Harley-Davidson Storz Performance XR1200 - The 12 Bikes Of XXXMAS

A Sportster Made To Turn Left-And Right

By Brian Catterson, Photography by Kevin Wing

There's a photo on the wall of Steve Storz's office that speaks to the depth of his involvement in dirt-track racing. It's an old, black-and-white, promotional shot from the mid-'70s featuring the Harley-Davidson factory race team. In it are five people: legendary boss Dick O'Brien, racing gods Jay Springsteen and Steve Morehead, famed tuner Bill Werner-and Storz. There's no more hallowed company than that.

But as Steve himself will tell you, that was a long time ago, and much has changed since then. He brags about his two sons' trials exploits, the older one having taken part in a round of the Junior World Championship in Europe this past summer. And he sheepishly admits to not having been to the dirt-track races at the revitalized Ventura County Fairgrounds right across the freeway from his shop. Yet as the vintage XR750 undergoing restoration in his shop attests, his passion for dirt-track racing still burns bright.

Next up was a set of wire-spoke wheels. Storz opted to make these in the stock sizes (18-inch front, 17-inch rear) rather than switching to sportbike-spec 17s or dirt-track-standard 19s. Why? "We didn't feel we had to reinvent the wheels," he laughs. "We didn't want it to be apples and oranges with different-sized tires and all that. The thought was people already have these tires, and we didn't want to tell them, 'Oh, you have to buy a new set of wheels and tires.'"

And then there's the bike shown here: the Storz Performance XR1200, based on Harley's new street-tracker. As most fans of The Motor Company are aware, the XR1200 was created at the behest of the European importers, and was available overseas a year before it went on sale here. And even then, we Yanks were offered a limited production run of just 750 units-that number chosen in homage to the legendary XR750 dirt-tracker the 1200 emulates.

Santa might not slide an XR1200 under the tree this year, but a steel shoe in your stocking would be a nice start.

While he was re-doing the wheels, Storz upgraded the brakes, commissioning larger, floating, front wave rotors from Brake Tech, a smaller rear rotor from Performance Machine and steel-braided lines from Goodridge. He also converted the bike from belt drive to chain. All told, these changes shaved nearly 13 lbs. of unsprung weight.

There was one other obstacle to the XR being sold in the U.S., and that was the Sportster-based street-tracker Storz had been offering for sale since 1990. Storz had licensed the name, and thus Harley had to purchase it from him before they could sell their own XR1200 here. Neither party will disclose a figure, but suffice it to say it wasn't cheap, and the Storz Performance conversion now goes by SP1200.

As for suspension, while Storz has yet to fit one of his trick Ceriani inverted forks to the XR, it does boast a pair of fully adjustable YSS shocks, set up slightly longer than stock to raise the rear ride height. Last but not least is an adjustable Storz/Ceriani steering damper, which mounts to the frame and fork with billet-aluminum brackets to quell headshake.

And what does Storz think of Harley's XR1200? "I thought it was neat that they finally came out with one on their own," he says. "It sort of validated our product, that there's a market for dirt-track-style sportbikes. I think they did a nice job with it. It's a nice motorcycle for a reasonable price."

A few-hour romp on the bike through the neighboring Ojai Valley showed what a huge improvement these parts make. The first thing you notice is how freakin' loud the exhaust is, but there's no denying the motor feels more powerful in the midrange and on top. Comfort is greatly improved, as are braking, suspension, handling, cornering clearance, even gear-change action. Storz could have built an XR to turn only left, but this one also turns right, and works phenomenally well as a real-world sportbike.

Lip service paid, Storz admits that he's not totally blown away. "The only thing that disappoints me is that what should be a clean-sheet motorcycle is so heavy,' he laments. "I took the stock rear wheel off and it weighed something like 43 pounds with the brake disc and belt pulley on it. Yet when we took the swingarm off to paint it, it weighed almost nothing. You kind of scratch your head and think, 'Didn't the guy who made this ever talk to the guy who made that?'"

So, how much? Figure about $20,000, including the cost of the bike. Storz prefers to sell parts (there's a list on his website), but can also build complete bikes, though he can't install the exhaust because it's "for competition use only."

So Storz started removing weight. When he was done, he'd stripped nearly 33 lbs. off the bike, much of that unsprung. But that's putting the cart before the horse...

Unlike the Sportsters that Storz based his street-trackers on before, the XR1200 at least looks the part. Never mind that its exhaust is on the wrong side and its air filter is on top, the tank is pure XR750, and it comes in racing orange-and-black. Still, Storz saw where there was room for improvement.

The first thing the bike needed was a proper set of 2-into-2 high-pipes. Storz has these made by BUB, and they're available in chrome or black ceramic with billet end caps, weighing in at 14.5 lbs. less than stock. Mounting them isn't exactly straightforward, however, as they require the rear brake master cylinder and fluid reservoir to be relocated. This can be accomplished via a billet rearset and shifter kit, or via a simple relocation kit that retains the stock footpegs and shifter.

Installing the high-pipes requires removal of the right-side passenger peg, and with that gone there's little need for the other, or the back seat. So Storz designed a solo fiberglass tailpiece that works with the stock seat or the one he sells, made by Saddlemen. This uses denser foam and a gel pad, plus a basket-weave cover that resembles that of the original XR750.

tech
SPEC
Price Approx. $20,000
Engine type a-c 45-deg. V-twin
Valve train OHV, 4v
Displacement 1200cc
Transmission 5-speed
Claimed horsepower na
Claimed torque na
Frame Tubular-steel double-cradle
Front suspension 55mm Showa inverted fork
Rear suspension Dual YSS shocks with adjustable spring preload, compression and rebound damping, ride height
Front brake Dual Nissin four-piston calipers, 320mm Brake Tech wave rotors
Rear brake Single Nissin two-piston caliper, 260mm Performance Machine disc
Front tire 120/70ZR-18 Dunlop Qualifier
Rear tire 180/55ZR-17 Dunlop Qualifier
Seat height 29.2 in.
Wheelbase 59.8 in.
Fuel capacity 3.5 gal.
Claimed dry weight 529 lbs.
Contact www.storzperf.com

Verdict | Naughty
4 stars out of 5
The baddest Harley ever, made badder.

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By Brian Catterson
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