley-Davidson on Motorcycle.com


Join date : 16/01/2010
Age : 37

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