The Mild Ones

The Sportster and the Thruxton were wild ones in the 1950s and '60s. In 2004, they're mild ones. But who says there are no roles for aging stars?

Off the Record
Age: Inevitably
Height: 5 ft. 7 in.
Weight: Barely
Inseam: Chafing

I've always had a secret jones for Sportsters. I love the way the original XLCH models look; they're the only street-legal Harleys that evoke the venerable KR racebikes. Back in the days of the AMA's 883 roadracing spec series, I often found myself sharing practice sessions with the Sporties, and I was always amazed at their turn of speed.

That said, I found myself musing, "So this is what it's like to be a Harley rider," more than thinking about the actual motorcycle underneath me. On sportbikes, I usually give a low wave with my left hand as I pass oncoming motorcyclists. I used to think Harley riders were ignoring me, but now I suspect that all along they've wanted to wave but can't remove their hand from the bar for fear of being blown backward.

Although I liked the Thruxton, I couldn't help fantasizing about buying a real late-'60s Bonneville for $2000 to $3000. Then I'd spend an equal amount hiring someone who really knew how to set it up. When my project was complete, I'd have a bike about as capable as the latest Thruxton, and a couple of grand left over to keep it running. Best of all, at that point I'd have a motorcycle that was increasing, not decreasing in value with each passing day.-Mark Gardiner

H-D XL 1200R Sportster Triumph Thruxton
MSRP$8675 ($8495 in black)$7999
Typea-c 45-deg. V-twina/o-c vertical-twin
Valve arrangementohv, 4vdohc, 8v
Bore x stroke88.9 x 96.8mm90.0 x 68.0mm
Compression ratio9.7:110.2:1
Final drive#525 chain#525 chain
Weight584 lb. (wet)494 lb. (wet)
564 lb. (fuel tank empty)469 lb. (fuel tank empty)
Fuel capacity3.3 gal. 4.2 gal.
Rake/trail29.6 deg./4.6 in. (117mm)27.0 deg./3.82 in. >(97mm)
Wheelbase60.0 in. (1524mm)58.1 in. (1476mm)
Seat height 28.1 in. (714mm)31.1 in. (790mm)
Front39mm fork adjustable for spring preload 41mm fork adjustable for spring preload
Reardual shocks adjustable for spring preload dual shocks adjustable for spring preload
Tire, front100/90-19 Dunlop K491 100/90R-18 Metzeler ME33
Tire, rear150/80-16 Dunlop K491130/80R-17 Metzeler ME-Z3
Corrected 1/4-mile*13.02 sec. @100.03 mph 13.26 sec. @ 99.99 mph
0-60 mph*4.66 sec.4.99 sec.
Top-gear roll-on,
60-80 mph*5.11 sec.6.45 sec.
Fuel mileage (low/high/average)30/57/45NA/NA/42
Cruising range (exc. reserve)119 miles141 miles
*Performance with test-session weather conditions corrected to sea-level standard conditions (59 deg. F, 29.92 in. of mercury)

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