Storz SP1200RR | Summa Café Loudly

Why can’t Milwaukee do this?

By John L. Stein, Photography by Jeff Bushnell

Fortunately the Sportster’s electronic fuel injection makes starting easy, and the enlarged mill fires up quickly and rumbles menacingly through those big pipes. However, you have to recalibrate what the lumpy guttural exhaust note means in this case. It’s not heralding some annoying bagger or chopper—but, rather, a machine with significant sporting intentions. Pulling away there’s a great wave of midrange torque and tons of flywheel effect, thanks to the displacement and all those big steel parts swinging around inside the cases. The bike positively leaps forward when the clutch takes a bite. And better still, the EFI calibration is good—not too sensitive on partial throttle, and the metering picks up smoothly when you’re doing fine control work midcorner when it matters most.

The riding position is sporty but not cruel, and it took just a few miles to get comfortable on the bike. The SP1200RR has neutral handling—more like a big naked bike than a knife-edged sportbike. That brings predictability and confidence. The excellence of the Storz/Ceriani fork and Öhlins shocks is a great asset, and so are the Galfer/Performance Machine triple disc brakes, which feature a firm lever effort, linear response and good feel. The worst element of the SP1200RR’s dynamics is the shifting. Heavy and slow, it’s unlike any other sportbike extant and vastly behind the times—but there’s not much you can do with the industrial-grade stock Sportster transmission.

The SP1200RR as shown weighs in at a claimed 519 pounds wet, meaning that Storz took a useful 64 lbs. off the stock XL883 during the conversion. Although this leaves it roughly 30-40 lbs. heavier than the Kawasaki Z1000 and Yamaha FZ1, along a wonderful section of twisties that Bushnell led us to, it was still tons of fun. Of course, it’s fair to point out that while the SP1200RR is a bit heavier than a typical liter-class naked bike, it also possesses 15 to 20 percent more displacement—and the street cred this brings.

The SP1200RR pretty much dazzles—perhaps not so much in outright capability as in gains that are evident over a stock Sportster. The new suspension, premium tires and brakes add a lot of confidence and capability when hustling the SP1200RR through the corners or shedding speed before turning in. That, plus the attack-mode seating position and added cornering clearance all combine to make this just about the sportiest Sportster ever. And the ergonomics are humane enough for longer rides.

The SP1200RR as shown comprises $15,853 in parts, $3600 worth of labor, $1600 for paintwork, and a donor Sportster 883 or 1200 (Storz got his at a good deal for $3500). The bottom line is $24,553 plus or minus a bit, depending on the cost of your donor bike and whether or not you choose to go all-in on the components. Not cheap, but few unique customs ever are, and few work this well on Racer Road.

It’s a shame, really, that Harley-Davidson has never properly harnessed its hard-won racing heritage. From the early board-track racers to battling in Formula 750, Superbike and drag racing, there’s a rich heritage—and almost all of it with V-twin engines. Imagine, then, that the Storz SP1200RR is an outsourced embodiment of that racing heritage.

By John L. Stein
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