Harley-Davidson XR1200

Staffers' Rides

Photography by Andrea Wilson

Ringleader: Brian Catterson
MSRP (2009): $11,079
MILES: 8235-11,079
Average Fuel Mileage: 39 mpg
Accessories & Modifications: American Sport Bike axle sliders, Saddlemen passenger seat, Vibranators

I came. I saw. I ... okay, I didn't exactly conquer, but I at least managed not to get my ass kicked. That's no small concern when you're hanging with Harley types, livin' la vida loca and all that.

Last time around, I detailed how I set up my long-term XR1200 as a street-tracker. For this final installment, I focused on making it the best possible daily driver.

Like all Harleys with rubber-mounted engines, the XR is fairly smooth around town. But with its five-speed gearbox, it buzzes at highway speeds. That didn't bother me when the Motorcyclist offices were in Los Angeles and I had an 8-mile cross-town commute. But when our company moved to El Segundo and my commute tripled, I had to take the freeway.

In an effort to damp vibration, I installed a pair of Vibranators ($99.99 from www.vibranator.com). These are effectively bar-end weights connected to a vibration-cancellation system that borrows from helicopter technology. Each unit features a spring-and-weight mechanism that oscillates out of phase from the vibration. Installation consisted simply of cutting a hole in the end of each hand grip (our test fleet manager Michael Candreia actually has a tool for that), sliding in the 'nators and tightening the one Allen bolt in each. I wish I could report that this eliminated the vibration, but it merely changed the frequency. It's definitely better, just not a night-and-day difference.

Another shortcoming is the XR's stock passenger seat. Not only is it small and slippery, it slopes downward at the back, leaving passengers hanging on for dear life every time you twist the throttle. To prevent my "If you can read this, the bitch fell off" T-shirt from ringing true, I had Saddlemen rebuild it ($250 from www.saddlemen.com). Constructed from the same materials as the good-looking Storz/Saddlemen rider's seat installed previously, this is much thicker than stock and has a slight upward kick at the rear. My girlfriend gives it two thumbs up.

The last thing I bolted on was a set of brushed-aluminum axle sliders ($54.95 front, $69.95 rear from www.americansportbike.com). Made by Dark Horse Moto, these prevent damage to the vulnerable axle ends in a crash, and the rear ones double as stand spools. If I could just have found some way to protect the oil cooler hanging out in the breeze, I'd have slept better at night. The racers in the Vance & Hines XR1200 Series relocate theirs behind the front numberplate, but they don't have headlights.

Going into this long-term test, I was concerned about reliability-the old wives' tales and all. Turns out that wasn't a problem. In 11,079 miles (coincidentally matching the bike's MSRP), nothing broke, failed or fell off. The air-cooled V-twin burned some oil, but that was likely due to its trial-by-fire break-in at the 2009 press intro. The only part I had to replace was the front brake lever, which snapped off when my pants leg snagged on the rear brake-reservoir guard and I tipped over in my driveway. Do yourself a favor and wrap a zip-tie around yours right now.

There's not much to report on the maintenance front either. With hydraulic lifters and belt drive, the XR doesn't need its valves adjusted or its chain lubed/tightened. Even so, Harley insisted that its fleet center do all the wrenching. So every 3000 miles, we dutifully trucked the bike in for an oil-and-filter change-plus new tires and brake pads. The stock Dunlop Sportmax Qualifiers work great, and the 18-inch front limits replacement options anyway, but I would like to have seen how long they'd last. Likewise the brake pads.

In the end, I bolted on a loud pipe, bought a black Harley T-shirt or three, and ... well, I still don't get it. I can't say I didn't enjoy my time on my XR1200, because I did. Fun to ride, my orange-and-black example looked great, elicited lots of positive comments, and was welcome at biker bars and sportbike watering holes alike.

It just came with too much baggage.

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