Ringleader: Brian Catterson
MSRP (2009): $11,079
Average Fuel Mileage: 39 mpg
Accessories & Modifications: Harley-Davidson accessory windscreen, tank bag, tail bag, saddlebags and luggage rack, Cruz Tools toolkit, Helmet Secure helmet lock
It's common knowledge that Sportsters aren't tourers, but that didn't stop me from trying to turn my long-term XR1200 into one. And why not, when The Motor Company itself offers a vast range of touring accessories?
Prior to my first long-distance foray, I riffled through Harley's accessory catalog and ordered up a detachable sport windscreen ($339.95), luggage rack ($119.95) with passenger backrest ($129.95), tank bag ($139.95), tail bag ($169.95) and sport saddlebags ($329.95). The windscreen installed almost too easily with no tools in just a few seconds; I say that because it comes off just as easily, which could make it prone to theft. At 13.8 inches tall it's 5 inches shorter than the alternative Super Sport windshield, yet works well and looks better thanks to its smoked-gradient tint.
Padded backrest bolts to the luggage rack to keep passengers from sliding off the rearward
The saddlebag mounts and luggage rack were much more difficult to install, and maybe not worth the expense since the bags don't hold much and the rack is oddly shaped. The mounts do double as bungee hooks, however. The right-side bag is smaller to clear the pipes, and features an internal organizer-which is all well and good, except I'd prefer to stow my delicate electronic devices in a tank bag where they're easier to reach and farther from the hot exhaust. Speaking of which, the tank bag and tail bag both went on without fuss, held a lot and proved quite secure, though the former's right-front mounting strap gets in the way of the steering lock. Also be aware that if you stuff the tail bag to capacity, the passenger backrest won't tuck into the clever little Velcro-closed pocket in the underside. All of the soft luggage is made for Harley by Saddlemen, incidentally, and with its neat faux carbon-fiber finish is some of the nicest we've seen.
Next, just to be safe, I hit up Cruz Tools for one of their Harley-specific EconoKit H2 tool kits ($45.95; www.cruztools.com). This crams 20 pieces into a 4x9-inch pouch, but it's still too big for the XR's miniscule underseat storage space. Last but not least, I bolted a Helmet Secure cable helmet lock ($59.99; www.helmetsecure.com) to the handlebar, giving me someplace safe to leave my lid.
So equipped, my "Sportster-Tourer" functions quite well over the long haul, though it could use a sixth gear and the seat wears thin, further cramping its tight seat-to-peg distance. Nothing to do about the former, but next time I'll explore a cure for the latter, and address performance. There's got to be some lurking in there somewhere...